About the image of Muslim women being protrayed by the media.
|It was the first time Aisha was going to keep a fast and she was all excitement. The cook was going to prepare hundreds of tantalizing dishes and the Iftar (the time of day when the fast breaks) was going to be a complete feast held only in her honor.
She was thirteen years old and very much liked the idea that today everyone was going to treat her like an adult.
Guests from all over the family had been invited and her friends were not behind, in fact they had been the first guests to be officially invited and the first ones’ to ring the door bell of her house that evening. All the visitors were required by convention to bring gifts for the special person and it would be not be an understatement to say that Aisha got over a hundred presents.
She was a charming child and sitting with her friends in a corner happily chatting and eating away the delicious dinner, she glowed with the warmth of youth and beauty. Her merry laugh mingled with the buzz of civilized talk around her and her dark eyes sparkled with mirth and contentment. Aisha’s parents looked at their only child from amidst the crowd of people and felt their hearts melt with love for the daughter, the blessing that the Almighty had granted them after four years of marriage.
The large hall, decorated with colorful balloons and ribbons, was a delight to the eyes. All the chandeliers had been lit and the French windows left open to let the cool twilight air seep into the room and breathe yet more life and vitality into the party.
Aisha had, since infancy, seen her parents offer the five daily prayers with great diligence and punctuality, they would fast every Ramadan and give alms to the poor regularly. From the very beginning of her childhood she had been given a religious education and knew much about Islam.
Aisha had been enrolled in an all girls’ school and was being provided an exemplary education. She had a spacious room of her own, decorated by the help of an exclusive interior designer and had everything she ever wanted. But she was far from spoilt, the girl had from a very early age learnt to respect and nurture love for everyone in her pure heart.
And so with the month of Ramadan fading with November and the new moon shining in the night sky, signaling the end of the Holy month, Eid all over the Muslim world was celebrated with a blast of amazing dishes and sweet delights.
Eid had finally come. Aisha woke up in Eid day, so full of excitement that she could scarcely contain herself from exploding with joy. This is the day when one wears everything new and untarnished, starting from the same colored hair bands, new clothes and shoes to matching anklets. And best of all is the pleasure of receiving Eidee (money) from one’s elders as a gift on the special day.
Aisha had kept every one of the thirty fast and added this Ramadan into the diary of her experiences as one of the best things she had done that year. For sure, it is a difficult task to abstain from food and drink for twelve hours each day from dawn till dusk, yet all of the hard work is worth it in the end. Now Aisha knew what it is to be hungry, thirsty, sleepy and tired at all the same time. Her heart went out for those who have been deprived of the privileges we so casually discard and her sympathy for the poor increased tenfold.
Every day of Ramadan would start the same way: Ayah would wake her up before the crack of dawn and then after having her breakfast Aisha would offer the Morning Prayer. After that she would have to get ready and leave the cool interior of her large house to reach school in temperatures ranging as high as thirty-nine degree Celsius and then come home from school and do her homework etc, and wait for the sun to set before she could have even a single drop of water or one morsel of food.
The month of Ramadan having ended; life soon fell back into the same dull, old routine.
This was Aisha’s life four years ago, the present, however has taken a turn in an entirely new direction.
Aisha’s father has gained more wealth and prosperity than before, yet all of that success and money can scarcely save him from the cells eating away his body bits by bits every second and every hour that he lives.
Her mother too stays unwell; she has sudden and often severe attacks of migraine. The doctors say that she takes too much stress; something is eating her from the inside and if she does not fix the problem soon the illness will dangerously aggravate.
Both the parents are not happy with each other any more for some reason; it seems that the drift of time has detached them from one other in a gradual and painful way.
Aisha has now reached secondary school, a time of one’s life when the studies at school become increasingly difficult and the allure of friends and ‘having fun’ can no longer be ignored. She struggles to keep the life at home balanced with the life she has with her friends. Things are no longer as they had been before. Many a times Aisha’s friends call her and tell her to meet them somewhere: a shopping mall, a restaurant, a café, or an ice-cream parlor, the temptation is too great to resist and yet Aisha is confused as to what she is supposed to do.
