The Arab Man

The Arab Man

Written by Gracie Lawrence


man scarf 2

 

I once asked my Levantine husband when we were newly married what it meant to be an man in his country. He  responded half laughing and half sighing …

“A crushing sense of responsibility for everyone, knowing I will please no one!”

This reply surprised me, and I can honestly say I did not understand it until many years (and many kids) later when I visited his home country.

Gender issues are always complex.

I was raised in 80s and 90s- the civil rights area was something of my father’s time and I was comfortable in my MTV and jelly shoes to know that women of any color could vote or study whatever she wanted. We didn’t have to stay at home in aprons making pie- there was a whole world out there that was already employing both men and women. With enough Sesame Street in your childhood, it was enough to make any pony-tailed girl optimistic.

Sure, now in my 30s- fully aware of equal pay for work disparages and how the role of motherhood can totally derail a career- I am a bit jaded about all the equality.

Still there are far worse places to be a woman, right?

Interestingly, I never considered that those very places would be the same where it is also far worse to be a man.

Of course in the end it is a matter of personal perspective. I don’t want to get in a culture war right here in the sanctuary that is islamwich. In the West, most of us assume that the West is a better place to be a woman, because our values and what we have been told are in line with that reality … or any place with some pretty awesome law and order; with petty corruption kept well under wraps. Oh Man, how I love that …

But gender roles are much more complicated in Arab culture than I originally thought, and the role of the average Joe Abdul was much more of a mystery to me.

Who is the Arab man?

Can there be more than what is shown on the cover of mainstream media- violent, angry and oppressive? Aren’t they fathers, sons and brothers too?

“Why should I have to do it, it is the man’s job.”

She smiled, adjusted her pink hijab and had a seat while she passed the papers to her brother-in-law, who diligently began to take care of all the bureaucratic work she needed done at the local government building.

Yes, it is a man’s world. And in the Middle East, life is much, much easier with a man.

They take care of the outside stuff.

dusty
Well, doesn’t that look lovely…

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Top 5 Reasons Why Abayas are Awesome

Top 5 Reasons Why Abayas are Awesome

Written by Gracie LawrenceAbaya-sleeve1 edit 2

Unfortunately, like many Western women, some days I look through my closet and I think I have nothing to wear. However, I have a secret weapon. It is just when I have lost all hope of being stylish and comfy that I can turn to my trusty abaya (əˈbīə/noun 1. a full-length, loose, outer garment that can be easily be slipped on over the head). Never too tight or scratchy, this instant classic and friend of your wardrobe is there to save the day time and time again. Sure, she may not grace the pages of the latest Vogue, but nowadays abayas are being designed in every color, shape and style imaginable.

So stand back pants (or skirt) and top- let’s discuss the top 5 reasons why abayas are truly awesome.


There's always too much
There’s always too much

5. Laundry Day Cover Ups

All I have left is this pink knit skirt to go with this over-sized blue and brown t-shirt … throw on a nice abaya- instant sophistication!

Which one of these is my trick mirror again?
Which one of these is my trick mirror again?

4. Instant Slimmerizer

It looks like I lose a few percentages of body fat just by wearing these things. Rolls? Muffin top? Not that you can tell! It is like spanx for the woman who will not be encased like a flippin’ sausage.

Why can't I go to class like this?
Why can’t I go to class like this?

3. Decency in an Emergency

Whoops, I am late for class/work, etc. – good thing I can just slip this on. Wearing pajamas at the grocery store has never been so much fun. (Also I suspect that was probably why Mona Lisa smiles ever so slyly. She was actually wearing jammies under her Renaissance abaya, and Leonardo da Vinci was none the wiser.)

You mean you don't own one of these? How strange...
You mean you don’t own one of these? How strange…

2. Fashionista Always

In the West, have you ever encountered another Muslimah sporting the exact same abaya with the exact same hijab as you? Yeah, me neither. Feel like you are wearing couture, and laugh as you walk past the GAP -then turn around and walk in because you see they have cute scarves.

Avoid this look

Avoid this look

1. Prevents Blushing

I don’t have to worry about my shirt riding up, or any other bits of me being exposed without my knowledge (especially when I have to perform salah/prayer). I equate this with more comfort and I find it hard to ever say no to comfort (Hey, Comfort … call me …).

