Monday, November 26, 2012

Just a 'liberal' 'girl'?: Framing of Nurul Izzah Anwar over 'freedom of religion' remarks

Nurul Izzah. Via

Nurul Izzah Anwar comes from a political family. She is the current vice-president of the Malaysian political party PKR (People's Justice Party), is also the daughter of Anwar Ibrahim, a former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister who was jailed in 1999 and banned from politics until 2008 for charges of corruption and sodomy (but arguably because he was a prominent critic of the then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad). Her mother Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the President of PKR.

Nurul Izzah is the current Member of Parliament for the parliamentary constituency of Lembah Pantai. In the last few weeks, she has been facing "heavy fire" from Malaysian Islamic scholars like the mufti of the state of Perak, the chairman of the National Fatwa Council, and the ulama of the largest and most dominant political party since Malaysia's independence, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation).

What did she say that was so offensive to the dominant religio-political powers?

In a public forum entitled "Islamic State: Which Version, Whose Responsibility?" which discussed the existence of an Islamic society without an Islamic state, she was asked whether freedom of religion applies to Malays in Malaysia (the constitution conflates the indigenous ethnic category of 'Malay' with Islam, making all Malays automatically Muslim).

In her responses, Nurul Izzah quoted the main speaker of the event, who had cited a verse from Al-Baqarah (2:256). She added that this general Quranic commandment should not apply only to non-Muslims in Malaysia.
"And when you ask me, there is no compulsion in religion, even Dr Farouk quoted that verse in the Quran. How can you ask me or anyone, how can anyone really say, 'Sorry, this only apply to non-Malays.' It has to apply equally."
Reporters and other politicians rapidly implied that her remarks were "dangerous and misleading", that she trivialised the issue of belief, and that she was in fact showing "support for apostasy" of Muslims, as part of the larger "liberal ideology" of her political party.

A few days later she clarified in a statement that she was referring to the Malaysian state's enforcement of Islam as the only religion of the Malays, and that while the verse applies to everyone, Muslims fall under shariah laws once they become Muslim. She also reiterated that she supports educational and dakwah programs to strengthen faith in and understanding of Islam.

Throughout this debacle, the infantilisation of Nurul Izzah became clear. A highly-educated 32-year old woman with a Master's degree in International Relations was variously described as a "golden need of help", who was "rapped" for her remarks" and who ought to have done her "homework" and stop "politicising issues concerning the Islamic faith".

Another theme that surfaced was the labelling of her political party as being 'liberal' and 'pluralist'. These labels are used pejoratively in Malaysia's political context, which aims for a conservative and rigidly Sunni and Shafii Islamic approach to issues -- seen as the purest Islam (other self-professed Muslim groups like Shias or Ahmadiyyas are rigorously persecuted). Promoting freedom of religion or other "Western-style freedoms" such as accepting LGBT people which will lead to many problems (duh, obviously!), as argued by the former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
"If we are free to do this and that, in the end we end up creating films which insult other religions and as a result, fight among ourselves," he said. "So don't end up being too enamoured by Western ideologies. Men can marry men, women can marry women, and the family is destroyed," he said.
The support of political parties depend very much on the Malays who are the majority population. As they are overwhelmingly Muslim, Islam is used as a rallying ideology together with the special status of the Malays as the bumiputra ("sons of the soil") of Malaysia. The conflation of 'Malay' and 'Muslim' in the constitution creates situations that are absurd such as a non-Malay convert to Islam being legally regarded as Malay, or impossible, where a Malay apostate would also lose his/her ethnic status (what ethnic group are you then?).

Another rebuttal by a religious scholar who said that "ignorance was to blame for her statement" revealed how important the conflation of ethnicity and race is to the existing religio-political structure in Malaysia.
"How can we say religion is free and open, or place Islam on the same level as other religions. If this happens, think of why Islam is enshrined in the constitution and what is the purpose of the Malay rulers," he said.
Ruling Malay royalty such as sultan or raja still exist in Malaysia although they have limited executive powers. Nevertheless, the common idea is that these rulers traditionally have a mandate to rule by virtue of having lineage from the Prophet Muhammad.

Nurul Izzah's father, Anwar Ibrahim slammed UMNO's religious teachers for keeping mum on internal issues of tyranny, graft and corruption. Indeed, what would be the purpose of Malay royal rulers with all their corruption and oppression if they are reduced to merely rulers, without any divine mandate?

