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Fifty Shades of Grey: What Muslim Teens Need to Know

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“OMG, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out!” a high-school girl I mentor cheers with excitement. I nod but don’t say anything. “I have to tell my friend. She will be thrilled. It is her favorite book!”

I feel goose bumps on my skin, because I happen to know her friend as well. She is not an ordinary girl. MashaAllah, she just finished memorizing Qur’an earlier this year out of her own dedication, while maintaining full time high school.

“You do know that it’s not only a soft-porn book, but it also has some really disturbing material.” I remind her.

“No Miss, apart from all that stuff, it has an amazing love story!” her voice melts as she recalls the “love” between Ana and Christian Grey.

Last summer, I skimmed through the series to be aware of what our young women are reading. Needless to say, the more I read the book the more horrified I was.

It was the first time in years –after the Twilight series–that I asked my teen daughter not to read a book, and I explained to her my reasons, “If you read this book now, you will have a messed up concept of sex, and some content may even be emotionally disturbing and psychologically damaging.”

She promised, and since then she’s been offered the book several times at her “Islamic” school. Not only has the trilogy made it to this Muslim country where I currently live— pornographic material is banned here– it also has found its way to the hands of practicing Muslim girls.

I understand that it is not easy to stop the young adults from reading a book, let alone a trilogy so popular that it has sold more than 70 million copies in 2012, even surpassing the Harry Potter series as the fastest selling paperback of all time . The book is popular in the West and in the East, among the non-Muslims and Muslims. So now that most of our teens have read it, who is going to do the damage control?

Let me start of by explaining why I’m alarmed by this specific trilogy though there are many errotic books available out there.

Because this trilogy has become more famous than any other book, sending the author straight to the top of the highest-earning authors’ list.

My real concern however, lies in the plot—this is a disturbing book about a millionaire sadist who enslaves young girls under a “mutual agreement” and inflicts physical pain on them for his sexual pleasure and in return he offers them generous amount of money and cossets them with lavish cars, extravagant clothes and jewelry. Abused as a teenager, he partners with his abuser in a business and doesn’t necessarily see anything wrong with what his abuser did to him. Moreover, since his own mother was a prostitute who committed suicide, he chooses girls who look like his mother so he can inflict pain on them, to satisfy his anger towards his her!

A young, ambitious, educated, innocent girl, who is not only a virgin but very naïve about sex, falls in love with him, even though he stalks her, traces her calls, convinces her to sign the slavery submissive-contract so he can use her for his sexual enjoyment.

Then…. they get married and after the marriage he gives up his addiction and they live happily ever after.

Right!

As it is we already have intimacy issues among Muslim couples. We don’t have parents who openly communicate with their children and educate them about sex and sexuality. We don’t have enough speakers talking to our teens about sex, especially female speakers. We don’t have enough Muslim counselors/therapists resolving intimacy issues between couples. On top of that, if our girls are going to read books like Fifty Shades of Grey, they are going to left with a seriously damaged concept of intimacy.

Just recently, I received a request from high school girls to hold a “Talk Session” so they can discuss their fears about marriage and intimacy. Some of the girls specifically brought up what they read in Fifty Shades of Grey and how they have developed fears and insecurity after reading the book (yet they are in love with Christian Grey!)

I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters:

Christian Grey in Real Life:

1. It is not okay to be sexually abused by someone and then accept the abuse as a lifestyle, just because the abused starts enjoying the abuse.
2. It is not okay for a man to lure a girl into marrying him with his money or good looks while expecting her to overlook his habit of objectifying women as mere sexual objects.
3. Decent men normally don’t stalk girls.
4. Grey is domineering, a control freak, a stalker, and a manipulator. In real life, these character flaws cause real marital problems. Unlike Ana, most women can’t endure being stalked, watched and forced into submission while compensated with wealth and erotic intimacy. In real life, most men simply do not have the luxury of gifting the company where she works to the wife while forcing her into submitting.
5. One legitimate fact in the book worth pointing out is that Grey has a problem with Ana’s male friends. Yes, that I can assure you dear daughters, especially those of you who have studied with boys and have Facebook friends of the opposite gender from school or work, that your husband may raise this objection. Or if you are used to “hanging out” for school projects at a public place, he may ask you to stop doing so. You either talk this through before marriage or you should be prepared to “submit” on this point after marriage and keep in mind that in exchange for your obedience, a  luxurious ski trip to Aspen in a private jet with your girl friends is not guaranteed.

Addiction and BDSM:

6. It is not okay to marry an addict especially if a girl finds out about his addiction before the marriage. This is a serious matter and unlike the book, addicts don’t lose their addiction just by marrying someone they love.
7. It can take years for an addict to overcome his addiction. Addicts almost always have relapses and those relapses can take a tremendous toll on the marriage.
8. I’ve come across countless men who have issues of child molestation, mother-father family issues, and desperately need therapy, but they will refuse to acknowledge any problems with their behavior let alone seek therapy. Our hero Mr. Grey, seeks counseling even before Ana asks him to seek help for his psychological issues. Dear daughters, the unfortunate fact of life is that it may take months of convincing, even arguments, and at times even family/friends’ intervention, before the husband finally agrees to seek therapy.
9. It is not okay for a man to inflict physical pain on his wife for his sexual pleasure.
10.Sadism/Bondage/Submission and Dominance (BDSM) are acts of sex that may develop among couples in a halal way but it takes time. Initially a relationship needs understanding and normal intimacy. Once both partners, especially the wife, become comfortable and confident then they may experiment with different types of intimate practices.
11. After both husband and wife become comfortable with each other especially during intimacy, they may play around with different techniques and a variety of intimacy including BDSM. However, if it reaches to the point of inflicting pain where a wife starts crying with discomfort, or her eyes overflow with tears trying to endure pain, that’s crossing the line. There is a difference in “delirious pain” and tearing up with pain.
12. Spanking the wife for rolling her eyes is wrong (even though it maybe an acceptable practice among the Christian Domestic Discipline). Hitting the wife with a belt to inflict physical pain for a husband’s sexual pleasure is physical abuse. A decent man will draw his own limits for his sexual pleasure and a wife doesn’t need to burst out in tears and start crying for him to realize that what he was doing was beastly.

Virginity and Intimacy:

13. No virgin has multiple orgasms on her first night. Do not enter your marriage with this misconception.
14. It may take days to weeks before a virgin experiences vaginal orgasm. (In rare cases, it may take up to months and may need therapy)
15. Communication and comfort is essential in making intimacy successful and pleasurable, especially for those girls who’ve guarded their chastity and are experiencing intimacy for the first time.
16. In normal circumstances, acts of BDSM should not be practiced on a girl who’s been recently deflowered.
17. Men are not born expert-lovers. In real life, couples have to discuss their fantasies and communicate what they like and explain their desires, and not just once. Sometimes these fantasies have to be explained many times before the spouse finally understands. It may take months, sometimes years before sexual fantasies become realities. The book definitely raises the bar of expectations in many ways.
18. Yes, sex is a lot more than just penetration (as most Muslim women complain about their intimacy being dry and boring) but most Muslim men are not as experienced and “sex gurus” as Grey, especially those who have kept themselves pure before marriage.
19. Grey can read Ana’s body language and knows exactly what will turn her on and what will bring her pleasure AND he is always ready to give her that. Dear daughters, in real life things are very different.
20. In the beginning of a marriage, most Muslim men don’t know how to make a women experience an orgasm during every intercourse. They need to learn and the wives need to help them learn. It is a give-and-take relationship.

Romance between Ana & Grey:

21. There is never a “dull moment” in their romance. In real life, issues start rising after a few weeks of marriage–real issue—issues that need to be talked through and resolved. These issues cannot be resolved through “erotic intimacy” and “expensive gifts”.
22. Unlike Grey, men have mood swings too and they may not be romantic all the time.
23. Men want their wives to be romantic too and take initiatives and plan romantic events, dinners, outings etc. Unlike Grey, real men are not always full of romantic surprises.
24. Real men in real life have work to do at work. They simply cannot romantically email back and forth all day from work.

This is just a brief clarification I can offer you, of not just one but three books about an abused billionaire turned into a sadistic-domineering-control freak-emotional abuser’s “amazing love story”!

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

96 Comments

96 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Arshad

    January 24, 2014 at 5:32 AM

    Finally a clear Muslim response to Fifty Shades of Grey!

  2. Avatar

    SHAKIRAH MOHAMMED

    January 24, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    MashaAllah. Very educating. Jazakillahu khairan

  3. Avatar

    Dina

    January 24, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Well I must admit that I am disappointed that this is the first time I have heard this said. Not only in the content of this book disturbing but the writing is deplorable too. The only way that we can make our children immune to this kind of pop literature is to approach everything that they read with scrutiny and to appreciate good literature, the literature of charles dickens and john steinbeck. The only way to protect children from this kind of rubbish is to elevate them to a position of intellectual ability where they are able to understand that not all things that are written are true or even worth reading and that the only way that you can discover the truth is through your own experience and rigorous intellectual curiosity.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Dear Dina, I agree with you, but this is only possible if parents open communication with their children. I’ve been trying for years to convince parents but with very little success.

      Also, keep in mind that at this age, it is hard not to give into peer pressure. It isn’t easy to avoid something that every teenage is doing/reading. In order to help our teens go against the flow, parents need to have a very open and friendly relationship with their kids.

      Alhamdullialh my daughter didn’t read the book, but as I said I was very open and explicit with her and I answered all her questions thoroughly until she understood why I was stopping her, alhamdullialh. I wish more and more parents build a good communication with their kids.

      • Avatar

        Nana

        January 16, 2015 at 9:31 AM

        Awesome post btw. Jazakillahu khayr. Do reward her for not reading by getting her a copy of Naima’s she wore red trainers. Am a married adult woman and reading Ali and Amirahs Story made me feel I wasted three days of my life reading Christian and Ana’s. Barakallahu feekum

      • Avatar

        Khatam

        March 6, 2016 at 10:37 AM

        Dear Umm Reem, this was a very interesting and essential article. Being an avid reader, this was one I had no wish to read. The idea such concepts are acceptable in a relationship is deeply flawed and dangerous. My other point is how right you are about parents needing to be open with their kids despite the embarrassment. Currently in the school my kids go to they have a program where the kids are taught about important factors in relationships, what danger signs to look for, and generally about growing up. The programme is not aimed to be secure in any way but for young kids to be aware. Your point on parents nit wanting to discuss such issues is true of this programme whereby parents don’t want their kids learning about relationships, puberty etc. If we don’t teach them then they will ultimately find resources elsewhere that are not so suitable.

