Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

The regular Joe Abdullah is in search of the Super-Muslimah. Br. Joe Abdullah will attend numerous talks, seminars on Islam. He makes it a point to never miss a halaqa or the study circle. When the brothers decide that he’s been single long enough, they ask him to start working on his Bio-data for circulation amongst the sisters. The bio-data arrives running well into 5 pages at the least, all detailing the requirements of the sister, with the first paragraph vaguely attempting to provide details about him.

The brothers will peruse through the magna-cum-laude and exclaim ‘MashaAllah!’ in unison. They will promptly take copies home to their wives so that they can pass along the booklet onto other single sisters. Once the sisters have searched the document for any hopes of making it even by hair’s breadth, they realize it’s a pitifully hopeless case. No sister could compete with THAT! The ‘leisure time activities’ requirement should be read twice or more –very carefully- just so, to make sure that it’s for real.

When the booklet is approaching its end, you can see in very small text like a statutory warning, ‘Important requirement- Must be fair and beautiful.’, this is apart from that requirement that reminds the sister that she should also be from a ‘respectable’ and educated, ‘decently well-off’ family background; no matter her level of eeman, the struggles she had to face in getting to this state, the family that has abandoned her.

Br. Joe Abdullah I pray someday you open your eyes to see greater beauty than what your blindness demands, I pray that you feel ashamed for strait-jacketing this sister ‘full of eman and taqwah’ into such petty requirements, I pray that someday you repent this grand-production of a booklet and know that a real muslimah is far above all this as is a real muslim. Attending every Halaqa, Study circle and talk that there is does not make you a worthier or more perceptive muslim than others if you’re still stuck in the above collusion. I pray that you wake-up before it’s too late.

 P.S: This is dedicated to all those sisters who had to go through similar straits and to all the sisters at my halaqa circle whose beauty far precedes such farcical definitions.


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I remember from the days I interned at the therapeutic community for schizophrenia and other schizotypal patients, one particular patient. He carried himself with an apparent aura of enigma, detached and rarely conversant. Over the days, we became something of passing acquaintances- I would leave him alone and pretend he wasn’t around when I sensed he needed to be alone but other times he’d walk over and greet me with marked nonchalance but that’s when he was in dire need of an audience.

On one such occasion, when we used to have almost normal ‘discussions’(one sided, more likely), he looked up suddenly with his piercing eyes and said something that never fails to unsettle me. I almost believed he could see right through me at that particular time. It took all my effort not to squirm as if I’d been found guilty and the act would save face.

He had said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Learn to loosen up and try living it like that”.

We’d never had discussions where I’d revealed anything about myself; in all our meetings, I’d mostly be the silent but attentive audience to what he had to say. This, was something of a shock. I’d felt the same way many times but I’d always brushed it away as an excuse that the mind resourcefully invents.

In Islam, all types of mental illnesses do not have to have the same explanation- Physical or emotional, there is also the ‘supernatural’ to contend with. There exists a parallel world of ‘spirits’ (to put it in highly simplistic terms), the world of djinns, beings created from smokeless fire who lead a life much akin to the human way, except of course, they have different powers that we don’t have. Every human being, at the time of his birth is assigned a guardian angel and a djinn (specifically called the Khaareen). Their respective activities are all but obvious- yes, one’s the guide, another, the whisperer of temptations.

These two have been witness to your lives for all of time, so to speak. But, certain human beings play with the forbidden, they learn to converse with their tempters- angels being angels know their boundaries and never cross that invisible line. This situation is highly potent, fraught with its own dangers. Smooth talkers can never be trusted as we’re wont to know, the tempters being no exceptions. They’ll eventually manipulate the human but in turn give him a taste of something else, the ability to converse with others’ appointed djinns and thus the means to gain obscene amount of insight into the other person’s life. This, I’ve read, is how the local medium, shaman, witch, warlock works. But every thing has it limits, the djinn only knows half-truths, never in the full-knowledge of the future, hence the warning to stay away from sure-fire traps of promised havens, or abodes through such encounters.

My point here, having explained in fair details about the djinn, is to mention their role in mental illnesses. Possessions apart, conversations with the beings itself might be enough to unhinge. When piercing-eyes pronounced the statement in no uncertain tones, I felt …how should I put it, …compromised?

Strong Iman is an invaluable weapon; I’ve heard that strong iman makes us inviolable from such treason, no less (since every person is his own state- my own theory of anarchy).

That was also my last working day at the place; I walked away with, admittedly, a sigh of relief. I want to return to work as a volunteer but according to one fatwa, according to a highly reliable sister, a sheikh said that it’s better to stay away from people you suspect of being in such states-  i.e, possessed or ‘shadowed’(another story, altogether). The dilemma is, how do I reconcile my professional obligations with just such a situation?

Any opinions out there?