Sure it is tempting to follow Western trends, just make sure you are comfortable both physically and spiritually with whatever you grab from your closet (or … um … from the laundry basket).

Whenever in doubt, break the abaya out.

Salams-

Gracie

Has your abaya ever saved the day? Tell us about your favorite one below!

Interested in more abayas?

Abayas with an Eastern Flare

http://hijabistyle2.storenvy.com/collections/202775-fashion-abayas-and-event-gowns

Abayas with a Western Flare

http://www.shukronline.com/womens.html

Couture Abayas

http://www.hesseh.com/

Economical Abayas

http://www.eastessence.com/islamic-clothing/abaya-and-jilbab/

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Top 5 Regrets of Our Youth

Top 5 Regrets of Our Youth

Written by Gracie Lawrence

big foot

Here I am in my early 30s and a few times a week at least I hear heart wrenching stories about our youth. I understand that this newer generation of Muslims live in a more connected world and have difficulties that were unknown to me in my time. However, it seems for the most part they are falling into some of the same traps over and over. Maybe you are the first generation born in the West, maybe you are a convert whose parents have been here for generations, or maybe you just recently moved here from overseas.

I think that one more list on how to not mess up your life can only help, and this list is for you. You might not have problems with all these issues, but if we can spare you just one, we will celebrate.

So here we go, world. What follows is from the experiences and tales of many a young person, now old, all collected and combined to help you, if you will only listen.

The Top 5  Regrets of Our Youth

#5 Falling for Mainstream Media

I'm sorry, but if you are that easy to imitate, excuse me if I question your $300 price tag.
I’m sorry, but if you are that easy to imitate, excuse me if I question your $300 price tag.

It is all about making you into a good little consumer. Yes, maybe that is good for business and the economy, but in all honesty- most of what you see in TV dramas and commercials do not matter –ask any mature adult.  Things that you need do not need advertising.

No one needs to convince me to buy bread. That is something I would do on my own without a reminder, diamonds however need constant advertising because no one really needs that. Use your brain, don’t fall for it and don’t fall for people who do- they will make you miserable.

Young people, we understand that you are in the stage of building an identity and the fact that you are young probably means you really haven’t done much to make you feel like you have one.

Dressing in name brand clothes, just makes you a walking billboard, and looking towards movie or tv created characters to give you some guidance is just as unoriginal. Instead, try focusing your identity building energies into doing some really creative or helpful activities.

Organize or be a part of community volunteer activities, or try mastering something- it could be a new language, website building, sewing or an art…something …anything. Throwing on a pair of expensive sunglasses is just LAZY. W

hen you get older it will not make you interesting. Cool guys and gals looking to marry will be more impressed with a bit of French, that you are a chess master, or created your own comic book line rather than the fact that you own a bunch of expensive shoes. 

Need more guidance than that and emulating is your thing- I have the perfect solution for that! Look at the prophet (peace be upon him) to help build a healthy Muslim identity. There is more to him than what your parents have told you. You might be surprised. Go read something.

#4 Dabbling in Drugs/Alcohol


Just because it isn't sold on the street corner doesn't make it safeAbusing and mixing prescr iption drugs is just as stupid.
Just because it isn’t sold on the street corner doesn’t make it safe. Abusing and mixing prescription drugs is just as stupid.

Not everyone is into this, but it needs to be mentioned because this is actually a problem that exists in our communities. Interestingly enough, it is not just consuming these things, but selling them, because there is a whole lot of money in it.

Guys like money, because it makes them feel strong with all that spending power and they notice the girls watching them. Girls, help out by not being so obsessed by what a brother can buy you, and brothers- please- you know it isn’t right, even if you plan on repenting later (if you get a “later”)…what kind of plan is that??

For those that experiment and consume these substances, I don’t need to tell you it is haram. Just remember you are taking a huge risk of becoming an addict. Some people automatically become addicts, and for others it takes time- which one will you be?

Who knows, just don’t do it. I’ve never met anyone that regretted not dabbling in some drugs or getting drunk. Spend your money on something else; entertain yourself with more worthwhile people (see #5 above). Memories (or lack of) an activity you fell into while under the influence is most likely not going to have a happy ending.