As a woman politician, Nurul Izzah is already subject to the kind of infantilising framing that male politicians would hardly be subjected to. However, the descriptions of the events that unfolded after she made her remark on 'freedom of religion' show that in Malaysia, it's more important to not upset the dominant conception of "Islam = Malay". Not only does questioning the status quo result on personal attacks instead of any "argument based on sound Islamic principles", it more dangerously questions the legitimacy of the current system of political governance in Malaysia.
Originally posted at Muslimah Media Watch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Our Harsh Logic' by Breaking the Silence

Source: Amazon

Last month, Yehuda Shaul of the NGO Breaking the Silence came to speak at ISS and launch the book 'Our Harsh Logic', a collection of testimonies from Israeli soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories from 2000 to 2010.

What is so valuable about this collection is that it corroborates the stories that have been told countless times by Palestinians, but which have been ignored. I'm sharing the most important part of the book, which is the logic behind the air strikes, forced entry, skunk gas, intimidation of children and families, and the general insanity that the Israeli Defence Forces seems to be doing in 'peacetime' (i.e. when they're not bombing the fuck out of Gaza as they're doing now and before that in 2008-09).

The stories in the book contain lots of jargon as used by the IDF soldiers. Psychologically, this helps them to distance themselves from the gravity of what they are doing to Palestinians. The four terms used in Israeli defense policy are Prevention, Separation, Fabric of Life, and Law Enforcement. The stories in the book are arranged according to these policy terms. I am loosely copying from the book, and arranging the points to be more readable.

1. Prevention (sikkul)

The Harsh Logic
Every Palestinian (whether man, woman or child) is a potential threat. Almost every military operation or military act directed at Palestine can be considered "prevention", gradually blurring the lines between offensive and defensive actions. Deterring the Palestinian population as a whole, through intimidation, will reduce the chances of opposition and therefore prevent terrorist activity.

How to "Prevent"
Abuse Palestinians at checkpoints, confiscate property, impose collective punishments, change and obstruct access to free movement, change rules arbitrarily. The testimonies show that almost every use of military force in the Territories is considered preventive.

The Reality
All military acts are justified as defensive.

2. Separation (hafradah)

The Harsh Logic
Israelis in Israel will be defended if they are separated from Palestinian population in the Territories. After sufficient separation, Israel can withdraw.

How to "Separate"
Channel and monitor Palestinian movement. Create permits and permissions necessary for Palestinians to move around in the West Bank, to limit their freedom of movement and internally divide their communities. Create arbitrary regulations and endless bureaucratic mazes, as effective as physical barriers. Create checkpoints, close roads off to Palestinian traffic, prohibit Palestinian movement from one place to another.

The Reality
Palestinians are divided not only from Israelis, but also their agricultural land, and their own people.
Israel wants to incorporate certain areas into its jurisdiction and creates barriers based on its offensive calculations.

"Separation" is not aimed at withdrawal, but a means of control, dispossession, and annexation of the Occupied Territories.

3. Fabric of life (mirkam hayyim)

The Harsh Logic
Life under foreign occupation can be tolerable, even good. Israeli spokespeople emphasize that Palestinians in the Territories receive all basic necessities and are not subjected to a humanitarian crisis; that there is even economic prosperity in the West Bank.

Occupation is thus a justifiable means of defense, and if there is harm suffered by the population, this is regrettable. Any damage to Palestinians are merely proportionate to the security required of Israeli civilians.

How to create a "Fabric of Life"
Decide on a daily basis which goods can be transferred from city to city in the Occupied Territories, which businesses may open, who can pass through checkpoints and security barrier crossings, who may send their children to school, who will be able to reach the universities, and who will receive needed medical treatment.

Hold the private property of tens of thousands of Palestinians (for supposed security considerations, or for the purpose of expropriating land), arbitrarily confiscate houses, agricultural land, motor vehicles, electronic goods, farm animals. "Confiscate" people to use in training exercises e.g. to practice arrest procedures.

The Reality
The Palestinian fabric of life is arbitrary and changing. Palestinians require Israel's good grace to lead their lives, showing how much they are dependent on Israel. If Israel can prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, it also has the power to create one when necessary.