  4. Avatar

    Yusuf

    January 24, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    We need more of such articles, i enjoyed reading :) I am a social worker in a western country, forget the teens, it is not uncommon that our mothers and sisters discuss sex-related issues (in marriage) with the non-muslims who later present these issues in integration-conferences. Wallahi, we need to adress our problems.

    Jazaakumullahu kheyr ukhti

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 27, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      Br. Youse, JazakAllah khiar. May Allah reward you for all your work.

    • Avatar

      Umm Nazaha

      May 2, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      I didn’t really mean to thumbs down your comment….I would have liked if you had elaborated. I have found it almost impossible to find counseling by a female muslims for a young muslim lady who endured years of sexual abuse from the step father….

  5. Avatar

    Umm ZAKAriyya

    January 24, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Scary . Why aren’t books like this banned in muslim countries . ! Perhaps this will make the western authors realise how far they have gone. And also , help the muslim parents in protecting their children .

  6. Avatar

    Umm ZAKAriyya

    January 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Sometimes I wonder if DAjjal would finally appear in our times . I mean , how worse can this get ? It worries me greatly on knowingly the kinds of books our teens read these days .

    I used to be an avid reader once upon a time as a teenager. And I got to read all kinds Of books that I would not want my children ( or any children for that matter) to read.And this was in Saudi Arabia before 2004 !

    These books take you to a fantasy world where haraam is glorified . My poor mother didn’t
    Know the content of the books . She thought reading was all good. And since my books were from the school library , it must be good for me.

    Took me atleast 3 years to get back to reading Allah’s book with full consciousness . Probably because my parents constantly strove hard to teach us the deen . Alhamdulillah
    I wonder what happens to those children whose parents don’t actively participate in protecting them from all these fitnah .

    Jazakillah khair sister . I love reading your articles .

    This is such an eye opener to parents . If we can’t save our children from Christian Greys and Justin beibers , I wonder how we can protect them from Dajjal.

  7. Avatar

    mg

    January 24, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Excellent Points!! One small note: Not all women have vaginal orgasms, some only have clitoral orgasms.
    We are all unique.
    These novels create unrealistic expectations for both Males and Females. Jazakee Allah Khayrun for writing this.
    So glad I did not waste my time reading this “best-seller”.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      January 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Source : internet

  8. Avatar

    Amina

    January 24, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    After working with Muslim youth for a number of years, it is clear to me that most Muslim parents never check the content of books that their youth are reading. I’ve found that quiet bright shy smart kids in Islamic schools (weekend and otherwise) are having their minds warped with ideas about wizardry, magic, sex, and now bondage and violent sex……… please parents! please read at least a few chapters of whatever your children are reading, check their backpacks. If you have trouble with English, find a trusted friend (many of us converts around) and ask them. Don’t assume just because they are not online or on their i-pod that they are safe. Shaytan is trying hard in any way he can – including through a seemingly innocent past-time as reading. So many parents are just happy that their kids ARE READING, but this is a MISTAKE. Please check the content of everything your children are reading!!

  9. Avatar

    Mrs.K

    January 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Thank you for writing such an honest piece. Every where we turn there are messages that are teaching people (young and old) to have unrealistic and unnatural expectations when it comes to human relationships especially sexual relationships. We need to be prepared to have honest conversation of our children and tell them that this is not what real relationships and real sex is like.

  10. Avatar

    KB

    January 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Fantastic article! There’s a lot wrong with Fifty Shades of Grey… and not just for Muslims. It continues to baffle me why it’s so popular. Aside from the obvious, it’s not even well-written. Anyway, I really like your honest and realistic attitude toward sexual intimacy. It seems so many people have unrealistic expectations about what sex/marriage will be like that they find themselves disappointed. In real life these things rely on trust, honesty, and communication. Your wedding night will probably not be the best night of your life (sexually speaking), but insha’allah you’ll have many more years of intimacy to look forward to.

  11. Avatar

    Mahmud

    January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    So disturbing to hear that religious looking Muslimahs are reading this stuff……I hope they quit it. I want to marry a young, pious, attractive, virgin, super-sweet, caring, loving Muslimah and live happily ever after. I’ll have to look really hard……..Allahul Musta’an.

    • Avatar

      Lamees

      January 25, 2014 at 4:04 AM

      Why such a. Long list of attributes? I do hope you’ll also be young, pious, attractive (astaghfuru Allah, I most definitely am not trying to be flirtatious, Allah knows best my educational intention), super-sweet and caring husband when you do, then!

      Don’t search for ideals. Humans are individuals and true perfection is found only in Allah. Be reasonable, brother, and do not try to find the world in your future spouse! Don’t hold her to unreasonably high standards and you’ll be a LOT happier, both of you, insha Allah. Just as I am certain you are not perfect, you must be aware she won’t be either. No one is.

      … also, I pray it’s not your intention, but I hope you’re not someone with a creepy purity complex who fetishies young and virginal girls, eeeek.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        January 28, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        I’m very certain you aren’t perfect, but you still have standards you expect in a husband I’m sure…..

        Hopefully you aren’t a crazy feminist who seeks to distort Islam and oppress men, eeek.

        Honestly, finding a sweet caring virgin is such a big requirement? Should I look for a harsh, zani, big-sinner woman or something?

        So when girls get crazy expectations in men(ahem, article above) they are treated with utmost care, as if it’s not their own fault for reading the book but that really someone else is oppressing them?

        When a guy like me mentions expectations which really aren’t that high (sweet, virgin, loving, pious) we get shot down? I can’t really take you seriously.

        Maybe there should be an article on what young Muslim men looking for love need to know. I’d like that………..

    • Avatar

      Kirana

      January 25, 2014 at 6:20 AM

      And….. there’s the other half of unrealistic expectations. Brother, you’ll indeed have to look very hard, but not because “religious looking Muslimahs are reading this stuff”. Newsflash, that image of a Muslimah in your head, it is an idealisation. Nobody perfect like that exists. Even if she ticks all those boxes, she’ll also have flaws and annoying or disappointing qualities that require effort from you, in order to achieve the “live happily after part”.

      • Avatar

        Mahmud

        January 28, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        “Newsflash, that image of a Muslimah in your head, it is an idealisation.”

        Super-sweet, caring, virgin are exceptional ideals? REALLY? I want to be romantic, caring, manly, everything like that….and virgin at marriage…………..but this Christian Grey stuff seems to attract them? Hmmmmm

        What kind of world was I born in! People reading books like this and acting like marrying a loving, sweet virgin is like winning the lottery…..they can’t be THAT rare right?Riiight?

        “A young, ambitious, educated, innocent girl, who is not only a virgin but very naïve about sex, falls in love with him, even though he stalks her, traces her calls, convinces her to sign the slavery submissive-contract so he can use her for his sexual enjoyment.”

        Woa……………………………..

        “I do hope you’ll also be young, pious, attractive (astaghfuru Allah, I most definitely am not trying to be flirtatious, Allah knows best my educational intention), super-sweet and caring husband when you do, then!”
        Yup, inshaa Allah

        “Just as I am certain you are not perfect, you must be aware she won’t be either. No one is.”

        So…..the attributes I listed are perfection in your eyes? Woa…….Christian Grey is the perfection for some perhaps but seeking loving sweet virgin is asking for too much!!!

        … also, I pray it’s not your intention, but I hope you’re not someone with a creepy purity complex who fetishies young and virginal girls, eeeek.

        No, I’m not. Hence the fact I only want to marry one (loving, virgin) girl in this life…………..

        and best it’s not your intention, but hopefully your not one of those crazy psychotic, nutcase feminists who are jealous of feminine young women who attract guys like honey attracts bees…eeek.

        All I can say is…..I’m not going to give up looking for this because someone like her wont be too hard to fine inshaa Allah…..lots of dua and I think I’m better of in this matter then those girls who are fantasizing about Christian Grey. It’s like the modern age hasn’t just warped women’s expectations of men, it’s possibly made previously acceptable ideals strange…..what was the norm then is strange now? Ina lilahi wa ina ilayhi rajioon.

        • Avatar

          Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

          January 29, 2014 at 12:10 AM

          Dear bro, you seem too fixated by the word “virgin”. A piece of advise from someone who has several years on you in this regard … few years down the road it is character that matters in your wife. So look for all the rest of the criteria without really paying too much attention to that particular criteria.

          Aly
          *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

          • Avatar

            Mahmud

            January 29, 2014 at 11:52 AM

            Ok, Aly, jazzakAllahu khair

        • Avatar

          ZAI

          January 29, 2014 at 3:03 AM

          Br. Mahmud,
          The ladies were not saying any of the things you desire were an exceptional ideal…but that ALL of those things together is an unrealistic ideal and that some
          of those things, like “super-sweet”, “caring”, “loving” etc. are affected by mood and naturally ebb/flow & fluctuate…so keep that in mind in your expectations or you will have real disappointments in a relationship.

          2ndly, I have to agree w/ Br. Aly here and advise you cut down on advertising for a virgin bro. Im not saying you don’t have a right to want what you want…but the way you’re putting it turns people off man. It is enough for you to say you want a girl who is religiously observant and you can say you prefer someone who hasn’t been in a prior relationship because since you haven’t been in one either, you think it would be a better fit for you. Equal standing.

          When you say virgin over and over again, you are doing a few things:

          1.) You are seriously insulting divorced/widowed women who have not done anything haraam and making them feel as though you don’t deem them “good enough”
          2.) You are advertising insecurity. The way you are writing makes it seem like you are hyper-obsessed with women’s sexuality and control of it. Screams insecurity man and if there’s one thing women hate in a man, even virgin women, it is insecurity.
          3.) If you harp on it too much, even the super-sweet, caring and loving girl of your dreams will think “man, this guy seems obsessive and strict. If this is how he is about my past…how’s he going to treat me in the future with other things?”….

          Dude, seriously…stop. I, like Br. Aly, also have a few years on you and only telling you this as your Muslim bro. You are not doing your own search any favors with this talk. It doesn’t help to pull out the “crazy feminist” card either ’cause the sisters disagreed with you or had a different opinion than you.

          Women are unique individuals just like men and ultimately they want to be valued as and seen as such. They don’t want to have you present them with a check-list as if you’re shopping for a car. As Br. Aly said, look for character then build around that, but be flexible with the other things. You might not get them all in one person. Appreciate a persons unique attributes as well…and please take my advice about the way you say some things.

          • Avatar

            Mahmud

            January 29, 2014 at 9:34 PM

            Ok, jazzakAllahu khair for the thoughtful points.

