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On being Muslim and talking too much

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I am thinking that maybe Islam is a religion where one shouldn't talk so much. Perhaps it is better to manifest the faith through one's action's primarily. I know this may sound obvious, yet I am becoming increasingly aware that many Muslims put too much energy into talking about Islam and what Islam stands for, rather then putting energy into exemplifying Islam through their actions. This creates a kind of anxiety or hyper-defensiveness that just isn't helpful when giving dawah. Just look at many of the comments on you tube for example for some Islamic videos. Some folks engage in arguments trying to defend the religion using profane language! This is just embarrassing and really misses the point. What are we really trying to defend, and does it need defending? Islam is what it is, and you either believe in it or you don't.

Yesterday I was thinking about the Prophet's (saw) marriage to Aisha, particularly as it pertains to her age. I had never heard of an explanation that made me feel completely at ease. So I texted some of my trusted Muslim friends to see what they had to say about issue--that is how did they reconcile or explain the Prophet's marriage to Aisha without glossing over the facts or sounding too apologetic. Among one of the answer's that I appreciated the most, was a simple "I don't know, because I don't understand it." Furthermore, the sister implied that she would not try to explain something that she didn't understand, from a paradigm that was limited by time, location, and cultural prejudice. I realized that it never occurs to some Muslims just to say that. That it may seem for some to be a defeat.

I would like to know: "When we are "defending" Islam are we really defending our own egos and need to be right? Are we guising our own insecurities about the religion? Do Muslims benefit/suffer? from a double consciousness-- a "second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him [or her] no true self-consciousness, but only lets him [or her] see himself [or herself] through the revelation of the other world[? . . .] It is a peculiar sensation . . . this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity." (Excerpted from the chapter "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" in his book The Souls of Black Folk.) I think there is the feeling of needing to make things look pretty, not just for the supposedly monolithic (Western) world, but to those who doubt the religion or take issue with aspects of the faith or the character/practices of the Prophet (saw).

Post 9/11/ especially, there is this sense in the community that we must have a quick rebuttal for everything. Hence people may end up saying things that don't make complete sense, such as some explanations regarding the supposed benefits of hijab. I have actually heard some some people reference hijab as a means of protection against rape, implying that hijab does not entice a potential rapist in the same way that a "scantily clad" woman does. This is a really horrendous assertion, especially because many women (and one is too many) in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt etc. have been victims of sexual violence despite being completely covered. It is more helpful to be honest about this, then to perpetuate very problematic patterns of blaming the victim. Furthermore, it obscures the real reason for rape which is rooted in power. I explain my observance of hijab in terms of submission to Allah (swt), as well as it being a useful tool to purify by own intentions. For me it is less about "helping" men not see me as a "sex object" because this kind of thinking alludes to more profound gender issues then what a woman is wearing.

Coming back to the Prophet's marriage to Aisha, some other answers that I got included (abridged):

"Well I know for a fact that in that society at that time, age nine isn't what it is now. They lived relatively short lives, and nine was child bearing age. It wasn't unusual for that to happen in their society. Difference in culture. We may not understand why a foreigner does what they do; but it may make perfect sense in their society. Furthermore, the Prophet wouldn't have done it if it was incorrect. And if it is not a situation where someone is being oppressed, then who are we to judge? [References young people becoming pregnant in our society.] Society picks and chooses what is right and wrong according to what it feels like doing. If the enemy does it then its automatically the worst thing in the world though other's do it"

"As you know I do not take everything literally. The angels had wings of 2 & 3 & 4. Thus there is some symbolism to the number nine. Furthermore, she did not move with him until she was older. Trust me, there is so much more to the Qur'an and Sunnah then we will ever know. Islam is a perfect religion, but we have to study more."

"There is nothing to gloss over. Puberty was marrying age. Talmud preferred marriage by puberty. [She also references various ages of consent around the world in different times. Example: Today: Japan-13; Spain-12; 1900 USA-10 (Cali was 1st to up age to 14 circa 1889. . . Using culture over biology is illogical"

In conclusion I think that I am going to work on getting back to the basics or fundamentals of the religion if you will, and really seek to understand and implement this religion on a really organic level. I want to move from spaces of speculation and defensiveness to securing sound knowledge and the faith that come from knowing.

Posted by Talibah at 10:33 AM



Tariq Nelson said...

In conclusion I think that I am going to work on getting back to the basics or fundamentals of the religion if you will, and really seek to understand and implement this religion on a really organic level. I want to move from spaces of speculation and defensiveness to securing sound knowledge and the faith that come from knowing.

This is exactly where I am. Let's just go back to the basics and stay there


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