Recently, I watched a documentary called: The Girls of The Taliban & it sparked something in me, my inner voice. If you want to watch it, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHWuj0SWs84
The documentary itself is centred in Afghanistan and shows the viewer conflicting views in what is the right thing to do when it comes to practicing Islam… Here are my thoughts:
As much as I admire women who seek education, who learn the Mushaf, Sharia Law & Ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), I also admire their work ethic to wake up very early, while most of the world are asleep, I admire their sense of home, they don’t always feel the need to escape from home. Home is not a miserable place but a place they feel most comfortable, relaxed and safe. I admire all of that & more but at the same time, the girls opinions on some matters are just that – their opinion. Even though I understand that their opinion is a result of their learning and I can put my hands up and say they have probably read more books than I ever could… but Hikmah (wisdom) comes from Allah… It’s not something that can be bought or learned & a few of these girls seemed to be lacking in that. May Allah increase us in Hikmah.
It wasn’t clear in the documentary unless you look for details (I do) that not all women wear hijab but it was clear as day that the full Niqab was not forced, nor were they brainwashed. There were many girls around them choosing not to wear it and in the Muslim world today, or if you visit any Muslim country in the entire world, I think it’s clear for all that hijab, niqab or Islamic attire is not forced, it’s an individual’s choice.
“The women are in a separate compound where we’re not allowed to film.”
At one part of the documentary, during the award ceremony – women were not allowed to be filmed. It’s like royalty… VIP’s… what other community would tell a documentary maker that women are too precious to be filmed. They are not entertainment and we do not make money out of women…
I can’t think of any.
They also made note that televisions and music were not allowed in the Muslim home. Again, by choice. I can tell you honestly, that I have never entered a Muslim home where there is no TV… May Allah guide us. Even my own home but I do try and monitor what I watch and make sure it’s educational or has a purpose.
But wasting time and playing music are very basic rules of Islam. That doesn’t make one a “strict Muslim” or an extremist. If you feel like it does, please correct your understanding of Islam.
The next point: Hijab. I am not a scholar of any kind. I don’t have the experience of age, nor the educational background to tell you what to do, and even if I did – it’s better to find out for yourself, to teach yourself…. But what I do know is that the women who cover everything including their face, feet and hands are going the extra mile. Just like they spend 12 hours reading, learning and reciting Qur’an. That’s 12 hours more than you & I.
I do not mock them, belittle them or judge them. It’s their body and they have the right to do with it what they want, if they want to cover it who am I to stop them?
It’s about doing what you are most comfortable with….. some people argue that Muslim women are most comfortable with no hijab…. Following the fashion of the West and my reply would be the same, “wear what you are comfortable with……….but……….. ask yourself why are you most comfortable to do that?”
I wouldn’t force them to cover just as I wouldn’t force a covered woman to uncover but we all have a responsibility to reflect on our choices now and again and ask ourselves why? Why am I doing this? Is this benefitting me or not? That’s the key to progressing.
The next point I want to make is that when I was watching the woman in their Madrassah learning Qur’an it brought back memories of me attending the Masjid. Most of the women, if not all of them, wore black, a majority wore niqab but of course took it off in the safety of the all-female masjid. They looked very similar to the women in the documentary so for me, because I have had the privilege to talk to these women, befriend them and get to know them it is so much easier for me to relate to these far away, strangers in Afghanistan.
During my time at the masjid I wore pink, purple, blue, cream, black, orange, brown like most days I wore any colour I felt like. It was only 3 or 4 weeks in that I stood in line to pray, I rushed to the front knowing the rewards of being at the front and it dawned on me. I am the only woman wearing colour. Everyone was so gentle, kind and welcoming that they did not make me feel like an alien, or a peacock trying to wear as many colours as possible. They did not think themselves superior because they almost learned the whole Qur’an and I am learning the shortest chapter in the Book. They did not see me as a “Westerner” but as part of their family, sisters in Islam despite the differences, the differences in our Imaan – only Allah Knows that but I swear, walahi, they did not look down on me, in fact some of them looked up to ME. Can you believe it, the hippy Muslim as some of my colleagues at work call me…
A woman who serves Allah, learned and memorised the full Qur’an, covers her full awrah including hands and face and spends her free time teaching others, looks up to me.
