Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 2

Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 2

The Double Standard Dilemma: Part II

Written by Stephanie Siam

Last week we met Ali and Jennifer, a newly-married Muslim couple hailing from opposite sides of the globe.

Ali and Jennifer were caught in an issue that often arises in new marriages of the Islamic persuasion: the double-standard. Specifically, that men are often held to (or hold themselves to) different customs, traditions, rules and expectations than women are – within their families, within their societies and within marriages.

As previously discussed, the first way the ridiculous double-standard appear in an Islamic marriage is through the unequal expression of anger. For more about this, please check out Part I here.

The second way double-standards pop up in marriage is through the concept of working – both inside and outside the home.

Working Inside the Home

It’s no secret the United States experienced its own Women’s Suffrage movement during the late 1800s to early 1900s. That was merely to obtain the right for women to vote in federal elections. However, total equality for women is still a far cry from being checked off on the To-Do List of American Civil Rights.

Funeral Director pic
lordin’ it over the Wife

Despite women holding some of the highest positions of power in the States, and other “Western” countries – okay, that ONE position still hasn’t been attained yet … 2016, insha’Allah! – there are still certain stereotypes assigned to women and men, respectively, based on tradition and culture.

Move over a couple of continents, to where men are predominantly raised as princes, catered to for every menial task, and a new wife has a whole load of extra responsibility piled onto her that she might not have been asking for.

Add to this reinforcement by in-laws, society and misguided “scholars”, and the poor girl thinks she has no other choice in the matter but to be her husband’s servant for all of married life.

Take for instance Jennifer. When she moved in with Ali after they got married, she expected he would do his part in taking care of the home. After all, her father had always done his part around the house, especially when her mother worked long hours. When she and Ali had discussed marriage roles, she had mentioned that she was used to her father being active around the house. Ali had not disagreed at the time.

At first, Ali did make sure to keep his dirty clothes in the laundry room. He would also bring his dishes to the kitchen after eating, and he would take out the garbage if Jennifer asked him to.

One evening while they had guests over for dinner, Jennifer called Ali in from the living room to help her make coffee.

“Why did you call me like that in front of our guests?” Ali asked, coming into the kitchen in an angry rush.

“I want you to help me carry the coffee and dessert.” Jennifer held out the coffee pot and some plates.

“I can’t do that.” Ali turned and left the kitchen.

Confused and upset, Jennifer called him back into the kitchen, but he didn’t respond. In order to save face, she took the coffee and dessert out into the living room, served the guests and participated in the conversation until the other couple decided to leave.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Ali spun around in anger. “Don’t ever ask me to serve guests in my home!”

“What is wrong with you?” Jennifer asked. “They’re both of our guests. I’m not a servant.”

“No, you’re my wife. It’s not a man’s job to serve other people. It’s not my June Cleaverresponsibility to bring coffee and dessert.”

“Oh, really?” Jennifer put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side. “So, I suppose it’s my job?”

“Absolutely!” Ali stormed down the hallway, coming back a few moments later. “Where are my black pants?”

“Which black pants?” Jennifer was busy washing dishes, and she wasn’t in the mood to argue any further.

“The ones I wear to the gym. I put them in the laundry basket two days ago.”

“Are they not there?”

“I didn’t look. Didn’t you wash them?”

Jennifer let the dish drop into the sink and turned around. “No, Ali. I have been busy. I have a job, too, you know. I only do laundry on the weekend. If you needed them washed, you should have washed them. I didn’t put a password on the washing machine.”

“Wash my own clothes? What do I look like . . . a woman?”

With her mouth hanging open, Jennifer stared as Ali returned back down the hallway to their bedroom and slammed the door.

And so enters the familiar concept of housework being women’s work and men being free to make their messes and leave behind their piles of dirtiness and stinkiness without a second thought of who should be cleaning up after whom. You know, ‘cause it is beneath a man to clean a toilet. Buddy, you didn’t have any problems making it dirty. What makes me the default go-to for your sanitation process?

But this culturally-based idea of men’s immunity to housework is so ingrained in the minds of both women and men from many countries that it often goes unquestioned until it presents a problem in a mixed-culture marriage like Jennifer and Ali’s.

Of course, if we ask Ali, he’ll say that it’s the way it’s always been, or women are supposed to work inside the home Doing it ALLand men are to work outside the home. He may even cite some reference about how the Qur’an says women should “stay in their homes”.

However, what he will most likely avoid referring to is the issue itself: why must women be the ones to pick up after grown men that possess the ability to do it for themselves?

