Re: The Joys of Muslim Women by Nonie Darwish

This morning while at work.. I decided to IM my mom to see how she is doing taking care of my grandmother in Madison, WI.  I could tell you all the details of why my mom is out in the Mid West but what I really want to tell you is that my mom got an email that pissed her off, frustrated and scared her big time.  Now why would an email trigger these emotions in my mother?  Because it’s an email being forwarded around the internet by a majority Christian and Jewish population espousing hate for Muslims, Islam and Sharia Law written by an Egyptian woman – Nonie Darwish.   My mom was livid and frustrated A. That someone would email her this type of crap and B. She didn’t know enough to respond in an articulate way to this email and article to the individual who sent this to her.
My mother is a woman born in 1961, who grew up and lived in and attended schools racial segregated.  One of her memories of this she shared with me – was that she was the only white friend of one of the few bussed in African-American students in Riverside, CA.  Now my mother was taught to accept everyone – by my grandmother a woman who lived through WWII as a child and then took up the call for racial equality as a married white woman in California.  My grandmother is a proud member of amnesty International and firmly believes in social justice and equality for everyone.  My mother grew up and then joined the Communist Party in the 1970’s, picketed and protested with the best of them.  So the level of hate, prejudice and ignorance displayed in the article – had my mom asking for my help to respond and educate the individuals sharing this article.
Alhumdualillah.
The first thing to understand is who wrote this article and what the author’s motivation was behind it.  Nonie Darwish is an individual who although born an Egyptian  Muslim in  has decide to leave the faith of Islam. Why? Let her answer that question – see the following interview on Youtube where she explains in her own words  why she decided to leave Islam-
Part One:
So… having now gotten her perspective on Islam and why she left. It’s obvious that Nonie Darwish was drawn to Christianity for various reasons.. but what strikes me is the broad generalizations about Islam.  Nonie Darwish’s experience with Islam is valid – I won’t deny this.  Her experience is a reflection of the geopolitical climate at the time she was a young woman – 1940’s – 1950’s in Egypt – in which the state of Palestine was dealing with sudden influx of a large European Jewish population as result of the Holocaust and then in 1948 the state of Israel was declared.  The catch is its only her experience does not reflect the majority of Muslim’s experience.  She discusses the term kufar – which is often interpreted to mean a non believer – but literally refers to one who rejects god, denies or hides the truth. She also throws out the term “Infidel” – which if you check out- Wikipedia (-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidel )you will see this is a term also used in Christianity to describe non- believers as well.

Nonie also mentions that Muslim’s don’t ever discuss or adhere to the concept of being sinners.  This is also false – our Holy Qur’an states,”O you who believe! Turn (in repentance) to Allah with sincere repentance; Perhaps your Lord will remove your evil from you… “(66:8)  Why would you need to repent if you never sinned?   Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) said, “If you were to not commit sins, Allah would remove you and replace you with a people who would commit sins and then seek Allah’s forgiveness, so Allah could forgive them.” [Sahîh Muslim (2749)] Note this Hadith is Sahih – meaning authentic. If you would like to read further information on how Hadith’s are ranked by evidence – please check out this link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith_terminology#Muttasil.  The idea of being sinners is constantly discussed in Islam, the Qur’an and amongst the Muslim Community (Ummah).  An individual is not saved from Hell simply because they have said the testament of faith (Shahada) and believes that Mohammad is the final Prophet.  Taking Shahada does wipe all previous major and minor sins away – if you revert to Islam- and it’s a one time deal – Just FYI.  Prayer (Salat) is the major way in which Muslims seek forgiveness for their minor sins throughout the day.  This is also the purpose of going on pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) or the lesser version (Umrah) – is to seek forgiveness for major sins.