    • Avatar

      Khatam

      March 6, 2016 at 10:42 AM

      It is good Muslimahs read such stuff to know how awful they are and find more educating and interesting material around. Rather than wishing for type of woman you want to marry, maybe ficus on the type of husband you should be :)

  12. Avatar

    hafsah

    January 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    please keep writing …. jazaakillaahukhairan katheerah

  13. Avatar

    Halima

    January 24, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Thank you for writing this piece sis. I’m sure it will be very enlightening for many, as it was for me. Young Muslim women are in desperate need of learning more about these types of things. I for one am very ignorant when it comes to such matters. I wish there were more classes and books to teach to enlighten me more.

  14. Avatar

    Tanveer Khan

    January 24, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    OK I stopped reading after the choosing girls who liked like his mother part. Messed up levels reached boiling point.

  15. Avatar

    Crissy

    January 24, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    I understand that you don’t “get” the book. However, many people do “get” the book and know this is a story, and not real life. Also, if a teen is interested in reading it and there are concerns about them reading it. Perhaps it’s better to allow them to read it with a trusted adult who can discuss the book with them and make sure they are understanding the themes in the books and what may or may not be appropriate.

    But what saddens me most about your post is that you don’t believe woman, Muslim or not, can distinguish was is a “healthy” relationship and what is a fantasy love story. For the record, I do agree that the material can be too much for most teens. But, instead of trying to keep the book from woman, perhaps it should be pushed forward so that the Muslim society can discuss it as a whole instead of pretending it is not there.

    • Avatar

      A Khan

      January 24, 2014 at 9:13 PM

      Even though the book does not have an effect on you, you can not deny the effect it has had on a lot of people. You need to know how the mind of a female works in order to fully comprehend the effect such stories can have on a female’s mind. No matter how hard can someone try to separate the reality and fantasy, in the end, it can overlap and ruin their genuine personality. You also need to realize that not all teens have a healthy relationship with their parents and so they will read these kinds of book in solitude. This world is not rainbow and unicorns.

      *Name has been changed to comply to our Comments Policy*

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        January 25, 2014 at 1:34 AM

        Dear Blueportal

        Our Comments Policy requires a valid name or Kunyah to be used when commenting. You may also use a blog handle provided your blog is linked, the email address is a valid one, and it is not advertising a product.

        Best Regards
        Comments Team

    • Avatar

      The Salafi Feminist

      January 25, 2014 at 12:43 AM

      Actually, there are MANY people who are cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality, and who are indeed affected by what’s shared in popular novels.

      One of the biggest criticisms of the Twilight series was because its female lead was a shallow, vapid girl who placed her entire self worth in the love of a man (vampire?), and that it taught girls that a “good man” is someone who will stalk her, emotionally abuse her, and control her every movement.

      I personally have seen how teen girls (and adult women) actually end up believing what a fictional story is ‘telling’ them – and more often than not, it has some truly terrible effects on them.

      BTW men and boys are just as affected by media/ video game representations of what is ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ for men to do, how to behave with women, and so on. The long-reaching effects of fiction and false realities is very, very real and well documented by analysts of media.

    • Avatar

      The Salafi Feminist

      January 25, 2014 at 12:45 AM

      And, in fact, one criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey *by* practitioners of BDSM is that it portrayed it completely inaccurately and in fact, quite harmfully.

      • Avatar

        Amy

        February 3, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        This is very true. Please read my comment below once it is moderated.
        Amy

    • Avatar

      greentea

      January 25, 2014 at 5:46 AM

      lol..you might as well be promoting porn. I mean..it’s a fantasy not real life. Lol, yes let’s discuss what is and is not appropriate in porn later, but first invite garbage into your lives, eyes, ears and heart. Once that’s done we’ll discuss which piece of trash is really an artistic piece !!! Thanks for trying.

    • Avatar

      Kirana

      January 25, 2014 at 6:34 AM

      Actually, I believe the author told her daughter “If you read this book NOW, you will have a messed up concept of sex, and some content may even be emotionally disturbing and psychologically damaging.” (key word capitalised)

      It does matter which information reaches you first, psychologically speaking. Your brain favours the earlier ones (I believe it’s called first conclusion bias). It is better to access things with high emotional impact, prioritising true ones first, and ‘recreationally untrue’ ones later. This is less important for topics of low emotional impact or clearly irrelevant to one’s life. Once you have good information, and positive experience, then it is a lot easier to slot fictional unhealthy depictions appropriately, since you’re able to evaluate it *relative to* something else. For a virgin to do this is a lot harder, there’s no reference experience.

      • Avatar

        Umm Reem

        January 27, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        yes Kirana, that’s exactly what I told my daughter is not to read it NOW because it DOES matter which information reaches us first. And as you said once a person has good information AND positive experience then its easier to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

        I’m married yet there were parts in the book that emotionally upset me but Alhamdullilah I was able to talk them through with my husband.
        On the other hand our teenage girls are not only unmarried but unfortunately they are not even educated about their sexuality properly (our-Muslims- and parents’ fault).

  16. Avatar

    Taiba Nasir

    January 24, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum sister,
    Baarak Allahu laki for this eye opening response to the fantasy book. We need more Muslimahs like you who’d confront such issues directly. keep up the good work. May Allah reward you for your great efforts. Jazakillahu Khairan

  17. Avatar

    Serene

    January 25, 2014 at 4:17 AM

    Assalamu alaikum Umm Reem.

    Thank you for this article.

    I pm you over at your fb but can’t seem to find an email address for private questions. In sha Allah you will see this message n read my pm over at fb. Thanks.
    wasalaam

  18. Avatar

    Jerome Binten

    January 25, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    Fantasies of elderly woman, that’s what this book is all about, why should teenage muslim girls want to read that?
    They should be learned about the difference of fiction and reality, otherwise we should forbid all warmovies and violence movies and all religious books.

    • Avatar

      Farha Rayes

      March 14, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      I totally agree with this…

  19. Avatar

    ahsan arshad

    January 25, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Umm reem murdered the plot of the book. hats off for it.

  20. Avatar

    Hassan

    January 25, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Never knew the details of this book, apparently it is more popular among women (muslims or non-muslims) then men. Why is that, even though it is quite cruel toward women.

  21. Avatar

    Mariam Saeed

    January 25, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Mostly, unIslamic fiction has its adverse effects.
    I have personally suffered with fault perceptions about interpersonal relationships and lifestyle.

    This article was the need of the hour!
    JazakAllah!

  22. Avatar

    Megan Wyatt

    January 25, 2014 at 11:38 PM

    I wouldn’t come near that book with a fifty foot pole….and I felt sick just reading through all the things Umm Reem wrote, feeling upset for her having to read through some of this filth in order to help parents and Muslims at large know how disturbing such a book is and write this otherwise beneficial article. Thank you Umm Reem!

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 27, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      JazakiAllah khiar Megan :)

      I really hope that this article helps the parents and our teens.

  23. Avatar

    Shawn

    January 26, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Honestly, sounds symptomatic of a larger problem to me. It’s not a stupid book that’s the problem (there will always be controversial books that come out that elicit bans of all kinds). It’s the fact that our communities have such an awkward time dealing with the whole intimacy/sex conversation. So obviously if something isn’t ever discussed candidly or in a non-“fire and brimstone” kind of way, the kids will have messed up ideas of what intimacy actually is. Especially if they read this book. Instead of raising our Muslim children to be wise and reflective on various perspective, we just place bans on books. Band-aids on deep wounds.

    But I enjoyed reading this article, thank you!

  24. Avatar

    jessica

    January 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    This was a satirical trilogy based on ridiculing Twilight. People and especially women are so naive. Why do they gravitate to the most vile if social culture and not the classy. I am all for experimentation in marriage and kinky is great but anything that inflicts pain HELL NO. BDSM only if he is on the recieving end and I doubt any man enjoys being trodden on with 9 inch stilletoes or have their privates mutilated .Frankly society is so materialistic theyd do anything for money. No honor no shame no dignity. Girls the first time kills like hell , it is unforgetrable traumatic and sometimes requires medical intervention. Men can hardly last long enough and most are awkward and clueless. These expectations and ideals are ridiculous and as fake as aby magic or alien movie /story. If my teens even thought about reading this garbage id beat them senseless just to show them how FUN physical abuse is.

    • Avatar

      Man

      October 10, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      You say “HELL NO” to BDSM when you are receiving it but are okay with inflicting pain on a man. It means you really are not against it, but are fine with it as long as it’s the man who is in pain. Well guess what, it was a woman who wrote those books and it’s the women who read those books, so it’s the woman who want those things.

    • Avatar

      Ussamah

      August 12, 2016 at 7:15 AM

      lol lol .. best comment

    • Avatar

      m7md

      September 25, 2018 at 12:04 PM

      I have read through the article and many of the comments, I find your comment summarizing it all and relating to reality..
      I would say it largely depends on what the media is exposing the population to in a given society, and that in certain societies women perhaps choose to stay naïve..

      Relating to your experiences and understanding, do you feel it is or rather should be more acceptable where the woman inflicts pain to the man then the other way, being the weaker sex, and usually having relative roles in life..
      As you say that you doubt any men enjoys being trodden with stilettoes, and having their privates mutilated,, then do you feel its always done for the woman’s pleasure, if yes then why do you feel muslim women should be deprived of such pleasure if anyone of them may like to experience it, and if no then would you say its allowed by men just for their wife’s pleasure, again why should muslim women be left out any different.

      I feel this stuff is more to do with relationships and marriage, then money, have you had anyone take pain for money..

      If as you say they are fake, so you mean they never occur in a relationship/marraige?

  25. Avatar

    Bahader

    January 27, 2014 at 2:04 AM

    I must say that I’m surprised that muslims even would read such a book. I’m even more surprised that muslims practise BDSM and imitate some non muslims in their practises. Sex and intimacy should be something simple and natural combined with love and feelings for the partner… I think we’ve made it complicated due to the filth that our ears and eyes are exposed to..

  26. Avatar

    Amal Sarmatar

    January 27, 2014 at 6:26 AM

    I”m concern in particularly for young muslims teens. many of these kids parents are not educated or speak/ read english so just banning your kids from readings like fifty shades of Grey may not solve the real problem. Parents need to educate themselves about this country and it’s views before they decide to raise the perfect muslim kid in the west….

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 28, 2014 at 5:43 AM

      Dear Amal,

      This is not only a western problem, this is a universal issue. There are plenty of porn books in Arabic over here. Parents are in denial that their children would ever touch such a book- in the West and in the East.

      Parents need to take their heads out of the sand and be aware of the evil widespread around the world, and not just the west, and help their kids fight against that evil.