Israel's claim to allow the maintenance of the "fabric of life" in the West Bank reveals the absolute control it has over the Palestinian people.

4. Law enforcement (akifat hok)

The Harsh Logic
Israel maintains two legal systems: 1) Palestinians are governed by military rule, enforced by soldiers and subject to frequent change, and does not represent Palestinians or their interests 2) Israeli settlers are subject to mostly civil law, passed by a democratically elected legislature and enforced by police.

How to "Enforce the Law"
Settlers play an active role in imposing Israel's military rule. They serve in public positions and are partners in military deliberations and decisions that control the lives of the Palestinians that live in their area of settlement, they work in the Ministry of Defense as security coordinator for their settlement (influencing transportation, road access, security patrols, even participate in soldiers' briefings).

The Reality
Settler violence against Palestinians is not treated as an infraction of the law. Security forces do not treat settlers as regular citizens but as partners, therefore law is not enforced on them by the Israeli police force. Even when the wishes of settlers and the military are at odds, they consider each other partners in a shared struggle and settle through compromise.Security forces also help in settlers' political aspirations of annexing large portions of the Occupied Territories for their use.


These are some of the terms used by the Israeli authorities, concealed under the cover of defensive jargon, with barely any connection to the reality.

Read the book for accounts of the IDF soldiers -- even if just one account -- which show that while Israel gives off the impression that it is slowly and securely withdrawing from the Territories, it is in fact tightening the country's hold on both Palestinians and Palestinian land.

There are many more ways that Israel controls the Territories. This book is just a stepping stone to helping us understand the logic behind occupation and policies of the military.

The best part was the Q&A session. When I asked Shaul to elaborate on the religious justification (the 'Holy Land' argument) used when annexing land, he replied with:

"There are Jewish people who believe the land is ours. There are non-Jewish people who believe the land is ours. There are Jewish people who don't think the land is ours. I'm a Jew and I don't think the land is ours."

Yehuda Shaul
Find their NGO on Facebook and on Twitter @BtSIsrael.

I will post some testimonies from the book in the coming days, inshallah.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is nushuz?

This post is part of the "What Is...?" series, which aims to re-read terms in the Quran which I believe have been interpreted to suit those who have more power in society.


The term nushuz/nusyuz/nushooz, commonly used to refer to the 'rebellion' of Muslim wives, which then merits a series of psychological (and some say, physical) punishments, has been interpreted to suit patriarchal ideas of women and men, and wives and husbands. This calls for an attempt at re-reading male and female nushuz, as used in the Qur'an.

The term comes from the root n-sh-z, which appears five times. Three times it is translated as 'to rise' or 'to raise up'. Quite a literal meaning, God can resurrect a dead animal (2:259). In another verse we are told that when we make a certain effort, God will reciprocate with a more supreme reward (58:11).

For example, when we 'make space' in the sense that we embrace diversity or allow for people different from us to speak, God will 'make space' for us in the sense that God will ensure that we can live unimpeded socially, economically or politically. It makes sense that if we contribute towards creating spaces for everyone, we will naturally enjoy such space ourselves.

The other example in 58:11 is that when we 'arise', or challenge ourselves to be people who become by each day, more knowledgeable, better in character and more beneficial to society, God will gradually 'raise' us to become such people, because God knows the efforts we put in.

But here's the best part in Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa): nushuz is something that both wives and husbands can do. Verse 4:34 has been discussed to death. Some justify the beating, saying that it should be done "lightly". Some dispute it outright, calling such an interpretation the bias of (male)(patriarchal) scholars. But not many people bring up another verse found further along Chapter 4, referring to the nushuz of husbands (4:128).

When it comes to the nushuz of wives, it is interpreted by different well-known translators as disloyalty, ill-conduct, rebellion, desertion, non-compliance, or arrogance. Two lesser-known translators also use the terms disloyalty or ill-treatment.

When it comes to the nushuz of husbands (which can happen along with i'radaan), it is translated as contempt, cruelty, ill-treatment, ill-usage (??), non-compliance. The other two translators use the exact same terms for husbands and wives: disloyalty or ill-treatment. Especially for husbands, there is the added fear of their evasion, desertion, veering away (of their responsibilities -- so true, no?), estrangement or turning away.

