Sans Sense

The Art of Nothingness

Muslim women are born with a defective design.

Why, we are remarkably similar to other human beings in our anatomy and workings! We even have our sense organs on our heads. Now that would usually be fine for animals and other persons on planet Earth, but since we keep being told that the face is awra (a private part!), I wonder whether a trunk and snout might have been a more functional design choice for us. At least we could breathe, eat and talk in peace. The blasphemous British have said it for centuries that the eyes are windows to one’s soul, and some clerics have finally caught on to it by asking that one or both eyes be covered, lest your soul escaped through the open window. If you’re wondering what took them so long, it turns out that the brain may have been equally unnecessary to both sexes.  Now hold your sniggers, because I don’t think Darwin got it right, either. If all that evolution clap-trap worked as he claimed, we would be faceless, sense-less, brainless amoebas, by now. So there, you heretic!

Take a moment to ponder on the grand scheme, our religious patriarchs have prepared for the weaker sex. Even sunshine is a test for the pious. Never mind the fact that many of us live bang in the middle of the Earth, the rightly guided ones have either acquired Vitamin-D deficiency rickets by now, or are on course to giving it to their nursing babies. Even our immigrant sisters are teaching the West some humility. Those creeps were claiming that they had eradicated rickets during the Victorian era. Well, not any more.

Reader, if you do wear a niqab, you probably already favour a black one because of its heat-absorptive properties. In our climate, it may after all enable you to attain the perfect temperature for a tenderly sautéed brain masala, without the use of natural gas or cooking oil.

Wait. I have more to say about the face, or rather, it is the science book written by infidels that says that facial recognition is the principal way through which social primates have, for several hundred thousand years, identified family from non-family and friends from foes. They even say that the face expresses subtle or obvious emotional cues that are universal to humans and critical to communications. If you’re a Muslim woman, that information or any benefits purported to accrue from owing a face, are entirely superfluous to you, as the Muslim men may not think your identity or your emotions are worthy of attention, in the first place. Whether you’re happy, worried, angry, grieving, or plain excited, just shut the hell up visually and verbally, and go back to the kitchen. And for your own safety, don’t bother stepping out, because in a phenomenon that is present in uniquely eccentric proportions in Muslim societies, you are indeed quite likely to be jeered at, leered at, groped, molested, assaulted, or otherwise harassed by other men, veils notwithstanding.

If you’re wondering what the point of this mumbo-jumbo is, let me be more direct:

How can God in all his wisdom create humans in the best of designs and then limit half of them from using their endowments? How do women in other societies carry on with their lives without living in constant terror of harassment or a crippling fear of judgment based on looks?

If you are already forming a rebuttal in your head, AND if you are a man who has never worn a veil to work, let me tell you that you will never understand the limitations that it imposes on women when they’re interacting with the environment or other people. And please, stop chasing away common sense with the ‘religious obligation’ baton.

In case you haven’t guessed and cursed me for it already, I am phobic to the full-face veil, and I’m not even French. It’s a hard-wired human response to mistrust what isn’t apparent. If you’re in for a social experiment, try approaching an infant, wearing a mask, even a black one, for greater drama. This baby will be not only refuse to be held, but will be visibly distressed by your presence. Lacking may he or she be in language skills, but the baby definitely understands trust and security, warmth and goodwill. Unfortunately, a niqab is the exact opposite of trust, security, warmth and goodwill. While some may consider it to be their right to wear the niqab, let it be known that it encroaches upon my right to feel safe in their presence. For all I know, they may be shop-lifters, stalkers, or men wearing suicide jackets.

I admit I can neither undo centuries of brain washing by our patriarchs through a post, or address the social factors and prejudices that are leading to marginalization of Muslims in many parts of the world. But maybe you will agree with some bite-size logic: that the Muslims of today are increasingly adopting symbols of misogynist dessert cultures, in the name of Islam, to express their defiance, and to set themselves apart, in a world where cultures are blending together like ice-cubes in water.

If you are a Niqabi reader, donning this out of ‘choice’, for the sake of reason, or even God, please drop it – really!

Justice for Lama

I don’t know if I should cry or scream.

In the Arabia predating Islam, young girls were buried alive. Several centuries and a prophet later, the region shows little promise of reform. Now, young girls are raped by their fathers, burnt and tortured to death.

I can, with some effort, ignore the fact that the perpetrator is a Muslim and a cleric at that, because perversion, cruelty and evil transcend boundaries, religions, and professions. But, I shall forever begrudge it if Fayhan Al Ghamdi could atone for this crime by paying USD 50,000 to the mother, and worse, that any morally bankrupt judge, could sign off Ghamdi’s freedom, by negating everything the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) stood for, and instead quoting a weak hadith, that enables him to overlook the transgression.

