Friday, September 30, 2011

Burnt wigs...

SO there’s this lady. She’s quite well known. And for some reason, no matter how many times I try to give her a chance, and no matter how much I WANT to get along with her, something just goes wrong. It’s not like I intentionally tripped on her dress the last time and had it rrrrrip along the waist, exposing her knickers (they had holes! I know! Blind!).

And it’s not like I deliberately dropped that candle on her head yesterday, setting her hair on fire! Damn! Lucky it was a wig. And you should have seen her run! IN retrospect, it was funny. But just a little (lest she think I enjoyed watching her burn)

So I’m sure you’re dying to know who she is? Wondering why you weren’t there to see the dress rip? Weren’t there to see the hair go up in flames. Wigs are highly flammable. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Well, her name’s Islamic Media. And to protect my ass, I won’t mention just which of the ugly sisters she really is.  

Let me take you right back. TO when my (disastrous) run-ins with her first began,

Three years ao I got a call from one of her sisters. She wanted me to write a radio drama. It was short notice (she’s also famous for a lack of planning). But it was an exciting venture. New.

So I roped in a few good writers and we went at the computers like demons. The script was funny. Thought provoking. I actually used the word “good” for it! *gasp* I know! That’s just not me!

They recorded. Played out.

And then the complaints (maybe 5, or was it 10?) came in. We weren’t preaching enough. We were glorifying sex, drugs and rock and roll. (there was sex in there? Really? How did I miss that?!)

We got taken off air. (Did I mention that no one bothered to let me know? Don’t look shocked! #truestory)

While the drama was being written, I also had an undertaking from this sister that they’d help me republish my kid’s book. And this one was ‘religious’ so they were sure there’d be no concerned aunties writing in to complain, using poor grammar and bad spelling.

Months passed after the Drama Hangama. And every enquiry about progress on the illustrations was met with stony silence. Clearly, I was persona non grata.

I gave up. Moved on. And well, I knew that I wouldn’t be working with this sister again.

Fast forward to September, 2011.

Some friends and I decide we’d like to help the disabled and raise funds for the Park that was to be built in Lenz. I decide to overlook the fact that this sister has a hand in this pie.

We start planning. A kid’s fun day. It worked for Al Quds.

We decide to promote it using a local sister who’s had a good run within the community. Did I mention that I gave this sister the use of the rejected drama script? And that it was warmly received? Ajeeb!

And that I’d finally thought that at last I wouldn’t end up on the wrong side of at least one of the ugly sisters?

Silly me!

How it came about that my friends agreed to do a pledge line with the sister, I’ll never know. Why my friends agreed to it still baffles me.

As part of the fundraising I suggested an auction. We raised a small fortune for Al Quds with our auction the last time. All this would take place on the 30th September at a fundraiser that the sister was having for herself (do businesses do fundraisers?).We had too little time, so I suggested flower arrangements.

And then the bombshell!

I get a msg: Leave the flowers

I ask: Why?

Answer: Long story!

Now I don’t know about you, but ‘long story’ is just not an answer. I pushed (and swore a lot!) and got to hear the Long Story.

The long and the short of the long story turned out to be that the sister wanted 50% of all that we raise through the auction for herself.

Now correct me if I’m wrong here, but would that not amount to deceiving the public? Or would they want us to make an announcement : People, bidding is open. We’re raising funds for the disabled and the local sister.

I can just see people forking out thousands for that! NOT!

I ranted and raved. Kept the sister’s name off twitter. But I vented and rid myself of my anger.

Last night at 22:15 we got a message that we weren’t allowed our table.

Did I mention that I’d spent the afternoon yesterday buying rings, brooches, bracelets and other little trinkets that we’d planned on selling at their ‘pledge’ do tonight? That I’d done this against my better judgement because I’d felt this was a bad idea from the beginning? That I’d paid for this out of my pocket?

Was the refusal to allow our Fundraising-for-a-Good-Course-Table when others would be selling stuff there for profit, tied in to my angry tweets?

I’ll never know.

I’m sure I’m going to be blasted for this post. People are going to accuse me of exposing the faults of fellow Muslims.  

