Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How Al Maghrib Blew It

It is the situation every organization dreads. Some important executive within the company, or a high profile representative, makes a misogynistic, sexist, crude joke and an indefensible statement. The resulting reaction then goes viral, dragging the company's name down with it. Pressure grows on the organization to do "something" and to clarify where they stand.

In those cases, as a company you have two choices. You either move immediately, sharply distancing yourself from the  offending statements while at the same time appropriately disciplining your employee, and keep yourself accountable. It is an opportunity to prove yourself in the limelight, to demonstrate your integrity and to keep yourself accountable.

Or you try to hide and hope the situation blows away. You can issue a half non-apology or even fight back and defend the speaker, calling those who pointed out the rampant sexism and misogyny names and insults. There will be no sanction of your employee. It implicitly sends out a signal that such statements and jokes are appropriate, fit the company culture and that the criticism of your organization is actually correct.

Al Maghrib Institute, a widely respected association of sheikhs who teach Islamic courses throughout the world, found itself amidst such a dilemma on the weekend. Abu Eesa, one of their sheikhs, posted the following on twitter and Facebook.

If this was a "joke", it was retweeted by many of his followers. I thought at first someone pasted the photo of the sheikh as a false allegation - I was dumbfounded to see it was an actual post by him! And his twitter had a series of other posts.

 Joking about women was bad enough. The second twitter plays to the stereotype that women are bad drivers. The third one where talks about ""stick that in your oven and cook it"" is a dismissive mentality that some men have about women. These tweets were bad enough. However, a post soon surfaced about where he "jokes" about raping women.

No matter what the context, you just can't joke about raping women! Especially, AS A SHEIKH and ISLAMIC SCHOLAR, you cannot be giving out fatwas lightly or in jest! AND especially fatwas that says go ahead and rape! (I am ignoring the disgusting FGM mention here).

Of course, women did not keep quiet. And neither did many men. And the resulting outrage resulted in even more non-apology posts by our "sheikh".

Now this was high time Al Maghrib stepped in. Sheikh Abu Eesa is part of Al Maghrib Institute and their good name was being sullied and dragged through the mud by association. For a long time, despite calls for a reaction, their twitter post remained silent. Ironically, the last post was actually a tweet about a Sheikh Abu Eesa course.

Finally, there was a post.
Yes, we now know that Al Maghrib celebrated International Women's Day by talking about Muslim women who are our role models. This could have been a good first step, but it's still talk. Sheikh Abu Eesa made fun of International Women's Day, which Al Maghrib purportedly respects. The important question remains: what about Sheikh Abu Eesa and his comments?
Sheikh Waleed Basyouni of Al Maghrib Institute then posted on facebook.

This was a cop-out. It did not do any of the things a good response should have done. There was
a) no acknowledgement of guilt
b) no acknowledgement of hurt caused
c) no discipline or sanction of the guilty person
d) no condemnation of the offending statements

Instead, we saw the first signs of a fight back. He said he hates taking a statement out of context or blowing a joke out of proportion. Sorry sheikh, I respect your knowledge and your ilm, but even a man of limited knowledge like me understands that joking about raping women, female genital mutilation or stereotyping women is completely unacceptable. Had Sheikh Abu Eesa worked in any normal corporation in the West, these would be firing offenses.

And then Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a sheikh whose knowledge I benefit greatly from, and whose seerah lectures are extremely detailed, posted an absolutely shocking facebook post.

Note, there was no reference to Sheikh Abu Eesa or his comments or the whole fiasco in the post. I actually sent him a tweet asking him to clarify what he is talking about. With no response, and given the nature of his tweet, the timing, and his recent endorsement of Sheikh Abu Eesa's Syria fatwa, I can only assume this tweet (and Facebook post) is about the current situation. And therein lies the problem.

Sheikh Abu Eesa is compared to a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who made a mistake, and those criticizing him are being compared to the enemies of Allah, the Quraish, who plotted to kill and assassinate the Prophet and wipe out the Muslims (i.e. a bigger mistake). So, if you found the tweets of Sheikh Abu Eesa misogynistic, sexist and offensive, guess what, you are an enemy of Allah. The Sheikh's sexists tweets - yes, they were bad, but you, by complaining about it, made a bigger faux pa and sin!

UPDATED: As of right now (1040 am Tuesday), there is still no post apologizing for his actions by either Sheikh Abu Eesa or Al Maghrib Institute. In fact, Sheikh Abu Eesa seems to have taken delight at the outrage and his non-apology post on facebook is amazingly even more vile.

This was a chance for Al Maghrib to demonstrate that such sexist and anti-women attitudes have no place in Islam and gets no encouragement from educated, Western scholars. Instead, they seem to have closed ranks to defend Sheikh Abu Eesa and call out anyone who finds his "jokes" offensive.