Lama Al Ghamdi

Lama Al Ghamdi

I am ashamed to say that while most Muslims look towards Saudi Arabia for religious guidance, the Kingdom, in many ways tolerates or even encourages the hate, bigotry, stereotyping and abuse practiced by many Saudis in the name of Islam. I’m baffled as to how a society, that practices rigid gender segregation, even entrusts a father, with the care and custody of a minor girl? Isn’t incest and rape a crime that is worthy of stoning to death in the opinion of many Islamic scholars? Can you pay blood money for your own child?

I demand justice for Lama (#Ana Lama) – an exemplary punishment that I wish could be as gruesome as the treatment this little girl received.

Readers, spread the word and sign this petition. If you are not with Lama, you are with Fayhan Ghamdi.

I Don’t Feel Guilty and Here’s Why

Iqra, Read. The first Quoranic...

I am a Muslim. Have always been.

I believe in Allah, His prophets, His books, His angels, the day of judgement and the destiny.

I pray, fast, give alms and go for a pilgrimage when I can.

I’ve never murdered a soul (insects excluded, of course).

Neither have I ever cheated on my spouse.

I’ve never really broken the law, except perhaps by running through a red light.

Out of habit, I don’t lie, steal, cheat, bribe or intentionally harm others.

I usually don’t even interfere in other people’s lives, as is common in our culture.

Am a good person?

Some don’t think so.

They’re disappointed to see me without the hijab and with groomed eyebrows. They ask me to give up music and movies. They frown when they find I’m a banker. They whisper amongst themselves when they learn that I’m at friendly terms with my colleagues, ex-classmates or other members of my social circle, who happen to be men. Some even have the nerve to call me shameless when they discover I can play tennis or swim. Then, they invite me to join their dawah or dars group, so that I can be reformed.

For a growing number of Pakistani Muslims, to be rightly guided means to literally surrender your soul, your joy in living and your internal harmony.  And YOU MUST FEEL GUILTY. Each time you eliminate the guilt by correcting the source, there’s a new ideal to aspire to. Something else must now be given up to get there. You can’t live a normal life, laugh and enjoy yourself without feeling bad about it. Even if you did, someone will point at your dead conscience or weakness of faith, in an effort to make you miserable.

Can an individual who closes all doors to mental nourishment reach old age armed with wisdom & happiness? How does one find the balance in this world? Can we be comfortable in our own skins and still serve Allah? 

I have dared to ask some questions and I have found the answers that put me at peace with myself. If you asked the same questions, you may come up with different answers. But there’s no way one answer is better than the other.

If you want to do this exercise, as I have, you must follow the rules that I did:

  • Set your pre-set beliefs aside for a moment. Maybe you’ll rediscover them. Maybe you won’t.
  • Don’t fear the answers. You could have been wrong before and you could be wrong now. Let it happen.
  • Your recommended reading is the Quran (read at least 3 different translations). If, and only if, you can’t find the answers, find reliable ahadeeth.
  • If something in these two texts bothers you, read opposing points of views (forget their conclusions, but follow their logic).
  • Don’t cheat! Do your research diligently, to the best of your ability.
  • In the end, put everything in perspective. Cetris Paribus, is an impossible assumption, so temper your conclusions.

Here’s my list of questions:

  • How do I know God exists? Really think about this. If unsure, go through the rest of this list, and come back to this one later.
  • What’s he like? Fair or unfair, merciful or tyrannical, coherent or confusing?
  • What exactly does he want from me? If he’ll hold me responsible in the end, has he specified clear, achievable goals/deliverables?
  • Has he set the ground rules? That is, provided me with guidance,  instructions, penalties, bonuses, that I need to know to plan my strategy for meeting the goals?
  • What rules can he relax in his discretion and mercy and what has he clearly said he won’t forgive?
  • Do I understand the difference between form & substance? Have I taken in the big picture, or the narrow literal view?
  • What are the top 3 things I should do?
  • What are the top 3 things I should stop doing?
  • Based on this, what components of my previous belief system should I keep, modify or discard?

If you do this exercise properly, it might take you a couple of days, even weeks! You may swing like a pendulum between belief and disbelief. Eventually, you will find your ground and conviction that is based on your own reason and circumstances.

Just as you won’t trust a random mufti sahab with your life in this world, don’t count on him to keep you safe in the hereafter either.

_____________________________________________________________

If am to be eventually punished, let me at least make the mistakes myself!