But I think that BECAUSE we are Muslims and agree to adopt Submission as a way of life, our character should reflect this. It should come across within our organisations. We should hold ourselves to the highest moral standards possible. Our conduct should be exemplary. After all, being in the public eye makes us embassadors for Islam. Is that not what we’re always told?

Yet, all Muslim organisations are plagued by inefficiency and the most dire lack of professionalism I have ever seen. To say that  frustrates me would be a lie. It disgusts me.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox.

You may hurl your rotten tomatoes now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Tomorrow... I will perform all my prayers on time. I will start on a diet and stick to it. I will be a more attentive wife, a more loving mother. I will listen. Actually stop what I am doing and listen when my kids recount their adventures after a day at school. I will savour the silence with my husband’s hand cradled in my own and listen to the sound of his breathing. I will laugh with abandon and surrender to tears as the need arises. I will remember the good more often and forget the bad more easily. I will move out of the shadow of myself and truly be.

note: This post was written many months ago. many, many months. saved as a draft. Might as well free it...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Sacrifice

It was as the jalsa was about to begin, that Eishkom, in typical SA style plunged us into darkness. The wails, gasps of horror, collective moans, rippled through the hall. Our MC stood before us, alert, vibrant and began anyway (they were running way behind schedule), even as people scrabbled to set up lights and others reached for their cell phones to shed some light on the proceedings. I may be mistaken, but I had the distinct impression that our MC was blind. Which was why the women’s refusal to settle down annoyed me so completely. The words that sprang to mind were the opening verses of Surah Abasa,

“He frowned and turned away. Because there came to him, the blind man”

As he struggled to make himself heard above the din. I thought of the blind. And of how their days are spent in darkness. Always. Yet here we were making such a fuss about a temporary lack of artificial light.

I was reminded of Milton’s sonnet, On His Blindness:

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
'Doth God exact day labor, light denied?'
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur soon replies, 'God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.'

Here was a man, who, in spite of his disability was doing much more than just standing and waiting.

We were then introduced to Al Zabih - The Sacrifice. An Actonville based NPO that caters for the Islamic needs of children with physical and mental disabilities.

I’d had trepidations about attending the function. Feared that the gathering would be reduced to some sort of freak show, with people gawking at those members of society who are normally overlooked, ignored, hidden at home. Because coming face to face with ‘nature’s mistakes’ discomfits us.

But the evening was anything but! It was a celebration of all that is possible, even in the face of overwhelming odds. A reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. A faith that can move mountains. Of motherly (and fatherly) love. Of courage.

I was moved to tears several times and thanked Eishkom for their timeous ‘blooper’ when that happened.

It pained  me to see kids struggling to walk/talk/make salaam. I kept asking myself: What if that had been my son or daughter?

It was then that I was reminded: Allah does not impose on any soul more than they can bear.


A moment that has been burnt into my memory is of the little girl slung over her mum’s arm, lost in her own little world. She caught my eye. I smiled. She beamed back.

A smile is indeed a universal language. I felt such an incredible joy surge through me at the sight. At this shared secret communication.

The next time you meet someone who is physically or mentally challenged, don’t avert your gaze. Smile.

You’ll have made their world a little brighter…

p.s I find this post incredibly clumsy, but seems I'm still struggling to vocalise what I was a part of. Hope I've conveyed some part of what I experienced :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Muslim Feminist - Oxymoron?

In 2006, I posted this to my blog. It was an article I’d originally penned for The Muslim Woman. When I read it today (can’t manage more than 2 paragraphs) I cringe. How arrogant, how cocksure, and how foolhardy I once was! Steeped in a sense of self-righteousness. Glossed over by my veneer of piety. How misguided...

Yes, one thing hasn’t changed. I still don’t think women need be imams. But perhaps I understand why there are those who’d want it. Its symbolic.

Being a Muslim woman in the 21st century is a challenge.

