Thursday, January 17, 2008

I've recently taken to using Google with Arabic keywords for topics I'm interested in and I'm finding a completely different perspective which is intriguing and enlightening. Earlier today I was searching for information on the matter of the Hejab and came across this interesting site. One of my criticisms of many of the articles I read which try convincing me that the hejab isn't necessary or is oppressive is that they do not connect on any level with what women who wear it themselves say and believe in. Most of the time, the picture portrayed of women wearing the scarf is of a cowering, frightened and oppressed woman in a male dominated society unable to break free or even recognise the bonds that hold her in place. I've never had time for that stupid assumption but it surprises me how many Arabs themselves now sound almost exactly the same. Anyhow, it's in Arabic but quite informative for an inside view and even has an "FAQ" section for commonly made claims against it. An interesting read that raises further questions and discussion.


أبو عريب said...

I took a quick tour of the site and most of the stuff i found were things like this:
or this
:always trying to convince women to wear hijab by reminding them of God's horrible "punishment" if they don't. Once i read "reasoning" like that in a site or in an article, my first reaction would always be a huge blasphemy and some swearing and another big step away from God.

However, I completely sympathize with women who choose to wear hijab in western societies and who are being discriminated or treated differently because of their choice. What i don't understand is that you avoided saying a single word about women who chose NOT to wear hijab in our Muslim societies and who are suffering more and more from judgment and are sometimes insulted because of their choice (not to talk about the boring religious preaches they have to put up with on a daily basis from their "believer" co-workers or family members).

By the way, i'm a real fan of your blog ( despite some ideological differences :) ) so you can expect more feedback from me from now on...


Wassim said...

Welcome Nassar and it's lovely to hear from you now and later :)

You've brought up some good points and I think they are good ones to start a discussion with. I read the two examples you had sent me and whilst the first was slightly more hard hitting, I very honestly didn't see what was wrong with them that would make you upset.

I say this not to be argumentative but because I feel there is something people who read such texts miss altogether. The very nature of Islamic belief is very subjective, as in most other faiths. When a person says they are Muslim, Christian or Jewish - they mean it. That means they do view the world as a passing abode, they believe in a day of Judgement and they believe in the word of God - and God - literally. The texts you read are aimed primarily at Muslims or non-practicing Muslims and both are properly referenced from the Quran and known ahadith. Since these are the same Quran and ahadith that all Muslims - even non-practicing ones- say that they believe in, then it logically follows that they can't pick and choose, nor can they deny that this is indeed what they should follow. Now, surely if there is disagreement on interpretation or applicability, then as the Quran says a Muslim has an obligation to

(جادلهم باللتي هي أحسن)

So the question I'd ask you to honestly consider is what your own starting point to reading this is. If it is as a non-Muslim then of course you can reject this all outright, if as a Muslim, then can you "argue with a better argument" so to speak? To debate nuclear physics, it is assumed that both parts to a dialectic are familiar with the fundamentals of the science and so can both disagree over an issue over the same wavelength. The same applies to critically reading a case someone is putting forth Islamically - as a Muslim.

Sure, I see you're point as to what is happening to some women where it isn't what they want to, but this is a difficult time for many Islamic societies under the onslaught of modernity and Westernisation. I think how best to formulate a response and strengthen future Muslim generations against perceived 'corruptions' is something still being thrashed out, and not very well at times, as you pointed out.

poshlemon said...


I wish you and I were sitting over coffee and discussing this very interesting topic. It's much easier and faster to exchange ideas face to face.

I have so much to say and I don't know where to start and how to go about this without losing my trail. Being a person who believes in secularism, I already disagree with discourse such as "Muslim generations" and so on. I don't think that I am more connected to a Pakistani Muslim than I am to a Lebanese Christian. Thus, I don't believe in "religious collectiveness" and I refrain from using such idioms and I hope this clarifies where I already come from.

Religion is such a subjective and personal world, where it is *almost* quite impossible to lay down a set of constants. Referring to the three monotheistic religions, I can assure you that they are read, interpreted, reinterpreted, deconstructed and reconstructed a thousand times and in a thousand different ways. Although as a religious and historical document, the Quran is deemed the most valid, there are still many interpretations of the Quran alone. Not to forget the ahadith, which are somehow problematic themselves.