  27. Avatar

    S Kari

    January 27, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    the real question is : what is wrong with our Quran memorization schools? how on earth could they produce a hafiza who could go towards a book like this, full of filth and even non muslims consdier it porn? just shows our idea of how to teach Quran is so off. we don’t think it should be in their hearts, we don’t teach them teh meaning, we just turn them into parrots who are not actually truly carrying the light of Allah’s Message!

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 28, 2014 at 5:58 AM

      S Kari,

      I am not going to argue with the fact that our idea of teaching Qur’an is totally off and it is mere parrot memorization BUT i am going to disagree that huffadh or even practicing Muslilms/Muslimahs wouldn’t go towards a porn book. I am not justifying their actions but we need to remember that none of us are flawless and all of us have our fair share of weaknesses. So let’s not be judgmental.

      Besides, reading books like these may be harmful in other ways but does that make a person sinful? This is obviously a bit stretch, and Allah knows best.

  28. Avatar

    Maria

    January 27, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Wonderful article! May Allah help us to walk on the straight path and protect us from going astray, ameen.
    JazakAllah Khairan, sister.

  29. Avatar

    Rosie

    January 27, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Hi Umm

    I wanted to share my opinion with you as a British young woman in her mid twenties who is not religious. I did not wait for marriage to have sex, although I still hold it in high regard (i.e. I don’t give it away…)

    I think this is one of the best articles I have ever read, I hope to save a copy to read to my children (should I have any!). It is useful for both Muslims and non Muslims! To be truthful I have not completely read the 50 Shades series as it was written very poorly, and I can be a bit of a snob about books… however I did read a similar book called “Bared To You” by Sylvia Day with a very similar premise, and felt myself asking: “Am I the only person amongst my peers who has noticed that this is abuse and not a healthy relationship?!” I don’t know, perhaps as I had previously been in an abusive relationship (not sexual abuse thankfully) it may have been more obvious to me, but I found myself confused as to why so many women were “falling in love” with the male characters from these books! You have summarized exactly why books like these should only be read by adults, or discussed in depth with a parent who can tell their child “this is not normal, do not wish this upon yourself!”

    I shared this article with my Facebook friends and I wanted you to know that your message is not only reaching and affecting the Muslim community, but those beyond that as well. :) xx

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 28, 2014 at 8:38 AM

      Dear Rosie

      Glad our content is making a difference to more than just Muslims. We hope you will take some time out to check out more content on our site.

      Best Regards
      Aly
      Comments Team Lead

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      February 3, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      Hi Rosie,

      Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I am happy that my article is reaching out to more than just Muslims!

      I completely agree with you that the book is poorly written and i had to struggle to stay focused. It is a shame that a book with such low literary standards has become one of the most popular books of our times. I haven’t read “Bared to You”. To be honest, the only reason I picked up Fifty Shades was because I wanted to know what is it that our teens are obsessing over!

      I think authors throw in the bait of “epitome of male beauty” coupled with multimillion fortune with power and ever-romantic personality to keep fantasy-loving females (teens or adults) in their dreamland, and in many cases this type of fiction has caused some serious problems when it comes to real life issues.

  30. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    January 27, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Good article Mash’Allah and one that’s very much needed. It’s disappointing to read that this book is also popular among young Muslims. Besides the disdainful subject matter the writing is atrocious, similar to Twilight! Has anyone here read the Hunger Games series btw? I haven’t read the books yet, but have watched the first movie, and liked that its subject matter was more intellectually stimulating, since it deals with issues like big, oppressive government, oppression and rebellion, as well as a critique on the current fascination with reality TV. I know the story has a love triangle going on within it, but according to some of my friends who’ve read it, it doesn’t take up a major part of the storyline. I think it would be better to steer kids more towards reading books like the HG instead of this.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      February 4, 2014 at 5:18 AM

      Rchoudh,

      Hunger games is a good trilogy. I read it and so did my kids. Suzzane Collins knows how to write a good story!

      Yes, it does have a love triangle but that’s not the main part of the book. Besides, you will not find a book that doesn’t have a love story. Divergent is also a good trilogy though it’s not as good as HG, the writing style is not as great and it has more love scenes than HG.
      You can also try Rangers Apprentice series.

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        February 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Thank you I’ll look into those series In sha Allah!

  31. Avatar

    ameera

    January 27, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    This shouldnt just be directed to muslim teens it should directed to ALL teens

  32. Avatar

    Mahmud

    January 28, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    As salamu alaikum

    Interesting talks…. by Allah I fear for my sisters and others really I do not know how to address them thez issues…
    Jazzaka’Allahu khairan to all ppl struggling to help out the youth from thez imaginary and illusionary stuffz (may Allah guide us all Aameen)

  33. Avatar

    Khadija

    January 29, 2014 at 5:53 AM

    A very useful article, both for teens snd adults.. I had joined MM for such useful healthy stuff and am glad I did it.. but I ‘d rather have MM as aplatform for the guidance of all muslim brothers and sisters towards what s right and shouldn’t declare it limited for a particular sect.

  34. Avatar

    UmmAmmaarah

    January 30, 2014 at 1:00 AM

    OMG – the horrors that await me …and to think I’m obsessing about keeping my 7 yr old away from ‘The Wimpy Kid’ series and with ‘The Boxcar Children’. These soft-porn books can be addicting as a teenager. My mom had warned me that these would screw up my idea of what ‘love’ should be like, and it DID until I knew better.
    Sister Umm Reem, any pointers on how and when to teach your kids, esp daughters about sexuality and how much exactly to tell them?

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      February 4, 2014 at 5:31 AM

      Dear UmmAmmaarah, assalamo alaikum

      If I were you I wouldn’t stop my kids from reading “The Wimpy Kid’ and “Boxcar CHildren”. Let them read those series and discuss the stuff you find objectionable.
      Keep a very open communication. Parenting is not easy and we have to chose your battles wisely AND we have to be realistic.

      I raised my kids without a TV at home but I can’t keep my kids from books, AND there is an obvious difference between watching love scenes or reading about it. As long as you talk to your children about the material they are reading, including love and relationships, and you answer ALL their questions honestly, inshaAllah you will be fine.

      As for sexual education, I wrote a detailed series on MM about this. Please go over it and if you still have questions, feel free to email me.
      May Allah make it easy for you.

  35. Avatar

    Najba

    January 30, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Very well written… I myself have gone through the book and was surprised at how such a book became so famous!!! The author has shown a sadist man as a hero!! Unbelievable that the youth of today is embracing these things.
    What u read becomes a part of you, what ever you read be careful.
    As that is what you’re feeding your mind.

  36. Pingback: Reality on fifty shades of grey! | let's open up

  37. Avatar

    Amy

    February 3, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Hello, being neither Muslim nor coming from a Muslim country, it was by chance I stumbled across this article. It is well written and real unlike the books in question. Thank you.
    I am involved in the BDSM community and I can honestly say while there are many cases of abuse and misuse (as there are in everyday relationships) there are also genuine occasions in which both partners feel whole and complete in their roles either as dominants or submissives. I always say to people who wish to find out more the key to the door is communication. Trust has to be earned – it is not a given and this can and does take time. Beware the partner who wishes to go from 0 – 100 mph instantly (as does Mr Grey). These people are dangerous.
    The fact the author did not completely dismiss exploration into this realm shows real wisdom and tolerance. Done right – with dignity, honestly and as complete equals – sexuality in all is forms is a gift.
    Thank you for your calm moderate voice. I intend to show this to my daughter. 50 Shades is neither about love nor sex it is about power and that is wrong.
    Amy

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      February 4, 2014 at 6:03 AM

      Dear Amy,

      I’m glad you stumbled across my article, it is always refreshing to read diverse views.

      Role playing is not forbidden in Islam but physical abuse is. And as you said that it has to be done right with communication and understanding. I’m happy that you, coming from BDSM community, did find Grey’s character as damaging and dangerous. I would love to share your comment with the girls during my talk about the book. Thank you.

  38. Avatar

    Madihah

    February 27, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    As a teenager myself (16), I can say that this book certainly appealed and was read by many a girl my age. Alhamdulilah I wouldn’t even touch it with a ten foot pole but many girls were literally lining up to read it. SubhanAllah the language in this book is disgusting for I had the unfortunate experience of overhearing one of the conversations about it. I agree that more needs to be done within our Muslim communities, whereby girls are educated as to the dos and donts of intimacy etc as this book certainly is sending out the wrong messages.

    MashAllah some great points raised in this article sis and it’s great to finally see actual issues affecting young girls being discussed in the context of our religion. And in a way that neither dooms them to Hell nor labels them as ‘bad Muslims’ for we cannot judge.

    JazakAllah khair and in sha Allah will be sharing this within my school and social circle :)

  39. Avatar

    sis

    May 1, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    “10.Sadism/Bondage/Submission and Dominance (BDSM) are acts of sex that may develop among couples in a halal way but it takes time.”

    Blimey, first i’ve heard of it, really frightened just reading that paragraph and I’m in my 30’s!
    (Unmarried)

  40. Avatar

    Raadwiya

    August 8, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Okay i just discovered this site about 15mins ago whiles searching for the best time to nap in Islam and i see this topic and i’m like Omg! 50 shades has been tackled on an islamic website..Ha! like, as in a whole article (which i’m now going to read btw..lol) but i’m just really suprised attention has been given to deal with it..awesome. I’m all hyper now just wanted to get the rambling out..lol. Hope no one lashes out on me though..hehehe

  41. Pingback: Sex & The Ummah | Love, InshAllah

  42. Pingback: Do we need men to have children? | Mother of the World | Pink & Green Blues

  43. Avatar

    Zee

    December 26, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    I agree with your article wholeheartedly. It’s a bit disheartening to hear people glorify that ‘relationship’, if it’s to be called that – between Ana and Christian. I recently had a discussion with an older woman, with a high position, who seemed to believe that Christian’s ‘past’ is an excuse for his horrible behaviour. Others talk about his attractiveness and almost instinctively you can guess where the problem lies. Apparently it’s okay for him to be abusive because he’s attractive.

    Christian goes after women that have a trait similar to that of his mother, but instead of respecting them, he abuses them. Criminal Minds shows this same trend with the unsubs (criminals) – a trait is seen -whether a person’s ethnicty, hair colour, height, in a person that reminds them negatively of another person and hence the unsub is driven to acts of violence that may lead to death. Christian hasn’t killed anyone but his behaviour is similar.

    I’m also glad you did not dismiss the BDSM lifestyle. I am not a part of it and honestly I have mixed feelings. But E. L. James has never ever took the time to do her research properly. Even people who are into it are insulted by what she wrote. One woman who liked the book asked me “So you know better?” I was going to ask her. “So same with you?” I don’t know better. However I do know myself well enough to understand that my own self respect means a lot to me.