Nonie also states that mosques (masjid being the proper term) are filled with hate.  I strongly disagree with this as someone who has attended many different masjids in America and in Egypt – there can be fire and brimstone rhetoric just as much as you would find in a Christian church, the majority I have attended usually are seeking to ask us to reflect on ourselves specifically our character and how we can improve it – so we can be better Muslims.  I think personally Nonie is again referencing the amount of tension, frustration and disappointment  that not just Egypt but surrounding Arab nations were feeling at the declaration of the state of Israel.   She says,”Very little forgiveness was taught under my.. and then catches herself and says Islam.” Forgiveness and making excuses is a big part of Islam.  I constantly hear people apologize and seek the forgiveness not just of Allah (God) but of those around them – Muslim or non-Muslim.  Muslims pray for anyone they feel they need to pray for, I personally constantly pray for the guidance of my family to Islam, if not that then that they come to understand and be educated about Islam, I pray for the protection of my family and friends, I pray for world peace, I pray for an end to world hunger, I pray for more patience, I pray that the world leaders are rightly guided to enable everyone to coexist together in peace, I pray for Allah (God) to show me the world as it truly is – among the many things I have prayed for.

What else might be motivating her? Her father Colonel Mustafa Hafez was killed by a mail bomb – in a target assassination by the Israeli Defense Force in 1956.  How this effected her, along with the cultural and political climate of Egypt also needs to be taken into account.

So let’s clear the air with some cold cut facts.

Fact Number One – Nonie Darwish is not an Islamic Scholar or a journalist by trade.  As an author she is not academically qualified to discuss Islamic Law (Sharia) as noted by her lack of credentials although she does hold a Bachelors in Sociology and Psychology from the American University in Cairo.  If she was a journalist she would know the basic rules which includes providing sources for the religious rulings (fatwa) or Islamic laws you are citing in an effort to ensure the legitimacy of the article you are publishing and putting out on an international forum for criticism.

She states that a Muslim man can marry a child as young as one year of age and consumate the marriage by the age of 9.  It would be a good know which specific example Nonie is referring to – in the case of the  United States of America the Assembly of American Muslim Jurists (AMJA) http://www.amjaonline.com/index.php- has ruled that Muslim’s should follow the law of the nation-state in which they reside unless it contradicts that of Sharia (Religious Law) of Islam.  In addition for a marriage contract to be valid the woman’s permission must be given if it’s not then marriage isn’t Islamically valid according to Hadith Sahih ul Jami no. 930 and 389 recorded by Ahmed and Nasai as well as hadith collected by Tabarani (in Al- Kabir) and Abu Yala , verified authentic by al- Albani (Sahih ul Jami no.300 and as- Sahihah no.1206)

Mahr (Dowry) is given to the woman who the man is marrying, its a mandatory gift.  The dowry is the sole right of the woman – no one can take it from her even her parents – without her permission.  The purpose of the dowry is to ensure the woman has asset that can sustain her in the case of divorce or death of her husband.  Traditionally this means an amount of money or property of a specific monetary amount from $1 – to the limit of your imagination.  Recently the current trends among women is asking for in some cases things of non monetary value such as the husband to quit smoking, living in a specific location, taking Hajj by a certain date together or perhaps never having to do the dishes.

A woman can always seek divorce in Islam.  Islam is the first of the major world religions to give women the right to divorce, before Judaism with their (Get) and the Catholic Church which is an annulment religiously speaking not a divorce.  If you are familiar with King Henry the Eighth’s story then you would know that the right of divorce is only becomes a reality after King Henry separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church so that he is then able to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn the second of his total of six wives.  A Muslim woman has the right to divorce her husband for abuse in addition to his inability to sexually satisfy her.  Women are not viewed as “toys” or sexual objects – women are held in high esteem within the religion of Islam and the Ummah (Muslim Community) given that the first convert to Islam was a woman – Khadijah and the first martyr of Islam was a woman Sumayah.

In the case of adultery there does need to be 4 witnesses to observe the actual act.  The act of rape isn’t mentioned in the Qur’an only adultery.

