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I’m a Mooz-lum

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By: Ethar El-Katatney

I cried while watching a movie today.

I never cry in movies.

But today I cried because I saw pieces of my soul in a movie. It spoke to me. Deeply.

It’s a movie that on some level I was thirsty for. So, so thirsty. And I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was.

I went to a nursery called ‘Tom and Jerry.’ The first song I learned was “Twinkle twinkle little star.” The first cartoon I watched was Barney the purple dinosaur. I went to middle school and started reading Roald Dahl. I devoured the Sweet Valley Twins series. I had a crush on Johnny Bravo. I went to high school and started watching movies like American Pie, about the trials of high school life: dating, drinking, dancing, exc.

But you see, these things were so far removed from my life.

I am a Muslim. I don’t date. Drink. Dance.

The issues I went through in high school were so much more than simply worrying about what that boy thought of me. Instead, I was struggling as the only veiled girl in the entire school. Struggling to come up with an excuse for why I couldn’t go to a friend’s 13th birthday party where you had to “bring a date”. It was a time where I struggled, hard, to balance between aspects of my identity that on the surface seemed contradictory.

I knew no one going through a similar struggle — no family members, no friends. And there were no movies or books to at least reassure me that I was not alone. Like the times when I felt like ripping off that veil or accepting that locket from a boy I liked were normal — that feeling that way did not make me bad.

Instead, the media I consumed made me feel like an alien — telling me that the lifestyle I read about in books and saw on television was the norm, and that opting out of that lifestyle made me a freak, an oddity.

Where were the people like me? In real life? In movies?

Enter Mooz-lum, stage right.

Mooz-lum is a movie that traces the life of Tariq, a young black Muslim American boy. Raised in an extremely conservative household, he rebels once he goes to college. 9/11 happens and lives change.

It’s a movie about faith. Identity. Tolerance. Struggle. Coexistence. Discrimination. Coming of age.

It’s a movie that every young Muslim will empathize with. A movie that showcases the nuances of struggling to fit in. Of the journey we take to find out who we are and how to stay true to ourselves once we do.

And it begins with peer pressure. And family.

Peer pressure is hard, no matter what faith you are. We all want to fit in. No one wants to be different in high school, let alone different in a way that has such negative connotations — “that’s a Mooz-lum name!” laughs the students in school at Tariq.

I wanted to be blonde and white.

I wanted to be like everyone else.

I wanted a mom who would cook burgers and fries. A cool dad who would drive me to prom. Because that is what ‘normal’ was.

Instead, I got parents I loved deeply, but couldn’t understand how they were so different from me. I felt like I was bending over backwards to satisfy them but it was never enough. I always felt like I was failing them.

We are a generation that is just so so different from our parents.

My dad—like Tariq’s—proudly wears a thobe and kufi out in public. I was embarrassed of him as a child. And then ashamed at being embarrassed to have him pick me up from school.

No matter how hard he tries to compromise, it is just never enough, because we come from such different backgrounds.

My paternal grandmother never went to high school, and she got married at age 15 to a 40-year-old man. My father believes I am a spinster at 23 and sees the fact that I went on to college and then graduate school as the biggest compromise. That is the way he is, and that is the way he will remain.

Tariq’s story highlights this beautifully — the struggle we go through to please our parents, and our comprehension that although they may try, they will find it hard to do as Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib advised:

“Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.”

At the same time, Mooz-lum makes you feel for the parents — they want children like them. Better than them. Children who will get the chance to do what they couldn’t. And they want to protect them from the aspects of a culture that they see as against their beliefs.

My dad forbade me to go to prom. I’ve never been to a concert. I’m home before 10pm every night. My dad wants me to read Arabic fluently. He wants me to learn the Qur’an by heart. He wants my brother to pray in the mosque. Grow a beard. Dress ‘Muslim’. He wants us to be good Muslims in the way he understands good Muslims must be. And I cannot fault him for that. And as I grow older, the more I am able to appreciate how hard it was for him to compromise, and the more I understand that being tough can sometimes be the hardest thing to do.

But how to make parents understand that culture and faith are not the same?

And how will we raise our own children? Where will we put the limits? How to raise them in a way that they choose to be Muslims? Choose to abide by the rules because they want to? Where do we relax the rules? When do we let them choose?

Do we send them to the schools where they struggle so much? Or to Muslim schools that come with their own kind of problems?

Tariq’s father sends him to a madrasa—a Muslim school where the children dress in thobes and kufis, eat on the floor from one big bowl, and basically live a life that is different from the world outside its walls.

I went to a school like that in Yemen. But I went by choice as an adult, to see what life ‘away’ from the ‘world’ is like, where in no way am I odd or strange. I do not believe that Muslim schools, run by people from our parents’ generation, are the solution. If they’re not run properly, they run the risk of alienating the children. And to be run properly they need people like me, like Tariq, to run them. Who understand what it is like to grow up between cultures and with multiple identities.

But I digress.

The question Mooz-lum raises: How to create a vibrant American Muslim culture? One that is wholly American and wholly Muslim at the same time, rather than neither nor? How to be so secure in who we are and what we believe in order to be able to develop this culture? How to find our place in this world? Where we are proud of our roots and history, proud of our faith, and yet truly citizens of this world?

And these issues aren’t just limited to Americans. We talk about globalization. But the reality is, we’re talking about Americanization. The world is becoming Americanized.

I’m sitting at Starbucks in a mall right now, sipping my tall-skinny-vanilla-latte and staring at a Christmas tree while listening to Frank Sinatra. I just finished typing an analysis of a Harvard Business School case for my MBA class on my MacBook, I’m sending a bbm from my blackberry, and I’m staring at the Apple store across from me and wondering if I really need an iPad, and whether or not I maxed out my American Express credit card this month.

I’m dressed in Levis jeans, Converse trainers, a GAP sweater, and I just came from Gold’s Gym. I’m meeting friends in an hour to see Tangled at the 3D cinema, where we will buy caramel popcorn and then have lunch at Chilis or TGIF. And then dessert at Haagen-Dazs. Then we’ll walk around the mall — I want to buy the new Jodi Picoult book from Virgin, that dress I liked from Zara, and the new raspberry body butter from The Body Shop.

