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In the shower, I nicked myself, on accident. I prefer to wax, so I hadn’t shaved my legs in a long time, since waxing is considerably more convenient. But having decided on laser hair removal for the benefit of silky smooth legs, I was no longer permitted to wax between sessions. I’d decided to handle a razor, and I stared in shower-trance at the soft tiny fuzz gathered between the blades, which the cascading water was not forceful enough to disengage. I swiped the hair off with a finger in a single swift motion–horizontally, in the direction the blades ran, rather than vertically, which would have unlocked them.
Since the blades were sharp, there was no pain to warn me, but my mind bolted alive at once, conscious of hitting the wrong note somewhere, of peculiar activity, of moving in a way I shouldn’t have. I stopped and pulled away before the blades penetrated too deeply. It looked like a neat cat scratch, from a very tiny cat; for a few seconds, I thought I had not broken skin, but I knew this could not be true. I waited. Sure enough, minuscule droplets of blood formed along the edges.
This wasn’t an ordinary shower. I had just finished menstruating: it was farz gusl. In any other circumstance, regardless, drawing blood would have invalidated the state of ritual purity. If I were frantic enough, I would have stopped the water, leapt out of the shower, thrown on a towel–or maybe even clothes–applied bandages in dismay, made sure give it a few minutes until I was certain the bleeding had stopped entirely, and sulked over whether I had destroyed everything before proceeding to redo everything I had undone. I know this woman. I receive emails from her all the time. I love her and wish her well. She even birthed me. And I am always pained by her self-deprecation, her perfectionism of faith… her unjustified guilt.
I used to preform the same prayers over and over, convinced I had done them wrong.
But there, in the shower, watching tiny droplets of blood form, I did not turn off the water, dry myself, and begin again from the first step. I pressed the finger to my lip to stop the bleeding. I thought of God and smiled and kissed it. I performed ablution, gave everything a final rinse, and stepped out of the shower. And then I prayed.
To the woman writing to me, asking whether she should bleach her clothes, her sofa, her bedsheets, everything she ever touched, love, you already know. There is a reason you are writing to me and not a sheikh. You will not allow yourself to hear the truth you have already told yourself. The reasonableness, the practicality, the compassion that you know is Islam–your heart is leading you to where you know it is reflected, and you have the answer already.
I hope this post finds everyone well, happy, and looking forward to a new beginning, despite the reality that a new journey around the sun involves no indication that our old problems won’t continue. (They most certainly will.) With the acknowledgement that I am a little late, I’d like to begin the new year with a kind of post that I don’t normally write: a reminder.
As most of my (close) friends know, I detest “reminders”–which are usually just patriarchal disguises for slut-shaming, gender-shaming, you’re-not-practicing-your-religion-properly shaming, and all kinds of other shaming in the guise of “reminding” you to be their definition of a better Muslim. It’s the sign-off for every man politely bullying Muslim women to remain patient, kind, and hijabed: “And I remind myself before I remind anyone else.” (Except, of course, he doesn’t; that’s why he’s arrogant enough to regulate your modesty.)
So, I’m not the type to bestow an entire khutbah uninvited–oh, of course I am. Apparently, as evidenced by this post. But lately, I’ve noticed something in other people that I recognized because I do it myself as well, though hopefully not as often anymore. But I want you to know this is forbidden. Forbidden! Listen closely, because other than alcohol and sexual harassment (two unrelated things) and occasionally bananas, your author forbids things neither often nor easily.
It’s tempting, and I know firsthand, to believe that when an event devastates us, or hurts us, or otherwise doesn’t flower as planned, it’s because we don’t deserve the thing in question, or we deserve to be punished. I’ve done this with smaller things–hurting my ankle over my high heels, or catching my brush in my hair, or (cringe) the comb-to-earring phenomenon. I’d stop and wince at the pain and think, “Well, that was for a past or future sin.” I want everyone who does this–and I’ve seen it, so I know there’s quite a few of you, to stop and consider the enormity of what you’ve just done (to yourself.)