Why are men allowed to sit like kings in their homes, being served by women in every capacity from massaging their feet, bringing them food and drink to practically cleaning and dressing them?

Well, the answer is simple. They’re not.

When asked about how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) acted in his home, A’isha (ra) said:

He was a human being like any other; he would clean his garment, milk his sheep and serve himself.

Additionally, Sadaf Farooqi tells us the Prophet (pbuh) did the housework and did not “lounge around” expecting the womenfolk to wait on him “like a king on his throne” – even though he did work outside most of the time (and the hadith about the Prophet doing housework is often misquoted as he “helped” with housework. This implies it was the wife’s duty, and he helped anyway. This is not the case. The hadith does not mention helping, but simply doing things for himself. . .because. . .well, he wasn’t broken or incompetent.)

After discussing the double standard of completing housework, it is only natural to move into the final and complementary issue of working outside the home.

Working Outside the Home

It is uncommon nowadays to find a marriage where both partners aren’t working. Even in the youngest countries in terms of “modernism”, newlyweds in their mid-20s to early-30s expect that both the wife and husband will need to work outside the home.

House Lifting
it’s a balancing act

Yet, the expectation remains that the wife, when her “job” is said and done for the day, will come home and keep working until she goes to bed at night: doing the dishes, bathing the kids, cleaning the house, cooking the food.

What ends up happening is the wife becomes overly stressed while the husband sits back and enjoys his time of relaxation after the work day is finished.

Some people say this is the woman’s problem, as she shouldn’t be leaving the house to work, anyway. But there’s nothing in Islam that forbids women from working outside the home.

As we know, Khadijah (ra) was a successful businesswoman even before the Prophet (pbuh) married her. In fact, El-Sayed Amin explains, it was through her business that she met her future husband.

Furthermore, it was Hind bint Utbah and Asma bint Abi Bakr who were instrumental in the success of the Muslims at the Battle of Yarmouk. Clearly, if women were permitted to fight alongside men on the battlefield, then their leaving the house to work at supermarkets in order to help support their families or schools to cultivate knowledge is not an issue.

But what is an issue is the insinuation that women should work outside the home and be responsible for all the work inside the home when they return. Not only is this not fair, but it is totally un-Islamic, as we see above in the discussion of the Prophet (pbuh) and his actions inside and around his home.

Just NO!
And just like in Twilight, this dude is not a real man.

Even worse, many men do not work outside the home. Instead, they rely on their wives to support them . . . and still expect them to take care of the children and the home upon their return from work!

The husbands will sit on the couch watching TV or sleep most of the day, and they don’t lift a finger to help their exhausted and over-stressed wives. Why? Because it’s not their job.

Now, I shouldn’t have to provide a reference showing how ignorant and selfish this belief is. Furthermore, what it ends up leading to is resentment on the part of the wife, and ultimately, dissolution of the marriage and family.

Conclusion

In short, there is only one way to fix the issue of the Double Standard Dilemma in Islamic marriages: communication. It’s one thing to clean up after your husband and serve him if it’s something you want to do. It’s another thing totally to force it on your wife because you believe it’s her job.

As Shahina Siddiqui reminds us:

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect (Quran 30:21).

 

Follow us (upper right of the page), email us (islamwich@yahoo.com), like our face with your face on Facebook, 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 Us” page and browse other posts in our “Table of Contents”.

Advertisements
Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 1

Take Back Islam: No More Double Standards Part 1

Written by Stephanie Siam

The Double-Standard Dilemma: Part I

Jennifer* was a convert Muslimah. Though she had only recently reverted to Islam, she was always a modest young woman, trusted wholly by family and friends.

About a year after her reversion, she met Ali*. He was a few years older than Jennifer, but since she had always been an “old soul” she was okay with the age gap. After meeting with him a few times, under halal (permitted) conditions, they agreed to marry. She had asked him every question that came to mind about their respective roles as husband and wife, but because of her conservative pre-marriage lifestyle, Jennifer assumed the basic routine of day-to-day living would remain generally the same for her.

One evening Jennifer made plans with a friend for dinner. Prior to going out, she let Ali know her plans, as he was also going out with friends for the evening. As she wrapped her hijab, Ali popped his head into the bedroom.

Jennifer looked at his reflection in the mirror and smiled. “I’m excited to see my friend. I haven’t seen her since college. We used to sit together for hours, just laughing and talking.”

“I’m leaving now. What time are you meeting her?” Ali leaned against the frame, crossing his arms over his chest.

“About seven. Great! So we’ll probably get back home around the same time, I’m guessing.” She stuck a final pin into the side of her scarf, grabbed her bag off the dresser and turned to leave.