But you see, I am not in America.

I am not American.

I have never even been to America.

I was born in Saudi Arabia.

The mall I am in is in Cairo, Egypt.

I am Egyptian and I have lived in Egypt all my life.

And yet — my identity is no longer purely Egyptian.

In the world we live in today, so many Muslims are going through what I am going through, without ever having stepped foot in America. We don’t have to be American to be Americanized. And we don’t have to be Americanized to struggle as Muslims in a world where religion is seen as backward. Where modernity and civilization seem to be mutually exclusive with faith.

We’re all adrift in confusion. Trying to make sense of our identity, and trying to see where we fit.

As Muslims, we’re struggling to find the balance. Struggling against the loud voices that tell us our faith is violent. Struggling to prove that it is not. Struggling against ourselves and against an outside world that seems to be against us.

It’s so hard.

And sometimes, we slip up. Sometimes, a small little voice tells you:

“Dude, your life would be so much easier if you could just go with the flow.”

If you didn’t have to announce to the world that you were Muslim, with all the baggage and connotations and responsibility that it entails.

If you were just like everyone else.

Tariq decides to be T. To shed the part of him he doesn’t realize is his core. He goes drinking, clubbing, kisses a girl, and decides he doesn’t want any part of ‘it’.

But even when we slip up — the guilt is there.

There aren’t enough words to describe the scene where Tariq recites the Qur’an out loud and tears up. Because that’s what it boils down to — if you truly truly believe, you will not find a joy in this world that is as beautiful as the joy you do when you submit to God.

And that is what makes the struggle worth it — to find the place where you are comfortable in your dual identities, part of the world, not isolated, and yet not schizophrenic, torn apart.

So that was how Mooz-lum impacted me on one level. And partially why movies like it are necessary—for Muslim youth who need  to know that they’re not alone.

But the movie is so much more that.

In American society today, artistic expression, and more specifically movies, are the way to impact people. Once upon a time it was poetry. Then it was books. Now, it is movies. As Ingmar Bergman, the famous Swedish director and producer, said:

“Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.”

When I left college I became a journalist. My job is media. I live in it.

And I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that Muslims in western media are grossly misrepresented, that misconceptions are circulated, and that we have been reduced from rich, complex individuals into one-dimensional representations and a monolithic entity. In 2001, Jack Shaheen analyzed the way Arabs (might as well be synonymous with Muslims) were portrayed in over 900 movies for his book Reel Bad Arabs. He found that only a dozen portrayals were positive and fifty balanced.

You know the drill.

The reality is that media shapes perceptions. And the western media of the world today has disfigured the image of Islam, ingrained misconceptions and stereotypes, and consequently promoted intolerance, racism, hatred, and violence.

According to Media Tenor, a research firm that monitors and analyzes media coverage of key issues

The tone of statements in US television news in 2009 about Islam (40%) was twice as likely to be negative than the statements made about Christianity (20%). Two-thirds of the television coverage about Islam associates Muslims with extremism.

A Gallup study on religious perceptions in America released earlier this year showed that the more ignorant Americans were about Islam, the less prejudiced they were towards it.

Why? Because they were ignorant — they were not exposed to as much media. If they had, they would have been more prejudiced, since the media image of Islam is violent and horrible and oppressive

And this disfiguration of the faith has gone virtually unchallenged in the public mind simply because Muslims in the west have not yet attained a high enough level of comfort in their identities to express their spirituality through the arts, whether that be music, plays, books or movies.

But this is changing. Muslims are starting to speak up for themselves. The New York Times just ran an article this week about Muslim artists who are bridging American and Islamic traditions with their art.

And that’s why a movie like Mooz-lum is groundbreaking. It isn’t a one-dimensional representation. It doesn’t portray Muslims as angels or demons. It portrays the humanity: we love, we hate, we do good, we do bad. And yes, there are people out there who give Islam a bad name: who beat children, who preach violence. And there are those who do good: who call for mercy, for co-existence, who are great human beings doing great things for the world. Nothing is as black or white as it seems, and the actors do a beautiful job of portraying the complexities of the characters writer and director Qasim Bashir brought to life.

Mooz-lum goes deep beyond the cliches and the headlines, to the heart. It isn’t the best movie you’ll ever see. But it’s a damn good one, and it is groundbreaking. Because the only way for us to start tackling the stereotypes is in the same way they are perpetuated: movies.

For non-Muslims, the movie is perhaps more important: a chance for them to hear Muslims speaking about what it is like to be Muslim. To see the nuances it would be impossible to get across in a conversation or two. To see how 9/11 impacted Muslims: In 2003, the FBI created an Arab-American advisory committee after hate crimes against people perceived to be Arab or Muslim increased by 1,700%.

I believe that working in media, creating movies and songs and books that reflect ‘us’ is just as important as everything else Muslims have to do in the world today —reinterpret scripture, properly teach Islam to children, condemn violence, etc.

But it’s a heavy burden, and not one many of us choose to bear — especially those of us who are successful, articulate, cosmopolitan and secure in who they are, and therefore the most qualified to stand up and say “Yes, I’m a Muslim. This is why. This is my community. These are my struggles. No, I am not x, or y, or z.”

It could potentially harm your career. It’ll put you in the spotlight. You will be judged as a “Mooz-lum,” and not as a lawyer, a doctor, an anchor, a teacher.

But it is our responsibility as Muslims. Actually, scratch that. It is our responsibility as citizens and humans to speak up for a beleaguered faith, which lacks the political and cultural power to fight back.

Mooz-lum Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4axp5V_j6E[/youtube]

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Avatar

    deaniedan

    June 14, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Fantastic Article :)

  2. Avatar

    SisterinDeen

    June 14, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    a VERY beneficial and informative article Masha’Allah
    and the fact your not American – Subhan’Allah
    Globalisation at its peak

  3. Avatar

    Zakir

    June 14, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    i haven’t read such a good writing for long time
    good job!!

  4. Avatar

    Think

    June 14, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I am confused.

    Why is the spread of American consumerism being portrayed in such a way in this article?

