Monthly Archives: July 2008

With eyes wide open – polygyny

I attend this biweekly lesson about Islam headed by a Syrian-American who, Allah yerzyah al khair, is amazing. Last week she started off with a rather interesting request: “Tell me the things you find horrendous about Islam. The things you’re embarrassed of, the things you don’t understand.” So the girls came up with a rather short list of categories we weren’t really comfortable with, the things that you accept because you have faith but some-where deep down, they just don’t sit right. The first of that list: polygamy and it was unanimously agreed upon.

And so the lesson started. Now growing up in a Western society, I’ve never been exposed to polygyny. And even on our visits to Damascus I had no relatives who were polygynous. So I had no anecdotal experiences I could base my judgment upon. At the age that I became aware that polygynous situations existed, they were in the form of Mormon marriages who were, as we’ve heard, heinous acts of degradation upon women. They were not only frowned upon but also actively fought by society as a whole. So imagine how I felt when I learned that not only does Islam permit polygyny, the Prophet, my icon and role model for so long, had also practiced it! 

As I grew older, I asked around about polygyny. I’m a true muslim at heart; I love this faith, this religion. And the fact that I had come to question some part of it caused me no little pain and anguish. I questioned it because I needed to understand. However, either the answers I received were so inadequate at explaining polygyny, or I was to too young to fully understand because the message came across wrong, and I was left feeling unsure. So for a while now I’ve had it filed under “Al-Ghayb” – the unknown.

Islam is, as are Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and practically any religion, based on faith in the unknown. Belief in a God is faith in the unknown. None of us have felt, touched, seen, or heard from God, but we have a bone-deep belief that He exists. Belief in prophets, the day of judgment, angles and devils, heaven and hell all constitutes as faith in the unknown. As does belief in the unexplained. The sister who volunteered to talk in place of our regular teacher yesterday gave the example of a child. Parents are constantly telling their children don’t do this, or don’t do that and to the child the reasons are more often than not unclear. The parent, on the other hand, knows what he or she is doing when they tell their child, no, jumping of the roof of the house isn’t such a good idea. 

Ironically enough last week I watched “The Other Boleyn Girl.” The movie itself wasn’t too great, but the idea that King Henry had to work and think and plot to get rid of his first wife in order to marry Anne of Boleyn was so well, stupid! According to the movie and what I have read about Henry and his six wives, his first wife, Catherine of Aragon had done nothing wrong other than fail to provide Henry with a son. But because Henry wanted to marry Anne, he needed to be off with the former, and she was humiliated after all the years she has spent with Henry. When I finished the movie I was in awe of the flawed and faulty condition Henry was in. He couldn’t divorce the woman he didn’t want, even though he had been having affair after affair right underneath his nose. Had polygyny existed at the time, Henry could have found a perfectly valid solution to the dilemma!

Now before yesterday, polygyny as a solution would never have occurred to me, and had anyone suggested it I wouldn’t have considered it a valid idea. But back to the lesson, for the first time I’ve had it handed to me straight. The good the bad and the downright ugly of polygyny. You have the honest to God situation above: the man whose first wife cannot have children. He wants children and it’s causing a rift between them, but he doesn’t want to leave her. Intro polygyny and ta-da! Instant-solution!! And so on and so forth.

But what really cleared up matters for me was the emphasis she put on the distinctly separating between polygyny and betrayal. In order for a man to marry a second wife, doesn’t mean he is necessarily betraying the first. And if he does betray the first, and tells her after the act is over and done with, what kind of woman wants to be with that sort of man anyways? One who would and could easily disregard her feelings so easily in preference to his own needs. And in the end, really, it all boils down to the first wife. The way she deals with the situation. The option of divorce is always open to a woman who refuses to be in a polygynous situation.

For the woman who chooses to stay, the woman giving the lesson highlighted an important point. As well as having a basis in believing in the unknown, Islam also encourages and promotes Jihad. And not the kind of jihad that you’re thinking of, involving bombs and what not. Jihad is anything that requires to you to forsake something you hold dear for the sake of God – to put it roughly. For some of us, praying five times a day could be our personal Jihad of the Nafs (the soul). For others, it could be this: polygyny. I guess all it takes is an open mind and an open heart. 

Next lesson? … you’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

Ps. A BIG thank you to the sister who opened my eyes!!

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tell me lies

I’m sure you’ve all recently heard/read/seen that Samir Al-Kuntar, four Lebanese militants, and 200 corpses, among which was that of Dalal Al-Maghrbi, were recently exchanged at Lebanese-Israel borders, or you’ve been living under a cardboard box hermit-style and care nothing of international news. Either or. 

Anyway, I was watching the exchange as it happened on the 16th, flipping between CNN and Al-Jazeera and was, obviously, not too shocked by the compeletly different coverage on either side of the border. And it didn’t really shock me that CNN had already labeled Kuntar a terrorist and a child-murder. On the other hand, yesterday Kuntar was shown in a live interview on Al-Jazeera stating that the child had died in Israel crossfire, and that the Israeli press had issued a statement after the incident admitting that the girl had died during the crossfire, before it was covered up by the fabricated versions, according to Kuntar. And considering that we’ve seen this sort of reckless disregard for their own citizens in times of ‘terrorist threat,’ it doesn’t seem to far-fetched. I am, of course, referring to the bus that was blown up during Dalal Al Maghribi’s operation, killing not only her and her crew but also all the Israeli hostages on board. 

