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

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Take Back Islam: “Honor” Killing is Murder Part II

Take Back Islam: “Honor” Killing is Murder Part II

Honor does not include murder
graphic by Nicole Elmasry

Written by Theresa Corbin

In my previous post I wrote about how ridiculous is it to claim that “honor” killings are Islamic (Part I here) when they are in fact murder. The whole time I was writing I kept thinking: talk about the victims, tell their stories and speak out for their justice. I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge the perpetrators of their murders. I wonder if the lives of these women could have been saved if their families really knew what Islam dictated, instead of their culture.

Would they be alive and happy today if only their families knew?

Forced into marriage

Would Shafilea Ahmed’s  parents still have murdered her  “because she failed to conform to their wishes for an arranged marriage and she allegedly ‘brought shame’ on the family” if they had known that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: “A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow) must not be married until she is consulted”?  (Sahih Muslim)

Would she be alive today if her parents had only read the Quran 4:19 “O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will […]”

Or would it not have made any difference to their egos?

Choosing her own husband

Would Saba Maqsood still have been shot for marrying a man she loved if her family had been reminded that a woman has the right to choose her husband, as Khadija choose Muhammad (pbuh) and as many other female companions of the Prophet (pbuh) chose their husband?

Would the family of Saba still feel justified in their crimes against her if they had heard the hadith about a woman who  “came to the Prophet, (pbuh), and mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet, (pbuh), allowed her to exercise her choice.” ? (Abu Dawud)

Or would they have still allowed cultural dictates to cloud their judgement?

Accused without evidence

"Honor" Killing

graphic by Nicole Elmasry

Would Ayah Ibrahim, still be with us if her uncle who imagined an inappropriate relationship between her and her fiance would have known that accusing women without evidence is a huge sin?

Would Ayah be married to her betrothed today if her suspicious uncle had read this verse of the Quran: “Indeed, those who [falsely] accuse chaste, unaware and believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter; and they will have a great punishment” 24:23?

Would her uncle have even cared?

Getting a divorce

Would Mona Mahajneh‘s brother still have shot her if he had known divorce is perfectly acceptable, if he had read one word about divorce in the Quran, if he had known the Prophet himself legitimized divorces between couples and even married a woman name Zaynab bint Jahsh who was divorced?

Would Mona still have been shot in front of her son if her brother wasn’t only concerned about cultural mores that only value a woman based on her virginity?

Being raped

Would the unnamed 10 year old Afghani rape victim still have to fear being killed by her family if they weren’t so horrifyingly ignorant, if they knew that it is the rapist that should suffer the death penalty and not the victim?

Would she have had a chance to heal from her attack if her culture was able to see her as a whole human being and not just a hymen?

I wonder if her father had been the one raped, would he find himself guilty of being impure and call for his own murder?

Having an inappropriate relationship

And would all the women who have been murdered for having a relationship with a man before marriage (real or imagined by family members), would they still be alive if their families had known that flirting, kissing, and even fornicating are not actions punishable by death? Would these women still be alive if their fathers, brothers, uncles were educated even a little bit in Islam and not so much in culture?

Would knowing the following hadith have changed their minds?: When a man approached the Prophet after having kissed a woman, seeking forgiveness and guidance.  God revealed to the Prophet the following  verse: “‘And perform the prayers, between the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds efface the evil deeds,’ (11:114). The man asked the Messenger of God ﷺ if the revelation of this verse applied only to his situation. The Messenger of God responded, ‘It applies to all my ummah [nation of Muslims around the world, male and female].’” (Bukhari)

Or would they still have clung to a false and paranoid idea of “honor”?

No honor in Murder
graphic by Nicole Elmasry

Would any of these women be victims today had their  family members truly known what Islam dictates? Or would cruel and irrational cultural practices have won out in the end anyway? Islam came to free us from these backwards, ignorant and evil practices, but still we find that many cling to culture over Islam, and still more claim their culture is Islam. In this willful ignorance women suffer, are murdered and are living in fear for no reason other than power plays, appearances, and egotism.

No more! It is time we educate ourselves and our families. It is time we pry culture away from Islam and know the difference, and know those who wish to abuse power falsely in it’s name. It is time we stop hiding behind culture and admit when wrong is wrong. It is time to expose the truth, save lives, and end these ignorant and detrimental practices. It is well past time to #TakeBackIslam

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Take Back Islam: “Honor” Killing is Murder Part I

Take Back Islam: “Honor” Killing is Murder Part I

honor-crime

 Treat women well and be kind to them

-Muhammad’s last advice to his nation

Written by Theresa Corbin

As I became an adult, I started to see that porn, strip clubs and hook-ups are the norm for most men. I came to understand that many men see women’s bodies only as tools to obtain pleasure (not true of all men of course).

So it was not much of a surprise to me in my pre-Islam days when many of my male “Muslim” acquaintances would engage in much of the same behavior. I learned about how sons are patted on the back for promiscuity when one  such “Muslim” acquaintance was paid a visit from his family. Upon being discovered sneaking into his home at a late hour, he was greeted with an attaboy from his father when it became clear that he (the son) had been out “hooking-up”.

Months after this interaction with his father, my “Muslim” friend was praising his sister back home. He spoke about how she had married young and was such a good girl and so on. Thinking back to his attaboy for being a womanizer, I asked if his family would be ok with her even if she had behaved in the same manner as he did.

The hypocrite in question flew into a rage, without any amount of exaggeration said he would kill her himself if she ever acted like that, and warned me never to talk about her like that again.

This was my first heart breaking introduction into the injustice of honor crimes.

At the time not knowing much about any culture or religion other than my own (American, former Catholic, agnostic at the time), I had to begin the difficult process of unpacking the cultural practice of honor killing from Islam.