    Is it a positive, really is it a positive at all, that you spent time thinking about whether your credit card had been maxed out this month or not? That you can go gaga over absurd gadgets wherever you are, that have no functions that are necessary which laptops an eighth their cost do not?

    Do you know why so many convert? Because those things are hollow. They are vile. They are not necessary. They are not necessary at all. They feel, ‘this is where life is, this is where being is, this is how being is and this tells me where I will go when I am nothing in this world, this tells me how to offer up my heart to my Creator.’

    Is it ‘cultural’ to learn Arabic, to know the Qur’an by heart, to dress the Sunnah? You can dress the Sunnah in baggy jeans and a long shirt and a kufi. Is wearing a kufi so awful? Is growing a beard ‘cultural?’ Is the Sunnah ‘cultural?’

    Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadawi said: ‘Beware the emergence of a European or American Islam,’ and sure, maybe he said it from his background in IndoPak, you can say that if you want- but he said it for good reason. When we’ve all submitted to the mall instead of to Allah, this is when there will be problems that make the problems we have now look like ‘my kittens are too adorable.’

  5. Avatar

    Ahmed Muhammed

    June 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    I have yet to watch the movie, but it’s nice to finally see a movie that is centered around what Muslims, and Muslim youth go through in today’s society, frankly I was getting tired of movies that depicted Muslims as always being terrorists. I think that’s another reason why I gained a liking for blaxploitation films from the 70’s like dolemite.. wouldn’t suggest watching it, but it shows a different side of black america than what was out there at the time, where african americans were depicted in a negative light.

  6. Avatar

    Rebekah

    June 14, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    wow. What a fantastic article. I completely and totally understand this struggle. Being a white American convert to Islam (as an adult–age 24) with two small children (they were 3 & 5 at the time) and later marrying another convert who converted in college at age 21, who is also a white American, and being the only white Muslim family in our area (and one of only about 4 Muslim families total in the town) and my children now being 11 and 13, its very real to me, every single minute of every single day.

    Even the Muslims speak to me in Arabic, because they dont even consider that I wouldnt speak Arabic, and Im so used to being stared at, that I joke about wearing clothing to advertise causes I am passionate about, just to get awareness out there, because I know everyone will stop and look at me.

    My children are having a very difficult time, my oldest does not want anyone to know he is Muslim, because he is afraid of what they may do to him, because he has seen how people see Muslims in America (and abroad too unfortunately) and how hateful and cruel they can be, and kids in middle school are that way to everyone, much less someone “different’, but I wear hijab, every single day, so as much as he wants to hide his religious identity, it doesnt work all that well, because everyone knows who I am, I get described as “the white woman who wears the headdress”.

    I feel the most for my daughter though, she is 11 and masha’Allah she is strong and values herself as a person above all else, and as much as she wants to be like all the other girls, she knows that its not the right way, and she knows why, and she CHOOSES not to do things that are against Islam on her own (at least most of the time) I think in some ways, being a convert makes that easier on our children, because I know what that “other life” is like, and I can share stories, and the good and the bad, and I never, ever approach something that is against Islam with “dont do it because its haram and you will go to the hellfire” I tell them, dont do ___ because people wont value you for your mind, and wont respect you or treat you nicely and it makes you look like a bad person” and then I let them choose what to do, I wont force them to do anything, their spirituality, as much as I wish I could make it what I want, is not under my control, it is my job to influence them and teach them why Islam is right, and good and why they should love and follow Allah, but forcing them to do so, when every single person they know or talk to or hear about—including all of their family other than their parents (some of which are openly hostile about Islam to their faces)…since being converts, we have no Muslim family–is going to push them away from Islam, period….and I know that intuitively, so as hard as it is for me to watch them struggle, its something I have to do, and they have to make their own way.

    We have made our own Eid traditions, we have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner and hang green lights and give each person wrapped gifts on their prayer rugs at Maghrib on the first day of Eid and they help me make decorations for the house and we go to the mosque and just try to make it as fun as possible. We give them an allowance based on “good deed points” that they earn for chores and positive behavior during the week, and just try to point out the practical values of being a Muslim in addition to spiritual and eternal values of Islam. Its hard work, but Insha’Allah it will be worth it.

    Im very glad that there is a movie like this, and I have been able to find a book or two about being a teen Muslim today that I bought for the kids, and Insha’Allah, we will make our voices heard and things will change for our children and their children, and

  7. Avatar

    Muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    I find it saddening to hear that people have to turn away from the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to build a bridge between themseleves (as Muslims) and the West.

    Personally, I don’t see why there is this gap between religion and a Country or place that a person lives in. I believe that people create these problems themseleves as Islam (as the sister explained in this article) is not presented in the media the way it should be portrayed. I completely disagree on the idea that we as Muslims should use music, or in other words, go against the Qur’an and Sunnah just to capture our identities because by following the Qur’an and Sunnah that ultimately leads to our real identities. Where we live is merely our geographical positioning on the Earth. I won’t be asked on the Day of Judgement about the land that Allah has placed me in, rather, I will be held accountable for the state of my heart and my actions that I carried out whilst I lived in this short transient life.

    I am a Muslim youth who lives in the West and have been learning this religion in practical for nearly two years. If anything, ISLAM has taught me how to be a part of society. Islam has taught me how to assist in aiding others. Islam has taught me how to respect and honour my parents. And Islam, has taught me how to deal and be tolerant of those who disagree with my belief- that being to have patience.

    Sadly none of these teachings have been taught by the West and in actual fact, the West teaches pretty much the opposite.

    Islam is the way forward. It’s the media that strives to suggest the reverse.

    • Avatar

      Brother

      June 14, 2011 at 7:37 PM

      I completely disagree on the idea that we as Muslims should use music, or in other words, go against the Qur’an and Sunnah just to capture our identities because by following the Qur’an and Sunnah that ultimately leads to our real identities. Where we live is merely our geographical positioning on the Earth.

      Jazakum Allah khayr!

    • Avatar

      tuwaylib

      June 14, 2011 at 10:12 PM

      masha allah, an excellent response to the article. I actually watched this movie to see if it really depicted the life of a muslim. Rather its trying to show that as a muslim, you dont have to be conservative. You can be american as apple pie and still claim to be a perfect muslim.

      awful movie, i wouldn’t recommend it.