“No. I’ll probably be late. Maybe around eleven or later.”

Jennifer walked over to him and patted him on the cheek. “Me, too. I told you. . .we can sit for hours.”

Ali shook his head and laughed. “Are you serious? No way.”

She stepped back, confused. “No way what?”

“No way about you staying out until eleven. That’s no good. Women shouldn’t be out that late.”

Jennifer laughed to herself. “What do you mean? I’m not going out to a club. I’m eating dinner, sitting with my friend in a restaurant. Besides. . .you said you’d be home around eleven or later. What’s the difference?”

“The difference is I’m a man.”

muslim_man_and_woman_by_agent_ea-d2xhuea
ONE NIGHT ONLY: Woman vs. Man!

 

And so it starts. The beginning of a recurring theme running through many, many marriages.

The double standard.

Of course, we can’t just limit this to Muslims, or even Arabic culture (a major contributing factor to this issue to begin with). However, for the purpose of this blog, I am only looking at the concept of double standard within Islamic-based marriages. To focus discussion even further, I will limit my scope of criticism to three areas of double standardization:

  1. Expressing Anger
  2. Working Inside the Home
  3. Working Outside the Home


Expressing Anger

 

lucy and ricky

Somebody got some ‘splainin’ to do!

For those of you familiar with the I Love Lucy Show, the image above most likely conjures memories of hilarious scenes between the title character, Lucy, and her Cuban-imported husband Ricky, wherein Ricky spends a great amount of time chiding his naïve and childishly-scheming wife in a mixture of Spanish and heavily-accented English while wagging his finger in a patronizing manner.

This is met, in return, by a loud, whining, “Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” by Lucy, who offers the iconic phrase with closed eyes and a wide-open mouth. Add in the later Technicolor effects of Lucy’s bright red hair and unmistakable lipstick and you’ve got one funny picture.

Of course, if you take a step back and look at the bare-bones story, you see an overly-patriarchal husband chastising his younger wife for something that may-or-may-not be completely her fault. (Well, to be honest, in Lucy’s case, it usually was her fault.)

But the point is, in watching the exchange between the animated couple you hardly ever see Lucy stand up to Ricky. She takes everything he dishes out with a (mostly) closed mouth. And even when she tries to get the upper hand, she does so in a silent, action-oriented manner. . .that often backfires (poor Lucy!).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, you may be wondering why I’ve brought it up.

Because this model is played out in many modern Muslim marriages, in the spirit of “heading the household”, the stronger, usually male, personality takes over and expects all to follow his way.

Western female converts know this posturing all to well. Her more-likely-than-not foreign born husband or even her community believes that the her conversion has been a way for her to escape a “hellbound” culture of capitalism, consumption and hedonism. Clearly, when we become Muslim, there is no desire to maintain any ties to our own cultural identity. . .or we wouldn’t have converted, right? *Sarcasm*

sarcasm

For most, the first sign of the “elite male status” rears its ugly head during the first argument. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, both husband and wife are converts (this gets rid of the sticky “in my culture” issues that always come up in an intercultural relationship).

Since we understand couples argue for a variety of reasons ranging from stupid to life-altering, let’s say the water bill didn’t get paid, and now the water has been disconnected. This wasn’t due to lack of funds. It was simply due to oversight by one or the other.

What follows is a typical experience for many female converts in terms of arguing with a spouse:

Husband: There’s no water. What’s wrong with the water?

Wife: I don’t know. Maybe the whole building has a problem?

Husband: I’ll ask the neighbor. (Leaves to ask neighbor. Returns.) They have water. It’s just us.

Wife: Maybe the pipe’s broken?

Husband: Did you pay the bill?

Wife: Was I supposed to pay the bill? Don’t you usually take care of that?

Husband: Did you remind me? Let me go see if the pipe is fused. (Leaves. Returns.) They fused the pipe.

Wife: I guess the bill didn’t get paid.

Husband: Why didn’t you remind me? I have a lot of things to do.

Wife: I also have a lot of things to do. I suppose I didn’t think about it.

Husband: That’s the problem. You don’t think about things that are important.

Wife: Of course I do. I’m just not used to thinking about things that I don’t usually take care of. Since you always pay the bill, I didn’t think about it.

Husband: A good wife reminds her husband about important things.

Wife: So, now it’s my fault because you didn’t remember?

Husband (raising voice): It’s your fault because you didn’t remind me!

Wife (raising voice in response): I’m not your secretary! Can’t you make a note of important things?

