Yesterday we had a ‘fashion exchange party’ at Raz…elle’s house. Basically everyone who comes should bring 5 or more almost new items that have been washed and pressed to the party. We then set all these things up around the room on hangers. We had over 100 things! Cute long shirts, pants, skirts, pretty tops, little jackets, hijabs, jilbabs, whole desi lengha outfits, sweaters, purses of all sizes and colors, even some boots and shoes! Each had its own little area or section. It was definitely a boutique in there!
Those who came early got to ‘preview’ the items, trying stuff on, checking out what was available. Then once everyone was there, we put folded pieces of paper with numbers on them into a bowl that everyone had to pick from. Once everyone picked their number randomly, the #s were the order people could choose items. (We had 15 girls.) So #1 and #2 went up and chose the items they liked and tried them on, then #3 and #4, etc, and we kept going around from there 2 at a time till we came back to #1&2 again and kept going until we had no more items left or no one wanted anything anymore. (We were supposed to go around based upon the number of items we brought but that didn’t end up happening so I’d recommend having a required least number of items each person has to bring because it might not feel fair to others if someone brings 2 items and brings home 20)
Since most of the girls were size 0s it was hard to find things that fit me, but I ended up with a few nice items including a gorgeous beaded jilbab, a pink skirt, a desi lengha outfit, a purse, a teal sweater dress and a cute smallish top. There were a few other items I was lusting after but others got to them before me, or they didn’t fit But I think it ended up that every girl got at least 1 or 2 things they really wanted.
It was actually a really interesting exercise and a great way of getting new things to wear without spending money and being too materialistic about it. We all have tons of things in our closet that are practically new or even are new! but we never wear or don’t know what to do with. What better way than to give it away to your friends and maybe get something in return. I’d really recommend people try this in their communities.
After everyone was done choosing, we put together all the items that were left to give to a muslim and non-muslim charity. And then we ate some great food and desserts and drank soda and lemonade that Razzle prepared mostly and hung out talking. Somehow the topic ended up on what girls find attractive in a guy. (Don’t ask me how it got there I don’t know either!) We ended up going around each one of us answering, talking, discussing, eating and laughing hysterically until about 1am.
To be quite honest I was really suprised by the answers. Every one of us had a different idea of what we found attractive. Different personalities, like quiet, talkative, outgoing, introvert, passionate, charming, different characteristics, everything under the sun, everyone wanted something different. Even like small little physical things I never would have thought of, like long/short hair/fingernails/artistic fingers/jawlines/veins/sideburns and so on. Just weird… maybe that does mean there is someone out there for everyone??
This is an excerpt from a new book by Aisha Bewley called Muslim Women: A Biographical Dictionary that I thought was quite excellent and quite relevant.
As my gantsta G Imam Suhaib Webb says… yo women were not made to be biryani marathon makers and slave away in the kitchen, son! (rephrased by me from his MOB (Mothers of the Believers) audio set)
As regards the present, it is clear that there is a need to re-assess all our preconceptions and misconceptions about women’s role and realise that women are a vast resource for the Muslim community — in all spheres of action. After all, women comprise more than half of the community. If half the community is neglected, what will be the state of the community as a whole?
There is too great a tendency among many Muslims to relegate and restrict women’s roles to that of a mother and housewife, but as we can see from the historical record, this is a fairly modern convention. Indeed, housework is not part of the duties included in the marriage contract unless specified – at least in Maliki fiqh. A husband should appreciate the fact that the woman does the housework because it is the equivalent of a gift on her part. This is not to say that there have not been women who were only housewives, but certainly up until modern times there has been far more diversity among Muslim women than in other cultures, this being ensured by the fact that in Islam a woman is recognised and accepted as a distinct spiritual and legal entity. A woman controls her own wealth and does not automatically share it with her husband. Ultimately she – like her husband – is only answerable to Allah. Only ignorance limits the realisation of a person’s full potential, man or woman.
The problem with the modern stereotype is that it seems to force a necessary choice: either be a wife/mother or pursue a career. Doing both has always been an option, especially where there is an extended family including servants both male and female, in marked contrast to the single parent/nuclear family – limited, confined and enslaved by its own situation. Quite clearly Islam has always allowed women to expand their scope according to their needs, aspirations and ability. A Muslim woman may have a career or a wider social role, but is not forced to do so.
The education of women is crucial to the well-being of society. We know the oft-quoted saying, “Al-umm madrasa.” “The mother is a school.” If the mother is lacking in knowledge, what is the school going to be like? What are the children going to learn? If she is lacking in knowledge, then they will be lacking in knowledge. The importance of women’s education is self-evident.
Men are women are a mutual help and support. They should both appreciate and inspire one another. There has always been the possibility in the human situation of the truly collaborative couple – in contrast to the imprisoning daily drama of alternate chapters of war and peace.
We see, for instance, the example of the relationship of Fatima of Nishapur with Dhu’n-Nun al-Misri and Yazid al-Bistami, of Rab’a al-’Adiawiyya and al-Hasan al-Basri, and numerous other examples. They inspired one another to greater achievement and greater devotion to Allah. We find women learning from men and men learning from women throughout Muslim history.
Looking at the past, it is evident that we need to re-assess our view of women in general and Muslim women in particular. In fact Islam has always provided an incredibly flexible environment in which women may flourish and achieve their true potential, spiritually, economically, and, when necessary, politically. This is clearly an area which Western orientalists have either ignored or avoided and dismissed and which urgently requires re-examination, especially since it appears that many Muslims have accepted the Western assessment of women’s roles in Islam and then have defended and perpetuated it.
The history of the spread of Islam has always been like this: dynamic and positive. Although subject to decay and deterioration – as is everything and everyone in creation – Muslim communities have always repeatedly experienced new growth and re-vitalisation. This has always been the proof of the din of Islam. It inevitably transforms the lives of those who embody it and by this means knowledge and civlisation are established.
The negative stereotype of the role of Muslim women which is often trumpeted in the media stems from ignorance of the reality of the position of women in Islam and is coloured by cultural imperialism. How, for example, can a system of law which purports to guarantee freedom of belief and religion – and yet bans the wearing of hijab as an expression of that freedom – be regarded as enlightened or just?
Looking back to the time of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, women were extremely active in all areas of life and the Prophet did not discourage them. It is this quality and taste of Islam which permeated the lives of most of the women described in this book, in a manner which is far beyond mere verbal descriptoin – and it is this quality of Islam, sustained as it has been by direct transmission of the prophetic wisdom from its source, which sincere Muslims seek to establish and taste now – in their own life times.
Since Islam is a filter of culture, let us hope that some of this dynamism translates into our lives today – and that while the haram aspects of modern culture are dispensed with as the practice of Islam is established, so also its best aspects will be retained and enhanced, including a clear recognition of the true worth, potential and capacity of women – to be truly liberated worshippers of Allah.