Taking into account the other meanings of n-sh-z, Shabbir Ahmed elaborates on this term to also mean a behaviour that rises up against virtue, such as psychological or physical abuse. Cheating or other forms of marital disloyalty can also be included, because this is something that both husbands and wives are able to do. If scholars insist on this term to mean rebellion of wives, then they have to accept that husbands can also rebel against wives.

Since they don't, my understanding of nushuz as marital disloyalty, in a variety of forms, seems clearly appropriate for both 4:34 and 4:128.

Deconstructing pre-marriage advice for Muslim couples

My unofficial marriage contract certifies that my husband and I went through a “marriage ceremony peformed under Islamic rites”, and that he had agreed to certain “special conditions” otherwise known as ta’aliq. We didn’t pay much attention to the conditions provided to us by the kadi (judge) from the syariah court, dismissing it as a formality.

Last week, an organisation dedicated to converts in Singapore was accused of teaching future couples to hit their wives if they refuse to have sex. Both the converts organisation and another women's organisation mentioned in the article have since refuted these claims (here and here). It turns out that the claims were based on only the experience of the writer, and not of other course participants.

I knew this organisation and had gone there often for talks and seminars. My husband also did his formal conversion there, despite having to endure a lecturer who staunchly defended against claims of Muslim terrorism that my "Western" husband did not make, and taught us that among other things, that "Islam is the true religion because it's not named after a person" (unlike Christianity or Buddhism). I could imagine such a situation as described by the writer as actually happening, because of the lack of teaching regulations there.

What was more interesting however, were the responses from Singaporean Muslims of different ethnic backgrounds.

Essentially, the discussion centered around the difference of Muslim marriages from "Western", "secular" or "civil" ones because the former contains elements of spirituality. Therefore, Muslim marriage courses are preferable to secular ones because they teach couples the "rights of husbands and wives in the eyes of Islam". Following the logic that a Muslim husband is a pious head of the household, with the right to correct the mistakes of other members of his household, any beating is never meant to be violent, but a mere "expression of disapproval".

In my own my state-approved pre-marriage course, a hadith was provided as guidance to the Muslim husband to "neither hit her on her face nor use impolite language" as part of his obligation to treat his wife "with kindness and equity". In the discussion, a young woman even pointed out that it's not even supposed to be a "beating", but merely a "light tap, like a handkerchief", and therefore not degrading or a demonstration of power. No, not at all.

These were educated, middle class Muslim women and men who chose their own marriage partners and spent many years getting to know them before marrying. I could say with some certainty that they might never experience domestic violence, but they still defended the dominant interpretation of the verse. Taking "beating" as a given, they tried to soften the potential blow by explaining the severity of the blow, where it could be done, and with what. In a way, they tried to speak on behalf of Muslim women who have been abused and had their abuse justified by religious reasons (occurs in many possible ways;see here).

While the discussion revolved around the issue of difference and the accuracy of translating the verse in question (Quran 4:34) as "beating", the underlying issue of the refusal of sex was not addressed. Muslim women could not refuse sex without intangible (whether heavenly curse or a light tap) or tangible consequences.

In my course, I was taught that as a Muslim wife, giving "free sexual access at all lawful times" (in addition to "submission to husband" and "obedience") was a condition to receive financial maintenance (nafkah). She could not receive maintenance if she was physically absent from the home without her husband's permission (for reasons such as traveling or going for haj). She could not refuse sexual intercourse without "angels cursing her until morning", even when her husband was approaching her because he was "charmed by (another) woman". These notions squarely avoid women's sexual agency and place the burden of domestic harmony on women -- the main vision of  the Obedient Wives' Club in neighbouring Malaysia.

During my pre-marriage course, I was warned as a Muslim wife to uphold my husband's "conjugal rights", but I was assumed to have no sexual needs or agency. The sex education provided by the elderly male heterosexual lecturer only consisted of a rapid and awkward speeding through of the restrictions of the 'when' and 'how' of sexual intercourse from only the husband's perspective. Sadly, the sexual agency of Muslim women remains virtually non-existent in the consciousness of Singaporean Muslims. Arguably, this is also the case of Muslims in general, which as Eren has rightly pointed out, explains the popularity of writing that explores Muslim women's love lives.

