Monday 29 July 2019

An Open Letter to Muslim Men: The Sunnah Trumps Toxic Masculinity

Excerpt from article by Prof. Jonathan A.C Brown

In light of ongoing debates about differences between sexes and expectations of gender roles, it’s worth looking at how the men and women of Islam’s ideal, founding generation conducted themselves. In the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ, men and women are distinct in their duties of prayer and fasting (women don’t do either when menstruating), in their dress (they must cover different areas of their body), and other legal issues. Men have the duty to guard and protect (qiwāma) their womenfolk because of some of the capacities that God generally grants one sex to a greater degree than the other.

But what surprised me when I reflected on it was how little difference there was otherwise between the conduct of men and women in this noble community. Both were deeply pious, decisive, courageous in word and deed, proud of themselves but humbled by the charge God put upon them, confident when they believed they were right but also utterly deferential to the instructions of God and His Messenger ﷺ. Both were dynamically involved in public life. And both men and women were extremely conscious of their code of sexual propriety. Aisha رضي الله عنها became a major political leader in the first decades of the Muslim community and one of its most respected sources of knowledge. When the Prophet’s ﷺ wife Umm Salama رضي الله عنها heard him addressing the people outside, she went out to join the crowd. When she was asked why she thought she was meant to attend, she replied, “Are we not among the people?”During the caliphate of ʿUmar رضي الله عنه, a female Companion interrupted his Friday sermon to correct him on a point, and he admitted she was right. A whole slew of female Companions fought in battle, the most notable among them Nuṣayba bint Kaʿb رضي الله عنها, who defended the Prophet ﷺ with her sword at the Battle of Uhud and later died on campaign. The great enemy of the Prophet ﷺ, Abū Lahab, was killed by Umm al-Faḍl رضي الله عنها, who smashed his head with a tent-pole. During the Battle of the Trench, Ṣafiyya bint ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib رضي الله عنها was among the people defending the small fort of Fāriʿ. When the senior man there would not go out and confront an enemy soldier who was about to find the fort’s secret entrance, Ṣafiyya took matters into her own hands. She leapt on him from the fort’s walls and clubbed him to death. But she demanded that one of her male comrades strip off his weapons and armor since he was an unrelated man she would never touch with her own hands.

The Prophet ﷺ and his community did not leave a legacy of ‘Traditional Man’s Men’ and subservient women. Their legacy is one of courageous, committed, humble, and engaged individuals, men and women alike. At their head was not an angry alpha male whose masculinity made him mock or subordinate others. He ﷺ was a man who saw that a man’s role is to serve his family and that letting others serve you is something a real man would prefer to avoid.


Tuesday 16 July 2019

How Ifrah Ahmed, the girl from Mogadishu, took her FGM story to the world

Ifrah Ahmed refuses to let the horrific female genital mutilation she suffered at the age of eight define her. “I don’t want to be a victim. I want to be a voice,” says the 32-year-old campaigner.

She is one of the first women to publicly speak out about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia – a country where it is estimated that 98% of women have undergone the ritual – and now her journey from powerless victim to powerful role model has been dramatised in a film. A Girl from Mogadishu has just had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh film festival and will be released across the UK in cinemas later this year.

In the first 10 minutes it shows Aja Naomi King, who plays Ahmed as a 15-year-old girl, being violently gang-raped by Somali militants. After that, she makes the dangerous journey from Somalia to Ireland to seek asylum, too scared to question anything her male smugglers want her to do. Upon her arrival, a male gynaecologist examines her and tries to find out what has happened to her, but she has no words to explain it to the male translator, just tears. But then, about halfway through, with the help of other women, she starts to find her voice. By the end of the film, she is shouting about FGM in front of Barack Obama, making speeches at the United Nations and being praised by the president of Somalia.

For Ahmed, who has devoted her life to campaigning against FGM and was instrumental in bringing about the 2012 legislation banning the practice in Ireland, the movie was an opportunity to challenge how survivors of FGM are perceived. “I don’t want people to see me as a victim. I want people to see me empowering other women. I want to show people that whatever Somali women have been through, we can be strong and overcome it.”

