Art is the proper task of life











A recent piece by Huma Quershi in Guardian reminded me how with the Muslim and the non-Muslim community there is an assumption that Muslim women are supposed to look and behave in a certain manner or rather in only one way and any deviation from that is unauthentic. Here is the relevant excerpt.

So I met the production team and one of the women (not Muslim, by the way) pulled out a little camera and filmed me saying, among other things, how irritating it is that non-Muslims act surprised that I’m Muslim just because I choose not to cover my head.

It went well, I thought, and so they said. But – and this was quite a big but – they were a bit concerned about my appearance.

‘Your dress is quite Western,’ they said ruefully. I was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved top (yes, I really do remember what I was wearing that day. How could I not? I thought I was going to be famous and on TV), but I was hardly scantily clad. So much for the empowered, modern, young, cool Muslim woman; turns out what the BBC really wanted was a authentic, well-covered one instead.

You see, burkas make good TV. I don’t. I’ve just taken a look at the show. What we get is the presenter donning an abaya and going to Yemen to show us all the fun things us Muslim women do, like wear long, black cloaks, party in the women’s quarters and put sparkly eyeshadow on. ‘Waxing’s a big deal among Muslim women,’ she says, causing an cringe from me. ‘Having any hair is a complete social faux pas. The “Hollywood” that all the celebs are doing started in the Middle East’



{May 16, 2008}   Three Mountain Pass

By Hô Xuân Hu’o’ng

A cliff face. Another. And still a third.
Who was so skilled to carve this craggy scene

The cavern’s red door, the ridge’s narrow cleft,
The black knoll bearded with little mosses?

A twisting pine bough plunges in the wind,
Showering a willow’s leaves with glistening drops.
Gentlemen, lords, who could refuse, though weary
And shaky in his knees, to mount once more?

Translated from Vietnamese by John Balaban



{April 29, 2008}   This is what he is

I have wondered what he is? how is he?
He aspired to be a disciple of Rumi
A hundred thousand flaws restrained him
The broken sage fell in love with Galatea

-Aliana



{March 1, 2008}   Happy Smiling Muslims: Day 12

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Pakistani Muslims share Eid greeting after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers at the historical Badshahi mosque, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007 in Lahore, Pakistan. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Muslim�s holy fasting month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/K M Chaudary)



{February 22, 2008}   Aliana at Crossroads

I was out of the blogsphere for a long time. I am not really sure why. I was asking myself what am I good at? Perhaps telling stories? Perhaps making up stories? At times it feels that even my whole life is made up. Does that even make a difference? In my post-modern meditations I was thinking, “Is it that the content of the things that I say matter or does it matter who I am?” I do not have a clear answer. Just like many other unresolved dilemmas in life perhaps it is best to also leave this dilemma unresolved. I thought about quiting blogging numerous times because I realized that I had lost focused. I did not know what I was doing but now I am back. I have decided to write a series of short stories for this blog.



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There are certain topic within the Muslim and even the wider non-Muslim community that have been beaten to death. Hijab is one such issue. Much has been written for and against it. In theory it is supposed to be a matter of personal choice but in reality it has many things. Depending on the context it can be a matter of control of women’s bodies, a fashion statement, a symbol of expression of teenage angst, a passport to holiness etc. In this confused mess it is heartening to see a book like this. The discussion in the context of North American Muslims. The book is also accompanied by quantitative research amongst Canadian Muslim women regarding veiling practices. Interestingly while many women do refer to the quran as a sanction to their veiling practices only 37 % of them could identify the relevant verses from the quran. One thing that stood out for was the fact that for many people, consciously or unconsciously, hijab is a symbol of identity. Depending upon the context it can be a positive or a negative thing. Here is an excerpt from the H-Net review on this book

On the other hand, Soraya Hajjaji-Jarrah and Lynda Clarke wrote two excellent chapters about the veil and the Qur’an and the hadith respectively. Hajjaji-Jarrah, in a chapter titled “Women’s Modesty in Qur’anic Commentaries,” focuses her attention specifically on the two verses in the Qur’an (v. 53 in chapter 33 and v. 31 in chapter 24) that refer to women’s modesty. She evaluates the verses in terms of the context, the semantics, and the interpretations. She gives a detailed interpretation of the verses by al-Tabari of the tenth century and al-Razi of the thirteenth century explaining how their interpretations were a product of the time that these two learned scholars lived in, namely the height of the Islamic Empire and the institutionalization of the practice of female slaves as sexual and educated companions to Muslim elite men. Hajjaji-Jarrah provides compelling arguments and historical evidence to discuss the lives of some of the early Muslim women believers during and after the time of the prophet. She concludes that even though those commentaries were done in “the spirit of ijtihad,” they have had some largely enduring trajectories and that very few attempts for alternative readings since had been set (Muhammad Shahrur, Fatima Mernissi, and Muhammad Abduh are notable exceptions). Clarke’s discussion of the hadith relating to women’s modesty is a very detailed and informative chapter that is, nonetheless, difficult to follow at times. She argues that the hadith is vast and not easily accessible to the general public or to scholars like “liberals and feminists” who have tended to avoid it, relying solely on the Qur’an and historical texts for their arguments. Nonetheless, the hadith does have salience with the public as it is often used in sermons and by religious councils, thus the need for liberals and feminists to address the hadith. Clarke also claims and through an analysis of selected hadith texts on hijab demonstrates that the vastness of the hadith makes it harder for either the conservative or the liberal interpretations to use it as a sanad (or main reference). Every interpretation of the text will find gaps and will attempt then to “leap over” them as such almost always leaving room for alternative interpretations. Clarke argues that this is a dialogic view of hermeneutics used by feminists but rarely used by current Islamic thinkers, even reformers and modernists, as they aim usually to uncover the truth.

Aliana gives fives thumbs up.



{January 17, 2008}   Happy Smiling Muslims: Day 11

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Mastika Saad, a hotel staff in Thailand’s Muslim majority province of Pattani, poses with a Christmas hat at the hotel lobby December 25, 2007.



{January 17, 2008}   Back from Spain!

My apologies to everyone for not posting, not replying to comments, not replying to e-mails and not commenting. The last three months have been very rocky. First it was existential despair, then it was Spain, then it was changing schools, then it was New York and then it was Spain and now I am back but in a new place and with a new voice. Stay tuned ………



{December 20, 2007}   Eid Mubarak and …

Just when you thought Aliana had disappeared, well Eid Mubarak. Not sure if I will come back.. Lot of things going on in Aliana’s life. Remember me in your duas. Currently in vacation in N Y C.



{October 22, 2007}   Happy Smiling Muslims: Day 10

Ok people, I am still here. Well kind of. My apologies for not replying earlier or not commenting on your blogs. I will be back soon. Anyway here is your dose of happy smiling Muslims. Enjoy!

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Afghan refugees who are living in Pakistan greet each other as they come together to celebrate teh Eid a-Fitr holdiay, in Peshawar, Pakistan on Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. The Eid a-Fitr holiday marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zubair)



et cetera
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