    Besides the glorification of abuse and the misrepresentation of BDSM, the writing itself needs a lot of work.

    This article was very much needed.

  44. Avatar

    Sameena

    January 15, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Nice and balanced approach to the subject. Fiction can be an exaggerated of reality though it does speak a lot about the inner nature of humans. Imagination has no limits but reality has and Islam has this beautiful balance between reality and imagination so that human nature can actualize itself in every way with in the bounds of shariah. On the one hand this kind of lifestyle like BDSM ( in its extreme ) tells about the inner wild of nature of intimacy and the natural difference of both the sexes ( coz in 99% cases submissive role is played by the women and in Gorean lifestyle woman is a slave by her own consent) and on the other hand it shows that by leaving the social structure and the natural dynamics of dominant/submissive relationship man and a woman in a healthy and creative way that is the requirement of the ‘fitrah’ of the opposite sexes , the west has opened the door for the wild expressions of such relationship. West loves to paint Asian and Muslim women in a miserable way completely ignoring the fact that Muslim women and asian women are into this natural relationship of marriage with their consent and they too fantasize about being led by a strong man since their teen.

    Recognizing the physical, psychological differences between sexes and both sexes natural desire to be in dom/sub relation with each other leads to love and a healthy relationship..Even when people deny this labeling and linguistic expressions of dom/sub ( coz they might find it offensive) they very well live on an unconsicous level this way and this is evident by the whole human history and it is prescribed in all the religious scriptures as well no matter how much one try to deny this fact.

    The beauty of Islam is that it gives woman the protective nature so that man can not misuse his authority and it becomes a loving dom/sub relation of Qawaam and Qanitaat in Quranic terms. As the writer sister has herself mentioned BDSM is halal in Shariah boundries when the couple is mature enough to understand it. Having aid that, in my opinion we as muslim should recognize the very obvious teachings of Quran and Hadiths on this dom/sub relation which is not difficult to understand by the human nature as well. Selectively following Islam on such issues is the problem. husbands are athourity over us and they can spank us in the case of disobedience and denying it is denying the Quran. People who are apologetic about have recently tried to derive new meanings from 4:34 but that is an excercise in futility. All the major and authentic scholars have agreed on it.

    • Avatar

      Maham

      March 1, 2015 at 5:58 AM

      Regarding what the Quran says about spanking deviant women cannot be fully understood without hadeeth. And the Prophet saw said the intensity of ‘spanking ‘ should be that equivalent to hitting with a miswaak. Keeping that in light , Quran does have a stance of husbands having authority over us but that does not mean that theyhave unjust authority over us. Dom/sub has nothing to do with that ayat. Because dom/sub is voluntary and that ayat is about defiant women.

  45. Avatar

    Aamir Khan

    January 26, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    Shouldn’t Christian’s acts of indulging in sex before marriage be enough to convince our daughters that he’s not to be desired? Shouldn’t also the fact that this book is soft porn and inappropriate be enough to deter our daughters from pursuing it? Why is there a need to rationalize, in painful lengthy details, and that too on non-core issues such as Christian’s personality disorders and future problems as a husband?

  46. Pingback: Fifty Shades of Gray – The Obsession with Hypersexualisation | HijabiHafs

  47. Avatar

    Nasneen

    February 28, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    Appreciate your work and we need such writing more and more. Keep going !

  48. Avatar

    Will Fadel

    March 1, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It’s quite informative and well written.

    The concern I have about the article is 2 folds:
    1) It ignores the economic aspect of sexual exploitation of women
    2) It doesn’t discuss the “free pass” given to wealthy people for psychopathic behavior (Affluenza)

    I think women must be taught the strong correlation between sexual exploitation and economic injustice.

    I would recommend reading Chris Hedges’s article on TruthDig addressing “Fifty Shades”: http://bit.ly/17aqPsS

    JAK

  49. Avatar

    ruya

    March 2, 2015 at 3:51 AM

    This is Nonsense! Watever you do you should know where to draw your line. When u understand this is not a childrens movie, why are u involving children. What about all other A+ movies??? Why do u nly stress of 50 shades of grey?

  50. Avatar

    ruya

    March 2, 2015 at 3:52 AM

    Why only The daughters??? BEGIN WITH THE SONS!!

  51. Avatar

    Ava

    April 22, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    You don’t have to be a Muslim to agree with all of Umm’s points. I’m a Christian, and was (like most Christians would, I believe) nodding along to all the points young women need to know about how these books (written under free speech, which happens to freely be discussing harmful and inaccurate things) do not match up to reality. Most women in the west–whatever their religion–can see that these books send the wrong message to girls and boys, men and women, in terms of normal healthy sexual/romantic relationships and marital life. However, please be clear on the fact that westerners typically value free speech and intellectual freedom more than almost anything. The fact that we can have a dialogue about this is a very western ideal in action. We agree that the subject (the books’ content) is disgusting, unhealthy, and potentially emotionally damaging…. but the difference may be that we stand by the author’s right to publish it, and the reader’s right to buy it. It is a steep price to pay, absolutely… but as a Canadian now living in a country with arguably the world’s worst human rights/women’s rights record and reality… we need to educate our girls and boys in our homes, and stand by the freedom to read/write even things like this. Does that make sense? Respectfully and warmly, Ava

  52. Pingback: A message to Muslim teens on 50 Shades | Work The Grey Matter

  53. Avatar

    khadija

    May 29, 2015 at 2:48 AM

    assassamualaikum sister may bless you for the article published above …Mash Allah..it really benefited me.!!!

  54. Avatar

    Anonymous

    October 6, 2015 at 11:46 AM

    Aawrwb, came across this article when searching for “BDSM in Islam” – curious if anyone can direct me to discussions of the admissibility of mild consensual BDSM within marriage in Islam? I’ve seen a couple of fataawa that forbid it, but only based on it being non-consensual, or the going against the injunction not to harm oneself or others. It’s been a “fetish” of mine since well before converting to Islam, and I want to bring it up with my Muslim husband but afraid he will find it strange or haram.

    • Avatar

      Zara

      August 7, 2016 at 12:23 AM

      I have the same problem! Although I want my future husband to do these things with me when I am married.
      I haven’t met anyone yet but when I do how do I bring up this matter?! Surely it is haram to ask my future fiancee if he is into BDSM?

      • Avatar

        m7md

        September 25, 2018 at 12:31 PM

        So you see this as a problem then just a part of a relationship,, or you see sharing/discussing such things with your husband as a problem..

        If you have managed to bring it up with your significant other, then was it easy for you to discuss such or…
        It wouldn’t be haram to ask your husband if he is into bdsm.. and not sure if discussing something with fiancée is haram.

  55. Avatar

    Anonymous

    August 1, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    Aoa,

    I am a practicing muslim. I recently had a proposal from a guy I know. I really like him and I find him cute and everything. But there is a problem I want to discuss here. That guy after proposing to me discussed with me openly that he is a submissive and he wants me to be a dominant in the relationship. He has a shoe fetish and for some reason he loves shoes so much that he wants to worship my prettiness by sitting in my shoes. He says, his place is where my shoes are. He will be happy if I put him as low as I can. He craves my control. He will do anything for me as long as I accept and expect his submission. He wants me to order him to love me or take care of me. I even watched fifty shades of grey only to understand what BDSM is. I looked up shoe fetish but I didn’t find any movie on it. I am guessing it is less common. Unfortunately the guy I was interested in has it. Coming to the point, the fifty shades of grey is a movie and even though it was utterly unpleasant to watch it I still feel that it is portraying the facts quite unrealistically and fancifully.

    Now it took me by surprise. Before this, I didn’t even know this was a thing. It took a really long time for me to grasp this and to this day I don’t really know what it truly is and how it can impact a relationship. And most importantly whether it is permissible in Islam or not. My gut doesn’t allow me to fall for this and I am 90% sure it is haram. I want to not consider this guy and move on. But for the sake of my knowledge and inner satisfaction I need to know that I am making an informed decision so I need an honest opinion from someone who knows what the heck it is and whether this kind of thing could lead to a successful and accomplished relationship.

  56. Avatar

    Zara

    August 7, 2016 at 12:19 AM

    I’m a bit worried because I am a young Muslim girl and I fantasised about BDSM a lot years before 50 shades of grey even came out. I went through a period where my faith wasn’t amazing and I tried a few things with a few men and I really liked it. Now, however, I am a good girl and refuse to date anyone and I now do not believe in sex before marriage. I am very worried, however, because I would like a husband who would do hardcore BDSM with me when we are married… But it’s not something I can ask a man before marriage, he would run a mile! This is really worrying me as my father wants me to get married soon and advice would be much appreciated.
    I have put a false name on here to protect my identity.
    Peace be with you all.

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#Culture

To Kill a Muslim – Part 1

Yahya noticed the obscene gesture that the man across the street gave him, but he ignored it, and chose not to tell his wife Samira. He knew how deep racism ran in these small towns. He would just have to be patient.

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1. Ragheads

Rotting wooden porch steps

Nursing a warm beer, Chad sat on the ramshackle front porch with the rotting steps and peeling paint. His hand clenched tightly the beer can as he watched the filthy camel hugging family move in across the street. Liquid sloshed over his fist.

It was unbelievable. This was Alhambra, a white town in America. Trump’s America. Making America great again, putting the freaks and coloreds back in their places. Sure, there were wetbacks in Alhambra – you couldn’t escape them in California – but there were hardly any blacks, and there were certainly no terrorist camel huggers.

Until now. There they were across the street and two houses down, unloading a trailer hooked to a silver Honda Accord. It was a whole family of ragheads – a woman with her stupid oppressed scarf on her head, a little boy and girl, and the father. Chad studied the man with contempt. The guy was tall, maybe 6’1 or 6’2, and black. Well, maybe he was African or some such, ‘cause he wore one of those long, colorful African shirts. His skin was mud colored, and his hair was short under that stupid beanie. He was skinny though. Chad was pretty sure he could kick the guy’s ass. The man noticed Chad looking and waved. Chad flipped him the bird. The man frowned and went on moving his crap.

Chad spent a lot of time sitting on the porch nowadays, ever since he’d been fired from his loss prevention job at Walmart. That still made his jaw clench and his vision go red every time he thought about it. Some black dude – a gangbanger no doubt – had tried to shoplift box of tampons, of all things, and Chad stopped him. A scuffle ensued. Chad recovered the tampons, but the banger got away. And Walmart fired him. Said he’d violated the terms of service of his employment, which required no physical engagement of any kind. You were supposed to ask the thief to return the goods, but if they refused you were not supposed to stop them, follow them, or “engage” in any way, due to the liability to other customers if the encounter turned violent.