    • Avatar

      MM

      June 20, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      @Muslima,
      “Sadly none of these teachings have been taught by the West and in actual fact, the West teaches pretty much the opposite.”

      I completely disagree that “Muslim” and the “West” are different. If so, you are saying that the “East” is Muslim/Islam.
      If we are ever to move away from the idea that Islam/Muslims are aliens, we need to break down this false category of East/West. This includes referring to the false dichotomy of “Muslims” and “Westerners” as distinct. I am a “Westerner” and I am Muslim. The two identitities do not clash.East/West does not exist–we live in a round world and the geographical maps are superficial.

      As a Westerner, I also hate that “the West” is always under fire for being “anti-Islamic” when most Westerners (Muslim and non-Muslim) stand up for democracy (and other Islamic values) than so-called Muslim countries. “The West” is not the bad guy.

      • Avatar

        Muslima

        June 20, 2011 at 6:34 PM

        @Brother and @tuwaylib, may Allah bless you.
        @MM:

        “If so, you are saying that the “East” is Muslim/Islam.”

        Well no, I’m not saying that. I’m sorry if you haven’t understood my point. I was arguing exactly what you just stated; “East/West does not exist–we live in a round world and the geographical maps are superficial”. I specifically related to the West as that was a simple comparison I was making between the teachings of Islam and the teachings presented in the West.

        “The West” is not the bad guy”

        No one’s claiming that a piece of land is the bad guy. Rather, it’s what the West promotes that clashes with the teachings of Islam and I’m sure you are well aware of what those teachings are. With regards to democracy, well actually if you looked into the English law you would find that this law is highly undemocratic and has been criticised to a great extent.

        Moreover, Islam does not go hand in hand with democracy. Democracy is a man-made system which in essence is law made by man for man. Thus it is contrary to Islam, because rule is for Allaah, the Most High, the Almighty, and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being, no matter who he is.

        “..that Islam/Muslims are aliens”

        – I’m not sure what you meant here. How are Muslims aliens if they form a part of society? Perhaps you are relating to this hadith:
        “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” [Sahih Muslim]

        • Avatar

          MM

          June 20, 2011 at 6:52 PM

          I just do not understand what exactly is “the West”. I understood your points, but what I never understand is how people refer to “the West” as if it is one monolothic body. What exactly is “the West?” And how is geographical location clash with Islamic values? In your response, you clarified this and said that you are referring to the values that “the West” promotes. This is problematic for me. There are plenty of trash values being promoted in so-called Islamic countries. I say “so-called” because I do not believe that there is one true Islamic nation on this Earth. In many so-called Islamic nations, you have the denial of basic women’s and human rights. You also have stealing and killing and promotion of violence. Whatever “bad” values you are assigning to “the West” are not “Western”…they are simply bad values that can be practiced by anyone anywhere.

          “Moreover, Islam does not go hand in hand with democracy. Democracy is a man-made system which in essence is law made by man for man. Thus it is contrary to Islam, because rule is for Allaah, the Most High, the Almighty, and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being, no matter who he is.”

          I think many Muslims would disagree that democracy is unIslamic. Shariah law is also manmade. There needs to be individuals to interpret the Quran in order to decide how to implement laws. Surely, you do not believe that God talks to us directly, do you? If so, I do not know what else to say to you. There needs to be a system in place and that system is developed and implemented by fallible beings–just like any other manmade system. One can have a democracy without having it necessarily clash with Islamic values. I live in a democracy and I practice Islam. I am mature enough to make my own decisions without having a mullah over my head telling me what to do.

  8. Avatar

    Abu Fatimah

    June 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Could the author of the article explain why s/he is talking about serious sins of his/her past, such as watching filthy movies like american pie, listening to music, and immitating the most corrupt kuffar culture in the world. I have no idea what the aim of this article is except to corrupt muslims. Sorry to be harsh but I really advise you to learn your deen and make dua that Allah remove this pathetic attotude of muslims in arabv countries from trying to act american. Makes me sick. Im a british convert who lives smack bang in teh middle of dar al kufr in teh UK and I really dont feel any need for music or christmas trees or trying to immitate kuffar. Dont you understand that these are serious issues in the religion? Allahu musta’aan. This website should be combatting these tyoes of things, not justifying them and promoting them. Wallahi the muslims deserve to be in the mes we are in today

    • Avatar

      Dreamlife

      June 15, 2011 at 4:13 AM

      I think she wrote it that way because she was telling a personal story – a story which helps readers, who grew up like her, to relate to why this movie was so important.

      We all know the truth – that we shouldn’t be watching such movies, listening to such music, etc. But the reality – as highlighted in her personal story – is that much of the Muslim youth worldwide DO grow up in cultures that are Americanized. So you see Saudi and Egyptian kids imitating this ‘kuffar culture’ – because globalisation has made this ‘kuffar culture’ that standard in today’s world.

      We may not like that – but it’s the truth.

      And we can’t blame the ‘kuffar’ for all of this. If we were strong in the deen like we should be, we wouldn’t have allowed their culture to come in and colonize our hearts and minds. But it’s weakness of deen that makes us vulnerable – and when that happens, it’s easy for the soldiers of shaytaan to come marching in and corrupt and entire society.

      Brother – I understand your wanting to be strong and anti-this culture; but when dealing with youth, we need to be smart about how we preach and teach. Taking a hardline approach and immediately condemning their actions – their acceptance of this ‘kuffar culture’ – is not the route to go.

      Perhaps because you didn’t grow up as a Muslim youth in this kind of culture, you didn’t experience the dangers of that approach: when a Muslim kid lives in a Western culture, and then you get the hardline imams who are preaching fire and brimstone, fear and hellfire.

      That approach just doesn’t work for many Muslim youth. It pushes them away – rather than bringing them into the deen.

      Some could take the attitude: ‘If i’m so bad and going to hell – like your preaching implies – I may as well enjoy my life here in this world.’

      Our ultimate aim is to show them that that culture is wrong, and to encourage them to leave it.