The contradiction between the pre-marriage advice I received, and my own vision of marriage as an uplifting spiritual union reveals the tension between what we are taught to be a "properly Muslim" marriage and the reality of the diverse lives we lead. We read online articles with titles containing "Muslim wife" or "Muslim husband" (examples here and here) which cater to hypothetical couples who have never interacted with each other (or perhaps not even any member of the opposite gender) before marriage.

We are expected to have our Muslim and gender identities supersede and disregard all other identities like ethnicity, class or age. There is scant advice for intercultural couples, or wives who earn more and/or are older than their husbands. This implies that couples should be of the same ethnic background, or that ethnicity never matters when one is truly Muslim, and that the husband is always wealthier and/or is older than the wife.

The gendered roles and rules of behaviour in the form of "rights" and "obligations" place fixed expectations on each spouse and leave no room for individual circumstances and personality, and instead create possibilities for resentment. But in the highly institutionalised practice of Islam in Singapore, due to the semi-government regulation of Muslims, deviations from the legal Islamic standard on what constitutes a Muslim marriage, the roles of the husband and the wife, and assumptions on which partner possesses sexual agency, is seen to be deviant and unIslamic.

For example, even though Muslim couples are free to make a marriage contract and place any conditions in it, in practice all Muslim marriage contracts in Singapore include wifely "obedience" (and all its assumptions about gender roles and sexual agency) as a condition for financial maintenance.

During my third marriage* in the presence of a judge from the Singapore syariah court, my husband was required to read this out loud:
"On every occasion that I fail to maintain my wife whereas she is obedient to me... and my wife complains to the Syariah Court, and if her complaint is proved, then she is divorced by one talak."
I had heard this read out so many times, at so many weddings, for so many years, that I never thought twice about it. But now I think it carries too many implications.

And it's not something I want for my own marriage. Even though marriage, and especially Islamic marriages, are highly structured and legalised in Singapore, the syariah laws are not perfect (not to mention influenced by colonial British law) and don’t fit my vision of marriage. I want my husband and I to be able to think for ourselves, and for our own situation, knowing that this will change materially and ideologically over time.
* The dual marriage system and social norms in Singapore mean that there is only one kind of valid marriage for Muslims: marriage in the Syariah Court. This meant that although I had already married twice: once at home with all the Islamic requirements, and a second time in a Dutch civil court for a marriage certificate, I had to marry a third time in the presence of a judge from the syariah court, who produced a legally non-binding letter that certified that I had indeed married Islamically.

Cross-posted at Muslimah Media Watch.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Coming out of the purity closet.

I'm coming out of the purity closet: I pray and fast while menstruating.

It was a slow process -- the start or end of which is difficult to point out -- to where I stand on issues today. I can recall that I gradually started rejecting ideas that this or that made me pure or impure. It maybe first started with the fact that touching your own genitals (even accidentally, as I was taught) nullified your state of purity.

Purity is so important. An entire chapter on taharah is devoted to people who are learning about Islam before wanting to convert. A state of impurity makes all your acts of worship invalid (if you look at worship in that way). Converts are told to take a bath after conversion because being a non-Muslim is itself a major impurity.

Women are told to take a bath at the end of menstruation, before praying or fasting (the bath doesn't work mid-menstruation, obviously). Sometimes we are also taught that we should cut our fingernails or any hair while menstruating because those bits remain impure 4EVAZ (although I think this is not such a common teaching today). Sometimes we don't pray because we can't find a place to do ablution.

Let's backtrack a bit to explain purity. We are taught, growing up, that acts of worship require certain states of purity. States of purity are important because they determine when you can be in a mosque, whether you can pray, fast, and touch or recite the Qur'an. There is physical purity (no dirt on you) and then there is spiritual purity. Physical purity is important, but for times of emergency it can be modified because the ibadah takes precedence (see Quran 4:43, 5:6).

Spiritual purity only becomes applicable when you hit puberty, and it's a little tricky; it is usually broken down into two further states: minor and major impurity.

Minor impurity is usually taught to be caused by normal bodily functions: urinating, defecating, passing gas -- applicable to everyone. Sometimes you are taught that pus, blood, touching your genitals (in a non-sexual way, for example to wash yourself) are also factors. Regaining minor purity can be done by taking ablution.

Major impurity is taught to be caused by sexual intercourse (and for women, menstruation, childbirth and post-partum bleeding) and requires a ritual bath to regain it. As children we are taught these concepts to be universal, but as we grow up we realise that as women of childbearing age we cannot enjoy the same period (pun intended) of purity as everyone else.