This would be where Bernie Mac turns to the camera and says “What do YOU think America?”

But I think it’s painfully clear what America thinks. And what all of us, who are subject to biased, slanted, propaganda-based broadcast networks think. 

We think the lies we are given. Because, in all honesty, the truth has become so distorted and twisted a concept, I doubt the people who originally knew the truth know they know it. 

I think Bernie would agree with me when I say, the question should be “So what will YOU do America?”

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The Dark Knight


 

 

I believe whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger.

 

I went in to the Dark Knight honestly expecting to be disappointed after all the hype, the amazing reviews, and reading that it had beat the GodFather(!!!) on IMDb. I came out totally blown away.

The entire movie is great: the cast, the screenplay, the directing, and the overall theme of gloom, despair, and corruption really set the theme well. The length was great, for a long movie. It truly gave the myriad themes their due, rather than glossing over them in favor of money-making, high-graphic, action scenes (which were, thankfully, still there). And the foreshadowing! “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” HAH!! Who DIDN’T see that one coming?? But it was still great. It reminded me of V for Vendetta, my now second best comic movie, only taking up a notch or ten.

The actors were awesome, giving their respective roles their right in true, believable acting. Michael Caine as Alfred is perfection. Christian Bale portrays a truly tortured caped crusader. Morgan Freeman is as reliably in character as always. Aaron Eckhart is wow! making the transformation from The White Knight to Two Face fluidly. All the acting was solid throughout, and you come out of the movie thinking something along the lines of “there’s hope?!”

But by far, Heath Ledger’s the Joker made the movie. What a performance!! I could feel my skin crawling every time he licked his lips or talked in that downright creepy voice. He completely dominates every scene he’s in. Amazing. Truly amazing. It’s too damn bad he won’t be there for the sequel to this masterpiece. No one else could quite pull of such an amazing character so fully. So creepy and psychotic. *shudder*

Overall? Best comic rendition EVER. Take that Spiderman!!

cont’d: I just rewatched 2 and a half hours of pure genius. Honest to God, even in broad daylight, Ledger’s performance is, in every sense of the word, epic. The bar for diabolically, psychotic villains has been raised insurmountably. If only Hollywood could put a tenth of this pure genius into it’s other movies. Then we wouldn’t be constantly bombarded with pure crap like Harry Potter or Spiderman. Not that I don’t love the books/comics, but the movies fail to do them justice. I look forward to a remake of the likes of The Dark Knight.

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First Time For Everything

Today was a day for firsts. I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced fear as I did today. Not fear for myself but rather that helpless, suffocating fear that results from watching someone you love hurt and not being able to take physical action. Today we were at my grandmother’s house who, in neo-traditional style, lives on the ground floor of a building with my uncles, their wives, and children living on the ascending floors. My youngest brother, age 8, was playing outside with his cousins in the garden that surounds the first floor while we, the elder cousins, parents, uncles, aunts, grandmother, were gathered inside, discussing the halaqah I had been at today (hopefully in another post), when my brother yelled out he was bleeding. I ran to the metal door that separates the inner staircase from the garden and walkway and there stood my brother, drenched in blood. And that was a second first: other than my own blood I hadn’t, up till today seen blood in such large, fresh quantities. His hands were outstretched; I think he was as shocked as I was, almost mesmerized by the downpour of blood. For a second, I could swear my heart stopped. Life stood still for a moment while we both stared, transfixed at the blood quickly soaking his T-shirt. My mom came up behind me and it snapped. My heart, my head, either or and it crashed over me. Tidal waves of helplessness, pain, horror, tied-hands. I yelled for my father, and between my uncle, my mother, my father, and I we got him into the car and rushed to the doctors office. During the car ride, my over-reactive imagination ran away with itself, and I was left contemplating the worst possible case scenarios, sobbing over my brothers body as though he lay on his deathbed rather than my lap.

Alhamidlillah, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Common sense seems to evade us at times like these, and the fact that head wounds bleed profusely managed to escape our collective minds. Two, not-so-quick-and-painless stitches later and it was over and done with. (The doctors office scene is a whole other story, certainly one deserving it’s own post!)

Post sobbing came the God thanking: thinking about how fragile our lives are, how blessed we are!! Alhamdiallah!

And while I was thanking God, I got to thinking about the flipside, all those poor people whose countries are war-torn or poverty-stricken. The people of Palestine, Africa, Iraq, Sudan, Kenya – all these people whose injuries are not not-so-quickly-and-painlessly resolved by 2 stitches, either because of the increased severity of the injury or the lack of medical supplies/attention. After all, when it boils down we’re all human. Capable of feeling the same emotions, and most likely reacting in similar ways to similar situation pan-culturally. And so, I could imagine their anguish, their pain, their helplessness as clearly as I could feel it coursing through my veins. The mother mourning over her child, the orphans who weep for their parents. La Illaha Illa Allah. 

So, alhamidlillah, for today’s safe resolution. I pray for a similar resolution for the rest, inshAllah.

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