      But the APPROACH needs to be wise, and needs to use what will be effective for THEM (as long as it is within the realms of Shariah – which obviously rules out things like music).

      There’s such a thing as da’wah to Muslims. And in my view, that requires just as much effort as da’wah to non-Muslims – because we see how many of our Muslims (and youth especially) are drowning in the unIslamic cultures they live in…(EVEN in Egypt or so-called Muslim countries).

      I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment – that we need to enjoing the good and forbid the evil.

      But I disagree with your approach.

      We need to call to Islam with wisdom and good words. And that means being sensitive to the dilemmas of the youth, and preaching the message in a way that is effective – that speaks to THEM…NOT in a way that is harsh and threatening.

      After all – you catch more flies with honey than vinegar…right?

      I’m not saying do haraam things to get the message across (e.g. da’wah through punk rock music which has lyrics calling to Islam)…but I am saying choose your methods in the ways that are most effective, within the bounds of Shariah.

      • Avatar

        Rebekah

        June 15, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        I couldnt agree more. When I think of how to deal with teaching Islam, to myself, my husband, my children or anyone else, I think of our Prophet (saw) and how did he teach the Muslims in Makkah and Medina? He didnt start out saying “wear hijab, dont listen to music, dont curse, dont drink, etc.”, he gave them small instructions, the Sahabah didnt even pray until after the Miraj, so why do we expect kids who are raised around other cultures not to rebel if all we tell them is what they “cant do” and dont give them reasons and show them the beauty and the logic of what they can do. I dont know many adults who would embrace Islam when only taught halal vs. haram and never had any explanations of whats wrong with the haram and whats good about the halal in today’s world, and especially so when all their friends and other non-Muslims are telling them to go and do the exact opposite of what they are being pushed to do by their parents. but giving them reasons why doing it is okay or better and treating them like they have brains in their heads to make choices for themselves.

        Thats one of the reasons why I became a Muslim in the first place, because I asked “why is it this way?” and got answers that made sense and wasnt told “because its the way it is” or “because I said so” or “because you will go to the hellfire” thats what pushed me away from how i was raised to begin with, that my questions were dismissed as unimportant…and our children are the same way.

        We have to treat them like people, and realize that Allah considers them adults at puberty, so if Allah thinks their mind is sufficient at that point to know right from wrong, why should we not think their mind is the same and teach them, rather than force them as if they didnt know any better? After he reaches puberty, Im not going to be asked by Allah, why my son did this or that, Im going to be asked “why didnt you teach him the right way?” and since I am doing so, at least to the best of my ability, my heart will be clear in that regard.

        thats just my 75 cents on the subject :)

    • Avatar

      Dawud Israel

      June 17, 2011 at 10:34 PM

      You were reading a different article…

  9. Avatar

    Abu Fatimah

    June 14, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    I see that your a sister, sorry if my tone was innappropriate and rude towards a sister, but wallahi its saddening taht i come into islam and the muslims and trying to be the very kuffar i just left, this whole american arabs thing makes me physically sick and its really not something to promote to the ummah, its something that is sinful and we should be ashamed of these things, not writing about them on blogs. this is a disease that has plagued the ummah. I see many saudi students here who come in looking and talking like americans with music blasting and honestly i just feel sad that they could turn out like this when they grew up in saudi arabia of all places and makes me realise that something has to be done about the corruption teh kuffar is spreading in the muslim lands as nowhere is safe now from their fasad

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      June 14, 2011 at 10:50 PM

      Salaam,

      I don’t think the author meant to promote her past sins. It seems to me that the author is trying to express their struggle in life with their identity as a Muslim. She is just being real about her feelings and frankly telling the truth about what the Muslim youth is going through.

      See, there is one thing to do wrong things in life. Committing many sins and then eventually repenting from them because you and society knew all along very clearly that they were wrong. The problem these days is that living a life of sin, materialism, 24/7 entertainment and being immodest is actually accepted/promoted by society and the youth of this world are being hit with this message on a daily basis. So its not just the author having fun talking about her sins or what not. She is expressing how a young person struggles with this unique environment that we call the 21st century and that many scholars call the “Akhira Zaman” – the end times.

      MashaAllah you wrote that you are convert. You came to Islam living in the west. There is a big difference between how you see the world and how the Muslim world sees you. I also grew up in the west. I see the results of “American Culture” on society, on family and on a individual’s heart and soul. I live in a developed country who rules the world. I do not ever truly feel threatened by another nation’s power over my country and I have never worried about starvation for myself in my life. Never. Not even once. Matter of fact, I have never worried about how I would get anything in life. I have always had a good job or business where money was rolling in. Good credit. I can get anything I want that is advertised on TV in less than a week delivered to my door.

      And after all of that, I am SICK of all this materialism. I am sick of 100 cable channels. I am sick of being able to just click away and buy almost anything I want whenever I want it. I am sick of enjoying the view of half naked women everyday. I am sick of hearing people’s drunk stories. I am sick of hearing the stories of people getting laid every week, sleeping with each other like a sick drama, committing fornication and adultery. I am sick of watching movies. I am sick of advertisements of movies and people talking about every single move they see every week like a religion. I am sick of feeling over full in my stomach from the amount of food I eat. I am sick of having the ability to eat American food, Indian food, Chinese Food, Arabic Food, Russian Food, Chinese Food, Caribbean Food, Moroccan Food, Turkish Food whenever I want all within half an hours reach. I ask myself is this life? Will any of this help me to be able to one day have a moment of realization that Allah is watching me? That I will be returning to Allah? Will I ever be able to feel that part of my existence that is more important than my brain and physical body? And I am sure this is the way you might also think. Because you have had enough of it. You have seen that it leads to nothing. And you know deep inside that maybe you are not sick of these Actual things but sick of the fact that everyone around you seems to think that these things are happiness and the purposes of their life. That is what you are truly sick of and sad about.

