AUTONOMY Q2:223

I was surfing the TV channels when a channel caught my eye so I paused to listen. It was a Christian station and I cannot remember what made me stop. Being one who is eager to learn from anyone and everyone, I paused with my finger on the remote control, ready to change it if he was spewing something irrelevant to me.

The preacher was walking through the congregation holding a microphone and shared this joke (which I am paraphrasing):

A lady came to her pastor and said, ‘Pastor, I need you to pray for my husband. He has a demon!’

The pastor probed further to assess what kind of demon it was and she replied exasperatedly, ‘He wants to have sex in the morning, noon and night! Every time of the day, he wants to have sex. He has a demon, please help him cast it out!’

Then the Pastor replied, ‘I am sorry I cannot help you, young woman, because I too have this demon!’

 

I first felt the need to write this post when I was toilet-training my first son. I woke him in the middle of the night when he was either 2 or 3 and took him to the bathroom to pee. As is the Islamic tradition, after he urinated, I fetched some water to clean him up with and felt an erection/boner/stiffness or whatever you want to call it. I was amazed! I thought I knew the human body but apparently, I knew very little about the male anatomy and physiology. The books never mentioned toddlers were capable of a hard-on. Was this normal?

And I am not the only one. At the programme I mentioned in the previous post, a haematologist also sounded surprised that a sickle cell disease patient was brought in with priapism (a non-sexual painful erection) and he was only 4 years old.

When I encountered that reaction in my son, who sleepily returned to bed blissfully unaware, I spent some time awake, thinking about men and felt some sympathy for them. I felt it was not really their fault they were wired that way. Putting it as delicately as I can, men have a piece of flesh that basically has a mind of its own. It is autonomous. I believe that as boys become men, they are able to control it better but I doubt if the effect lessens. I am betting it increases as male hormones (which drive libido) kick in at puberty.

Allah knows best.

Before I got married, I knew guys are crazy about sex. We had sisters-only events where married women advised us about courting and marriage and emphasized the importance of sex. During my friends’ nikkah khutbah (wedding sermon), the imams mentioned it. During my own preparation, friends reminded me. All the books on marriage swore by it. I guess like with every oft-repeated advice, it loses its potency after a while and becomes cliché.

We women are quick to blame men for thinking with their phalluses but if you were deprived of eating for days with a feast in front of you, you would tear into that juicy piece of chicken once the flag goes down signalling ‘Eat!’ Besides, for a lot of African, Arab and Asian men, their self image is tied to their sexuality.

I once had a newly-married couple visit the hospital. They were crazy in love. The man seemed shy, the woman more willing to talk (perhaps, because she had encountered a female doctor). She explained how quickly the man ejaculates when they meet and they were worried he had an anomaly. I had to explain that it was normal especially because the man had married as a virgin. (Virgins are not as rare as we think). Imagine denying such a man who had kept his virginity until marriage where he finally feels he can let go of the reins and bask in his sexuality.

To women married to good non-philandering men, consider this:

Our men decided to select us out of the multitude of women they encountered for reasons best known to them. They could have followed the Order of the Phallus to wife a professional vixen with a PhD in Bedmatics but instead, they made an effort to practise Islam and married us. Instead, we punish them for making the right decision to think with their heads and marry a good woman and prospective mother of good Muslim children. We withhold sex to get back at them; simply because we feel we cannot match their libido; or because we are scared of pregnancy/childbirth.

The basic religious reason for marriage is for procreation with permission, or as a lecturer of mine put it ‘Marriage is a license to have sex’. The major world religions discourage (even forbid) sex outside the confines of marriage. If you have a man who has a healthy fear of God and you starve him of sexual intimacy, it seems unfair, callous and even, wicked. Of course, we are tired, over-worked, unappreciated, not in the mood etc. but we should consider that this is one of the halal ways a man can let his hair down after a day of the world hammering on him, beating him down with disappointment upon disappointment, challenge after challenge, temptation following temptation.