Verse 29:10, which I’ve cited on this website before, reads:
They treat men’s oppression
as if it were the Wrath
and I if it isn’t obvious from the hundreds (hundreds?) of posts I’ve already written, I tend to like to clip and magnify verses into brief bits of poetry like that, for the effect. I’ve used this verse to address systemic oppression, especially since patriarchal men behave as though their oppression is mandated by God. But since every ayah of the Quran can be applied in various colors, in shades and degrees of truth, let’s broaden the context of the lines to the entirety of the verse. “And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in God,’ but when one (of them) is harmed, they consider the persecution as [if it were] the punishment of God. But if victory comes from God, they say, ‘Indeed, God is with us.’ Is not God most knowing of what is within the breasts of all creatures?”
It isn’t only detrimental to the health of your soul to believe that God is punishing you, this verse indicates that such an attitude is offensive to God. Whenever one reads the Qur’an, there is a feeling of peace with the reoccurring realization that God is hardly ever offended by the endless list of petty things men claim offends God, but that what is actually indicated as being offensive to God demonstrates even more deep compassion. It is a mark of the Feminine Divine, of Mercy and Graciousness, that is imbued in every verse encouraging us not to harm ourselves with hurtful thoughts exactly like these.
What’s astounding about the verse is how far it goes: the act of believing one is being punished by God with a misfortune is not only written as an act that is hurtful, but one that is hypocritical. The verse says it is hypocritical to believe “God is with us” when we face victory and not when we face harm, and the next line, “God knows what is in your heart,” often repeated when one is being disingenuous in her faith, confirms this reading. It also hints that true punishment means that God is not with us, by equating the belief that we are being punished with the belief that God is absent from us–the opposite of the mindset that God’s reign is to be associated with punishment. Pain isn’t beautiful, and it isn’t Divine.
Understandably, we want to believe that God’s punishment translates to our closeness with God, because it must mean that our pain is meaningful, or that if we are punished it means God is near for the punishing. But the verse commands us to believe that God is near in the duration of the punishing, not as the source of the punishment. I’ve heard imams and hafizes and religious scholars alike make claims that, “If we could see how much sin God removes from us when we are sick, we would wish to be sick all our lives.” This, I think, is an unholy way of twisting what would have been an otherwise beautiful sentiment: that God is with us in pain, because God is with us always, but that pain isn’t something to uphold as desirable, or holy, or something to seek out, or–I emphasize–something to justify.
God does not want you to justify being “punished.”
Please remember that this year, and always. And be good to yourselves. Nothing distresses me like receiving emails and emails filled with women deprecating themselves, women who are convinced their misfortunes–and their oppressions–are punishments from God, who are frantic in “saving” their souls and redeeming themselves. This, this calamity, has nothing to do with God. God isn’t the source. Oppressors are. And, non-Muslims who happen to read this, if you don’t mind, consider it a religious lecture for you too. And be good to yourselves. Take care of your souls.
You have the right to bear children. No one may enter your body and alter the state of your existence with an entitled twist of cold medical instruments. If you are impoverished, you have the right to bear children. If you are disabled, you have the right to bear children. If you are of color, you have the right to bear children. If you are transgender, if you are intersex, if you are not heterosexual, if you are diaspora embodied, if you are ill, if you cannot read this, you have the right to bear children. You have the right to bear children in a country that is not yours. You have the right to bear children who may “burden” society for 18 years. You have the right to bear children of men who resemble you. You have the right to bear children of men whose hearts have been crushed by the weight of distress. You have the right to bear children of women in male bodies. You have the right to bear children you cannot afford. You have the right to bear children who are disabled, of color, transgender, like you. You have the right to bear children. You have the right to love, and you have the right to bear children.
And once they have been birthed, your children have the right to exist.
Ayelet Shaked is a parliament member and lawmaker in Israel, the settler state built on Palestinian land, who remarked that all Palestinian mothers “have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” appearing unaware that her agenda and occupation of Palestinian land breeds the “terrorists” intent on re-securing their homes and human rights. Although Shaked supposedly represents only the politically far-right of Israel, the rest of the occupying state actualizes her vision, as more than 425 Palestinian citizens have been killed and over 3,000 are injured. At least 100 of these are “terrorist” children.