      But Muslims living in the Muslim world have not had these experiences yet. They are just starting to indulge in this western culture. And, yes, we have to admit that they are indulging in it at an even faster rate that the West is, but they just started. They are viewing the western world through the strong, powerful and misleading lens of the Media. What they think everyone in the west is doing might not necessarily be what the west is actually doing. They are made to be interested and infatuated with living this “western” life that seems mysterious and so fulfilling to them. And they are being caught off guard through this powerful technology that brings these messages to them. They don’t understand how strongly it will penetrate them. How strongly it will penetrate their minds and pierce their souls.

      Two different perspectives.

      I always tended to see the Muslim world as the young buck coming up in the world not knowing what they are getting into when they are following the ways of Western Life. And I always saw myself as that old man who has gone through the waves and motions of life and the western world and I know how foolish these youngsters are thinking that they will find any peace or contentment from pursuing this path in life.

    • Avatar

      BintKhalil

      June 15, 2011 at 12:43 AM

      Assalamu alaikum

      Brother Dawud, I completely agree with you that it is absolutely pathetic that Muslims in Muslim lands are so steeped in this unfortunate lifestyle and I can only imagine what it must seem like for someone who has come from a non-Muslim lifestyle and considers himself liberated from it by Islam. However, the fact remains that this is indeed the case no matter how much we in the West might choose to ignore it.

      It is good to acknowledge the problem and speak about how a person overcame it, rather than have everyone who is unfamiliar with that part of the world, live in delusion, don’t you think?

  10. Avatar

    muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    i think you guys should watch the movie ” arranged” . heres the trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPnYPtbjUVo its about a muslim and a jewish girl.
    mooz-lum is good..but i think it could have been better.

    • Avatar

      Halima

      June 15, 2011 at 9:06 PM

      This article is awesome! It really makes a lot of sense, had to read it in parts since it was pretty long tho :D
      I’m definetly excited to watch Mooz-Lum the movie now good work :D

  11. Avatar

    Hamza 21

    June 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    It’s interesting to read what an non-american’s view of the film was especially since although African Americans make a huge percentage of the American Ummah they’re basically ignored by the media,Muslim and non-muslim. Though I’m sure the film wouldn’t resonate with Muslims of different backgrounds if the Muslim family in film weren’t portrayed as people adopting a foreign culture. A film where Muslims,especially Black Americans dress and live as Americans rather than pseudo Arabs or Pakstanis probably couldn’t get made. That seems to be the narrative the media wants to always project Musilms = foreign. Yet the movie is still a move forward in highlighting Islam in America just as another film “New Muslim Cool”.

    Also Qasim Bashir uploaded the first ten minutes of the film for those who want to see more of film before purchasing it.

    http://vimeo.com/24795145

  12. Avatar

    muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    movies such as “arranged” make you feel good about religion… the movie shows 2 modest girls from different religions who are pretty much practising their faiths. they are also shown to pray, not drink ,wear decent clothes , have ‘arranged marriages” and have happy lives. sweet.

    • Avatar

      AnonyMouse

      June 18, 2011 at 9:09 AM

      Oooh, I watched that movie! It was brilliant, and I really, really enjoyed it masha’Allah.

  13. Avatar

    kl85

    June 15, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    I’m sitting at Starbucks in a mall right now, (…) staring at a Christmas tree while listening to Frank Sinatra. (…) Harvard Business School case (…) MBA (…) MacBook, (…) blackberry, (…) Apple store (…) iPad (…) American Express credit card (…) Levis jeans, Converse trainers, a GAP sweater, (…) o see Tangled at the 3D cinema, (…) caramel popcorn (…) lunch at Chilis or TGIF. (…) Haagen-Dazs. Then we’ll walk around the mall (…) Picoult book from Virgin, that dress I liked from Zara, and the new raspberry body butter from The Body Shop.

    The sad thing here is that “American Culture” is almost exclusively identified with consumer goods and ways to make money.
    The question: Why is that? Because American Culture has really become that shallow or is that just the distorted picture we get here on the other side of the Atantic? (I’m from Germany.)
    It’s an honest question! It’s a sad thing if a culture is reduced to consumerism, and that’s exactly the image of the USA we get here….

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      June 15, 2011 at 1:38 PM

      I live in America – we have no culture here except consumerism. The only cultural things we have here are certain holidays like memorial day, labor day, presidents day and independence day. And most of the population here doesn’t even know the history behind these holidays and celebrate it by getting drunk and having BBQ dinners. And, of course, attacking the malls because of good sale prices on those holidays.

      Our clothing here has no cultural base. Whatever the TV tells people to wear here, they wear it.

      Our music has no meaning or cultural significance. One day everyone hates hip hop music, the next day everyone loves it. That is all determined by what the Music producers and advertisers want the public to like.

      Religiously, people are empty. Many of the religious movements in our country are just superficial and extreme and are more of a cult and have to do with people wanting to belong to a group rather than a true spritual understanding of the world.

    • Avatar

      Rebekah

      June 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      being from America, and never having lived anywhere else, I personally see that the majority of people here are so ethnocentric that they rarely even acknowledge the world outside of America unless it directly affects their well being, as in the case of 9/11. They get in their cars, go to work, come home, go out to eat, watch tv, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it again, without much thought at all to the world outside of their daily life, and to them “ignorance is bliss” because if they dont seek out something more, then they dont have to face the possibility of being wrong, or needing to change, or seeing a better way and being socially ostracized (by converting to another faith different from the “accepted” one in their community) or having that image of a “perfect life” that they have created in their mind, be destroyed by the reality of people starving and dying and homeless and the reality that other parts of the world live with daily and cant ignore. Its just easier to “not think about it”, although I dont know if its even a conscious decision for most Americans, its just the way “everyone” does it, and being “normal” is an obsession in our country, you protect the status quo at all costs. although I do think that if asked, Americans do care about other nations, but it becomes very easy to ignore their problems until you are confronted with them, so they dont even cross the radar of the average American on a daily basis, and thats very sad.

    • Avatar

      ahlam

      June 15, 2011 at 9:13 PM

      Its supposed to be that way…Capitalism. You need to have consumers who are constantly hungry for more to have a stronger economy, hence this ”buy your happiness”.Morality or society’s well-being doesnt matter, what matters is: does it sell? And it should.