As for the topic of the Hejab, I will limit myself to saying that based on my humble evaluation of the Quran and the ahadith and other scholars' analyses, I am convinced that it is not a must but may only be regarded as an option. I personally fail to see *where" and how a great and profound religion like Islam would link a great part of a woman's piety and religiousness with the "Hejab", whatever its definition is. I also fail to see how Islamic schools of thought propagate it wholeheartedly as a woman's "wajeb". What "wajeb"? Again, is Islam, al-tasleem lillah, about the Quran, God's word, or the ahadith? That said, can the ahadith be taken as completely valid historical sources? Also, how do we interpret the Quran, God's word, so as not to deprive it of its intent? Metaphorically? Literally? Both? Logically by "istifta2 al qalb"? I am just speculating.

I too disagree with the language used on these websites provided by you and by Nassar. Have you checked the answer to question number one in فتاوى عن الحجاب - الأسئل. It is absolutely ridiculous! I understand that people have the freedom to believe in such things but I have the right to an opinion on it and I think it is ridiculous. ستر الوجه is the proper way for "Hejab"??? I agree that it is silly when a Mohajjaba covers her hands but shows her face because if the point behind the Hejab is for a woman to appear as sexually unappealing as possible, then the face is more enticing than the hands. Except for those with weird fetishes. But, still, it is a discourse devoid of depth or meaning.

I guess what I am trying to convey is that the topic of the "Hejab" is debatable and continues to be the subject of controversy although there is a general consensus on its nature from the top Islamic authorities, an undeniable fact. However, I am weary of such consensus and I have many questions with regards to it.

However, I believe people should be free to choose their lifestyle, their beliefs, their principles and their dress code as they wish. Alternatively, people are going to have different opinions with regards to these issues and these issues will always be the subject o scrutiny. That said, I would like to make it clear that I do not think that a Mohajjaba is necessarily oppressed or not oppressed, independent or not, successful or not. Hopefully, clothes and external accessories should not be an indication of a human's capabilities.

Anyways, I thought very carefully about this because I was afraid I'd say something that may hurt some of the friends I have here and whose feelings I take into great consideration. But, I felt compelled to share my ideas on this issue and I hope I did it with as much respect and as little ignorance as possible.

Wassim said...

Hi Posh,
Don't worry at all - I was sure this discussion would provoke reactions and I think it has so far. I don't necessarily have an opinion on the subject but I noticed that there is almost a knee-jerk reaction to attack anyone making a case for the hejab and wanted to see what people would say if they saw a site written by and for people who believe in it.

One question on the points you bring, you talk about how the Quran and ahadith is to be interpreted and discussed. This is a question I come across much when talking to people. There are in fact whole traditions of thought and people who have spent their whole lives studying these texts and discussing these very matters. One of those people was quoted by Nassar earlier. My question to you is, has anybody actually spoken to this person or someone of similar qualifications and asked these things? Are you familiar with the debates and currents on the subject? If I would criticise such people, I also know that I am severely limited in my own understanding of my faith and also because I've been raised in a secular outlook, which affects our views in a way our grandparents wouldn't have known 100 years ago, for example.

In the last few months, I've bee trying to decontextualise Islam and Islamic writings, outside of a modernist, Western discourse. An "Eastern" or Muslim "original position" so to speak. It's so that I can understand such texts and perceived obligations fully and then judge the present context from such a perspective. It's been an interesting exercise and it's affected me profoundly to be honest but I still share many of your views. Don't ask me why I do that because I'm not sure yet, it just interests me! It sure has provoked interesting reactions from people I know though...

poshlemon said...


we react to certain things we fail to understand. When I read religions sanctioning of the "Hejab", I spontaneously get provoked. It could be a nice fashion statement, but I cannot see what valid and logical reigious cause it serves.

I still have so much to learn and I am not an expert on Islam and Christianity, but I can say that I know just about enough to stick to the points I raised. These are points still debatable until today. To answer your question, I would not go to a priest if I want a logical and critical answer on Christianity; I would go to an academician, who would be capable of throwing behind any religious convictions and looking at the texts with a critical eye. There are few men of religion I would go to and maybe one of them would be Sayed Moussa alSadr.

However, I have had numerous and never-ending conversations with very religious persons, both Christian and Muslim, and I have noticed from my talks with them that they are almost incapable of looking at these texts in any way other than the way they know to, as they have complete and utter faith in their texts and in what their texts comply them with. And that bothers me. Have you ever noticed that they are incapable of asking themselves questions such as "why", "how", "when", "where", ... Some of them are wholeheartedly convinced that one cannot question God!!! Come on. That alone raises many many many topics. God? What and who is God? Where is the proof? Jesus and Mohammed could have been smart men who were able to come up with a tool to mobilize the masses. The Torah itself is a bunch of mythological stories that may have been influenced if not copied from Mesopotamian traditions. I am not blaspheming here and I hope nobody accuses me of so lol But, I am raising questions, for example, an atheist would have raised!