Some men are out there getting their grooves on with strange women; others are drinking or gambling their lives away. If your man returns home to you every night, in spite of your attitude because he hasn’t fulfilled your demands, you should hug him and welcome him home. No matter how much he pretends to behave macho, I believe men just want to feel desired and loved; encouraged to go back into the ring tomorrow to fight valiantly for the family’s survival.

Of course, I am writing this because I am in a good place with my husband today. Perhaps I would be less charitable when he’s annoying the heck out of me! XD #remindertoself

Seriously though, it doesn’t change the truth. We should appreciate our men more (especially if they are good men). I know the comments would not roll in because this is a bit personal but I would be glad to know that you surprised your man today (or better still, early in the morning after Fajr) ;). It is a weekend so unbuckle your chastity belt and ‘go to town’ and remind him of how happy he was when you guys decided to tie the knot. Let him be reassured that YOU are the best decision of his life!

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DELAYING SALAAH II

contd. from Delaying Salaah

There is a high premium placed on a woman who, amongst other things, observes her daily salaah because Allah knows well, how tedious it can be.

“If a woman prays her five (daily prayers), fasts her month (Ramadaan), guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: Enter Paradise by whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.” Narrated by Ahmad

Our children need to be made to understand the importance of the 5-10minutes we spend in front of Him 5 times daily. They should be taught not to bother us during these precious moments as we’ve taught them to respect our time on the phones, with a guest, in the bathroom and at work.

Addressing the excuses enumerated yesterday, I will make some suggestions.

  • We should simplify our clothing when going out especially if we anticipate praying outside our homes; just as nursing mothers plan ahead about convenient breastfeeding clothes when leaving the home. Our sleeves should be wide enough to be rolled up to the elbows; our khimars should wrapped/tied/worn in a convenient fashion to permit wudhu, our clothes should sufficiently cover our awrah. We can even practise wudhu in them or perform ablution before leaving the house (if the time for salaah is near).
  • Scheduling our lives around Salaah instead of trying to fit it into our schedule will help us when we get caught up in house chores or kid care. If we intend to pray and they are fussing, we can put them in a baby carrier/sling or strap them to the back as is common in West Africa.
  • image source: pinterest

    image source: pinterest

  • Toddlers can be encouraged to perform ablution and given their *special* prayer rug, kufi/hijab to observe salaah with us. They are usually excited to join us. If they have learn some short surahs, you can recite a little louder so they can concentrate and recite along. As much as is possible, we should ignore them during prayers for them to understand to keep quiet too. By the time we have done this consistently enough, in sha Allah, they will be the ones to remind us to go for prayers when they hear the adhaan. And wouldn’t that make your heart sing!
  • If all fails, schedule their nap time around Dhuhr salaah and their bed time at Maghrib or Ishaa so you can enjoy khushoo and the tranquility of prayer.Accepting to lower our standard of salaah when the children begin their antics helps us to be less irritable.
  • Sometimes, we have guests and feel guilty or self-conscious about leaving them to go and pray particularly if they are non-Muslim. Nothing will happen to them in the few minutes we are gone. If we excuse ourselves for 5-10minutes, none will be the wiser. If they are Muslims, we can gracefully ask if they will also like to pray so that they can be provided with water for ablution, a hijab, and a rug to pray. One has to be discreet about asking if there are women present due to our off-salaah days.

Piling our salaah makes it harder to pray them all at the end of the day. We should try our best to perform them on time and persevere with it. 5 daily prayers every day. At least.

I will round off with one of my favourite quotes:

A busy life makes prayer harder, but prayer makes a busy life easier.

May Allah make it easier for us because we can do nothing without His Help.

DELAYING SALAAT Q5:6, Q9:54

praying child

image credit: reddit

This post is mainly for the female readers of this blog, particularly the Stay-at-home-moms (like me at the moment). The men seem to have a better salaah habit than we do due to peculiar factors that keep us away from salaah like our clothing, vaginal bleeding (physiologic and abnormal), the lack of a female section in many masajid, children, chores etc.