All I gotta say for now, ‘Deuced If I knew, deuced if I don’t!’

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At 24, I must now hear the matrimonial clock ticking away grimly or so according to my mother. She rues the day she decided to give me reprieve for two more years, 22 would’ve looked far more appealing on the summarized Bio-Data- Your life on a cold, white sheet of paper, no less, no more.

Networking, by far is the only life-line once you’re on the block. You have ‘marriage brokers, a dime, a dozen, all with registers-full of male and female faces softened by the special ‘matrimonial photo effects’- I kid you not- you just stop at a studio and calmly announce, ‘One matrimonial photo shoot, please’, and promptly they shall enquire nary a blink, ‘2 or more dresses maydum? With or without make-up?’

From thence, it’s been a circus, all in the name of filial love, what it makes one do- I don’t care to relive or wish it on anybody.

Next you must thumb through these endless registers after you’ve become an entry in the columns yourself. If something hopeful is sighted amongst the one-page renditions of life, as it is, of the attached post-card- sized smiling 0980128 or 5752387 or 7269329, then the phone is put to use a great deal to settle meetings of the families. When the agreed-upon day dawns, it shall always be one way only, the boy’s family must first have the honor of visiting the girl’s, if, otherwise is suggested, it’d be laughed right out, or tut-tutted as forward thinking like a train that is headed for inevitable collision.

 Note: This is not a universal example, things might be done differently but this is what I’ve been witness to for eons now and it hasn’t changed much. 

The girl must make her appearance in all her shining meekness, a coyness that shall not allow her to look up even once, she must curb her tongue, speak only when spoken to and the responses must be minimal, preferably monosyllabic.

I find interacting with the older members of the family more genuine, respecting elders comes naturally, having been ingrained right from our first wail to keep that tongue in check and all manners perfectly in place but interacting with this new species, ‘The Prospective’ is very close to coming to spontaneous detonation. Having harbored every conceivable evil towards the other sex- stupidity ruling the list, you come onto the scene with a healthy dose of suspicion and a great deal of seething resentment at having to do what is as desirable as having slugs for breakfast. One’s own family turns a deaf ear to any protests, all the while laying down instructions and giving unwelcome ‘advice’.

          you’re a girl, you have to get married

         you can’t expect to remain single and happy forever

         no you cannot appear in your full hijab, it’s not done, draping a dupatta is as good as hijab

         these are the ways of the world dearest

         don’t you want our happiness

         no, you can’t just spread the word around the circles and people won’t appear out of thin air, think of it, you’ll make a brilliant match, even if you’ve to suffer the so-called ‘indignity’ of being a register number- with- a- face

          *chuckle, chuckle@-@

         now, I know you need to be yourself, but just this once, hold your tongue, will you? We don’t want to scare them off now, do we?

This is but the beginning, more rounds of high-teas and endless discussions will culminate the great- meeting-of-the families. It’s not marriage per se that I object to, but the approach to the matter that I dislike.

My friends seem to have taken it all well and most of them are now married. But why am I finding all this terrible? I can settle for the ‘ways-of-the-world’ most of the time but these days I just want to kick someone/something hard-  this nebulous world, perhaps, that dictates my happiness and that of my family’s.

In addition to all this, there’s more. Now that everybody knows that you’re in the game, you must watch your steps, v-e-r-y carefully. I’ve been corrected a million times, now, it hasn’t helped any and it won’t! It’s just plain absurd!

-When in a gathering, do not help the hostess, it draws the attention of all the ‘aunties’ who want you for their sons, nephews, neighbors.

– address every older woman as ‘aunty’, even if you’d love to call the warm woman as everybody else is calling her, ‘maasi’, ‘phupi’, ‘ammijan’, all this had hardly mattered before, but now it’s just signals approval of your interest in any tom-cats they might have in the bag or even more vile, one’s snaring prowess by garnering affection with endearments just so you can wheedle out a match.

It gets darned treacherous with increasing degree. Even, being human might not be allowed for fear of sending all sorts of muddled signals.

Patience, I tell you, is a trying virtue.


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Overdue Review


No, ‘Wheeee!The Tri-continental Human Rights Film Fest was a treat!’ won’t do, neither will, ‘Yes- Siree! The Tri-continental Human Rights Film Fest was a treat!’, I guess, I can honestly say, it was fodder for my grazing mind 🙂 It was held very many weeks ago but didn’t find enough time to reflect in peace, until now. I was able to grab only the first batch of films, I couldn’t make it for the second schedule, sigh* and I so wanted to see Leila Khaled’s  work. But never you mind, I did enjoy three very good documentaries.

One, ‘The Rockstars and The Mullahs’, two, ‘Return to Kandahar’ and three, ‘Venezuela Rising’.