The lack of female perspectives in Islamic jurisprudence also results in situations where young women are wondering if their daily vaginal secretions are impure. Menstruation is straightforward, the overwhelming majority of opinions state that it is a spiritual impurity. Therefore, no fasting, praying, touching Quran, or sitting in the mosque (this I understand the least -- is impurity contagious?). Even though there are hadith sources that imply that this is an exaggeration of the original rule that excused women from acts of worship if they were sick (and some women are quite ill during menstruation, varying from backaches to vomiting).

From merely being excused (tak payah) on account of sickness (and even when ill you are allowed to pray while sitting or lying down), it becomes forbidden and invalid (tak sah). Some even make menstruation out to be some kind of 'vacation' from worship. But if worship is pleasurable and I need it, why must I take compulsory vacation from it? (Don't tell me that I can still dhikr and read translations -- I'll dang well choose what kind of worship I want to do.)

Because of a natural bodily function indicating the health of my body, my bones and my reproductive system, that I was not allowed to continue a daily act of worship that I found meaningful for myself, that I was restricted on where I could go, that I was be continuously spiritually impure for eight days -- I rejected it all.

I rejected this because I looked up menstruation in the Qur'an, where it only appears twice, and found that the restrictions were sexual intercourse (addressed to men, in case they didn't know that it hurts, besides being bloody) (2:222) and a detail about divorce waiting periods (65:4).

The Qur'an describes one state of impurity (junub) only, a result of going to the toilet or sexual intercourse (4:43, 5:6). To regain purity, you simply take standard ablution if you have water (wash hands, face, arms up to elbow, wipe head, feet up to ankles). In exceptional cases where there's no water, you're sick, or you're traveling (4:43, 5:6), you can take dry ablution with dry earth (wipe face and hands).

"If the ocean were ink for writing God's words, it would be exhausted before God's words are exhausted..."(18:109)

Rules can be so detailed when they have to be (e.g. inheritance in 4:11-12, 4:176; valid wives in 4:23-25, modesty in 24:31), so why can't we accept that sometimes the rules are so simple?

That there can be a lot of room for your own circumstances, your level of comfort and your conscience. Going to the toilet and having sexual intercourse as impure, and washing afterwards encourages good hygiene (goodbye urinary tract infections!). Wet dreams, menstrual blood and vaginal discharge and everything else uncontrollable as pure, although keeping physically clean still remains part of good hygiene.

It's been three years since I first prayed on my period, and it's been a regular part of my life ever since.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

4 Tips to be an Extraordinary Husband.

Disclaimer: Tips 1 to 3 are sarcastic. But you can take Tip 4 at face value :)

Another cartoon that's been making rounds on Facebook. It's often reposted by women because it addresses men (when household advice usually addresses women) and especially how men can be Extraordinary Husbands! A translation in English below:

My Home, My Paradise 
The main factor that shapes the Muslim family or household is the husband and wife. Households must be built upon firm piety -- that is, making God as the aim and the main goal. That's the difference between an ordinary household and an extraordinary household.
1. Ordinarily a husband... Merely provides physical sustenance (food and drink). The main responsibility for providing knowledge and religious education is neglected.
An extraordinary husband...Takes care of the daily needs of his family members, and prioritises providing knowledge and religious education. 
2. Ordinarily a husband...Quickly lashes out when his wife or children make mistakes. Or they let them do whatever they want, without caring for right or wrong.  
An extraordinary husband...When wife or children make mistakes, he gives guidance in correcting the mistake. He knows they made mistakes because of their shallow knowledge, lack of guidance, neglect, or selfish desires/appetites. 
3. Ordinarily a husband...Completely surrenders all household tasks to his wife even though he knows that his wife is tired from also working. For him, housework is women's work.  
An extraordinary husband...Always gives support to his wife in household tasks, her career and the children in order to seek God's pleasure. Doing housework is one of the most important jobs for a mother, to produce future leaders that fear and love God.
4. Ordinarily a husband...Likes to look at other women in the workplace or outside the home. That's why there are many cases of cheating husbands. Causing chaos in the household.  
An extraordinary husband...Holds tightly to God's warning to not to look at other women. That is, not just looking, but also not giving attention or feelings to other women. His heart is then only for his wife. This is how a household becomes peaceful.