We do not want to pray outside our houses because we will need to perform ablution and risk exposing our hair, and face for those who wear the niqab. It can seem cumbersome trying to remove the gloves, flip the niqab to wash the mouth, nose, face; manoeuvre the fingers through the hair, wipe the ears, wipe the socks or wash the feet…Mentally calculating these can discourage some of us from making the effort outside our homes. Some of us are simply too shy to pray in the open. To make matters worse, most masajid do not have a female section. The few that have are inadequate with inappropriate ablution spaces. So, while we search for these, the prescribed time for Salaah passes.

Other times, our clothes are inadequate and may not be up to par for Salaah. Our sleeves may be short, our hemline not long enough, or veil too light. Sometimes, our daughter peed on us or our son decorated our clothes by throwing up his lunch. With children, 1001 reasons often exist to cause us to delay or even miss Salaah. Infants may be fussy and refuse to allow us perform ablution properly. They may refuse anyone else and insist on us carrying them for prayer. They may need to be cleaned up just after we’ve performed ablution or even begun praying. You can hardly concentrate because from the corner of your eye, you spy them trying to leap on their sibling from the top bunk or a desk! Or she’s been sick all night and just woke up with a cry. Sometimes, we are simply sleep-deprived and cannot get up to pray even though we hear the adhaan.

child on praying muslim back

image credit: tumblr

Our cyclical bleeding, bleeding after childbirth, prolonged bleeding from contraceptive use, abnormal bleeding can also throw a spanner in our works. Sometimes, we feel some wetness but the unavailability of a restroom to confirm can be annoying. Perhaps, our period has stopped during the day but we cannot find somewhere convenient to bathe. Other times, our menses go on for longer than is usual and we become confused on whether to go ahead and perform ghusl and pray, or wait it out. Other times, we forget to even perform ghusl!

Associated with this is pregnancy, hormonal changes and the weather. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like praying after the long break after childbirth bleeding. We seem to fall out of the habit of being regular and punctual with Salaah after cessation of our menses. Other times, it’s the weather that’s too cold for ablution or too hot to wear the hijab for prayer.

For young mothers without help, any free time is spent rushing to complete house chores or catching a nap before one of the kids wakes up. Before the chores are completed, the patter of little feet can be heard approaching us and it continues. It can be very discouraging for a mother to get up to pray when she knows she has to rush it or cannot pray with the attention she desires.

I bet we can think up more excuses/reasons/challenges but that is the point; these are excuses, challenges meant to be surpassed. We just have to strike a balance constantly and make Salaah a priority instead of a burden. Allah knows the challenges we face and even if others do not seem to get it, the Prophet (SAW) did:

Narrated `Abdullah bin Abi Qatada Al-Ansar i(RA):

My father said, “Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Whenever I stand for prayer, I want to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I would shorten it as I dislike to put its mother in trouble.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 868

 

Suggestions on how to overcome these challenges in the next post in sha Allah.

I would love for you to share any peculiar challenges you may have (had) too.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM Q4.34

Sequel to my previous post, this is also a post on marriage.

I mentioned here that I avoid giving marital advice because I feel unqualified. Most times, I ignore the thought but sometimes, like now, I cannot get it off my mind so here goes…

Due to this endemic problem of role reversal for men and women (husbands at home while the wives become breadwinners) as highlighted in my previous post, marital conflict has rapidly increased and divorce rates are skyrocketing.

While we are struggling to come to terms with this, I have a suggestion; but first, permit me to share a story.

My brother and I have a 15-month gap between us and growing up was a bit rocky. We bickered a lot and I did not respect him much but he (being easy-going) did not seem to mind. My dad was always berating him for not ‘knowing book’ like I did. I hated this but at that age, I could not fathom why he was not as studious as I was. We had a year gap in school too but I wrote my common entrance exams in Class 5 while he wrote his in Class 6 (final year of Primary/Elementary School).

