As I prepare to deliver this baby girl, and officially join the ranks of those who call themselves “mothers,” I take stock of all the additional responsibility I’ll have to take on. Changing diapers, bathing, grooming, feeding, and protecting: these are the absolute bare bones of parenting, a simple enough list that I think I can handle. But, on top of that, there’s also teaching (worldly and Islamic knowledge) providing an example of a good Muslim woman, exuding self love and confidence so she’ll have a solid base from which to launch her own self esteem, maintaining a healthy relationship with her father so she’ll know what a good marriage looks like, creating a welcoming and nurturing home environment so she’ll always feel comfortable and secure, staying abreast of her interests and concerns so she’ll always have someone to talk to, guiding her through puberty and all the other complicated transformations females go through, showing her how to be fashionable and Islamic, training her on the do’s and don’ts of cross-gender relations, educating her on what friendship is and isn’t… This list could go on forever.
And as if that weren’t enough to occupy my every waking moment, I’ll still have to find time to preserve my personal interests and maintain my marriage. Phew, I’m getting tired just typing this. Someone needs to come out with an energy bar formulated specially for women. We could pull it out and take a bite whenever we’re feeling drained and overwhelmed by being scrutinized by the entire world.
A popular quote says that “if you want to know the condition of a society, look at its women.” I guess everyone is interested in societies’ conditions, because we are constantly being inspected. Like cells in a Petri dish, we are continuously examined, dissected and analyzed. In fact, it seems there are few world problems that haven’t at least at some point been blamed on women:
- Are you a man cheating on your wife? It’s not your fault. It was the combined efforts of your inattentive wife and that home-wrecking hussy.
- Did Adam get kicked out of the Garden? You bet he did, all because of that impulsive Eve who just had to have something from that tree!
- Are you having trouble finding a job? Those darn independent women out there are taking all the jobs.
- Do you have schizophrenia? Your no-good mother screwed you up in childhood. (This one was actually considered fact at one point in the psychology field.)
- Why are contractions so painful when a woman has a baby? Because they’re being punished by God, those harlots! (This too was once considered fact in the early American medical model.)
- Is the world going to Hell in a hand basket? Of course it is, all these devilish women out here.
It’s almost as if women are the only ones capable of having a negative impact on the world. This seems to be the case in general society, but also within the Muslim communities. Though the religion of Islam brought liberation and improved conditions for pre-Islamic women, actual Muslims (some of them) have taken it upon themselves to be the harsh judges and dictators of women. This is not to say that women are perfect while men are really the devilish ones. It is to say that women get most, if not all, of the criticism and angry tirades while men seem to remain relatively unobserved.
For example, Muslims will and do engage in heated discussions about the covering of a woman’s hair, the showing of her feet, or the color of her clothing. There seems to be far less heat and debate, however, around men-centered topics that, to me, are much more worthy of serious discussion, like leadership, business endeavors, and proper and gentle treatment of wives and children. From America to the Muslim World, overall Muslim leadership seems to be declining. Discuss that. Some business owners take the ideal of Islamic ethics and conduct as a mere suggestion rather than an obligation. Discuss that. Some husbands are extremely callous and disrespectful toward their wives and children. Discuss that. These are serious problems in our communities that should take precedence over the “all-black abaya vs. colored” debate.
In Islam, men have certain responsibilities and women have certain responsibilities. They are all important and should be taken seriously, but would it not make sense to begin to put more emphasis on our men, our providers, our leaders, our protectors, our imams, our fighters? I understand how tempting it must be to focus all attention on women–we’re beautiful, alluring, and a constant reminder of Islam. Our prescribed style of dress marks us as beacons for the entire world to see. Like a single red rose amongst a sea of yellow daisies, we stand out in a most beautiful way. Don’t punish us for this. Correct us when we sin and give us reminders so that we may stay aware, but don’t forget to do the same for yourselves. Your improper actions are just as wrong and punishable as ours. Remember this just as often as you remember us.