She hopes that others who have suffered FGM will watch the film and feel less alone. “It’s hard for women to speak out about FGM. So when two young Somali women came up to me after watching the movie in Edinburgh and hugged me, and said: ‘Ifra, you are speaking for all of us,’ I felt so happy. I felt so proud.”


Tuesday 9 July 2019

Hadiths: what is Islam?

A man once asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "What is Islam?" The Prophet replied: "Pleasant talk and serving food (to guests and to the needy)." The man then asked: "What is faith?" The Prophet said: "Endurance and benevolence." Next, the man asked: "Which (Muslim) is best?" The Prophet said: "One who safeguards (others) against (harm caused by) his tongue and hand." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "There is an abode in paradise. . .prepared for those who are polite in their speech, provide food (to the needy), fast frequently, and (pray) when other people are asleep." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet also said: "A (tiny spot) in Paradise is better than the whole world and whatever is in it." Sahih Al-Bukhari

Saturday 6 July 2019

Shuaib (a.s) and Ancient Secularism

Shuaib (a.s) and Ancient Secularism
Based on a lecture by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan

Qur'an details a case study of economic corruption through the study of a place called Madyan. The people Madyan had bad habit of cheating people by weighing things incorrectly and offering less than they paid for. One may say that this is not applicable today as we have much more accurate scales and the shops are not cheating this way. While this may be true in some parts of the world, there is still a prevalance of unfair labour wages, child labour factories and pharmaceutical products being sold at 1000x their cost price. These are all examples of people not being given their due measure.

In Surah Hud (chapter 11), Allah عزّ وجلّ says:

84: Then to Madyan we sent their brother Shuaib. He said, “My nation, enslave yourselves to Allah. You have no entity (Illah) other than Him. And don’t cheat people in weights and scales. I want to see good for you. And I am afraid over you of a punishment that will encircle you.”
85: “And my nation, fulfill the scales and weights with open justice and don’t give people less than what they deserve for their things. And don’t go about the land causing mischief.”
86: “The remainder of [what] Allah [leaves behind for you] that is better for if you are believers and I am not a guardian over you.”

What does cheating in business do to society? It adds corruption to the society. When businesses begin to cheat, it spreads and becomes the norm and allows all types of corruption to spread through the society.

87: They said, “Shuaib, is it your prayers that are commanding us to leave what our ancestors used to worship? Or that we cannot do what we want with our money? You are so forbearing and straight.”
Here the people of Madyan are questioning Shuaib (a.s) as to why he is allowing religion to enter the public sphere. Prayer is a personal matter and religion has no place in the world of business, politics, culture or civilisation. This is an example of ancient secularism. Why does money have to interfere with our fiscal responsibilities? Their sarcasm is evident at the end of the ayah when they state that Shuaib (a.s) is now righteous and better than them because of his faith.

88: He said, “My nation, if you’ve seen that I’ve been committed to a decency - a clear proof from my Master, and He provided me with good provision. And I don’t want to oppose you to what I am forbidding you from. All I want is betterment, as much as I can. My accomplishments are entirely dependent on Allah, I have placed my trust in Him and to Him alone I will return.”
In this ayah, Shuaib (a.s) does not mention the ‘special mercy given to him by Allah’ (عزّ وجلّ) as the previous Messengers have in Surah Hud. Instead, he highlights that Allah has given him good provision because the problem within his society was corrupt provision.

89: “And my nation, your opposition to me should not compel you and lead you to think the same things that happened to the nation of Nuh, or the nation of Hud, or the nation of Saleh [should happen to you]. The nation of Lot is not far-away from you.”
90: “Then seek forgiveness of your Master and repent back towards Him. No doubt, my Master is always Merciful and Extremely Loving.”
91: They said, “Shuaib, we do not understand what you are talking about and we see you in our midst as someone who is weak. Had it not been that you are an important asset to your tribe we would have stoned you to death and you are not dear to us in any way.”

