You Asked For It

Today, my friend Margot informed me that Eggs Benedict has pork in it. Just goes to show what I know, right? I don’t censor myself—and if you have been following you will see that I some times don’t even properly edit. This is not as easy as it may seem, this blogging for one hundred days— Ramadan through my first hajj. Meanwhile I AM actually fasting; and actually reading Qur’an everyday; I am actually attending tarawih regularly, and trying to have a family life too. Well, you get the drift. I’m sure if I had a job, it would be impossible to do this blog.

Into my first week another Facebook friend decided he like this idea so much that he was going to embark on a Ramadan blog too. He even tagged me in his daily entries, so I felt obliged to read them. I don’t tag people in mine; that would be too pushy. But I do make a refresh “share” each day in case people who do visit my page (pages, actually; I have a fan page too, though I didn’t create it) want to follow but don’t want to search hard to do so. After one week he stopped tagging me and so last night I visited his page, and there were no more. I guess he abandoned the idea after a week. It is not that easy. Sometimes you have too much to say, sometimes you really have nothing worth sharing and some times what you say seems awfully stupid even to you. So why, Oh why would you share it— let alone expect people to read it?

But people are reading, at least some people at some time. When I was at an iftar this weekend some one made reference to my analogy between Ramadan and the Queen. It went by so subtly I almost did get what it meant. She had read at least that entry. It becomes almost embarrassing if not daunting, knowing that people are reading. People know what you are doing, and what you are thinking. One has to have some privacy; but a blog is not private, especially if people read it, right? But then I guess it would be counter-productive not to want people to read it.

Somewhere between the difficult task of getting up each day and actually composing and or editing what I composed the night before and then completing it for submission, there has to also be a task of acknowledging people who have commented. So I start with Eggs Benedict and then move on to some of your comments or questions. I will keep it brief. Some questions or comments, I think, might be worth a full day’s blog, once Ramadan is over and I have only my preparations for the hajj ahead of me. It might get so boring and to try to keep people’s interest, I might delve in to some of these in greater length.

On Day One, AminaE brought up the dilemma some face in being restricted from Makkah because of the Mahram rule: a woman cannot travel without a man. I don’t know if it’s any consolation but on my first attempt at making hajj from Egypt in 1981 I was stopped at the gate because I did not have a mahram. This was a question I asked my travel agent before I submitted my deposit. At my age there is no restriction, but for all you young and fine ladies, there are ways to get around it— including what they did in Egypt but I did not learn about in time, and that is that the hosting travel agent can act as mahram. Still I think it is a stupid rule especially for hajj. At some other point I might tell you what my Saudi friend does in order to travel alone as a woman but that will surely come up later.

Abdul-Hayy said that complications on the hajj are not necessarily only about gender or more precisely only experienced by women. His is an interesting attestation of that. So while this is true and he gave evidence of it, this blog is precisely about gender and about being a woman. I am writing it because my friends (women, including that Saudi friend I will no doubt have a chance to say more about) got so frustrated with some of the completely arbitrary and in some cases unofficial restrictions put upon women on the hajj. If traveling without a mahram is an official limitation and we can get around it, the ones that literally shout you in the face will perhaps make this journey difficult. So I wanted an outlet, a positive way to address them without shouting back, or losing my cool when all I really want to bask in the glory of the moment.

Thanks Kathy for following and having your students in Middle Eastern Women Writers at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah read! I welcome their comments and hope I can respond to some of them. My thanks also to cUrioUs gUUrl and Adis.

Womens’ Double Duty” brought comments on my Facebook page, which got lost due to the way the thread works. That was the one entry when I got the most responses, mostly in the form of thanks and agreement. Sara Farooqi’s comments lead to other comments; and that’s always good. As a post menopausal woman who was invited to lead the prayer in a public congregational worship, I can tell you that it is not the actual period that people fear (such that diva cups could solve the problem!). It’s about relinquishing the exclusive male privilege as it still reigns on leadership roles in Islam’s major ritual performance.

The debates over women’s leadership have gone on in different directions and I will surely return to them more than once. But let me just say a few things. First about menstruation: there are some modern interpretations which offer the possibility that since it is only the flow of blood which causes the limitation, then the use of a tampon should remove that limitation. It’s a thought; and maybe one way to remove the stigma from menstruation. I have also considered Sara’s point about looking at the Prophet’s time because there is a lot more discretion about women’s natural cycles than at a time when there were limited way to keep the mess at bay. I could imagine then that a woman might have more bleeding accidents so greater restrictions seemed prudent. But are we condemned to that for all eternity?

Eli seemed to enjoy the opportunity of finding deviant behavior amongst Muslims but the relationship to Ramadan was surely exaggerated. More Muslims participate in the fast than any other ritual. Let’s get the numbers in our head then: of the 1.3 billion Muslims, if less than half are children and even children fast, then you could say almost a billion Muslims are fasting.

I don’t think we can make a case about Ramadan and what ever number of incidents that might occur due to some individual Muslims. There is no statistical corollary between fasting, Islam, Muslims and the (still unacceptable) violation. As the nature of the debates over the proposed Islamic cultural center a couple of blocks from Ground Zero has brought to the fore, Islamaphobia is alive and well. For me: I do not condone prejudice against Muslims or prejudice by Muslims. This blog is actually mostly about the latter.

Zuhura’s question is simple. Why ban Muslim women from fasting because of their period? I use the word women are exempted, because to make it a ban overlooks its corollary with other types of bleeding, thereby making menstruation some kind of problem. And although this problem has resulted, the fact that women are also exempted when not menstruating but lactating or pregnant I use to keep away from the word “ban.” If it was a ban then there could be no making up the days later and that was the point I raised mostly. No one is ever banned from fasting, not even non-Muslims.

However if some one fails to fast and they do not have one of the acceptable exemptions, like menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and health issues, then the expiation for this is taken very heavily in the Qur’an and eventually in the fiqh or jurisprudence. We call fasting fard al-ayn, a mandatory individual obligation. To miss it is a grave sin and therefore to indicate exemptions is in fact the more merciful, because women will not be punished for not observing the fast on these days. And here the punishment is with God, not the courts, so it is a matter of individual conscience.

The problems with women’s marginalization in some mosques is central in my mind and therefore often in this blog so I certainly agree with LW. We are making more women-friendly-mosques; even here in the west. I am happy about that and about those places with women-only mosques, including mu’adhan and imamahs, like China and India. Some countries have fewer restrictions, like Indonesia. It is so good to be in places like this because when it is suppose to be for the worship of Allah then, how is that man can get in the way? But we know the drill.

Thanks to all who commented on these and other entries, like Houda, and mairedubhtx. Perhaps when Ramadan is over I can start making my reply on the blog page. But as I said to start, it’s not as easy as I try to make it read. Still it would be nothing if it weren’t for your reading so please: keep the comments coming. If nothing else, know that I do read them all with delight.

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