Her friends had once invited her to ‘taste’ wine and a few brands of cigarettes. They shoplift just for ‘fun’; for them life is easy and simple and they say: ‘Our parents have too much stored up in banks, it’s high time some one spends some of it.’
This is just the tip of ice berg of her problems. If she wants to go out with these young people and remain in their social circle then she will have to dress like them and act like them, do the things that they do, which of coarse will be completely unacceptable to her parents (if they ever found out about Aisha going out with friends), who pride themselves over being proper Muslims.
And she asks herself: Should she leave home without finishing her homework and chores and risk being scolded for being irresponsible the next day? Is she supposed to tell her parents that she is going out with these friends?
Life seems a labyrinthine to her. Her priorities have all been mixed up. And she asks herself the same question again and yet again: should she choose the path of religion or the path of her friends and the media?
Aisha, just like any other teen-ager, is struggling to find out who she is…yet her choices are far more complicated and difficult than what most teenagers have to make. Choosing between following one’s religion and wanting to do what one sees other people doing is never an easy choice to make.
However, as far as studies are concerned, Aisha has already started applying to the best universities and having an impeccable academic record no university could ever possibly refuse to take her in. And just a few years from now she will be only steps away from living her life long dream of becoming a Marine Biologist.
This was Aisha’s life at a glimpse, her perfect childhood as a doting daughter of a Muslim family and her life as a teenager: confused and uncertain about the decisions she wants to make.
This Muslim girl may be very different from the average adolescent in some ways; she may be very similar to the average adolescent in other ways. Yet is she so different that she has become an object of such severe and adverse criticism all around the world? Should she not be looked upon the same way as is any other teenager?
Why do the media say that she is ‘oppressed’ and ‘suppressed’?
Is she caged behind the four walls of her house till she dies, as they say?
Does her religion enslave her to do the biddings of her husband and father even if those wishes go against her will?
Does her belief in one God and the last Prophet make her so unusual that she has ceased to be a normal person?
The media says so, the western media to be specific, says that Muslim girls are enslaved by their religion and their God. And the media has accomplished in making every one believe that the common Muslim girl is oppressed.
However, if we look at Islam we see otherwise. A Muslim woman has the ultimate right to earn her living if she wishes to. It is an Islamic law that her father can not marry her against her will, that she becomes a legal adult at the age of eighteen and has the complete right to make her own choices. She has the full freedom to earn her living and possesses the right to inherit her father’s property, wealth etc.
Her so called ‘hijab’ has become a symbol of oppression and she, infamous because of it. When one sees a girl covering her head or wearing the 'hijab' one immediately thinks that this girl may not be wearing the ‘hijab’ or covering her head had she not been forced to do it.
A Muslim girl’s ‘hijab’ or her dress is a symbol of her purity, her modesty and her dignity. A woman in Islam is like a ‘flower’, gentle and delicate. She is ‘fragrance’ and ‘prayer’. These are the very words of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Is she, by wearing modest clothes and covering her head, being oppressed or abused in any way?
It is true that there may be some cases when a Muslim girl is forced to wear a ‘hijab’, there may be some Muslim men, who beat their wives, yet can we classify ALL the Muslims as ‘backwards ‘and ‘suppressors’. Are there not American, European or African men who hit their wives and their children, have domestic abuse not spread all over the world? Women in many other areas, excepting religion, are forced to do things they don’t want to do.
Man has done a multitude of crimes over the centuries, some even so heinous and basely that the crimes become ‘inhuman’. And he does that of his won accord. Should we not blame man instead of the religion he believes in?
Religion can never be wrong. I say this because I believe that every religion is the word of God and the word of God can hardly be said to contain flaws.
Reader, summing everything up I ask myself, you and the world: Should we be willing to believe what other people say without confirming whether what they are telling us is true or not… Can we be so arrogant as to call every religion other than ours ‘inferior’ and ‘backwards’? Does man posses the power and does he have the right to use that power to judge any religion and any race other than his, before first having lived as the ones he is degrading have lived and believing in what they believe?