#3 Not Focused on Future Employment

money_tree_new

People say “go to university so you can get a job”, not so true in the West anymore- not everyone wants to or can go to University anyway.

I am just saying:

#1 figure out what kind of employment you are going to be chasing (we all need to pay bills and eat in the real world)

#2 figure out what it is going to take to get there (is it a degree, an apprenticeship, work experience?)

#3 hustle, young blood

20s aren’t the new 30s- you need direction and good plan. If you realize that you don’t really have one- it is okay to ask for help (you’re actually smarter for it). Poor and confused at 30 is no fun. Before you know it, you are going to be partnering up and maybe even having a baby or 5.

Knock this stuff out NOW. If motherhood is a career path you choose, having something to fall back on in case disaster strikes doesn’t hurt. It is nice to be in the position to help others and not having to ask for sadaqa (charity) from others.

#2 Being Asinine About Your Parents

She wiped your butt for years. Whose butt have you wiped? Give her a call.
She wiped your butt for years.
Whose butt have you wiped?
Give her a call.

I know, they seem boring and aggravating now. It is strange to think that someone who has lived much, much, much longer than you can actually know more than you. Maybe you look at their life and think “why should I listen to them, look at their own life,”- as if people do not learn from their mistakes and then have valuable guidance to give you.

Maybe they have not even been super nice to you. Young people, as a general life rule -unless you have gone through what someone else has gone through – you really have no right to judge. That means, until you have kids that you have raised from baby to teens you really need to keep your “critical analyze” to yourself.

There is a reason being good to your parents is so important in Islam. You owe EVERYTHING you are and have first to Allah, and then to them. Go ahead and disagree with me now- we’ll talk again in 10+ years (extreme cases exempt from this- seek professional help). Another thing, parents die, and when they do -it is horrible. Even if you are so emotionally harden that their passing means nothing to you, just realize that at the most basic level, that means you have just moves up in the ol’ mortality line.

For those of you that have a heart, you’re going to feel like a selfish bucket of ^$&* every time you think of the time you were too busy to spend time with them or just make them a cup of coffee.

#1 Pre-marital Sex

regret pencile

There was a huge sermon about this at the masjid I go to. Turns out parents are sending young men and women to university or into the world expecting them to suppress their natural biological desires until the best possible marriage possibility comes along. That means for some guys- into their 30s. Good grief, even the religious amongst us are falling into zina, because it goes against nature for goodness sakes.

Parents- you are being unrealistic. If you are lucky and your kid isn’t out there fornicating, there is a possibility your kid might just bring home a wife/husband you don’t like, hook them up (to be clear- help, not force) before this happens if a nice daughter/son-in-law matters to you.

Young, people, maybe you just plan on being friends with that cute guy/girl. Nothing is going to happen, because you are both in the MSA, right? WRONG!!!!!! I have heard so many stories of this happening, both parties being so tempted that they find themselves going down a trail of ridiculous justifications and excuses, until bam zina has been committed. 

Zina has regret stamped all over it, not like a bad dream you can just forget. This should not be happening in our communities. Our country is stable, not chaotic, and relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Just get married people! If he/she is delaying it- you are being played…sorry…truth hurts…find another guy/girl- there are so many. 

As for the guys thinking they are just going to mess around and not marry the girl they are playing: realize that many guys end up marrying girls they never ever, ever, EVER thought they would because of this. Also many a baby and STD have been made/spread by failed contraceptives and with 110 million STDs among men and women in the USA- good luck figuring out who is who.

Being young is not easy. I estimate about half of you will fight me on every topic here (because you know better; and this won’t happen to you-sure, good luck with that).  The other 49% will agree with me, but will not follow the advice here (you are a special snowflakes, which means the average pattern of life doesn’t apply to you *massive eye roll*).

But to the 1% who does … you guys are awesome and will have plenty of room in your closets- instead of the bunch of skeletons your cocky peers will acquire through the next 10 years.

Go forth and prosper!!

Skeleton free!
Skeleton free!

Salam, Gracie

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Polygamy Explained, Part I: A Societal Need?

Written by Gracie Lawrence

Since the days that exotic tales of everyday wealthy Ottoman life began to waft onto European shores, wondering Western romantic minds have been painting up portraits of what Eastern harrams (pronounced hair-ums in some southern cities) must have looked like. Ladies lavishly washing, beautifying themselves and their long manes, and perhaps even making exquisitely succulent turkey dinners … together … just for you.