At Shifa Hospital, a girl who looked about 9 was brought into the emergency room and laid on a gurney, blood soaking the shoulder of her shirt. Motionless and barely alive, she stared at the ceiling, her mouth open. There was no relative with her to give her name. The medical staff stood quietly around her. Every now and then, they checked her vital signs, until it was time. They covered her with a white sheet, and she was gone. A few moments later, a new patient lay on the gurney.
On the side of the occupiers, 18 soldiers are killed, and 2 citizens.
The tactics of the occupiers to target women to prevent the birth of children are unsurprising, given both the widespread implementation of ethnic cleansing throughout the history of any illegal occupation as well as Israel’s obsession of producing a nation of non-black Jewish citizens in order to maintain the majority. Not only have Bedouin women been aware for decades of the shifty atmosphere,
But the hospital also inspires troubling rumors, the most alarming of which involves a general distrust of Caesarean sections owing to fears of un-consented sterilization. Other rumors suggest that hospitals “use Bedouin women’s placentas for all kinds of experiments and even sell them.”
but these “rumors” are supported as Israeli officials admit that Ethiopian Jewish immigrants are forcibly sterilized. The immigrants themselves have verified this claim.
“They told me if you don’t take the shot, we won’t give you a ticket, so I took the shot, but I didn’t know that it would prevent pregnancies. I didn’t know,” one woman told RT correspondent Paula Slier.
The vaccination, Depo-Provera, forcibly sterilized 13,000 impoverished women, half of whom were black, in the U.S. state of Georgia as a cruel human experiment during which several of the women were unaware that their bodies were being used for immoral scientific advancement. A great many of them died. Consequently, white women were provided with safe methods of birth control.
The same injection has been forcibly used for several years on Ethiopian women in the settler state, a strategic method to curb a population it views as inferior. Forced sterilization, under the guise of “birth control” campaigns, has been paraded by several United States organizations (as well as employed in US-backed Israel) throughout non-white countries, carried out by even reputably benevolent organizations, such as the Peace Corps. As Frances M. Beal writes in “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” “[…]what the authorities in charge of these programs refer to as “birth control” is in fact nothing but a method of outright surgical genocide.[…] Under these circumstances, it is understandable why certain countries view the Peace Corps not as a benevolent project, not as evidence of America’s concern for underdeveloped areas, but rather as a threat to their very existence. This program could more aptly be named the Death Corps.” In the United States, Beal notes, “Threatened with the cut-off of relief funds, some Black welfare women have been forced to accept this sterilization procedure in exchange for a continuation of welfare benefits.”
Following suite after its unrelenting sponsor the United States, the Israeli settlers of Palestine have denied Ethiopian Jewish women relief (apparently you’re not promised the Promised Land by God if you’re black?) unless they accept a vaccine that will sterilize them. In traditional Judaism, sterilization is illegal.
And God created humankind, so that we may be guardians of the Earth.
When Lilith was born, a quiescent soul in the full formation of a woman, she gazed only at the vast, flower-covered land across her dark eye. In the meadow she saw her destiny unfolded, and she lifted her gleaming halo of hair to the sempiternal reign of movement above her and sighed a quiet aubade. The rush of the stars crowned her with the force of all that would come. And, having no alternative, the weeping willow wept.
Lilith titled her magnificent head, and as she was asked, she Named. She named herself, and all that was around her, and when she had finished, she found pleasure in the likeness of things.
She grouped what she had named together by likeness, so that they might find pleasure in each other and know one another.
It seemed to her, at first, that she had placed these shapes into groups by the most arbitrary method, but even the wildest thing has patterns, its own rhyme and rhythm, and though she was involved more in an artistic concept—she delighted herself in this thought—she supposed that somewhere deep in her mind she had been following an almost unintentional demand. Expressively, she accorded to an inclination that did not consist of categorizing as a basic standard, but rather a hidden one; but human beings themselves, which Lilith had come to understand she was, are uncomfortable with imbalance, so she decided. Even the designs she had created with these shapes—though their categorizing seemed arbitrary—formed to have a certain balance, and balance is one of the important properties of art, declared Lilith. She could not know exactly what she had been thinking, for it was thought so deep it might not have even existed; to be simple she was merely following whatever her heart had desired, and wherever her mind was at the moment is almost thinkable—the categorizing was based on the whims of her design. She was free to do whatever she felt, without apparent form of thought.
