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’

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{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)



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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.



{October 6, 2007}   Day 8: Happy Smiling Muslims

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Anousheh Ansari is the first Muslim women in space.



I was assigned the following verses from the Quran by the noble Shahrzad as  part of the Circle of Unity project. The idea is for the bloggers to read the Quran together. Be sure to check out her post for the project. Here are the verse from Surah Al-Imran, translation by Yusuf Ali.

33. Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ‘Imran above all people,-

34. Offspring, one of the other: And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

35. Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things.”

36. When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”- and Allah knew best what she brought forth- “And no wise is the male Like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.”

37. Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah. for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.”

38. There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant unto me from Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!

39. While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “(Allah) doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from Allah, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the (goodly) company of the righteous.”

40. He said: “O my lord! How shall I have a son seeing I am very old and my wife is barren?” “Thus” was the answer “doth Allah accomplish whatt He willeth.”

41. He said: “O my Lord! Give me a Sign!” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three days but with signals. Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord again and again, and glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.”

42. Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations.

43. “O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.”

44. This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger.) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point).

45. Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.

46. “He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.”

47. She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!

48. “And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel,

49. “And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): “‘I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah.s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah.s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe;

50. “‘(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.

51. “‘It is Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him. This is a Way that is straight.'”



{September 27, 2007}   The Ramadan Compact

For those people who are tired of rampant consumerism everywhere and even in Ramadan there is now the Ramadan Compact. Check it out at the following URL:

http://ramadancompact.blogspot.com/



{September 27, 2007}   Happy Smiling Muslims – Day 3

Here is the third Muslim to (soon) go into space.

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R-L: Members of the main international space crew, Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, American Peggy Whitson and Yury Malenchenko of Russia shake hands after a news conference in Star City outside Moscow. Shukor said on Thursday he hoped to fast aboard the International Space Station as he visits there in the holy month of Ramadan.(AFP/Maxim Marmur)



{September 26, 2007}   Happy Smiling Muslims – Day 2

Day 2 and here is Queen Rania.

Jordan’s Queen Rania (L) holds a baby during a visit to city of Sweileh during the Holy Month of Ramadan September 23, 2007. REUTERS/Naser Ayoub (JORDAN)



{September 25, 2007}   Happy Smiling Muslims – Day 1

I am really sick and tired of seeing pictures of angry Muslims in the media. While I do agree that there are many Muslims out there who seriously need to take the chill pill or take anger management classes to say the least, it is also true that there are a lot of good Muslims out there who are genuinely happy and who love to laugh, smile and find happiness in helping others. So for at least for the duration of Ramadan I will be posting pictures of Muslim who are smiling or at least look cool. So here is a picture for day 1.

Jordanian boys smile as they receive a donated fast breaking meal at Takeyat Um Ali, a humanitarian service center which provides food for poor families, Amman, Jordan, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007. The center provides more than 3500 meals every day during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (AP Photo/Nader Daoud)



et cetera