Yes, if that helps you in making sense of things, decontextualize it and try to percieve it in light of older times and how certain interpretations were made and why certain norms lived on till today. I believe that the Quran is very straightforward and easy to understand. We have turned Islam into a religion so complicated. But, I warn you to be careful with terms such as "Modern", "Westernized", "Eastern", "Muslim". These are very rigid labels that may complicate things rather than the opposite.

There is so much more I want to say but it's not possible to do here. Sometime and somewhere else nshalla :)

ForFreedomOfExpression said...

What is the benefit for a woman who wears hijab? The paradise? There she will be a slave again. Sex: prohibited on earth, the eternal fun in paradise?
If a muslim man gets out of control because womens hairs, he should stay at home especially if he needs to wear a long wild beard in his face to be a full man.
More here:

Wassim said...

Thanks for the comment, I don't really have any response to as you sound quite incensed with Muslims in general, that's ok, it's your opinion. I'll just have you know I really don't see anything wrong with that picture though I understand why it might be shocking to some people. I guess it's clear to you now where we stand on these subjects so thanks for stopping by.

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

wassim and posh,

great discourse. deeply honest, refreshing, intelligent. i agree with both of you generally; that religion has been squeezed, from its originally broad, enlightening and liberating ideas to fit into narrow interpretations that serve current social and personal power. as far as mussa alsadr, also look into m.h. fadlallah and, preceding both sadr and fadlallah (but also 20th century) mohamad jawad mougniye. he was dubbed the "red sheikh" in lebanon because of his liberal and philosophically open writings.

TOR Hershman said...

You have a most interesting blog.

Lirun said...

it is very interesting

Rime said...

Wassim, you really don't see anything wrong in a marriage between a 40-year old man and an 11-year old girl?

Wassim said...

Hello Rime,
To be honest with you that's not a question I'd want to answer. I say this because I don't live in a reality where something like this is acceptable and I wouldn't honestly want that for anyone I'm related to. Still, I look at that picture and I see people who live a world away in a place where life is different and a lot more harsh. I look at that picture and I see a form of justice, not tragedy. How?

A forty year old man is probably the only one able of providing her some modicum of a secure life in that country and providing for her.

He's marrying her, not raping her and presumably in accordance with Islamic law. Sure, the law in Afghanistan says there is a different minimum age for marriage, but that government doesn't extend beyond Karzai's compound and a few places in Kabul I hear, so it means nothing. The rest of Afghanistan is running on age old tribal traditions which, let's face it, have been around a lot longer than Karzai or any government and it looks like it will be around for a long time yet. Life moves on and people are asking themselves different questions than you and I.

Should someone else impose "universal" human rights? I don't have the answer, but in the context of Afghanistan, an attempt like that would be downright criminal in my opinion.

I'm sorry for the long answer, but I thought I'd explain the rationale behind my comment, which wasn't thrown around lightly.

Rime said...

But Wassim, there isn't, and there shouldn't be, ANY context where a child is forced to have sexual relations, under whatever law is invoked. This poor child, and untold numbers like her in many countries, are being sold like sex slaves to men who have no morality.

I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a very good start for a definition of what's right, and what's not. Don't you?

Wassim said...

I'm a little bit confused, what do you mean by 'sex slavery' and why do you think this has anything to do with the picture?

Personally I don't think this is injustice at all and genuinely believe that for that time and place, she's probably better off married and with someone to provide for her. Why are we condemning them for this?

As for the Universal Declaration of Human rights, I think it's quite a nice document made with genuinely good intentions, but I hold no reverence for it. By the way, I'm really sorry for snapping at you earlier at Lujayn's post, it was uncalled for!

Rime said...

The picture shows a little girl being married off to a man who is 40-years old. This is sex slavery. And pedophilia in my book. All very condemnable. I really doubt the reason men "marry" like this is to provide - they could adopt if that was their humanitarian goal.

Anyway, this was a serious deviation from the topic you posted, I was responding after having looked at that link of UNICEF which was posted by a commentator. Didn't mean to hog the floor.

Wassim said...

Why do men "marry" anyway? I don't think that's the issue at all and I certainly didn't say he was being altruistic. By the way the premises leading to your conclusion that this was sex slavery means the Prophet Muhammad was a paedophile, is that what you think? I don't agree with you here and feel that your definitions of sex slavery and what are acceptable marriages is somewhat flawed. Anyhow, each to their own and I see why you think that way.
I don't mind at all if we deviate, in fact I really enjoy scrutinising arguments and beliefs :)