Allow me, if you will, to explain in the most honest terms what an honor killing is. It is a heinous practice that predates Islam and is inherited from Hinduism, Roman Law, and other archaic systems that postulate that a woman’s worth lies in her sexuality and its usefulness to male family members. In honor killings male family members claim ownership over female bodies and take it upon themselves to murder them over matters of chastity and “inappropriate” relationships all to spare the family the “shame” of gossip.

Anne Boleyn lost her head because of rumors
Anne Boleyn lost her head because of rumors

The practice of honor killing is a long and dishonorable tradition around the world.

Perhaps the most memorable case of an honor killing was when Henry the VIII beheaded his wife, Anne Boleyn, for suspicion and rumors of adultery. He also murdered another of his wives, Catherine Howard, for the same suspicion. But this is lesser know.

But honor killings are most often associated with Islam for two reasons

1.) Because the media and leading Islamophobes have inaccurately painted a picture about how these crimes are always committed by Muslims, ignoring the fact that victims come from many different cultures and religions.

2.) Because, yet again, some Muslims prove Islamophobes and the media’s narrative correct. They mistake their archaic, brutal and backward cultural practices as Islam, when they in fact have nothing to do with Islam.

I feel like I have said this a million times, but the fact is that cultural, tribal, and local traditions often conflict with Islamic teachings. And people, in their ignorance, arrogance or whatever, cling to their traditions and wrongly call it Islam. Just because a Muslim does it, does not make it Islamic!

A major hindrance in understanding the horror of honor killings is the misunderstanding of the punishment for zina (adultery)

The capital punishment of adultery (sex with someone you are not married to while you are married or divorced) is not due to any “honor.” In fact, it is applicable to both men and women and only intended to establish social justice; to prevent disease, broke baby mommas, starving and fatherless children, and all the emotional turmoil that comes along with adultery.  

A case of adultery must be proven with strict eye-witness evidence in a court of law and left up to the judge to forgive or punish. It is SO hard to prove adultery that the capital punishment has only ever legitimately been implemented in cases where the adulterer repeatedly confessed (without coercion). Therefore it is considered a deterrent rather than a harsh penalty.

It is also important to understand that in the Muslim World today, shar’ia (Islamic law) is practiced crudely, and far away from the objectives and intentions of shari’a as it was practiced by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and many generations after him. “Muslim” countries today see it only as a series punishments to keep those without money or power “in line”. They do not see it for what it is: a comprehensive system that first teaches its citizens, deters them from corrupt behavior, upholds social justice and forgives and offers excuses before it ever punishes. 

Under no circumstances can a family carry out capital punishment. In the event such a killing happens, it is a considered murder and the murderer needs to be punished by the judge. From Muslim Matters

Gossip, slander and small mindedness. Oh MY!

gossip is an activity of  small minded people
small minds discuss people

Honor killing has very little to do with societal justice and balance or even adultery.  Honor killing has to do with the family unit fearing gossip.

In honor killings the family is on a witch hunt and acts as judge, jury, and executioner that does not admit evidence, only regards appearances in their community, tribe, or sewing circle.

What did the Prophet (PBUH) do when the chastity of his wife, Aisha, was brought into question? He did not accuse her, he did not fear people talking about him, he waited for proof to be established.

Aisha was innocent of the rumor and because of the emotional turmoil she suffered from the slander, the following verse was revealed in the Quran “Verily, those who accuse chaste women […] are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter, and for them will be a great torment” [al-Noor 24:23].

Honor? Really!?

Anatomy of "Honor"
Anatomy of “Honor”

Islamically speaking we are all responsible for our own honor. If honor was a family enterprise, Abraham- God’s Khalil (dear friend)-would have been dishonored by his father’s idol worship- a sin that is far worse than adultery. But we know that this is not true. And even still if “honor” killing was truly about the honor of the family, why do we not see male victims? Does it not take two?

Is it that men have no honor to begin with? Is it that men are so weak and slutty that we cannot even bother with keeping them morally in line? Of course not, as we see in Islam men are told to be modest, not to ogle, or have inappropriate relationships just as much as women are told these things.  But culture so rarely holds men to the same standard that they hold women to.

Ownership

In combination with the fear of gossip, honor crimes are a function of some men’s deluded feeling that they have ownership over female bodies. I hate to break this news to the head of the tribe–Islam freed women from being thought of as property over 1400 years ago. I guess the news is slow to get to them in their caves. Furthermore, men do not even own their own bodies (if we had ownership over our bodies, would we allow them to age or get sick?). We belong to Allah not to each other. Quran 2:156 […]”say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.'”

And are we supposed to believe that being a murderer is more honorable that being related to someone who may or may not have had an inappropriate relationship with a man?

When women are murdered for seeking a divorce (divorce is completely acceptable in Islam); being raped (the rapist is the one who should be put down); for refusing an arranged marriage (forced marriages are not allowed in Islam); and even sitting next to a man (not a sin in the least!!), how can anyone claim this has anything to do with Islam? How can we sit by and not tell the truth that these women were terrorized and murdered for nothing more than ego?

I recognize that violence, murder and abuse are perpetrated within non-Muslim families in the West. It happens A LOT, unfortunately. My writing about the topic is not to say that the Western world is free from hate crimes committed against women. Not by a long shot. The Western world has its own glaring issues when it comes to the proper treatment of women and prosecuting crimes against them.

But this is not a game of pointing fingers. Get over yourself if that is your first reaction. My writing on this topic is to take the legitimacy of Islam away from those who commit these crimes against my sisters and point out blatant ignorance and backward cultural malarky that MUST be stopped.

Check out Part II where I destroy reasons people claim committing murder in the name of “honor” is Islamic.

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