It was even more of an experience because yours truly had to become the default spokesperson on the Islamic stand, being the lone Hijabi but I suspect not the lone Muslim in the audience. I’ll have you know, it’s terribly awkward to have pointed glances from people who keep turning around to give them -smack in the middle of the movie, especially, when you just want to take in the movie from the farthest corner of the last row in the room. So much for wanting to remain as inconspicuous as possible!

The coordinator as per protocol (I assume) invites different opinions from the audience after each screening, there was only a loud silence greeting the invitation this time. I bristled some and more, heck! Nobody seemed to know any better and if there wasn’t someone to clear the muddle, everyone would go home with this half knowledge at its garbled best. When I came to this thunking conclusion, I’m guessing it’s only a rhetorical question when you ask if there was a heated debate after ‘R and M’.

I’ll have you know that the very first thing I said sounded profoundly stupid to my ears. I hemmed and hawed and said, (hold your breath), ‘Obviously, I’m a Muslim and Obviously I need to speak up’. Do you see the moron-like use of ‘obviously’, obviously I was blabbering. I wonder why I thought that people wouldn’t notice without my ‘obvious’ remarks and why only Muslims need to speak up. I had to take a deep breath after that and gather my seething wits.

Briefly, ‘R and M’ is a story narrated by ‘Salman’, the lead guitarist of ‘Junoon’, a Pakistani band. He takes the audience through the contradictory nature of ‘shariah-based’ law in Pakistan, especially, pertaining to music. The contradictions are not just against human nature/will as Salman wants us to believe and enduringly focuses on but more importantly, they’re against the very nature of Islam- to promote peace. Most of the opinions on music in Islam, in the film, are taken from imams who spout opinions without knowledge. Islam does not forbid music in the manner of an absolute full stop as the Imams in the documentary vehemently declare, and I found it particularly outrageous that they could state such blatant lies with utter conviction, ‘No room for music, no room for singing’.

Oh and by the way, even if the directors aren’t around to care about what I have to say, I didn’t particularly appreciate the snide way each of these clipping was followed by Qur’an recited in Qirah, it would have been much more helpful if you’d done your research with greater care. Each ill-informed mullah’s opinion should have been followed by a well-informed mullah’s- on the same topic. It is deliberate misinformation if you let the audience believe that being a ‘good’ Muslim should include keeping the women within the four walls and discouraging their ‘azadi’(freedom) as was one cheesy Mullah’s opinion and presenting these mullahs as if they’re the shining examples of  scholars in Islam is infuriating.


Stepping up and clearing the misconceptions was relatively easy but having to explain over and over again why I was covered in the Jilbab-niqab was not. People simply didn’t understand that the literate could allow themselves to be covered so, one even implied that I might be suffering from deep psychological issues-oh dear!

The poor co-ordinator had to step in then and steer the discussion to neutral grounds. Someone sauntered by and offered in a sympathetic tone, ‘you’d be shot dead in Pakistan, you know’, I was simply stunned. People considered themselves as authorities over subjects they hardly knew.

Oh and I must not forget another ‘helpful’ person’s opinion, ‘You know, Karl Marx once said that religion is the crutch of humanity’ and arched one very vocal eyebrow.

All I could come up with was, ‘What he was trying to say, really, was that Humankind is naturally weak. And nobody denies that and I assure you that I can think of far many other crutches that man prefers over religion’, at which he guffawed heartily and nodded with much glee. Although, I don’t see how it was funny. I don’t think I conveyed what I really wanted to say, Karl Marx was not as clever as he sounds.

Then we went around in circles on the same topic until it was time for the next film. I came back feeling like I could take up an alternate career as a spokesperson with great success, I didn’t know I possessed quite so much flair for saying ‘next!’ with a sweep of my hand punctuating it. 😀

Didn’t stay back for the discussion after ‘Return to Kandahar’, had another engagement to take care of. The film was about an expat woman’s return to her homeland, Afghanistan, to look for her long-lost friend. The narrative is not contrived and has many poignant moments but sometimes I found the woman’s opinions annoying and narrow-minded, especially, since she kept talking from a frame-of-reference that had no room for understanding on certain issues when there should have been. Yes, I’m shamelessly nit-picky.

‘Venezuela Rising’ was thunderously reiterating of a resolute public opinion about itself as nationalists and as the block against presumptuous super-power-toting bullies, very specifically the USA. Little surprise.

 Remarkable was the energy of the womenfolk, tirelessly campaigning for their leader, the men watching on and contributing whole-heartedly. The flurry of campaigns was complete with generous supply of good cheer, good food and endless cups of coffee and bottles of coke- testimony to the efficacious ‘feminine’ touch- multi-tasking at its best! Therefore, it was NO to ambreeka and NO to its puppets!

Good riddance!

Yes, thank your lucky stars that I missed the second schedule. 😀



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