      • Avatar

        Rebekah

        June 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        and that is exactly why I am not a proponent of Capitalism.

  14. Avatar

    convert

    June 15, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    When i converted to be a Muslim, I was afraid that I couldn’t fit in. I like movies, be it from Hollywood, Iran, India, China, or Europe. I enjoy music, from rock to jazz to pop. I also love gadgets. When I converted, I was afraid I had to give them all up. I was afraid that as a woman, I would be confined and degraded by men.

    Fortunately I have a good husband. He told me to always stick to the Quran whenever I have doubt, because people misinterpret a lot of things about Islam based on their traditions, their habits passed down from their parents, or even based on their own thinking. Some are based on Islam but some are not. I was very fortunate to have known ustazah Azwan who also told me the same thing.

    Checks in the Quran: none in it says that we can’t watch western movies, none says that we can only listen to Arabic music, none says that we can’t wear colourful clothes, none says that we can’t enjoy or use technology/gadgets/Ipad, none says we can’t have burgers. In terms of food, of course we have to have halal food. We still can have halal burger.

    • Avatar

      AbuJ

      June 20, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      To ‘Covert’
      Sister, The Qur’an has to be understood with the Sunnah and vise versa, both go hand in hand. If a certain is is not in teh Quran we look at the ahadeeth and see if the companions said anything about it. Music, alcohol, Zina, gambeling, etc are explicitely in teh Quran and Ahadeeth that says it is Haram. Whereas Movies, Hollywood or Boolywood etc that have no concern to a Muslim and her/his eemaan, ilm, that have music, free mixing, showing of Awrah, beauty, handsome men and beautiful women etc, this is not permissible to watch. Music and Arab or non Arab not permissible. Nasheed with only the Daff and good words amongst children and women on Eid or wedding and happy occasions is permissible. A principle of Ahlus-Sunnah wa Salafiyyah; Regarding the Dunya, everything is Halal, unless there is evidence of its prohibition and regarding the Deen everything is Haram unless there is evidence that it is allowed.

  15. Avatar

    Abu J

    June 15, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    The only way to combat steryotyping, negative portrayal of Muslims, is to be a Muslim, living and breathing the teachings of Islam correctly. Not trying to be like them or immitate them as it is Haram. Nor fight with same bullet. They make movies we make movies, they sing and dance , we sing and dance and name it Islamic Movie or Islamic song. No. May Allah guide us. No wonder we Muslims are in a mess, as we have turned away from the original Islam as understood by the Companions. The so called Muslims in teh Muslim land are striving to be like the Kuffar and compete and please them, what can be said about those who reside amongst the Kuffaar.???

  16. Avatar

    Khadeeejah

    June 15, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    Salam aliakum, After reading this article yesterday i immediately watched the movie, And walahi I had alot of issues with the movie, No.1, we Mulims don’t close our eyes while praying, 2. From what i got from the movie your allowed to have a relationship with the opposite sex, It’s Ok to listen to music,…….etc. Yes I know the Writer/Director had good intentions, But lets face it we can’t promote Islam through Haram methods, we will only get corrupted, Mislead Muslim youths, and deviate from our Deen. I totally agree with what Dream life has said, youths of nowadays are living in a time where almost everything around them is being westernized, so trying to follow the teachings of Islam could be a tad bit difficult, so a subtle, wise and firm approach should be taken in educating our youths but not through haram methods.

  17. Avatar

    Brother

    June 15, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Is watching this movie (just like any other movie) haraam? Of course, if you watch other movies, then this one is sure to be better (in terms of less haraam content) than them. It might be impractical to watch it if we want to lower our gaze. Also, I saw inappropriate gender interaction between Muslims in the trailer, i.e. not a good example.

  18. Amad

    Amad

    June 15, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Amazing article… fluid, eloquent and well-written!

    jazakillahkhair Ethar for sharing this with the MM audience.

    • Avatar

      SabunJameel

      June 15, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      MashAllah!, ditto
      It was a great read Barakallahu fiki

      There’s also a Movie review of Mooz-lum by Brother Dash on his website for those interested;
      http://brotherdash.com/?p=1128

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      June 18, 2011 at 5:35 AM

      Being fluid, eloquent and well-written is all that matters? What about being islamicallt correct?

  19. Avatar

    Abu Abdillah

    June 15, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I fail to see how this author is referring to life in Egypt. She mentions wishing she were blonde, invited to birthday parties where she requires a date. How did she experience such peer pressure in Egypt?

    The only places I know of in Egypt that would be so corrupt in upbringing are the foreigner schools like the British school, American, or Canadian. Having a religious father (according to the article), even if he desired for her a western education, there are plenty of American diploma schools in Egypt that follow some form of Islamic teachings, lifestyle, and education. Even some non-Muslim schools have quran classes! On top of that, a practicing father would have more than likely had his daughters goto azhar girl highschools growing up.

    Could someone please clarify, because she mentions that she spent her entire life in Egypt, I am curious about how exactly she felt out of place as a Muslimah, or the “only veiled girl”?

    • Avatar

      Holly

      June 15, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      Asalaamu alaiki not all of Egypt is Muslim run, nor are all Egyptians Muslim. There are are christians and NON Practicing people of both faiths living there as well. Also, not every “good parent” send their children to “Muslim” school. Some public school because they have to and others private or homeschool. Egypt is NOT all Quran and Sunnah everywhere and their mall has Huge Xmas trees and such other “Americanized” things and places.

      • Avatar

        Abu Abdillah

        June 15, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        walaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

        I am Egyptian and live in Egypt so I know well how it is. Like I mentioned, even many egyptian christian schools have muslim teachers for quran class and a place to pray the daily prayers. More than 90% of the country is muslim. The souq is and has always been a place of evil and shayateen, so it does not surprise to find places like city stars and such full of sin and transgression, but that it not the issue at hand as practicing families usually stay clear of those places.

        The question again is how does a practicing muslim man in Egypt who wants his kids to memorize the quran and pray in the masjid and wear a thawb (where in cairo it is uncommon save for practicing people) send his kids to schools so bad (and rare) that even being veiled and somewhat practicing is considered being an outcast? I’m sorry but as an Egyptian this scenario is very difficult to believe.