We began JSS1 together and I dreaded it because I knew Daddy was going to compare our performances (even though we were in different schools) and my brother would fall short. In our third year of Secondary School, it happened! He failed while I was to proceed to senior secondary school. Even as a teenager, I was quite stoic but I cried that day (to my mum’s surprise). I was heartbroken for him. He was such a good guy, he was making so much effort to be better. It was so unfair! And I knew my dad would blast him with ‘tough love.’

I remember making a resolution that day never to call him ‘stupid’ when we quarrelled. Of course, like any dutiful teenager, I still thought he was stupid sometimes (like all boys), but I told myself I was no longer allowed to call him that or any other epithet referring to his cognitive skills. It did not matter how angry I was, it was the elephant in the room I was to ignore. Our relationship improved after that.

My marital advice is actually not new; it is what our mothers and grandmothers have been doing. One of the top reasons for marital conflict is finances. When the balance tilts in favour of the woman being the breadwinner, no matter how angry or irritated she feels, she should ignore the elephant in the room. For men who take their gender roles seriously (typically African, Arab and Asian men), they like their egos massaged (I am a learner in this aspect, and many other aspects actually). They want their efforts appreciated (no matter how little), their matters kept private and their advice and opinions sought – who doesn’t? I believed we were in modern times and waved off such silly advice when I got married. Ain’t nobody got time for all that crap, I thought. My grandmum actually advised me to kneel when serving my husband his meals. Warraheck?

Now, I realise the point she was trying to make was that a woman needs to stoop to conquer. As the saying goes ‘The husband is the head while the woman is the neck’. The neck turns the head in the direction it wants but it is subtle; you don’t see them in conflict.

Men have classified their wives arrogant (and all its synonyms) because she mentioned that she was tired of doing everything and needs him to pull his weight; or because she asked him of who would foot the bills now that he was insisting she quit work; or she told him the money he provided for housekeep was insignificant. It is supposed to be the elephant in the room that she is now the breadwinner. No matter what happens, SHE SHOULD NOT MENTION IT! 😀

The key to bringing up the elephant though, is humour. However, bear it in mind that the lack of finances is already fraying on your man’s nerves making him unreasonably sensitive so tread carefully.

On the other hand, you are free to dance a salsa with the elephant if your husband does not take his role as provider and ‘Lord Master’ seriously; or if you are past caring about your marriage; or you are a feminist insisting on equality in marriage. It won’t secure your union, I assure you; but then, maybe marriage is over-rated? 😉

PS: I have to include this: It is counter-productive to fend for your husband completely and provide all his needs because he cannot provide at the moment (and you want to show you love him). You should use your resources to provide for the family but still leave some room for him to contribute. Appreciate his contributions, no matter how small and encourage him kindly. Don’t flaunt your money in his face but don’t be stingy about it. Balance is key. Keep figuring it out; I am too. 🙂

EQUALITY/EQUITY Q3:36

Someone close to me remarked me about how she trains her daughters to sleep with or without the lights on, because either of her girls could end up with a man who had a preference. I have boys so I had never considered that, but I began to do so from that point on. They sleep with the lights off but what if they got married to a woman who prefers to sleep with the lights on, would they expect her to bow to their preferences because she’s female? Was that right?

Men are different from women; but should one be treated better than the other or should we be treated the same; hence the debate about equity versus equality.

Equity versus Equality

image credit: http://www.maine.gov

I have observed the recent trend in homes because of the worsening economy. I cannot comment on other parts of the world but for Nigeria, an increasing number of women are entering the workforce and this is affecting marriages. The world has been beaming the spotlight on women since the Beijing Conference of 1995 to ensure gender equality. More girls are being educated, more girls are getting scholarships to college, more women are getting jobs, more women are becoming the breadwinners, more women are becoming more vocal about their rights, many are struggling to get married and fewer are staying so.

It is a wonderful thing educating a woman, empowering her and informing her of her rights but while we do this, we are beginning to neglect the boys. A woman is more likely to shelve her degree (in Nigeria) and learn a trade to make ends meet that an educated man would. He is more likely to dust his CV, type out more applications and wait to be called for interviews.