So the shade goes off scot-free, and Chad gets fired. A law abiding, hard working, white American gets fired for doing the right thing. It made him want to smash something. Actually it made him want to smash someone, ideally his Filipino woman boss at Walmart, but any foreigner would do.

So here he was, twenty two and unemployed, nothing but a high school diploma to his name, sitting on his mom’s porch. All his old high school friends had jobs and girlfriends. Some even had wives. A couple had gone to college.

It wasn’t right. His life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. He’d been a track star in high school – hundred meters and hurdles – and was supposed to have gone to college on a scholarship, but he’d blown out his knee, and they’d all abandoned him. It was like, if you weren’t of use to people, they didn’t give a crap about you. You were disposable. Blood sucking leeches. They’d given his spot on the track team to a black kid, a sophomore. Kid probably couldn’t even read. Was that piece of crap out there now, living the life that should have been Chad’s? How could this happen in Trump’s America? That was the problem, that it hadn’t been Trump’s America back then. It had been Barack Hussein’s America, the Commie Muslim traitor, damn his terrorist soul.

He seethed with the unfairness of it. He was no genius, he knew that. But he’d been a good runner, talented. He’d had the opportunity to make something of himself, to be the first in his family to go to college. He could have been more than his parents. A teacher maybe, or even a lawyer. His mother survived on welfare and what she could beg, borrow or steal from her string of boyfriends.

As for his dad, sure, Chad admired him in some ways – the man had been a shot caller in the Aryan Nation prison gang, able to point a finger and have another man killed. He’d been looked up to and respected. And he’d taught Chad what it meant to be a proud white man, standing up for your race and not taking any crap from coloreds. But let’s face it, Dad had spent 90% of his adult life in prison, and in the end had died the way he lived, with a knife in his gut. That wasn’t what Chad wanted for himself.

Plus, if Chad was being honest, he’d evolved beyond this father’s way of thinking. His father always used to say that the coloreds – no matter the shade – were filthy and inferior and should all be eliminated, even if that meant a race war across the face of America. It was a certainty, according to him, that the race war was coming. RaHoWa, he used to call it – Racial Holy War. The coloreds were secretly plotting to wipe out white America. It was an assault on the white, Christian values that had built everything worldwide in the modern world.

But when Chad had worked at Walmart he’d been forced to work with people of all colors and even folks from other countries like Filipinos and Chinks. He´d asked a few of them about RaHoWa, trying to find out about their plans to destroy the white race, but they seemed genuinely clueless. Chad slowly realized that RaHoWa was a myth, and that the coloreds were ordinary people like himself. They liked the same sports teams he did, played the same video games, watched the same shows. Yeah, they ate some weird crap and some of them smelled different, and their music was garbage. And they weren’t as smart of course. That was a fact. White people were the smartest, they had invented everything. That was why they ran the world. But the point was that the coloreds weren’t evil.

He had come to the conclusion that what was needed was not a race war, but separation. Let the coloreds live in their own neighborhoods and go to their own schools. Let them marry their own women and breed their own brats. And Chad and the white people would do the same. Live and let live. Not the Filipino bitch who fired him of course, he still wanted to bust her head open. But the others, yeah.

But the Muzzies – the Islamics – that was a different story. They were terrorist, cult following traitors. Not normal people. Muzzies were evil and sick in the head. Everybody said so. Plus, they lied as part of their sicko religion. It was called takaya or some crap. What kind of twisted bullcrap was that? They beheaded people, for Christ’s sake. If you were Christian in their country they would cut off your head with a hunting knife. They were devil worshipers. They should all either be kicked out of the country or killed. Period. And then Mecca should be nuked, and that would be the end of it.

But instead of taking care of business, the government was letting them go around like normal people. Even Trump had wimped out. The evidence was right in front of Chad’s eyes. Ragheads in his neighborhood, on his street. It was insane. How could terrorists go around openly showing off their rags? Where was Homeland Security? That was a good idea, actually. See something, say something, right? He took his phone out of his pocket and called 911.

2. Moving Day

Yahya Mtondo noticed the young man across the street staring. He waved, and when the fellow gave him an obscene gesture in return he frowned. In the old days – that is to say, in his angry and lost years of his youth – he would have marched straight over there and punched the man in the face, and damn the consequences. But he wasn’t that man anymore. So here merely shook his head and turned back to the job of moving.

His wife Samira must have noticed his expression. “What’s wrong habibi?”

He forced a smile. “Nothing’s at all, mchumba wangu.” Usually he called her mpenzi wangu – my love. But when he wanted to tease her he called her mchumba wangu, my homemaker. It was actually a term of endearment in his native Kenya, or at least it was what his dad always used to call his mom, may Allah have mercy on them. But he knew it annoyed Samira. In any case, he wasn’t going to tell her about the young man across the street. Samira tended to worry – she even had anxiety attacks sometimes – and he didn’t want to give her anything more to stress over.

“Just tired from the fast,” he added. “But I love it. I feel so light and free. I’m a bird doing loop de loops. Oooh!” He spread his arms. “My feathers are as cool as ice.”

Samira rolled her eyes. “You’re such a nut.”

He had not been crazy about the idea of moving to this poor, mostly white enclave in Central California, about twenty miles northeast of Fresno. He knew from experience how deep racism often ran in such towns. And he had two strikes against him in these people’s eyes, since he was both African and Muslim. Not that he was ashamed. He was proud of his Kenyan heritage, and was grateful that Allah had guided him to Islam.

They were here because his wife had just completed her medical residency in Fort Worth, Texas, where they’d moved from, and Alhambra Community Hospital had unexpectedly offered her a fellowship in her specialty of oncology. The salary was not spectacular, but it was better than she’d earned as a resident. Between that and his income as a rideshare driver, plus the low property values here in Alhambra, they’d been able to buy a house for the first time, alhamdulillah – thanks to God for all His blessings.

Craftsman bungalow cottage

The best part of all was that there was no ribaa involved. No interest. They’d gone through a group called Central Valley Islamic Finance, which helped qualified Muslims to buy cars and homes without interest. Yahya was deeply relieved about that. He ́d made plenty of mistakes in life, but so far he’d managed to avoid the sin of ribaa, sometimes making great sacrifices in the process.

It felt like an achievement. He could see himself on Yawm Al-Qiyamah – the Day of Resurrection – standing before some great angel who held in his hand a parchment listing Yahya´s sins, each with a small checked box: anger, resentment, cursing, jealousy, ingratitude, and more. But then Yahya ́s eyes would settle on the one little unchecked box – Ribaa. He would point to it excitedly, saying, ̈Look, look!̈ And he ́d hope that it might perhaps, offer him a chance for safety on that Day.

It was pretty sad, he knew, when avoiding a major sin was your last chance for salvation. Welcome to the 21st century. Or maybe that was a cop-out. He sighed.

̈Come on babe, tell me. What is it?̈ His sweaty-faced wife touched his cheek. She was always so alert to any sign of inner turbulence on his part.

He smiled. ¨Nothing.¨

She slid her arm through his. ̈Look at our house. Our house. SubhanAllah.¨

He set down the box he had tucked under one arm and studied the house. 701 Minarets Avenue. They had taken the street name as a sign. Their own little homestead, their own piece of earth – of course it all belonged to Allah, but it was theirs to care for. He would import a few elephants and a lion and call it Little House on the Serengeti. He chuckled at his own joke.

The house was small for a family of four – only 1,100 square feet. But it was cute – a little Craftsman bungalow built in 1901, painted teal with white trim, and featuring a small covered veranda to relax on when the weather go too hot, as it often did here in Central California. The yard was planted with wildflowers and native shrubs, while an immense magnolia tree grew in the front yard, casting shade over most of the house, its thick, waxy leaves glowing deep emerald in the morning sun. Some sort of songbird trilled from deep in the tree, praising God in its own language. Yahya loved it.

As an added bonus, Samira’s family lived in Los Angeles, only a four hour drive from here.

Allah the Most High had opened a door for them, and they’d walked through, taking the path that the Most Wise chose for them. Yahya knew in his heart that there would be good in this path, or Allah would not have set them upon it. That was trust, tawakkul. Doing your best, then putting your life in Allah’s hands and trusting Him to bring you through whatever obstacles you faced. Tawakkul was not, as some thought, naivete. Yahya had not lived an easy life. He ́d experienced terrible tragedies, and had walked through trench and terror, metaphorically speaking, just to stay alive. No, tawakkul was a choice and a mindset. It was faith.

As for the young man across the street, Yahya would make an effort to reach out to the neighbors, get to know them. Weren’t Muslims commanded to be kind to their neighbors? Only through kindness could an enemy become a friend.

He kissed his wife on the temple and bent down wearily to pick up the box.This was Ramadan, and Yahya’s energy level was at rock bottom. He hadn’t taken any food or water in many hours. Fortunately, all the family’s possessions fit into a small U-Haul trailer, and the moving was nearly done. That was one advantage of being poor, he thought wryly. It made moving easier.

Ten minutes later, hefting a 6-foot bookshelf and turning, he almost tripped over Sulayman, his four-year-old son, who had picked up a table fan by the cord. Yahya resisted the temptation to chide the boy. The irritability he felt was a byproduct of his hunger and weariness from the fast. Part of the challenge of Ramadan was to overcome that irritability and replace it with compassion. Instead of anger, to give love. Instead of resentment, to exercise generosity. Instead of self-absorption, to expand your sphere of concern to include your family, neighbors, the community, the Muslim ummah, and finally the world. That was Ramadan, and that was Islam.

Sulayman and his three-year-old sister Amirah were only trying to help in their little way. But yeah, they were getting underfoot. He was about to suggest they go play inside the house when he heard sirens approaching. It sounded like there were a lot of them, and they were close. Curious, he set the bookshelf down in the driveway. The sirens kept getting louder, and a moment later a black-and-white Alhambra police cruiser careened around the corner, then another right behind it, tires squealing. Yahya didn’t know what was going on – a burglary in the neighborhood, or a domestic dispute maybe? – but he wanted his family out of harm’s way.

“Samira,” he said urgently. “Take the kids into the house, please. Right away.” His wife had also paused to see the source of the commotion. She stood near the front door of the house, her hands gripping tightly on the box of dinnerware she was carrying. Like him, she was tall – about 5’10” to his 6’1” – and though she was Palestinian, her skin was a beautiful shade of brown that fell somewhere between copper and mahogany. Her purple hijab concealed long black hair that she typically wore loose beneath her scarf.