Husband (yelling): Don’t raise your voice to me! I’m your husband, and you must show me respect!

This is not ok
This is not okay

Wife (yelling back): Well, I’m your wife! Don’t yell at me!

Husband (increasing in volume): I am your husband, and I have the right to yell! But you will not speak to me this way! Do you understand?

Now, depending on the general temperament of the man and woman, this episode will escalate further with both getting out of control, or one person will eventually back down. But the question is: why does the husband believe it to be okay for him to raise his voice at his wife, but not for his wife to raise her voice in response?

Why are women – especially Muslim women – expected to be demure and soft-spoken, even when being yelled and cursed at by the person whom they are supposed to respect and trust most in the world?

Why are men allowed to give in to their human characteristics of anger and displeasure, while women are labelled “emotional” and told to contain their feelings?

It is only natural to want to respond in kind to someone when they verbally attack you, be it through volume or vocabulary choices. However, this is considered taboo, inappropriate or disrespectful of men when women get upset and show their feelings.

What ends up happening is that over time, the woman will start to exhibit traits of an emotional or psychological abuse victim. She will withdraw at the sign of argument, afraid to stand her ground, even when she is right to do so. Her opinions will become invalid, even to herself.

She will contain all feelings, positive and negative, until pent-up aggression and expression will cause her to be overcome with anxiety. And then she will not know where the anxiety stems from, as she’ll end up letting her emotions fly at the most mundane of incidents (see: opening a blister package for medication).

So, what’s the solution? Should women be able to yell back? Are women allowed to yell back? Are they allowed to get angry? To show their emotions like men do? Is it really the man’s right to dominate the situation and demand sovereignty in decision-making?

Rasoulallah.net reports:

Once, Aisha was angry at the Prophet – peace be upon him – so, he told her: do you accept Abu Obaida Bin Al-Jarrah as a judge between us? She replied: no, this man will not issue a judgment against you in my favor. He said: do you accept Omar as a judge? She replied: I fear Omar. He said: do you accept Abu Baker (her father)? She replied: yes I accept him.

This exchange shows that no matter how he viewed his own opinion in the matter, even Prophet Muhammad (saw) acknowledged his wife’s right over him to be fairly heard and express her feelings.

He didn’t yell and say, “I don’t care what others think. It’s my opinion that counts.”

Nor did he demand they go to the first person he suggested as a mediator. In fact, he didn’t stop offering names until he found one she agreed with. So, even in their disagreement, he wanted to make sure he found someone who would support her and be fair in their decision about the disagreement.

Additionally, Pakistani freelancer Sadaf Farooqi explains in his article discussing an incident where A’ishah (ra) was verbally attacked by her co-wife, Zainab (ra), in her own home :

He [Muhammad (saw)] did not – and this is a very important key point – exhort the wronged person to keep silent in the name of patience and restraint. He did not allow their oppressor to continue with their injustices. Rather, he made sure that the wrongdoing was not just stopped, but that the one who was wronged also defended themselves.

Even though Zainab (ra) was older than A’ishah (ra), the Prophet (saw) gave his approval for her to speak up about what was being said against her.

Truthfully, the answer is not in who is allowed to yell and who is not.

The answer lies in open communication. Understanding the right that both parties in a marriage have for expressing their opinions, being heard and trusting their partner with protecting (through mutually respecting) their feelings.

One person or the other dominating a relationship and holding the other emotionally hostage is the very definition of dysfunction. As we can see from the example, even our Prophet (saw) permitted his wives to have their say and defend themselves in an argument.

Instead of fighting – yelling, screaming, cursing or worse – couples must learn what works best for each of them when they’re upset or angry. This can take time, but the best answer is being open and honest.

If you need to blow off steam, that’s fine. But make it clear to your spouse this is needed. And then get away from them. It’s okay to unwind and calm down. It’s not okay to do it at the expense of another person’s well-being. And it is even more NOT OKAY to say that just because you are male Islam gives you the right to be an emotional bully. . .or worse.

*The couple mentioned in the story at the beginning are fictitious. Any similarity or resemblance to real people is unintentional.

Follow us (upper right of the page), email us (islamwich@yahoo.com), like our face with your face on Facebook, 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 Us” page and browse other posts in our “Table of Contents”.

2-1/2 Cents of a Convert’s Life

2-1/2 Cents of a Convert’s Life

Written by Brother John Matthew

The following is a story that some Muslims consider controversial. That’s good. Controversy among intellectuals stimulates discussion; which encourages progress.