The Mule, the Spider & the Ostrich

Peaceful coexistence

Peaceful coexistence (Image created using Sp-studio.de)

My neighbour is a prosperous man residing in a posh locality, who will be condemned to hell, if he shaves his beard. He wears a fine cotton shalwar[1], starched and ironed to perfection, that’s not quite long enough to go past his ankles. His head is usually shaved and covered by a white taqiyah[2]. He’s known to donate generously to the local mosque that amongst other things, provides boarding, lodging and religious guidance to impressionable minds that have been practically abandoned by their families, for lack of means.  He commits his personal time to monthly and annual tableegh & dawah visits (Muslim missionary work) to slums and remote areas where they teach the residents religious best-practices.

His character is beyond reproach. And, his lifestyle is amazing. When others around him are burning precious diesel or gas, in-house, during an electricity outage, he seems to be enjoying a backup source of electricity straight from another electric pole that’s not facing the outage. His ecological footprint is all over the street and can be discovered in your trashcan or found sneakily deposited next to your boundary wall. We are not quite sure about what he does for a living. He seasonally acts as a stockist (or a hoarder of sorts, if I may) believing that one cannot deprive others of the value they should rightfully receive, by engaging in unfair trade practices and market manipulation. The only objectionable sources of income, in his opinion, are banking and prostitution. The latter may be permitted under certain conditions. As he lectures you on the “exploitative” nature of banking, he yells a profanity at an under-nourished, under-age Pathan servant who has been left in their service by folks living somewhere in the north of Pakistan. Once an year, an adult from the child’s family turns up to collect the annual wages for his labour and to confirm that he’s still alive.

This respectable citizen is in line with the wealthier clerics in our country, according to whom, there is no provision of taxes in an Islamic administrative system and hence a Muslim need not worry about tax evasion. Breaking the law of the land, or keeping tax money out of the government treasury (however corrupt) that may, just may, go towards infrastructure, education, healthcare, sanitation or otherwise improving conditions for the less privileged doesn’t figure into the elusive list of haraams[3] or makrooh[4]. Reportedly, eating shrimp ranks high on this list.

He’s the mule, in horse’s skin.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wifey Dear, is an emancipated woman in her late thirties, who speaks English, drives a Camry, and looks at you from behind a veil that even covers her eyes (drivers, beware!). Her swarovsky-encrusted abaya[5] is a symbol of modesty and a blessing for the average Pakistani man, who would definitely drool at the 200-lbs beauty, should she abandon it in favour of a loose-fitting shalwar kameez.  She has produced five sons so far in the way of furthering the Ummah, all the while believing that love for and pride in one’s offspring is a worldly trial. Hence, she has dissociated herself from many of her parental responsibilities, presumably to nip all sources of parental pride in the bud. Her time’s better spent at a ladies-only religious learning club, that excels in displacing common-sense or research-based priorities from your everyday life. This month, for instance, they spent a considerable time figuring out the scoring system for rewards and penalties associated with drinking water in various positions such as standing up and sitting down, while no word of condemnation was spoken for the indiscriminate killings of members of a minority community that resides in the same city. To give them due credit, this group knows the top five million ways to secure heaven, each carefully selected so as to require them to be less useful and more disruptive to society. Her advancements at learning can be measured by the number of Arabic words she can smack into a conversation in place of perfectly reasonable Urdu words.

She’s a spider who has long stopped thinking for herself and is now caught in a delusional world spun by her religious patriarchs, forever clinging to it and pretending to be the queen of her territory. She’s as unsure of her strength, courage and intellect as she is ashamed of her body (this being an instrument of the devil meant to lure the men). She is a woman who has sentenced herself in the process of deliverance.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A few miles away, in the worker’s colony where my housekeeper lives, life’s a bit more forbidding. This morning, her sister-in-law was beaten up ruthlessly by her spouse because she spent his heroin money on their child’s school fee. The night before, a teen was tortured to death because he dared to exchange hot words with the local influential figure. A middle-aged woman in the same colony is destined to die of breast cancer because her family is against medical treatment and is rather ashamed that she could sprout such a dishonourable tumour. The child of a daily-wage worker hasn’t eaten in 18 hours, because his father couldn’t find public transport (!) to reach the construction site where he works as a mason.

I start to shake my head in disbelief and catch a glimpse of my $200 haircut in the mirror to the right – an amount that can feed a family of five for a month (yes, food is still cheap here). My MacBook is worth at least 16 years of basic education in Pakistan for a child. I can read, write, think and speak on a hundred causes meriting advocacy.

I shut my eyes and when I open them again, the blur is gone. I am, after all, the callous ostrich.


[1] Loose-fitting Pakistani trousers

[2] A rounded cap worn by Muslim men

[3] Prohibited

[4] Permissible but disliked

[5] Cloak