Monday, January 16, 2012

A Qu'ran on the Highest Shelf

I learned a little while back, the respect Muslims held for their holy book, The Noble Qu'ran. No one would dare putting the Qu'ran on the ground or even under a pile of books. They often position their Qu'ran on the top of their library, some even place them on its on tablet. Now THAT is respect!

My books don't get much respect. After four years of university studies, they basically are gathering dust wherever space can still be found. So when I decided to acquire a Quran, I was warned that it shouldn't just go in one of my piles of books.

This got me thinking about respect for religion and its rules. So many believers, Christians, Muslims, or otherwise, have a "take some, leave some" attitude towards religion, but in their ways of "taking and loosing" make incredibly strange choices. For example, Christians celebrate lent, the fourty days Jesus spent in the desert before Easter. The tradition upheld that one should only eat water and unlevaned bread for fourty days. As Christianity progressed, most started eating other foods, and so it was said that we should not eat meat during lent. Meat started becoming more widely available, and people started eating more. The tradition held that there should be no meat consumption on Fridays, something that was particularly true during lent. Nowadays, lent is barely the fast it used to be: people give up "one thing" for forty days, and much like new years resolutions, they often break their vow within the first few days. That's only one of the way tradition was changed. We have lost tracked of the true meaning of lent which was the deprivation from human desires.

What about the story of Marie-Magdeleine: "he who hath not sinned shall cast the first stone"? This story shows that God alone has the power to judge. Humans are inherently sinful; therefore, should not judge one another.

Similarly, Muslims have five pillars: 1-To believe in only one God and Muhammed as God's prophet, 2-To pray five times daily, 3-To give charity, 4-To go on pilgrimmage, 5-To fast during the month of Ramadan. Number 1 is inherently true for most Muslims, 2 & 5 are the ones you will hear of most often, and to perform 4 gives you a saintly status within the community... but what about 3? What about Charity!? This pillar is too often forgotten or is given very little value.

We need to start looking back at our religion and see the simpler rules and put the rules that benefit our world before those that benifit ourselves. We need to build a better world for others so that we can truly be worthy of God's world and promise. Maybe we need to put others on the highest shelf!

Friday, January 13, 2012

You're Muslim?! You don't even look it!!!

People annoy me. There's nothing new there, I've always been easily annoyed by people dumbassery, and, living in North America, and studying Islam, it seems I hear more dumbassery almost every day! Between my cousin sending me spammail to ban Islamic prayers on school grounds during lunches and breaks, and my uncles making fun of me for not eating pork anymore, I've had my fill of dumbassery in my own family, so when it comes to strangers passing their own comments on me, my boyfriend or other Muslims: puh-lease!

I have started wearing Hijabs once in a while. On my days off of work, when I have very little going out to do. Yesterday was a "Hijab day". I barely left the house, but did go out with my boyfriend to do some groceries. The lady at the cash register noticed my fashionable hijab and said "Oh wow! That's a nice scarf!!!", and em to answer "thanks!". Of course, the pleasantries couldn't just end there, she added "Is this a Muslim thing?", and when I answered in the positive, the stupidest thing came out of her mouth: "You're a Muslim! You don't look it?"

If I didn't look Muslim, then why'd she ask? Clearly, the Hijab was an indicator. Is there a certain look for Muslims? People often seem to forget that Arabs are not all Muslims and by no means are all Muslims Arab! The largest population of Muslim is Asia: India and China both have large and fast growing population of Muslims. Europe is also seeing a boost in practicing Muslims and a large number of converts are Caucasian. More than half of Africa identifies as Muslim and while Egypt does play a big role in the Muslim community, but countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Somalia and Ethiopia also have a large if not completely Muslim population! Islam is a religion, not a culture; therefore, it is widely spread from one culture to the next and has been adapted to each of these cultures. So no, I do not "look" Muslim, because being Muslim is about faith and following the right path... something I do not know how to "look" like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beauty vs Vanity

After posting last night about the Hijab, I decided to browse online for new styles and new looks. I stumbled upon an article denouncing "fashionable" hijabs. According to the author, and the comments that followed, wearing a stylish Hijab would attract attention. I think the question lies within itself: What is the true purpose of the Hijab? If it is solely to cover the hair, then any Hijab styles can do. If it is to be identifiable as Muslim, than again, any Hijab would do. If the true purpose of the Hijab is to deter attention from your hair, then, in North America, where Hijabs are not as common as in primarily Muslim countries, wouldn't a simple modest hairstyle be more effective than a Hijab?