From the get-go, girls are taught to be more industrious, more resilient and more focused than boys are. Responsibilities are quickly piled on the head of the first born if she’s a female. She is expected to learn house chores, show manners and respect, fend for herself and her younger ones, prepare meals, protect her virginity and excel in school. More often than not, it is alright for the boys to simply excel at school.

By the time these girls are through with tertiary education, they are piling on the postgraduate degrees and amassing skills in the workplace. If jobs (and suitable men) are not forthcoming, they are learning to become self-employed by sales of wares, or learning a skill or two like make-up artistry, hair styling, fashion designing etc. When Cupid shoots his arrow, they contribute meaningfully to the wedding and eventually, the family upkeep. Soon, the dark clouds begin to drift toward the new home. Husband is laid off, or resigns because he cannot stand his boss then wifey steps in to juggle all the balls. Husband marvels at his wonder woman for a while then resentment kicks in as he no longer feels needed. From then on, everything goes downhill fast, unless Allah steps in.

As I said, female education is a wonderful initiative to balance out the disproportion of literacy between men and women but while we aid the women, the boys are becoming weak and cannot handle the empowered women. In an era of raising Khadijas and Aishas, we are neglecting to raise Muhammads. Educated and successful women are written off as arrogant. It takes Allah’s Grace for a wise woman to remain humble under such circumstances but even her humility may be misconstrued for stupidity. In this part of the world, the man is king; he is the boss and used to getting things done his way. Wifey would not remain subservient to a petulant brat for long.

Balance is very important in nature: Night and Day, The food web, the seasons, life and death. The man provides, the woman nurtures. The man is the head of the home. When that balance tilts, it rarely bodes well.

 

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PAYING VISITS Q33.53

Narrated Abu Musa (R.A.):

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Set the captives free, accept the invitation (to a wedding banquet), and visit the patients.” –  : Sahih al-Bukhari 5174

Although I work in the hospital, I hate staying long when I visit patients (unless they would rather I stayed). I worry that I am burdening the patient with my stay and would rather pop in and out. I am also uncomfortable staying long at people’s houses for a visit. It feels like extending my handshake to the elbow. As a woman, I am aware of the hoops women jump through to make their guests comfortable at their own expense and it seems unfair to take full advantage of that.

We should not visit people unannounced unless we are extremely familiar with them. There is really no excuse why anyone will suddenly drop by in this era of cell-phones, free emails, text messages and instant messaging. This will give your host time to prepare and possibly purchase or cook/bake what to host you with. Not all homes are fully-stocked 24/7.

cookies and milk

image credit: http://www.goodfon.su

As much as is possible, a non-mahram male should not spend the night in the house of a couple. It inconveniences the woman who has to observe her hijab in your presence. Personally, I cannot do without my hijab outdoors but once I am indoors, I toss it fast! A woman’s home is her sanctuary, somewhere she can let her hair down and dress down. You ruin this tranquility for her particularly when you prolong your stay; her only reprieve in her bedroom. Between the tropical temperature and special times like breastfeeding, her hospitality can quickly become hostility.

Fellow women who travel for visits with their toddlers need to be mindful of them. We should not leave them to run amok, destroy appliances, break dishes, defecate or urinate indiscriminately, and leave food crumbs in their trail. ‘They are just kids!’ No. Pick up after your children and caution them when necessary.

We should also endeavour not to make a nuisance of ourselves by staying out late, disrupting the peace in the house by playing loud music or having noisy friends over. Destroying property in their houses is also a big no-no.

Narrated Abu Shuraih Al-Ka’bi quoted Allah’s Messenger (SAW) as saying: Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously. The guest’s reward is to provide him with a superior type of food for a night and a day and a guest is to be entertained with food for three days, and whatever is offered beyond that is regarded as charity. And it is not lawful for a guest to stay with the host for such a long period so as to put him in a critical position. – Sahih Bukhari 6135

Also try to involve yourself in helping around the house and following the house rules. Take your dish to the kitchen and wash it, preferably. Clean up after yourself and make your bed. Assist by taking the children off their parents’ hands by playing with them or helping with their homework.