SOMETHING ABOUT ME: I am not what you would call a feminist. I am a guy who is of the opinion that a woman CANNOT lead prayers in a mixed congregation, and I do not think a non-mahram woman and a man should stand beside each other and pray. This is a classical, orthodox position held by the mainstream Muslim body. I think Amina Wadud is very much in the wrong. I agree completely with Allah's orders in the Quran regarding inheritance (of course, special circumstances can be evaluated by a reputed and learned scholar on a case-by-case basis). My post where I encourage Muslims to get married early by the age of 24 was hated by many feminists who called me (and my family) all types of names. I brush off their insults because a man calling to Allah's way will be insulted like Musa (pbuh) was insulted.

Yet. the truth is the truth, and the truth is that Sheikh Abu Eesa's statements crossed a line and he should have been sanctioned. I am not going to call for his firing and did not join the #fireAbuEesa hashtag because I don't like to knock a man's livelihood. He could have been given sensitivity training and taught the importance of moderating what you say as a public figure and a religious leader. Instead, I have been lumped into a "feminazi" camp by Sheikh Abu Eesa and a "Quraish" camp by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi and a "blown out of proportion" camp by Al Maghrib Institute while the sheikhs close ranks around one of their own and permit a frat boy mentality amongst the so-called premier religious educational institute in the West.

Such an act only harms Islam, ya shuyookh. Even a man of limited knowledge like me can see that, so why can't you all?


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

7 Irritating Things Brown Uncles Say To Slightly Heavier Younger People

Now, I am not exactly Brad Pitt. And I also don't have a six pack (well technically I do, but it's not showing up). And I am not also exactly in shape (unless you count cutish-oval as a shape).

However, I don't also need 2 seats on a bus nor do I need to wear a thobe ala Homer Simpson style to hide my pounds. I am somewhere at that happy stage where I don't eat all the time, but when I am hungry, and I go to the gym or work out when I want to, not because I have to post about it on Facebook.

However, tell that to brown uncles, who all think they are certified personal physical trainers (despite the fact that some of them wouldn't last 1 lap at the pool). Here's some oh-no-you-just-didn't-say-that things that brown uncles say to younger brown men that they would never say to a white guy. And not just brown uncles. Cousins. "Well-wishers". Co-workers. This is to all of you.

1. You seemed to have gained some weight.

Tumi to ektu mota hoye geso.

Oh gee! Seriously! OMG! I didn't notice! I mean, the jeans I bought five years ago don't fit anymore (and that I kept out of some morbid hope that I would go back to five sizes), but I was so blaming the washing machine and the recently cold weather for shrinking my clothes. Thank you so much for this revelation! I mean, I didn't know AT ALL that I am not exactly in shape since 1990 but now I do!

And what do you mean seem? Don't you trust your eyes?

2. You know, you should join the gym.

No way! Really?!! No I totally didn't think of that one.... thank you for suggesting something so earth shattering!!! Btw, I am assuming you are going to foot my $55/month plan, and personal trainer costs ... ? Hello? BTW have you seen your wife, the Brown Aunty? Also known as The Bus?

3. Wow, 2 glasses of Coke!

Ei boyoshe ektu control dorkar.

Hey! No one really NEEDS that extra glass of Coke (or even that first glass) but you know what. I am going to drink it ANYWAYS because Goddamnit it's refreshing and I don't care how many chain letters you forward about how Coke can dissolve the Great Wall of China or firefighters use it to clean their hoses. It's Coke and I WANT IT.

4. Have you lost weight?
Either you are suffering from severe eye sight issues, or dementia, or you are a pathological liar. Just. Please. Stop commenting on other people's weight. Just don't.

5. You’d look better if you were thinner.

Tumi jodi ektu chikon hoita tahole to hero lagta.

Hey, I have seen myself naked in the mirror, and I LOVE me. I am sure I could look much better but hey, I could also have scared small children. Which I don't, just FYI. So, yeah, whatever. Someday we all will die and for sure we will get thinner after that. Don't know about the looks though. Speaking of morbid things ...

6. I heard the other day a 30 year old complete healthy and fit man had a heart attack!

That's good, as I am definitely not 30 years old any more ...

7. You should start eating healthy. How about sticking to salads only.

OMG someday I will punch the person who will say that to me! Jibone kokhono salad khao nai, and now they are a nutrition expert.

And as if Salad is the ONLY healthy food. Most brown uncles who say this are either eating horrible deep friend ground beef samosas themselves or are married to chiria aunties who have never been overweight a day in their lives and still think they look like Suchitra Sen after 2 tonnes of make up.


I guess I should be happy I am not a girl. They get asked even weirder questions.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Art of Manliness (or How To Be A Man's Man)

So over the weekend of Jan 11, 2014, I attended a course taught by Sheikh Yahya Ibrahim on Surah Taha. One section near the end of the Surah is where Allah talks about Adam and Eve (peace be upon them). Here, the sheikh gave a small (and highly entertaining) lecture for men, on how to be men, as taught by the best man ever, Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.

Please note that since these are notes from a course, I don't have the sources on me. Mistakes are mine alone and may Allah forgive me. For more details, attend the Muslim DNA course by Sheikh Yahya Ibrahim.