While Yahya was quiet and contemplative, Samira could be loud. She had a laugh that rang out, and a smile that stretched a mile wide. People were drawn to her brash and bubbly personality. Only those who knew her best understood the insecurities and worries that she hid beneath that bright and happy laugh.

As the wailing sirens mounted Samira dropped the box. Whatever was inside shattered when it hit the ground. She scooped up the kids, lifting them bodily off the ground, and disappeared inside the house.

Cop with gun drawn

What on earth? What had gotten into her? Yahya was about to go after her when the police cars skidded to a halt in the street in front of his own home. Doors were thrown open, and officers kneeled behind them, pointing their guns at his house. Yahya looked around in confusion. Was a fugitive hiding in his yard?

“Put your hands on your head,” someone bellowed through a loudspeaker, “and get down on your knees!”

Again Yahya looked around. Surely they did not mean him?

“You with the hat and the beard! Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees! This is your last warning!”

SubhanAllah, they did mean him! He considered protesting or at least asking for clarification. Then he looked at the barrels of the firearms pointing at him, one of which was bright yellow for some reason – some kind of phaser pistol? he thought crazily – and realized this was not the time for anything less than obedience. Moving slowly so as not to alarm the cops, he put his hands on his head and went down to his knees. Two offers charged forward, their weapons trained on Yahya’s chest. One pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, then shoved him forward. He fell, turning his face to the side at the last second and striking his cheek on the driveway. The impact made him grunt in pain. He thought he heard the muffled cries of his wife or children from inside the house. They were probably watching through the window.

This was not something he would have ever wanted them to see. He struggled to rise up, to say to the officers, “Come on now, what’s this all about?” He was not personally afraid. It was never his way to be afraid of people or the things people did. He was good with God and trusted in the path. He just didn’t want his children to see their father being treated this way.

The cops tased him. He didn’t understand at that moment what was happening. Every muscle in his body seized in a terrible cramp. His limbs thrashed uncontrollably and his torso flopped like a dying fish on the floor of a boat. His vision went red as agonizing pain blasted his consciousness. He still heard his family screaming, and in the distance he heard laughter as well – triumphant, mocking laughter. The agony seemed to go on forever, then vanished without a trace, leaving no remainder of pain.

He regained control of himself and turned his head to look at the officers. The one who’d tased him stood rigid, his arms in a classic firing pose, his muscles quivering. He was young and slender, pasty white with red hair and a prematurely receding hairline. What Yahya noticed most of all, however, was that the man was petrified. His eyes were wide with fear. SubhanAllah, what was he so afraid of? He was staring as if Yahya were some mythical monster laying in the driveway, like an abominable snowman. Except he wasn’t an abominable snowman. He was an abominable Muslim, apparently.

“Hey,” Yahya said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. “It’s alright. I’m not-”

“Shut up, faggot!” one of the officers bellowed, and once again the electricity coursed through him. He spasmed and fell hard, striking his mouth this time. Then he felt hard objects hitting him, striking his legs and back. A hammering blow clapped the side of his head, and darkness descended upon his mind.

* * *

Next: Part 2 – The Black Jesus

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See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novel, Pieces of a Dream, is available on Amazon.com.

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Gravedigger: A Short Story

A fist crashed into Ghada Aziz’s eye, snapping her head back and turning her legs to straw. Pain exploded in her face and she wondered if her orbital socket had just shattered. Somehow she clung to consciousness, covering her head with her arms, then lashing out with a punch of her own.

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fight, life, death, grave

A fist crashed into Ghada Aziz’s eye, snapping her head back and turning her legs to straw. Pain exploded in her face and she wondered if her orbital socket had just shattered. Somehow she clung to consciousness, covering her head with her arms, then lashing out with a punch of her own. She couldn’t take much more. Her left leg was swollen and numb, her ribs deeply bruised, and blood poured into her eyes from a cut on her forehead.

MMA ringShe never saw the blow that knocked her out. She crashed to the blood-spattered canvas, mouth open and drooling, dimly aware of the referee shielding her. A roaring sound like an avalanche filled her ears, and knew it was the sound of the crowd cheering her opponent. This was her sixth loss in the last two years, and the fourth by knockout. She’d once been the seventh ranked female bantamweight fighter in the world, but she was done. Twenty seven years old and washed up, her MMA career was over.

Was it for this that Baba – her father – had fled Iraq with her when she was twelve, leaving behind the land where his wife and son – her mother and older brother – had been slaughtered? Was it for this that he gave up his work as a radiologist to work as a janitor in Los Angeles, somehow managing to pay for her English and karate lessons?

And how had she repaid him? Other Arab-American children became doctors and engineers, but Ghada dropped out of college, driven by her passion for martial arts. The fighting ring was the only place where she felt completely in control of her destiny. Life delivered one crushing blow after another – losing loved ones, loneliness, grief – but in the ring, standing over her opponent in triumph, life was powerless to harm her. Only in the ring did she feel in control, secure.

She wouldn’t have blamed Baba for being disappointed in her, but he’d been proud, even when the local Arab community criticized him for letting his daughter adopt immoral ways. He dropped in on her training sessions and hung news stories about her on the wall. Unlike many fighters Ghada had no nickname, and Baba used to teasingly say that she should call herself The Saracen, or The Arab Assassin. As if she needed to call attention to her heritage. She already received death threats from Americans and Arabs alike. The only thing Baba would not do was attend her fights. He couldn’t bear to see her getting hit. Baba also supported her financially until she began to win, at which point she bought him a little house in Eagle Rock with a garden that he tended lovingly.

Then he died, his heart giving out on a cold January morning as he raked the leaves in the yard, while Ghada was away at training camp. Her shame at having neglected him was a worse blow than any she’d ever taken in the ring.

Someone gripped her arm. Sibni, she thought in Arabic, her cheek glued to the canvas, her braided black hair soaking up blood. Let me be. But the coach pulled her up and mopped her face as the cut man pressed the freezing end-swell disc into her forehead to stanch the flow of blood. She hung her head, not wanting to see the faces of the leering crowd, many of them overjoyed to see the Arab bitch lose. So much hate she’d faced. All for nothing.

She remembered being surprised at how many people came to Baba’s funeral. Arabs and other members of the Muslim community – Pakistanis, Indians, African-Americans, and the odd Latino or white convert – stood in rows to pray.  Non-Muslims came as well, approaching her to offer their condolences. She didn’t know most of them. They spoke of her father’s generosity or his guidance. While she’d been focused on training, Baba had intertwined with many lives, touching many hearts. That should have been comforting, but it only reminded her that she hadn’t been there enough to truly know him. She hadn’t been involved. Her grief was a thunderstorm in her head and would not let up. She skipped training sessions, lived on instant noodles and delivery pizza, slept past noon every day and lost fight after fight, unable to win the outer battles while the inner ones raged.

Now that her career was finally over, she fell into a pit of despair. She stopped bathing, washing the dishes, and paying the bills. Late notices came. Sometimes the doorbell rang and people called to her. A few times she recognized the voices of Farah and Summer, two Muslim friends she’d had in high school. They’d drifted away after she became an MMA fighter. Or had she pushed them away, preempting the threat of their rejection? They’d attended a few of her fights as well – she’d seen them in the front rows, cheering. She’d always refused to acknowledge them, fearing that they were there to judge her. They both wore hijab after all, while she was out in front of the world wearing knee-length shorts and a lycra shirt, making a spectacle of herself. So she’d deliberately avoided them, not meeting their eyes when she left the ring after the fights.

Sometimes she thought about killing herself. She resisted the idea, knowing it was against her religion and everything her father had taught her. But… there was no way forward. She was an unemployed college drop-out, finished in her career, alone in the world, and – judging from the unopened late notices she was receiving from the state – about to lose her father’s house for non-payment of taxes.

One miserable night, unable to sleep and equally unable to bear her own thoughts, she walked into the kitchen. Roaches scattered. Filthy dishes stewed in the sink. In the middle of the room stood a small table and two folding chairs. Her father used to sit there when he read the newspaper and paid the bills. Why had he kept two chairs there? Perpetually waiting – hoping – for Ghada to return home and join him at that little table? Atop the table stood a glass vase filled with desiccated morning glories. Those same dead flowers had been there since Baba died.

Kitchen knifeShe went to the cutlery drawer and took out a large steel vegetable knife. Her father always kept the knives sharp. She placed the tip against the inside of her left wrist. She would make a long, deep cut, then she’d do the other arm. Then she’d lie down in bed and wait for it to be over.

She pressed the tip of the knife into her wrist. It broke the skin and blood welled up, running in a rivulet into her palm and dripping from her middle finger. It was time to die.

Except… she could not make her hand move. She could not go further. An inner voice said, “This isn’t right. There’s always another way, a better way. You’re a fighter. Don’t give up now.” She ignored that voice and cut a little further. Blood began to pour now, running down her wrist and hand and spattering onto the kitchen floor. Her arms trembled. One of her elbows bumped the vase on the table. It tipped over, rolled off the table and shattered into a hundred fragments.

A memory came to her in a flash. She was a child in Baghdad, in the small villa they’d called home. Mama was standing on a stepladder, removing a burnt-out fluorescent bulb – the long kind – from the ceiling fixture. She handed it down to Ghada, who was her assistant in everything, whether cooking, cleaning or home repair. “Pass me the new one,” Mama said.

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it!” exclaimed tousle-haired Ibrahim, her younger brother. Before Ghada could stop him he snatched up the new bulb from where it leaned against the wall – and dropped it. Slivers of glass exploded across the floor. Both children froze, expecting to be punished. Their cat, Halawa, came padding in to investigate the commotion. Mama sighed and instructed Ghada to put Halawa in the bathroom before she cut her paws. It was the only room with a door, since the others had only curtains in the doorways. As they all worked to clean the broken glass, Halawa kept crying to be let out. Ghada felt bad for the cat, but it was for the kitty’s own good. When they were finally finished and released the cat she trotted out with her tail high, giving them all an accusing look.

Later, Mama said, “What we did with Halawa is a metaphor for how Allah protects us.”

“What’s a metaphor?” Ibrahim wanted to know.

“An example. Sometimes we feel trapped in our situations. We can’t find a way out. We cry and complain, not understanding why Allah has closed the doors. Our vision is small, so we don’t see the broken glass all around. We don’t realize that we are exactly where we need to be in that moment, and that Allah is protecting us. But if we are patient, the door will open when the time is right.”

Remembering this now, remembering her dear, patient mother, and imagining what her mother would say if she could see her daughter in this moment, Ghada cried out and dropped the knife, which fell to the floor with a clatter. Her entire body trembled, with what emotion she could not say. She would wait. She would… try something. What, she did not know.