Enter: The men of Learning - telling us what our hijaab means to us and  how we should be covered to save men from themselves. Telling us how paradise will be ours for the asking if we obey (read: are servants to) our spouses. How eternal success lies in us remaining in the deepest, darkest corners of our homes, effectively taking from us what little voice we have. Men who allow (how generous!) women to study in Ulooms provided they don’t ask uncomfortable questions or demand more knowledge than the men are willing to impart. That they never demand actual power or position that will challenge men’s centuries old dominance.

The product of these Ulooms are the fellow muslim sisters (I was one once) who consider being a voiceless entity a virtue. Tell us of the staggering rewards that await us when we breastfeed, cook, sweep, clean. Basking in the glow of their assumed piety and promised salvation

Is that all a woman is? Designed for childbearing and providing sterile milk on tap? Minions. Blindly following our men. Accepting any manner of indignity they choose to heap on us? Because that way, salvation lies? How many women aren’t fed the ‘Sabr’ line, when their husbands degrade or abuse them? Aren't told of the Jannah that awaits, even as their dignity is peeled away from them, layer, by painful layer?

Enter: The ‘West’ with its notion of female liberation. Emancipation. Our Muslim sisters in the ‘west’ who show us that it is possible to be a hijaab wearing lawyer/scientist/brain surgeon. Women who rile against being delegated to the last safs (god forbid, segregated) in the masaajid. Women who demand the imaamat.  The feminists. Those whose cause I was once arrogant enough to call Madness…

Perhaps now would be a good time to answer the question. Am I a feminist?  The answer is not that simple.

I think to call it feminism within the Islamic context is misleading. Since it conjures up images of women demanding complete equality to men. Feminism a la West. And we all know that Allah in His wisdom has decreed a double share for sons over daughters in inheritance. If this was my cause, I’d be contradicting the Quraan. Allah forbid.

I've long since accepted that as a woman, I'm wonderfully different, but equal in the ways that count. 

What I want is for women to be taken seriously. To be heard. To be allowed the same opportunities to learn, advance and grow, as men. And I think we will all agree, that for the average South African 'housewife', options to imbibe Islamic learning are limited. And those that are available tend to push a Tableeghi line, one that I remain exceedingly uncomfortable with.

It is Men of Learning who hijack the deen for their own agendas. That explains my deep seated mistrust of such scholars. It is Men of Learning who change Allah’s laws to suit their needs.

I recently offered to do one show a week for our fledgeling local radio station. They were skeptical (cautious) and asked for a breakdown. This was me asking, after all. And Allah knows why, but I have a reputation for being radical. I know! Go figure!

I sent them a proposal. One of the topics was feminism. Needless to say, I haven’t heard from them since.  See, thing is, by pretending muslim ‘feminism’ (I use the term loosely) isn’t a reality, we fool ourselves.

The feminist movement in the west has been around since 1872. Women have fought tooth and nail to be seen an equals. How well this movement has served their cause, that’s a whole other debate. And within a Muslim context, it will be here as long as men continue to usurp women’s rights and sit on their holy high chairs and fatwa-sise all over us.

Muslim women didn’t need feminism at the time of the advent of Islam. Reading detailed accounts of interaction between Sahabiyaat and their male counterparts reveals women who were dynamic, self assured and completely comfortable and in control of the spheres they occupied in society. And what rights they were deprived of, The Prophet himself (SAW) fought for on their behalf. Islam was radical for it’s time.

It was the Indianisation if Islam and male insecurity that herded women into a corner. A corner where they have (disgruntled though they were) remained for the last several hundreds of years. Pregnant, barefoot and behind the pots, the clichéd reality for many.

Bring on the turn of the century and our integration into mainstream society post apartheid (as opposed to our little Chaar Fiefdoms), and we have a generation of independent women and utterly bewildered men.

Ask any educated,  muslim woman how hard it is to find a secure, confident muslim man who isn’t threatened by her independence? Ask any mummy's little chaarou son what he wants from a spouse and he'll say, a girl just like my mother. 


I haven't any answers on how to fix it. And still haven't pinned my colours to the Muslim Feminist mast. But they're firmly on the Women are Amazing! mast. And for now, that's good enough for me...