Do not pry into their affairs particularly if they are a couple and unless your advice is sought, or it is absolutely necessary, keep most of your thoughts to yourself. Do not take sides without listening to both sides of the story.

When preparing to leave, inform your hosts ahead of time so they can accommodate dropping you off at the airport or car park, into their plans.

Also noteworthy is that we should not convert our observations to gossip and tales by moonlight for our family members and friends. ‘Do you know the couple sleep in separate rooms? They must have quarrelled more than 5 times in the few days we were there!’

As the hosts/hostesses, we are duty-bound to treat our guests kindly. Having snacks, some juice or cake handy can save us embarrassment when friends pop in unannounced. We should be patient and accommodating and try to involve our guests in our activities. Time should be set aside daily to converse with them no matter how tight our schedule is.

We should also discuss when would be convenient for a reciprocal visit. No responsible individual wants to be the perpetual visitor. Make an effort to return the visit to keep the ball rolling.

And when they leave, we should see them to the door (or gate / bus terminal/train station/ airport) and let’s try not to make our relief obvious! 😉

 

FULL CIRCLE Q2:121


My son has begun his life’s sojourn into formal Islamic education. We used to take a few lessons on the Arabic alphabets and a few short surahs (Chapters of the Holy Qur’an) but we also wanted him to interact with more Muslims in a classroom. They do tend to learn faster that way and it is more consistent.

During his first week, I felt separation anxiety every time I dropped him off. It was weird because I thought I was over that since he started regular school a couple of years ago. I would walk him to the gate or classroom where he would wave solemnly and turn to enter and my smile would falter. Immediately I returned to pick him, promptly at the closing time, I would grill him about how the class went; if he made new friends; if anyone fought with him or beat him, but he would be all smiles. Running ahead of me excitedly, he would tell me names of new friends (which I would hurriedly commit to memory) and snippets of how the 2-hour class went. Yeah, I know…a mere two hours!

This reminded me of when I began my Islamic education too. I cannot quite remember my age but I was older than my son is, and I went with my brother. The school was a weekend one and lasted about 4 hours. It was a farther distance from our home than my son’s is and we used to be dropped off in the car but would often walk home when we closed.

I do not have fond memories of this school. I don’t think I ever discussed it with my brother but I was filled with dread whenever it was weekend and we had to go. I know he was too. I was a good student and did not get beaten by my tutor but the matron of the school (who I will call ‘Ma’) scared the hell out of our little minds. Pa, on the other hand, was a gentle soul.

Abu-Darda (R.A.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.” – Riyad Saliheen Book 13, Hadith 1388

Yet, Ma attracted such curiosity out of me. I used to peep at her if she performed wudhu beside me. I would surreptitiously try to catch a glimpse of her face when she prayed beside me. She was not Nigerian, I could tell even though she was always in black and all I could see were her hands. Her complexion, her accent and her children’s looks gave her away.

I think I was eight or nine when this family came in quite late. Classes were in progress in an open space (we had long desks and chairs arranged in the compound) so when the group came in, we all looked up, distracted. A man reported one of his daughters (I think?) to Ma and it was a grievous crime that this teenager had committed. Ma ordered for canes and holding her niqab to her face with one hand, she lashed this teenager repeatedly following her around as she tried to escape the burning strokes. The cane broke and she asked for another! It was amazingly scary seeing this rather diminutive niqabi striking a precocious teenager who was even bigger than she was. The cane whipped the student’s hijab off and I saw blood streaks. It was gruesome and we were horrified.

Alhamdulillah, our Islamic school was eventually changed (my parents had begun to hear rumours about the school which probably correlated with our complaints). The new Islamic school was even farther (an hour walk) from home so we were usually dropped off by my mum or we took the bus. This place was so much nicer, run by medical students, and less oppressive. I have fond memories of this place <3. Now, it's my turn to do the dropping off 🙂

Do you have any memories of your early Islamic education?

May Allah bless our (good) teachers everywhere!