According to Sharia (Islamic Religious Law) a Muslim man does have a right to four wives.  However according to the individual man – he may or may not desire more than one wife.  Islamic scholars view having more than one wife as a better alternative to adultery because this is a major sin.  Muslim women can in their marriage contract specify that their husband can only have one wife.  Increasingly more and more Muslim men are seeking to have only one wife for economic and religious obligations are high that  a man has to fulfill with each wife.  If a man has more than one wife, he has to provide the exact same of everything for each wife and the children with each of those wives – if one wife lives in a house – the other wife should have a house of similar value, location etc.  If a man fails to provide equally for his wives, not just monetarily but emotionally and physically.. he is accountable on the Day of Judgement.  In Islam one every person has rights that need to be observed, if they aren’t this is seen as oppression and in the case of Marriage another ground for divorce.

Nonie when she says that a Muslim man can have a prostitute for an hour this is false.  If she is referring anything close to any Islamic concept it’s to temporary marriage (Mut’ah).  Mut’ah is where the marriage contract has a specific time limit – this is something that within the Shia tradition is still continued but within the Sunni tradition rejected it because the intention for marriage should be for a life time and the Sunni’s realized the many people were abusing this tradition and using it as a way to attempt to legalize prostitution which is a sin and forbidden in Sunni Islam although this is one of the areas the scholars don’t have consensus on – so  as we say amongst ourselves as Muslim – Allah (God) knows best – and leave it there.  I could also attempt to cover the differences between Sunni and Shia Islamic traditions but that would be a two semester long lecture – and that would just be the introduction – so I am going to skip that.

Sharia Law binds every part of every section of the Islamic society and community – from how we do business transactions to how we get married, die, interact with those outside our faith to even the smallest things such as opening a door or visiting a neighbor or relative.  Islam is a complete religion thus it’s not just women who are bound but men as well.

Just to clarify final points – Jihad often defined to in the media as holy war – actually literally defined as to struggle – there are actually two types of Jihad – the lesser Jihad  which refers to holy war and the greater jihad – al nafs – meaning the struggle with one’s inner self which is the greater and more spiritually rewarding of the two types.

And secondly the fact is that there already are enough Muslims in the United States to elected a Muslim president if they had the desire to – but a Muslim’s focus isn’t on this life – we are merely travellers here – a Muslim’s focus is on the afterlife and ensuring they please Allah (God) with their good deeds and good character.  Muslim’s don’t care to impose Sharia on anyone – as long as they are free to practice their religion free from interference – so that they might simply coexist peacefully with everyone.

If you are desiring to know more about Muslims and Islam – I highly encourage you to read the following books –

The Message of the Holy Quran by Mohammed Asad – The best version of the Qur’an in my opinion that has excellent foot notes and historical context in relation to the revelation of the Qur’an.

Who Speaks for Islam?- John Esposito- A great quick read that answers many common questions about Muslims and Islam – with statistics taken from a Gallup poll taken by  Muslims.

The Sealed NectarThe story of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) written by Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri or you can check out – The Sirah of the Final Prophet – written by S.M. Hassan Al Banna

or if your not a reader.. please check out this series of videos on Youtube entitled, “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.”

In conclusion I highly urge you to think critically about the author of the piece The Joys of Muslim Women – as its obvious from the little research I have done on her that her agenda is clear – its political and religious based on the books she has authored, blog posts and articles she has published.  Nonie Darwish’s intent isn’t to foster relationships that allow for understanding and finding the commonalities – her intent is to motivate people through fear by creating an “other” of Muslims and Islam.  Islam is an Abrahamic faith, revealed in the same region as the Torah was to the Musa (Moses) and the Bible was to Isa (Jesus).  My intent here was to simply provide facts and my own experience as an American woman who chooses Islam as her faith – so I freely acknowledge my own bias.  I guess the question is does Nonie Darwish recognize and acknowledge hers?

I hope this blogpost/email fosters a new beginning of thinking critically about Islam and Muslims and finding the commonalities between the Abrahamic faiths – InshaAllah (God Willing)

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