This is a classical example of undermining the speaker. Just saying, "I don't know what you are talking about and you are making no sense". The speaker feels stupid, inadequate and makes him feel that he is not able to convey the message.

92: He said, “My nation, my leadership has more authority against you as opposed to Allah? And you have left Him behind. No doubt, my Master is aware of what you are up to and is encircling it.”
93: “And my nation, stand your ground on what it is you are going to do. I am doing whatever I can too. Soon you will find out who the humiliating punishment will come to. And who is a liar and wait – I too am waiting cautiously.”
94: And when Our decision came, We rescued Shuaib and those who believed alongside him, with a mercy that came from Us. And the loud cry (explosion) grabbed those who had done wrong. Then by morning they were lying dead in their homes.
95: As though they had never enjoyed any luxury [in those homes before]. You better know, away with Madiyan, just like Thamud was cast off (distanced).

Details of Surah Hud:

Thursday 4 July 2019

A dictator raped me. I want justice

Fatou A. Jallow was interviewed and named as part of the Human Rights Watch report on former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh’s sexual assault of young women

In June 2015, when I was 18 years old, the then-dictator of my country raped me.

I had just won Gambia’s national beauty pageant and Yahya Jammeh immediately began to court me, lavishing me and my family with gifts. He had running water installed at my family’s house, gave us expensive furniture, and offered me a job as a “protocol girl” in the State House, which I turned down. He even offered to marry me. But I refused.

So Mr. Jammeh used the pretext of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan to have me come to his palace for a Quranic recital. There, with the help of his aides, including his cousin, a woman who claimed to be my friend, he locked me in a room and told me “No woman has ever rejected me. Who do you think you are?”

His face changed; his eyes were red. “You think you can get away with it?” he asked. He then slapped me, injected me with a liquid, and raped me. A few days later, I escaped from Gambia and went to live in Canada.

Today, it is Mr. Jammeh who is in exile, in Equatorial Guinea, and I am returning to Gambia to speak out. What Yahya Jammeh did to me was a crime. I know that many other women were abused by the dictator, who had set up a system to lure women to visit him or work for him in the presidential palace. Mr. Jammeh behaved as if the women of Gambia were his property. Well, we are not, and we never were.

I come from a culture where rape is not named. We never spoke of it among my family, my community, nor in school. Even in drama class, where we portrayed all other topics, rape was not addressed. We made skits about early marriage, child pregnancy, and female genital mutilation, but we never so much as whispered about how some men force themselves onto girls and women against their will.

Growing up, I saw young girls chastised for getting pregnant, but no one questioned how it happened. I remember seeing girls tremble at the sight of an uncle and do anything to avoid taking food into his room. They were in a horrific situation they had no name for.

A Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is now documenting the abuses committed during Mr. Jammeh’s 22 years in power. On the menu: The killing of demonstrators; the arrest and torture of journalists; enforced disappearances; the massacre of 56 migrants from Ghana, Nigeria and other countries; his phony “HIV treatment program” which forced patients to give up retroviral drugs and put themselves literally in his hands.

The TRRC will also hold hearings on sexual violence. I expect to testify before the TRRC, and I hope that other women will feel able to come forward, in closed session or in public, to tell their stories. I want them to be able to speak their truth, and take any shame they might feel, and put that shame where it belongs: on the rapists.

The Commission has Gambians glued to their televisions and radios as former Jammeh accomplices accuse him directly of ordering murders and other crimes. The TRRC has the power to recommend prosecutions and I hope that the Gambian government will request Mr. Jammeh’s extradition to stand trial. Getting him will not be easy. He has been seen partying and cavorting like a celebrity with Equatorial Guinea’s own dictator, Teodoro Obiang.

But I will not give up until Yahya Jammeh is brought to justice. I want to look him in the eyes and say before him what I am saying today. I want Mr. Jammeh to see that I, and the many other women he abused, are not broken as he intended. That we have the power that he tried to take from us.

I want to be in the same room with him again - a courtroom this time - and answer that question he asked me: “Who do you think you are?”

I am Fatou A. Jallow.