The time is the 1980s. Smartphones didn’t exist and computer monitors still came in monochrome. The place is the Big new york in the 80sApple. It’s summertime hot; in an area filled with old cookie cutter brownstones, project housing and single family homes; a fantastic menagerie of people, places and income separated by parks and patches of commerce; all wrapped up in a well designed layer of concrete under the vast skyline.

African American, Latino, Oriental, Middle-Eastern and White all rolled up into one super ecosystem of human diversity; that is the beauty of places like New York. People from all over the world live side by side with very little problem considering the millions that live here. I was in my late teens; a whole 125 pounds of lean bone like muscle soaking wet; a homegrown American and as apple pie as one can be. On this particular summer day my life would change forever.

I made my way by foot past various 1950s style brick housing over to my relatives’ apartment which was about 5 blocks from my house. As I was hanging out in front of the complex this young girl caught my eye. Like any normal teenage boy, I did everything I could to get her attention.

From the logical, to the absurd and though she was very reluctant at first, I slowly was able to scratch the surface and I was blessed to get to know more about her. The more I came to know her, the more I fell deeply in love. She was a very religious, intelligent, enormously kind, thoughtful young lady from a part of the world I had barely read about in the news.

During our communication I learned more and more about Islam, (becoming more intrigued and closer to Allah than I ever was) and the people of her land. She worked very hard to educate me on Islam and her culture. We worked very, very hard to convince our families to acknowledge our desire to move forward together.

We tried to do the right thing, though our relationship caused both sides great pain. I cannot write to you that we are star_crossed_lovers__by_francesholly-d3ha8l0together today. Not all great love stories have happy endings. The cultural differences and other highly complex social factors that even now require deep study; were ultimately too much for the two of us to overcome; thus is the will of Allah. After several years of struggle our relationship was no more.

It fell victim to cultural bias. It is until this very day; one of the most difficult periods of my life, full of wonder, joy, sadness, hope and despair. Out of it all, I learned more about her welcoming and generous part of the world, more about love and more about introspection than probably 99% of young persons at the time.

Most of all I became closer to Islam and in fact during our time together I took Shahadah with an area Imam;  I became what is traditionally known as a convert.

I am conveying my story to  you so that you will know that the advice that is to follow comes from an authentic source. A source that has lived the life from which the advice originates through the will of Allah, with the best of intentions to help you if you should require and desire it. Read it well and take it to heart. Insha’Allah  it will benefit you.

“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”

  1. Allah’s guidance is unending; without exhaustion, without limit.

    Allah’s’ lessons can take a lifetime to play out in your mind. It is incumbent upon you as a Muslim to continue to learn from your experiences and use them to grow as a gentle, tolerant human being practicing the faith of Islam. Just as a Doctor practices medicine or an Attorney practices law; do not forget that one “practices” Islam because there is always room for learning and improvement.

  2. Allah’s gifts are not to go unopened.

    If you are a person in a mixed Muslim relationship; Muslim in love with a non-Muslim or a  non-Muslim in love with a Muslim; Allah has brought you together for a reason. Allah is all merciful and kind. Use your gift of love to become closer to Allah and your love for each other will grow strong; helping you to fend off doubters. Seek out a well versed, experienced Imam and talk to him about your situation. Ask for guidance. Do not and your love will not.

  3. Allah places great indescribable value on women.

    Anyone that thinks otherwise is not an educated Muslim.  I was personally introduced to Islam through the love of a women. I can think of no higher an indication than that.

  4. You must use your faith to help others.

    At some point in time during my experience as a youth, if someone, anyone would have stepped in and took care of our young souls, through the teaching and love of culturally unbiased Islam, I can’t help but think that we would have been able to overcome our challenges. Allah provides us with the tools in Islam, but we must use them well and help those less educated and experienced. Seek guidance from others.   

  5. Do not use Islam or your culture as an excuse to push people away or to reject others.

    If you think you are better than someone because you are Muslim with a different culture and they are not the same as you; you are arrogant and prejudice. You are ungrateful that Allah has chosen you and not them. Being grateful is to recognize your gift and to make attempts to gift it to others. Use the teachings of culturally unbiased Islam as a platform for communicating it’s beauty and benefits to others who will listen. If your enemy approaches you with arms down, stay alert but use that opportunity to build love and trust and soon that enemy will be your enemy no more. That is real victory.

Insha’Allah this text will help you as you navigate the wonders of this life.

–  Brother John Matthew

Follow us (upper right of the page), email us (islamwich@yahoo.com), like our face with your face on Facebook, 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 Us” page and browse other posts in our “Table of Contents”.