I shall again quote from my own blog. Quoting from my own blog is a form of talking to oneself. This is what I say when caught doing that, finding myself with an onlooking listener.
Me: Oh my goodness. I was talking to myself
They: We all do it.
Me: This is what I usually say when caught. I was talking to myself. I do that because I am the most interesting person around. (Well, except for you of course)
This is somewhat the same. I am the most interesting person around to quote, from. This gem from my December 26, 2022 blog which was written upon my return to Canada from Saudi Arabia. The topic of the day was Islamophobia.
“Rebel Media and the Toronto Sun, once wrote “Muslims, in general, are a ‘third-world’ people whose understanding and practice of Islam remain fixed in their pre-modern cultures. These “voices of dissent” claim Islam needs reforming. But Islamophobia keeps Muslims on the defensive, steals their ability to challenge hierarchies or to have frank internal critiques that the dissidents say are needed.” I have publicly stated on more than one occasion that I am an example of the new Muslim woman. But in order to bring the understanding and practices of Islam into this world what must be done at the onset is to destroy Islamophobia at its very core. So let us get with it everyone!”
My reintegration to Canada after the freedoms of Saudi Arabia has been rather slow. Do not actually fear Islamophobia, for the simple reason that no one would ever think I was a Muslim. Cowardly men fear me, not pick on me thinking I am a passive ‘modest’ Muslim woman. One Saudi woman, observing my clad in black from head to toe provided ‘free advice’.
She: You must dress like this when you go home to Canada.
Me: Are you kidding? If I dressed like this in Canada I quite possibly could be killed.
Needless, to say I felt entirely safe being in Saudi Arabia. While there, particularly in Makkah wore an abaya and hijab. Saudi women are respected, safe, educated and free. That is not what I have seen in Edmonton, in the Muslim community. Muslim women, in their headscarves, are never seen in public alone. They are either with their families or with another Muslim woman, rather like two book ends. (not sure what they are holding up between them).
I an beginning to question Muslim practices in this country. This is entirely different from doubting the Islamic faith. But some practices are outmoded and should, if not must , be changed to keep pace with the modern world and the fact that the faith continues to grow far beyond the borders of the Middle East where it all, blessedly, began.
The sole and only reason that I originally became a believer was because I read how women are valued, most notably by the Prophet Muhammed under the direction of Allah (SWT). My introduction to the Islamic faith occurred during pandemic days – mosques were closed in the USA. Therefore, read the Quran (as instructed) by a local imam but also, with the easy access provided by the Internet, reading works by scholars. I am discerning enough to have the ability to pick and choose from Internet offerings, so my knowledge was not tarnished by those of limited credentials coupled with a profit motive.
But let us go back for a moment and define imam, using my trusty Dictionary and also Wikipedia. Dictionary defines imam in for following manner: “the person who leads prayers in a mosque.” Sorry Dictionary, you got that wrong. Women are persons and women cannot lead prayers in a mosque. That is, unless you are a woman who lives in China or in Denmark. That was rather shocking to learn and if I had known that in the beginning I would have bailed. Bail means to cancel something. As slang we use as a verb, to cancel something or leave somewhere. For example: “I’m so annoyed Alexis bailed on the party tonight!” Meaning Alexis is not coming to the party, she cancelled last minute. Or “This festival is so boring, let’s bail”.
My basic and fundamental question os this: Why do you have to be a man to be an imam? The question does have a certain ring to it – an amassment. I shall struggle to find the answer and keep you posted. It is not going to be easy because it is highly unlikely that an Inman is going to provide a reasoned and intelligent answer. It would reduce his power base, and most men (not all of course) are into having control over women.
The answer may be in studying the roots of the Islamic faith – the conditions existing at the birth of the religion. I am able to do this as I am reading an amazing book: Muhammed: His Life fe Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings.
Do admit that it has been difficult. Today we see the Islamic faith as the fastest growing religion in the world but it was a struggle in the beginning; a painful struggle with so many forces fighting against the adoption of the faith. It shall surprise no one to learn that most of these forces that repudiated the faith did so for economic reasons. Those in power wanted to keep the pilgrims arriving with their money to enrich Makkah – and this new found faith seemed a threat.
I am now on page 89 and things are looking good. A group of approximately 80 Muslims formed the first emigration in Islam – they traveled to Abyssinia. I knew of this journey and of the outcome but it came alive to me. The King Negus asked delegation about their faith. Their spokesman Ja’far responded: “Oh King, we were a people steeped in ignorance, worshipping idols, eating unsacrificed carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were until God sent a Messenger from out of our midst, one whose lineage we knew and thus and his veracity and worthiness of trust and his integrity. He called us onto God, that we should testify to his Oneness and worship Him and renounce what we and our fathers had worshipped in the way of stones and idols ; and he commanded us to speak truly, to fulfill our promises, to respect the ties of kinship, and the rights of our neighbours, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. So we worship God alone, setting naught beside Him, counting as forbidden what He hath forbidden and licit what He has allowed. For those reasons have our people turned against us, and have persecuted us to make forsake our religion and revert from the worship of God to the worship of idols. That is why we have come to thy country, having chosen thee above all others; and we have been happy in thy protection and it is our hope, O King, that here, with thee, we shall not suffer wrong.” (Pg 85).
That is so remarkably eloquent, summarizing the basic tenants of the Islamic faith most simply and clearly. The audience was with King Negus of Abyssinia. Abyssinia is, by the way, the former name for Ethiopia.
But back to this day and age. It happened in Riyadh a short time ago (words of a song stolen and ruined). A Saudi woman came to the Hilton, we went to a shopping center and later she took me to her home – she lived in a huge home with her parents, three sisters and her children. We ate delicious Arab food in a huge dining room (just the two of us). At the huge shopping mall, she took me to two stores. One sold the finest of perfumes, the other the finest of soaps. The shops, the goods sold and the Saudis were so friendly, so hospitable. We laughed at my being “Sheikha Fatimah.” Although my Saudi hostess was planning to buy gifts from the stores – the proprietors gifted me so handsomely with their goods. These are photographs of that evening in Riyadh. Is it any wonder that I wish to return???