Polygamy Part 1

Equally ridiculous is how having 4 sets of in-laws, the various responsibilities of those women and resulting amount of children, and how alllll that would affect Sunday night football never quite occurs to many men.

I thought it would be interesting to talk about why anyone might want to be in a polygamous marriage in the first place (PART 1) and no, not from a male point of view … boring! Secondly, what responsibilities that would entail for a man (PART 2).

Wait, whaatt? Muslim men have duties to their wife/wives?  YUP!

Polygamy (or more specifically, Polygyny- in which a man has more than one wife) can be a difficult thing for the Western mind to imagine as anything other than an oppressive venture.

However, the disturbing–to-some fact remains that a large part of the world does practice polygamy and has practiced it for thousands of whyyourarelyseeafemalypolygamist[1]years (conjuring up stories of King Solomon here).

According to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies noted, only 186 were monogamous; 453 had occasional polygyny; 588 had more frequent polygyny; and 4 had polyandry (in which a woman has more than one husband- Part 3, maybe?).

However, even in countries where polygyny is practiced only 16-30% of people actually utilize it. Therefore, clearly even in polygyny friendly societies, this form of marriage is not dominant.

Moreover, there are various kinds, female choice polygyny systems seen among South American natives (see this one about a Bolivian tribe) are going to be different than a male coercion model.

There are many reasons why marriages may become polygamous. But I think it first appropriate to bring forth the appropriate backdrop.

Lifting the Western goggles

Picture it … the Earth, the date- today.

Even in this century, the majority of the world does not have the economic system or wealth of modern post- industrialized nations. 

Taking into consideration that most of human civilization has been overrun with serious poverty, men and women dying from preventable diseases, and women dying due to childbirth related complications, (Maternal Deaths Sub-Saharan Africa) life and social taboos in many places were and still are vastly different from the Western context.

Now that we have taken our Western goggles off

Let’s have a look around and think of just some examples where polygyny might occur and work … without being oppressive to women.

1. Poverty

You’re a poor girl whose father and only bread winner of the family just passed away. Unfortunately for you women don’t have the option of earning wages. And you really don’t like being poor. While there are plenty of single, young goat-herding men around- they are also poor and therefore not very interesting to you.

There is, however, an older, charming a la’ Sean Connery merchant who is actually very well off.  He already has two wives, but have you seen their homes? And you would be the youngest and favorite wife, right?

2. War

You’re a poor girl who lives in a village that has just been annihilated by a fairly rich country. Most of the men have been slaughtered, including your father the protector and only bread winner of the family.

You are stuck with the few males who were too old to be considered a threat to invaders. They all have at least one wife already. But you really want some babies, a few meals a day, and some protection in your now lawless area. Polygyny is a better than your only other option- prostitution (which sky-rockets in conflict zones).

3. You’re tired

You are a married woman with a few kids, and you have been married to your husband for a while now. He’s a nice guy- you love him- you would never think of leaving him or separating him from the kids. But the man has the sexual appetite that can be compared to a pack of starved wildebeests … every … single … night.

You on the other hand are a once a week kind of girl. You tell him he either needs a new hobby or a new wife- not that he can’t just overcome his urge, but you’re pretty practical at this point in your life–why not?

I could go on and on with these circumstances and the driving factors for women to want polygyny (your parents don’t even have to die in these scenarios and the last one isn’t even poverty dependent). 

 

Even Tim Harford at Slate recognizes the benefits of such a system in his article hilariously entitled I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do: The Economic Case for Polygamy

This probably all sounds very foreign to you, and of course it is! (Except for the marrying for money part because we all know of some gold digger who did that.) It is not part of our culture to have a lot of these problems, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been an issue or are still occurring in many parts of the world RIGHT NOW.

What Islam does is regulate these unions so that as few people get hurt as possible (no abusing women, using men purely as sperm donors, the rights of children, etc.).

And in a species such as ours where almost every characteristic (including sexual appetite) can be spread over such a vast spectrum of varying degrees of intensity- I believe such flexibility in law (religious or otherwise) actually strengthens societies.

 

Part Two here

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Like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About” page and browse other posts in “Table of Contents”.