1. When you eat, always eat with her.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would NEVER eat alone. If he was in the city and not on a campaign or war (and even if he was sometimes one of his wives would accompany him), he would ALWAYS eat with one of his wives. This was to show her how much he loved her, that would rather spend time with her than with his other Companions. Even if some other Companions were present, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would invite his wife to sit with him and share the meal.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have a meal with Aisha (may Allah Be Pleased with her), they would both eat from the same plate and drink from the same cup as each other. What the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would do is, turn the cup where Aisha's lip marks were left and would drink from that side of the cup. He would also make eye contact with her and then drink.

2. Whenever you buy something for yourself, always buy something for her.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would always buy a gift for his beloved wife (the one whose turn it was to be with him) whenever he was in the market. Sometimes he would buy for all his wives; but never did he buy something for himself and not buy something for his spouse.

3. Seat her where you are seated. In other words, make her sit with you.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would make space besides him for his wife to sit. This was even after hijab was enforced (and niqab for his wives). His last moments were spent with his head on the lap of his wife Aisha (may Allah Be Pleased with her). Even though there were men in the room (and his wives' rooms were very small), that did not stop him from asking his wife to be in the room as well, and with him. Your wife's place is not in the kitchen or the basement with the kids while men discuss important things, it's with the men, right by your side.

4. Confide in your wife more than you confide in any one else.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to confide in his wives often, and on important matters. When the Archangel Jibrail first showed up with Surah Alaq, he ran to his wife Khadija (may Allah Be Pleased with her) and it was she who comforted him (and thus became the first Muslim). Nineteen years later, when the stunned, shocked and dismayed Muslims at Hudaibiyah, flabbergasted at the peace treaty signed, refused to move after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ordered them to shave the hair on their heads, he turned to his wife Umm Salamah (may Allah Be Pleased with her) for advice. And it was she who averted the crisis. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) WOULD NEVER discuss the affairs of his wives with his friends unless there was an emergency situation.

5. When you ask something of her, be prepared to do the same for her.

The seerah and the stories of the scholars are full of how they made themselves look nice and appealing for their wives as they desired the same in return. One scholar, after his day's work, would shower and change his clothes and perfume himself BEFORE he returned home.

... And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable ... [Quran 2:228]

6. Tell her "I love you" often.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would admit in public his love for his wives. He told Amr ibn Al Aas in the mosque in public that he loves Aisha the most. He would often tell his wives of his love for them, and praise them often. He had nick names for his wives. For example, he would call Aisha as "Aish", and sometimes used to call her "Humairah" which meant "rosy cheeks".

He even had a code language with his wives, as explained by Aisha (may Allah Be Pleased with her) in the Hadith of the Knot.

"How is your love for me?" Aisha, peace be upon her, asked him. Not only did she want to know that he loved her, but how he loved her.

"My love for you is like a knot in a rope." The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) replied. "Strong and secure, the more people pull, the tighter it gets."

Later on, even if the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in a gathering and Aisha was passing by, she would ask him, to the puzzlement of everyone else, "How is the knot?" And he would smile and reply, "As tight as the day I married you, Aisha."

7. Kiss her.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would kiss his wives. Sometimes he would kiss them on the doorstep of his house as he was leaving for the mosque. Once Umar and Abu Bakr saw him with Saffiyah (may Allah Be Pleased with her) and they averted their eyes and hurried on their way. He then called them back and said, "This is my wife."

8. Be generous with her and her children.

As per this hadith (a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him):

"There are four dinars: a dinar which you give to a poor person, a dinar you give to free a slave, a dinar you spend in the Way of Allah, and a dinar which you spend on your family. The best of them is the dinar which you spend on your family." [Source: Bukhari]

9. When she's wrong, don't hammer her.

As per his advice, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that when our wives are wrong, we are to forgive them, and not bring up the point again and again. After the Battle of Badr, his wife Sauda (may Allah Be Pleased with her) made an honest mistake that was almost a minor kufr, yet it was a mistake and immediately the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) excused her and never brought it up again.

10. Pray Together.

Even though the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was tall, and the room he shared with Aisha was so small that he could not prostrate in prayer if she was lying down - and he had to awaken her to complete his Tahajjud prayers - he did not just step out and go to the mosque next door. He would wake her up and they would pray together.

Last, but not the least ...

11. You are happy when your wife is happy, and Allah is happy when your wife is happy.

The logic is simple. The best man, according to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the man who is best to his wife. And Allah is certainly happy with you if you are the best. Therefore, if your wife is happy with you, know that Allah is happy with you.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

How to Bring Someone Up (and then Down) in 30 Seconds

I was showing my wife a picture we took with my phone of my brother and I at RIS.

The Wife: Wow, you look SO MUCH younger (than your brother) in this picture.

Me (beaming because I am actually a decade older): ... well ... *modest cough* I have been working out lately.

The Wife: No, it must be because you are so much shorter than him.

*badum tish*