She left the house for the first time in two weeks and went to visit her father’s grave. It was located in a sprawling, hilly cemetery that belonged to the city of Los Angeles. She sat on the grass of his grave and wept, fingering the plaque set into the ground. Sami Daoud Aziz, beloved husband and father. She tried to speak to him or pray over him, but no words came.

On her way out she saw a sign on the gate: Help Wanted. She saved the number in her phone and called it the next morning. The cemetery was looking for a full-time gravedigger. The job paid $15 per hour plus benefits. It was no fortune, but it might allow her to pay the bills, and more importantly she’d be close to Baba. She applied and was accepted.

For the first six months there was hardly a day when she did not think about quitting. The work was grueling, even harder than MMA training. Even as a full time fighter she’d only trained four hours per day. The rest of it was just healthy eating, watching and analyzing training videos, and getting nine hours of sleep every night.

This job, on the other hand, was what she imagined when a convict was sentenced to “hard labor.” Not that the environment was forbidding – it was actually extraordinarily beautiful. But this was a green cemetery, which is why the graves were hand dug. There was no gas-powered machinery of any kind, and only two maintenance workers for this entire, sprawling cemetery – herself and Dave, the groundskeeper. No embalming chemicals – Ghada learned all this in time – were used in burials, nor any grave liners or vaults. Only shrouds or biodegradable wooden caskets. Wildflowers were allowed to proliferate freely. Songbirds, squirrels and deer could be seen roaming the grounds, and butterflies were everywhere. With oak and bay trees covering the slopes, it looked more like a natural woodland than a traditional cemetery.

On a typical day Ghada had to dig two or three graves, which meant a full eight or nine hours of digging. She’d wake up in the morning with her muscles still aching from the previous day. At first her hands blistered, then they bled. Finally they grew calloused.

The plus side to the job was that she was close to Baba. She’d sit on his grave every day at lunchtime, sometimes crying, sometimes praying, sometimes just talking to him. Was this morbid? Was she psychologically damaged, unable to let go of the past? She didn’t know. She only knew that being near her father comforted her.

Time passed. She paid off her bills. Her muscles stopped aching. Her almond colored skin darkened to cafe-au-lait from working in the sun every day. And she stopped crying. She began to pray again and to fast in the holy month of Ramadan, two things she hadn’t done since she was a teenager. Her own transformation amazed her at times. She thought back to the night she’d pressed the knife to her wrist. Was it Allah who’d put that memory in her head at that moment – the memory of her cat Halawa and the broken glass? Regardless, alhamdulillah – all praise to God.

* * *

baba, death, suicide,She tossed the last spadeful of dirt and mopped her brow. The sun was straight overhead, illuminating even the inside of the grave. Unhooking a tape measure from her belt, she checked the grave. One shovel deep, two and a half feet wide by seven long. Industry standard. Satisfied, she tossed the shovel out and leaped out of the grave, tucking and rolling as she cleared the top. Time for lunch.

The back east acre was screened by a row of pines. Management kept the maintenance equipment in a shed back here, but there was a narrow stretch of clear grass. Ghada always spent the first half of her break practicing martial arts here. It was something she’d come back to this year. She wasn’t training for anything. It was movement for the sake of movement. Running through footwork and strikes, angling in and out, the workout left her physically energized and as emotionally serene as a summer sky. She hadn’t been in a gym in two years, so she worked on fundamentals, sometimes combining the moves she already knew in inventive ways.

Later, sitting on the grass of Baba’s grave, she unwrapped the ‘eggah sandwich she’d prepared that morning. It was a dish her mother had taught her to make – a patty formed from a blend of eggs, broccoli and cheese, served in pita bread with a hummus spread. With it she had a cup of hasa al-khadr – vegetable soup spiced with ginger, garlic, cilantro and cumin. Eating these traditional foods made her feel that she was carrying on her cultural heritage in some way, and also kept her healthy for the extreme labor of this job.

The warm sunshine on her face felt pleasant. The air smelled of bay leaves and wild roses. Two squirrels chased each other around a tree and up and down the trunk. Watching them, Ghada smiled. Life was good. It amazed and pleased her that she could think this. The only thing lacking in her life was companionship. She had no family, no friends. She was all alone in the world.

As if disproving her assertion, Dave the groundskeeper sauntered over from where he’d been digging out a patch of invasive broom grass. He carried his lunch bag in one hand and thermos in the other. Ghada didn’t mind. Nearing forty, tall but stoop shouldered, Dave was harmless, not to mention married. He and his wife June were MMA fans. He’d been thrilled to meet her when she first started, as he’d seen her fight when she was in her prime. He kept telling her she should be coaching fighters, not digging graves. She always shrugged this off. Maybe someday. The fighting world felt too much like the bad old days – though, if she was honest with herself, there was still a part of her that wondered how far she could have gone as a fighter if Baba had not died.

They ate in silence for a while. This was one of the things she liked about Dave. The two of them were well attuned to each other’s moods.

“You don’t talk to your dad much anymore,” Dave said. He nodded to her father’s plaque.

Ghada remembered how she used to sit here and confess her sins, sometimes weeping, sometimes telling Baba haltingly about her life, as if she expected him to condemn her failings. Why had she thought that? He’d never condemned her in life, after all. He’d done nothing but love her. My shining star, he used to call her.

“I’ve said it all.”

“So you two are good?”

She smiled. “Yeah.”

“You’ve changed since you started here.”

“No kidding. I don’t wake up with my limbs aching like I just ran a marathon. I remember when digging a single grave was exhausting. Blisters everywhere, my back sore, everything.”

“Not just that. You’re peaceful.”

She nodded. “It’s this job.” She waved a hand at a bluejay that sat on the branch of a nearby oak tree, watching them and waiting for crumbs, no doubt. “Life amid death, you know? It’s a constant reminder to live in the moment.”

Her phone rang. That was odd. No one ever called her. She dug it out of her pocket and looked at it, then frowned. It was her coach. She hadn’t spoken to him in two years. For a moment she thought of not taking the call. But that was the old Ghada. The new Ghada had nothing to fear from the past. “You sure you have the right number?” she greeted him, then listened as he spoke. “I’ll get back to you,” she said when he was done. “I know. Give me a half hour.”

“What was that about?” Dave asked. “You look like you’ve seen a dead body.” He grinned at his own joke. Funerals were a part of daily life here.

She said nothing.

“You’re scaring me, kiddo.”

“Sorry. You know the WFC? The World Fighting Championship?”

“Of course. You know I’m a fan. There’s an event tonight. June and I are going.”

“Oh. Well, the woman who was supposed to fight against Viviani Silva had an injury. They want me to fight her.”

It was Dave’s turn to gape. “Viviani ‘The Monster’ Silva? That’s a title fight!”

“No one else wants it on such short notice. Or if they do, they’re too far away.”

“Man! Wait ‘til I tell June. She’ll freak out.”

Ghada put up a hand. “I haven’t said I’ll do it. Listen, do you mind leaving me alone for a bit?”

“Sure.” He scooped up his lunch and hurried off, no doubt to call his wife.

She ran a hand through the grass of her father’s grave. She was not afraid. Where once the storm had raged inside her, now she was the eye. “But Baba,” she said aloud. “That’s not my life anymore.”

Does the dream still live inside you? came his reply. If so then seize it, habibti, my love, my shining star.

* * *

“I owe you big time for taking this.” Her coach hustled her into the arena. “No one expects you to win, okay? All you have to do is put on a show. Flash that Aziz spirit, try to make it through the first round. Even if you lose you make fifty grand. You look fit at least. Better than the last time I saw you.”

Not much of a pep talk, Ghada thought. To hell with him if that was all he thought of her. She’d fight, but for herself, not for her coach or anyone else. Oddly, the thought of the fight itself excited her more than the $50,000 purse. What did she need $50K for anyway? She had everything she needed in life. What thrilled her was the opportunity to plunge into combat once again, to hit and be hit in a battle that was mental and emotional even more than physical. Those electric, brutal, and vivid minutes in which she was more fully alive than 99.99% of human beings.

Five minutes later she stood on the scale at the weigh-in, fight officials all around and press bulbs flashing. Viviani ‘The Monster’ Silva had already weighed in, but was there to check out the competition. The thick-jawed, heavily tattooed woman postured and called out insults. She looked exotic and mean in her skin-tight short-shorts and halter top.

Ghada, on the other hand, wore her usual knee-length shorts and a form fitting long sleeved shirt. It was her concession to Islamic modesty and she knew it was insufficient, but it was the best she could do in the ring. Her jet black hair was braided in cornrows, close to the scalp. She ignored The Monster and let out a slow breath, unperturbed. She saw surprise on the faces of the officials. Did they remember the out of shape, emotionally depressed wreck of a fighter from two years ago? Her eyes flicked to the wall mirror, curious to see herself as they saw her. Standing 5’7”, she weighed in at 133 pounds. That was near the upper weight limit for a bantamweight, but there was not an ounce of fat on her. Her legs were rock solid and rippling with muscle, her arms powerful and well defined even through the shirt, her shoulders like two small boulders. She looked like a granite statue. The gravedigging, she realized. Digging graves was the most physically taxing thing she’d ever done. When she’d first started she couldn’t dig a single grave without resting multiple times. Now she could dig for ten hours, wake up the next day and do it again, as easy as babaganoush. She’d never been stronger in her life, both physically and emotionally.

She looked to The Monster and saw a flicker of doubt on the woman’s face. The hair stood up on Ghada’s arms. I’m going to win this fight. The premonition hit her like the light of the summer sun, leaving no room for doubt. She was going to win. She was going to become the next women’s bantamweight champion of the world.

What would she do after that? Would she continue to fight, or become a coach as Dave was always telling her to do? Or would she go back to digging graves? She didn’t know. But she was sure she was going to win. She could feel it in her bones, as surely as her ancestors had been able to feel the approach of a sandstorm or the coming of the rain.

Someone called out her name. She looked over the crowd and spotted Farah and Summer at the back of the crowd of spectators. They grinned and waved. How had they known she would be here? In the past she would have looked away, not wanting to acknowledge them. But this time she smiled and waved, genuinely happy to see them. Their faces lit up and they shrieked as if they’d just met a celebrity.

The fight announcer approached, shook her hand. “Do you have a nickname you want me to use when I announce you?” he asked.

Ghada’s smile spread into a grin. Then she laughed out loud. “Sure. Call me Gravedigger.”

THE END

* * *

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories. Wael’s novel, Pieces of a Dream, is available on Amazon.com.

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Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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