At a first glance, it sounds great right? Finally, it's not all about women and their modesty! But yeah, sometimes you fall out of the frying pan and into the fire. I read somewhere that "Islam honours women" and "Islam hates women" are just two sides of the same coin. So while this cartoon initially looks like it promotes 'extraordinary' fatherhood, husbandhood and general manhood, it mostly still reproduces the same normative ideas around gender (women, men) and age (parents, children).

1. Provide not only financial maintenance, but also immense religious knowledge and education. 

Yeah... sometimes men don't even manage to fulfill that first requirement, what with the amount of money that Malay society demands of men. (Yes guys, I'm being understanding towards you.) After paying the brideprice which can run above ten thousand of dollars (according to the wife's educational level), the wedding reception, and if you want to make it strictly "Islamic" then he should also pay for the house, the car, her clothes, her food, her shopping, and everything for the children.

This was perhaps true in my parents generation, but this might not be realistic for everyone in today's economic circumstances. The reality is often that the couple both work and contribute towards household expenses. And not all women want to always have everything paid for -- don't want to feel like we're on social security handouts here.

As for the religious knowledge, like everything else, that's also a two-way street in marriage. But it's often men who are made out to be the glorious providers of everything including education. Newsflash: men are human beings, with imperfect knowledge. This also clashes with the dominant idea that the wife should be super pious; because then she should be teaching everyone in the family instead. This norm also has a racial bent to it: only local men can lead local women. Foreign men? Only Arabs or bearded men can be taken seriously as teachers, white men can only hope to be guided by their (local) wife instead.

Alternative! Both wife and husband provide financial maintenance to the household and for the children, with the one earning more contributing proportionally more. Feel free to give each other gifts (tangible or intangible) on special occasions, or just for the heck of it because you love each other! Both should have religious knowledge or seeking it together, and teach each other and their children, who can see what good role models their parents are.

2. Be kind to those who are inferior to you.

Wow -- this one made my jaw drop. Firstly, there is no indication that husbands can (gasp) make mistakes. And the advice to him to not lose his temper is only because he should be thinking about how inferior his wife and children are to him. It's like telling the white man he should be kind to his black slave because the latter is too stupid to know better! This is a great example of how NOT to show respect to your family members.

Yes, husbands should not lose their tempers over small things. But they should also not maintain their cool because of feelings of superiority.

Alternative! Feel free to hit the roof when it's your fault that something serious happens e.g. you smashed the car. For all other reasons, talk it out and listen to the other person. Come to an agreement together and enforce it. Be humble and be ready to accept criticism of your own shortcomings. Respect your wife and children as other human beings and treat them like how you would like to be treated (yeah, women want respect too, not just love). Maybe then they can love you back!

3. Assist your wife in housework because this is her most important job.

I must admit I was disappointed with this one, because it started out so good ("support his wife in housework, career and children") but ended so typical ("because housework is the most important task for a mother"). Assistance implies that the husband is not taking ownership of the tasks. So if his wife is not around to say what should be done, perhaps he wouldn't (or couldn't) know what to do. 

And children are the product of both parents -- a husband should be the best father he can be. Often women are burdened with childcare in its entirety simply because they give birth and breastfeed. But there are also a million other tasks that have nothing to do with the female body -- it just requires any human body. One could also argue that if men are so macho and strong they could also offer to do the dirty and dangerous jobs in the house.

Alternative! Both wife and husband are responsible for certain tasks. Feel free to try out all possible household tasks so that in case one partner is sick or absent, the other can cover. Both should know how to cook, de-clog sinks, work the washing machine, and change diapers. Feel free to swap tasks or reassess them on the basis of time, physical ability or effectiveness. Do also feel free to do some tasks of the other person  because you love each other!

4. Keep your heart only for your wife.

Not all men talk to women with the sole purpose of ogling or flirting with them. Come on, give these guys some credit for being able to respect other people too. I don't think it's very productive to categorise this as 'ordinary' behaviour because it lowers the standards. 

However, I do 100% agree that his heart should only be for his wife! :) But merely not cheating on your wife is not enough -- there needs to be lots of work before a household and a marriage becomes successful, inshallah!

Alternative! None. This advice is pretty good by itself :) Just remember that it's not enough that we don't do bad things, we have to do some good things too!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...