        Azhar schools are cheap and everywhere where even with their problems and underfunding they are far from Americanized in any way, as are pretty much every school in Egypt with the exception of foreigner schools as mentioned. I really can’t understand the aspects of her childhood and how she felt left out for being a practicing muslimah. wallahu ‘alam

  20. Avatar

    Abu Abdillah

    June 15, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    “My dad forbade me to go to prom. I’ve never been to a concert. I’m home before 10pm every night. My dad wants me to read Arabic fluently. He wants me to learn the Qur’an by heart. He wants my brother to pray in the mosque. Grow a beard. Dress ‘Muslim’.”

    Doesn’t seem to me that a practicing religious Muslim would send his children, let alone his daughters, to the Western owned schools in Egypt which are known for all kinds of evils and sins (a majority of teachers not even being Muslim or Egyptian). Furthermore, in a country like Egypt, there is no contradiction when it comes to those issues, as they are not cultural, rather religiously encouraged. I do not believe MM should be posting articles like this, as they paint a very negative and fictitious image of the Muslim world, in this case Egypt. The events or scenarios described in the article affect about 1% of the population, the top elite class who strive and struggle to become like Americans in every way, the majority of Egyptians don’t shop in those malls, don’t study in those schools, and have little in common with the feelings of alienation from their culture or religion.

    • Avatar

      Rosemary

      June 15, 2011 at 9:32 PM

      This article had me fooled, as I believed in the beginning its author was a Muslim raised in America until she stated otherwise.

      I do however find it a bit odd that a Muslim can feel alienated in a Muslim country.

      I’m also a bit tired of hearing how the “American or Western culture” is taking over the world. It only replaces another culture if the people welcome it and allow it.

      It seems to me the author had a choice here, somewhat, in that she could have maintained her Egyptian identity had she honestly wanted to do so. She did not and chose to become the “other” in her own country. Very odd.

      Odd and naive but to be expected from someone so young.

      • Avatar

        Rosemary

        June 15, 2011 at 9:36 PM

        I was not replying to Abu Abdillah. I was just posting a general comment really.

  21. Avatar

    Lonesha

    June 15, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    I have to echo what everyone else has said… this is a fantastic article. Jazakhah Allah kaire. It inspires me to be a Hijabi… to do better…

  22. Avatar

    Wahida

    June 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Salaams
    Where you get educated doesn’t matter IMO because I went to a Muslim school and not everyone was practising but I knew what was right and wrong Alhamdulillah. I won’t say I didn’t listen to music and watch all these American movies. Yes, it was a choice and I would love to blame it on peer pressure but I did have a choice and sometimes I did make the wrong choices. That’s part of growing up. It is those mistakes that have made me who I am today. Islam is not a forceful religion and like my sister said ‘if you truly, truly believe’ then Allah (swt) will never let you go astray. Realising your mistakes helps you become a better person. It is better to talk about the past mistakes that way you can share your stories on how you realised your wrong-doings, how you realised that these American practises were damaging your balance, how you realised that Astaghfirullah you’ve been wasting all that time when you could have been doing Ibadah. If anything this should make you fasten your hold onto your belief.

    It is especially hard for a Muslim child growing up in a non-Islamic state. Today, at 22 I live in a city where everyday, and I’m not exaggerating, everyday I get asked ‘why must I cover my hair, why do others observe the niqaab, why can’t I shake hands with men?’ And I have answered their questions as patiently as I could. So you can imagine what it is like for a child!! They tend to question themselves when asked by their peers about their religion. All we can do is gently guide our youth, teach them about the deen as much as we can, make them feel like they can talk to you (Alhamdulillah my parents always made me feel this way), most importantly be very patient with them and pray that InshaaAllah, Allah(swt) will show them the right path.

    Jazakallah sister, for the amazing read.

  23. Avatar

    Muslim

    June 15, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Great article, I just got done watching the movie after waiting months for it to come out on DVD. I’m only 15 but i realize now that it wasn’t what people were going to think of me, but more of what I thought of myself. I’ll admit I was ashamed when around my parents (especially when they were wearing traditional African clothing) and how embarrassing they were, now whenever one of my friends make an comment about me being African I just laugh along cause all there trying to do is make people laugh, they finally realized it gets old but they still do, only they say sorry after. Anyway Masha Allah on the article.

  24. Avatar

    Kimberly

    June 16, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    Reading this article gave me chills. It’s content, structure, style, and tone is brilliant. As an African-American revert I feel the author left no stone unturned in regards to prospective. I feel the author could not have been more relevant, eloquent, or poignant! Barakallah feek! Speechless. . .

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      June 18, 2011 at 5:31 AM

      So if an article is eloquent that makes it islamically correct?

  25. Avatar

    Mutiara Fatimah

    June 16, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Please next time videos should using caption/substitle so deaf muslim can understand about the content of that videos. After all it was good and like to watch it fully. Thank you.

  26. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    June 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Fantastic film review. Been a while since I read a good piece on MM. :P

    The twist in the middle where she’s actually in Egypt was a big surprise but very true.
    I hope to read more of Ethar El-Katatney’s writings here on MM.

    Shukran.

  27. Avatar

    Abu Sumaiyah

    June 18, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    Why do people consider this article good? What is the evidence from the Quran and Sunnah? Let’s refer to Allah Azza wa Jall and His Messenger.

  28. Avatar

    sister

    June 20, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    Wow. mashaaAllah..an amazing article.

    I have to say that i was shocked when you said you were in Egypt!

    i might actually watch this film now that you gave it such a good rating inshaAllah.

  29. Avatar

    Amina (mother of two)

    March 7, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Marsha Allah and I also cried at 46 years old! I also enjoyed your article. Very introspective- very real. One thing that the movie also showed was that true Islam does not tolerate extremism such as the abuse young Tariq suffered as he was learning to recite the Quran. I badly want my parents to see this movie. It moved me in a very real way. Our children in Trinidad do not seem to feel the pressures around them as in the States but we do have our fair share of hearing and reading what’s in the media. Thank you for your article again. Marsha Allah

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

Published

on

The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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