In the practice she had found, at the very least, a sense of control; organization, and—if she were to categorize herself with things of her likeness—a sense of belonging. She liked to be in control of what she did, and she liked to see things from certain points of view. Placing objects, ideas, and such things into groups enabled her to take care of these needs and feel a tug of control over herself that put her to peace. Were something to be lost, uncategorized, or imbalanced, she reasoned, it would make her feel discomfort, and she would fidget around with it with a mind that refused to silence itself.
And so Lilith organized the Named Things to care for them, and to Tend to the Earth, but she knew and could foresee that she would soon be at home with loneliness and disorganization. And, having no alternative, the weeping willow wept.
She was watching the heavens from a red earthly cave when Lilith heard that she had apparently descended upon the Red Sea; her silvery laugh trinkled like rainwater on glass in sheer amusement. Even before the rumor, she had felt herself fracturing, into—she calculated—at least two pieces. Fate was lining the skies, and the forthcoming desires of men to govern and dictate her would cleave her body into shedding a new being.
“They will call her Eve,” she mused, “and Lilith will forever be known to be among the demons.”
After a moment, she turned to Adam at her side and smiled, “My own children will say I am barren.”
Adam gazed into the distance, his eyes clouded with remorse for the garden. Upon his expulsion he had searched for his love every day, and was at least partially content in finding Lilith at last at the peak of the mountain from which the sun rose. Twice the determined, pining romantic, Lilith had searched both day and night—
“—but it will be Eve who is known to have searched for you,” narrates Lilith. “And it will be you who is known as the fearless romantic, the white knight, the trope of the driving lover in the form of the masculine anchor.” And she leaned back, with a content smile, as though ready to birth her history. And before the sideways gaze of Adam she transformed into a new woman.
First her face, her hands, her legs, the shift in the darkness of her hair, and sighing at him there, was Eve, with all of the soft femininity of Lilith; Eve, a fully domestic creature, and only a fraction of the wildness that had, over and over, broken his heart.
“Lilith?” he whispered.
The creature looked over her crown of hair and smiled with a strangeness that, with a makeshift spark, belonged at once to the woman he’d remembered, disappeared.
“Lilith,” cried Adam.
Eve reached out to comfort him. “We cannot always be wild things.”
He shed silent tears for a while, then asked quietly, “Where did you go?”
Eve tilted her head. “The Red Sea, my dear. We will make right among the demons.”
It is said that Lilith married the Devil, but it is only true that, when the newly she-demon saw her fate written in the stars, she came to visit him in the middle of the Red Sea. Having left Adam with Eve—the tamer ghostly adaptation of herself—she searched day and night once again for love. It is only true that she offered him love. It is only true she came to forgave him for her Fall from the Garden, for she knew what was Written, and so did he. And what soul of God would not pity what she had named as her likeness?
She spoke to him:
You knew, they said, how to Love. The way you worshipped, you were a creature of fire so much like an angel that you practically became of their esteem. There was not a place on this earth, they said, that your forehead had not touched.
Lucifer, how did you fall?
And what need did you have to drag this world down with you?
They blame you for all of corruption and it is true that when you have reason to leave me I feel as light and as good and as sweet as though it were what I was created to be. When you are absent the desire to do only good comes quickly, easily, rushing like instinct, instead of the dreary, dragging way I sometimes pull myself up, struggling, foreseeing the afterlife to save myself rather than dropping to my knees out of love. Sometimes, at my weakest, it is only a battle against you in my mentality, because I had refused to let you win.
And most times, even in your presence, I Submit out of Love.
And many times, even in your absence, there is contempt in the world. Have you not seen how I was Broken in Two?
And this is because, Lucifer, as I’m sure you’ve been aware, that these humans who have struck your jealousy, are corrupt in themselves as well.