One of the beautiful ladies told me that I am better than her and I told her no way… she said yes, you are.
May Allah guide all of us.
Similarly, I know many Muslim women who don’t cover at all. In fact when I first met them I had no idea that they were Muslim I fully assumed that they were Christian. (There was no way for me to know) but as time went on & I got to know them… I realised they are Muslim, they are my sisters. And that’s what Islam is – one big family.
We all understand it differently. We all have our shortcomings and we all need Allah’s Guidance.
Finally, the documentary showed two sides of opinions regarding women and work. It’s a famous controversial topic that many people have spoken about before. I will offer my piece for what it’s worth… The madrassah encourages women to become Qur’an teachers and scholars. Why not?
The other “more liberal” families in Afghan preferred to be doctors, generals, teachers… etc…
One quality I admired in both was ambition.
One thing we could all have more of to improve this world is: ambition.
The problem that comes with studying & working is gender mixing… something taken WAYYYY too lightly in the Muslim ummah. But at the same time, to forbid a woman without any proof is very harmful to her and the society you live in.
Don’t squash your children’s dreams whatever they may be… just guide them. If there is a way to limit gender mixing – do it. If not, that’s why Allah swt honored women with hijab and told both genders to lower their gaze. Granted it’s a rarity these days but that’s one of the reasons for this Divine law. To protect women, to allow her to chase her dreams as safely as possible.
The Madrassah also seemed to focus on Qur’an teachings and neglect other important subjects like Social studies, Science, Maths, Languages, Physical Education, business… all as important as the other. I cannot agree that we should focus and teach our children 100% Islamic studies even though Islam covers all areas of life, it has to be put in to practice to have an effect i.e there is no point in memorising the Qur’an and Hadith and not living by it.
My last and final issue I had was the preference of the colour black. Perhaps I am not correct in my view, Allah Knows best but I don’t find black a particularly Holy colour. I don’t think it should be a preference over others and pale, feminine colours but in loose, long fabrics are what I find most graceful and pure. Again, I am not a scholar and this is my opinion but as a Muslimah I know that Islam doesn’t try to eradicate feminism from women, we are feminine by nature. Islam simply tries to protect women and control a world that is quite frankly out of control.
The one thing I love and admire about the Afghan activists was their decision to do something. They noticed a massive lack of women representors and education for women so they changed it. They didn’t complain about it in their fancy homes, they didn’t blame Western colonization, they simply did their part and started with one small school…
There’s no doubt that education is a huge factor in all that is wrong with the world and especially the Muslimah ummah. Too many Muslims do not have the right to an education which leads to high forms of ignorance and disgrace to the society. Muslims everywhere do things they shouldn’t do out of ignorance.
To end, I want to say that I’m not a moderate Muslim, a modern Muslim, a Humanitarian Muslim, a Shi’a Muslim, a Sunni Muslim, an extreme Muslim or a devout Muslim.
I am simply Muslim.
Flawed but still Muslim. May Allah accept our good deeds.
“And strive hard in Allah’s Cause as you ought to strive (with sincerity and with all your efforts that His Name should be superior). He has chosen you (to convey His Message of Islamic Monotheism to mankind by inviting them to His religion, Islam), and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship, it is the religion of your father Ibrahim (Abraham) (Islamic Monotheism). It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Qur’an), that the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) may be a witness over you and you be witnesses over mankind! So perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), give Zakat and hold fast to Allah [i.e. have confidence in Allah, and depend upon Him in all your affairs] He is your Maula (Patron, Lord, etc.), what an Excellent Maula (Patron, Lord, etc.) and what an Excellent Helper!”
Surah 22; Ayah 78 – Holy Qur’an.