I am by no means a scholar, nor even a true Muslim yet, but here's my two cents: I believe that covering my hair with a Hijab serves both at deviating the looks of men from them and to be identifiable as Muslim. Modest clothing is necessary; however, there is no reason why modesty and identity must be completely seperated. I can have style and yet be modest. So yes, I will be wearing stylish Hijabs and clothing but I will not have anyone be allowed to see my body without my consent, hair included!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The HIjab

I have long debated whether or not I would ever consider wearing the Hijab. People, friends, family, coworkers, have all seen my hair. It has changed colors and lenght over the years: from blond, to black, to brown, to red and even some purple and pink, from mushroom cut to mid-chest lenght. I've done it all! My hair has always been a canvas for me to express my personality and my goals, from goth as a teenager, funky and cute as a first-year university student, to stylish professional in my last and now simple easy-fix feminine style. My hair has always been part of who I am and how I look. To cover it seemed unimagineable.

In the last year, I started thinking about it a little more. If the Hijab was to signify modesty, in which way should that be reflected in my personal life. I figured I would be more modest once I would have a husband. I somehow thought that the responsibilities of married life would transform me into a modest woman. Through marriage I would find purpose in modesty. I wouldn't want other women looking at my husband so why should I let other men look at me. That was all swell and fine, but I am nowhere near getting married. I've only recently entered a relationship and I am not in any rush to tie the knot.

Seeing hijabi women everyday in the community, I wondered if there might be more to the Hijab than a simple sign of modesty. Being a convert, I figured people would pay attention to me less if I wore less fitted clothes and uncovered hair than if I chose to wore traditional middle eastern garments and a Hijab: those are not part of me or my culture, and they make me stand out and attract even more looks!

So I explored the vast virtual world and found out there are many types of Hijabs. Fashionable Hijabs! If the only purpose of a Hijab was modesty, than why would one want to "stand out" with a fashionable Hijab? That's when I started to figure out that, of course, an aspect of Hijab-wearing was modesty, but another was identification. Women wanted to be identified as being Muslim women without losing their sense of identity as fashionable and beautiful. They were covered from head to toe but in a way that reflected their personality, their mood and their sense of style.

While I have still a long way to go before I decide to wear the Hijab all of the time, I have started experimenting with different styles for when I go to the mosque or when I spend time with trusted friends. It has been great to be easily identifiable as Muslim, without losing my identity first and foremost as a woman. In the next little while, I might start posting different styles of Hijabs I am particularly fond of. Meanwhile, let's pray that my journey finds happiness and support from those around me so that I will feel comfortable wearing the Hijab on a daily basis!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Convert Connundrum

"What is your religion?" We ask this as if anyone can have a religion. religion belongs to God and not to any individual. Those born into a religion often feel like it belongs to them, and want those who convert into it, to treat it with the same respect and abiding faith as they do. So what if your view of the religion doesn't match theirs?

I find this to be the most troubling part of studying Islam. I do not believe in the more extreme perspectives, I would even go as far as saying that I'm more progressive than many of the moderates. This angers many who wish I would share their views of the religion. They're willing to accept that some may stray away from the beaten path but not those who have just chosen the religion. They want to see progressives as "lost lambs", but what if progressive views are the ones chosen by the new generation of Mulsims? This often shatters their ideals for Islam.

Unfortunately, I was never much of a follower. God is the only one I follow, and those who feel faith belongs to them: they can go to Hell. Religion belongs to God and God alone, and he alone can judge me. Unless and until they are granted knowledge of God's every desire, they have no right to tell me how to believe.

I hope and pray that those of you out there considering converting into any religion will not let others impose their views on you. Guidance is one thing, imposition is another! Let there be no compulsion in religion!