They mock you and judge you in their speech and are yours a moment later. And they say this is because they have been possessed by you. The devil, they say, comes in pleasing forms. Like me. Like Lilith.
But you don’t.
You never come in disguise.
Murder! Theft! Injustice! When I look you in the face I know it is you.
They credit you too much in your work. Or too little in your knowledge. You know mortal beings are weak enough so that disguise would be a waste of time. And some of them can not see that they are corrupt themselves, but how else would they oblige while knowing it is you?
And so, Lucifer, I, Lilith, will not judge you. If the devil can change one, it is because one is changeable.
And when Lilith finished, Lucifer, the hater of humanity, his eye gleaming, kept his promise to make men dance for his amusement until the world fell, but he promised Lilith that day that he would, from the middle of the barren Red Sea, spare Adam’s soul for ever.
When Lucifer offered to spare only one other, only hers, she laughed and kissed him. “You fool. I need no sanctuary from the likes of you.”
And the barren Lilith birthed a flight of ruthless demons.
“Fire will conquer the world,” she sang. “But justice will come. And Guardians will be Appointed.”
And, knowing the children of Adam would fail in their original task, Lilith whispered to the Earth, “My Love, I am your Guardian.”
I will never defend, accept, or fail to denounce a depiction of the Prophet by a Westerner, regardless of their excuse, progressive or offensive.
Depicting the Prophet is an injustice, and it is an injustice because the West has a habit of ignoring the copyright-by-virtue-of-existing laws, those which it conveniently affords itself, when regarding the works of ‘foreigners’:
It is an injustice because Picasso is credited and celebrated for inventing ‘cubism’ while his people destroyed the African art from which cubism was inspired. Meanwhile they named it something new–‘cubism’–repackaged it as a white invention and sold it for millions among themselves, while they called the originals “primitive art.”
It is an injustice because Africans were not thought of as Christians until the presence of missionaries in the African continent, when in reality the religion had been practiced in the continent long before Jesus had light hair and blue eyes.
It is an injustice because not only can the works of a people be appropriated, but so can the people themselves, whether in whitewashed depictions of Jesus or in white men invoking the name of MLK Jr. to lecture frustrated people of color about peace.
It is an injustice because conspiracy theorists suggest that aliens built the pyramids of Egypt and Mayan temples instead of each respective native population, because that is more likely; no one would ever think question that the Greeks and Romans built anything.
It is an injustice because the Swastika, once a symbol of peace, eternity, and infinity, is now associated and can only be associated with Nazis.
It is an injustice because contemporary fashion designers derive their inspiration from traditional cultures in Africa and Asia with no mention of the names responsible for originals; the works, arts, cultures, and labor of a people of color are the property of the public as long as that public is white.
It is an injustice because only Western copyright laws when applying to Western ‘creators’ are elevated over the global economy; any culture who does not attribute rights in a way that the West can understand is subjected to the thievery of their creative work and the capital derived from it.
It is an injustice because due to the aforementioned, because Muslims refuse to engage in the depictions of their Prophets, the face of the Prophet becomes grounds for opportunist warfare.
As the West cannot accept the disengagement of Muslims, whether Western or Eastern, from visually ‘claiming’ the physique of the Prophet, the West enforces a dynamic in which Muslims feel pressured to engage in a Western-type practice of depicting religious figures, a pseudo-conversion and abandonment of self-identity, in fear that the Prophet will be caricaturized and misconceived by the interpretations of the West if these interpretations are allowed to stand alone.
It is an injustice because depictors of the Prophet Muhammad believe their approach to religious figures, to anyone or anything, to be the default approach to the world, to trump all other forms of religious or cultural practice, and to believe that the absence of depiction, of the visual, is the concession to be conquered and altered, silence as evidence of compliance.
A non-Muslim drawing the Prophet Muhammad makes the Prophet Muhammad, his image, and his legacy, immediately inaccessible to Muslims who practice Islam by not creating images of him. It successfully privileges the non-Muslim view of him, as a racist caricature, when no imagery from practicing Muslims can exist to combat this view.