From the Source: Muslimah Source Joins the Interwebs

Muslimah Source is a new site that is geared towards Muslim women. When I visited the site, I was hoping for something a little different from the norm. Usually sites catering to Muslim women have sections on relationships, health & beauty, motherhood, how to emulate female companions (sahabah) of the Prophet (saws) and dress (i.e. hijab). Most of MuslimahSource.org does not stray from this formula. There are a couple of essays on marriage and what to look for in a mate and an essay on why Miss Universe shouldn’t be our ideal and why the Prophet’s sahabah should (does anyone really look up to Miss Universe?). Additionally, there was an essay on Palestine that wasn’t really related to Palestinian women, but to Palestine in general. I didn’t object to the essay. I agreed with the points made but I did wonder why it was on the site and why almost every Muslim site has a story related to Palestine. There was also a short story on an abused woman as well as an essay on women being prevented from attending ‘Eid in Turkey.

The mission of Muslimah Source is awesome and commendable:

MuslimahSource.org was started by a group of friends with the intention of serving as a resource and as a tool to empower Muslim women. What do we mean by empowerment? We mean helping women embrace and demand the rights guaranteed them by their Creator through the religion of Islam, building the capacity of Muslim women to engage their communities, and helping them overcome barriers to greater empowerment. Women play an equal if not greater role than men in shaping communities and societies. God willing, this website will serve as a hub of information and ideas on the issues facing Muslim women. It’s hard to be a woman in today’s world, and Muslim women in particular face many challenges. From egotistical, insecure men who hide behind a façade of religiosity to violence and discrimination, from exploitation and commodification to culture and women who are hesitant to claim their rights, from lack of purpose to low self-esteem, obstacles abound. But this site isn’t just about problems, it’s about solutions.

Education . Support . Guidance.

We hope to learn about Muslim women’s needs and hardships, and help address them. This website is the initial, online phase of what we hope and pray will blossom into a full-fledged organization that works to achieve the same ends.

I do think some of the pieces on the site work toward this goal. In “An ‘Eid gone awry“, Roberta D. discusses how women in Turkey traditionally do not attend mosques for Friday or ‘Eid prayers as well as her own experience of being expelled from a masjid in Turkey on ‘Eid (Zeyno Baran, are you reading this?). Roberta writes that despite the fact that the government controls mosques and religious education, women still continue to be denied a space in mosques, even when they voice complaints. Roberta then urges women not only in Turkey but everywhere to become more conscious of their rights and to begin to demand them. This isn’t usually easy, especially when you’re outnumbered by men who insist on either keeping you out of the mosque or putting you in some God forsaken hole in the mosque because of your gender. However, Roberta’s point is well taken.

Another piece that I was impressed with was “Beaten in The Name of God“, which is actually a fictional piece written by Cindy A. It once again highlighted some huge issues that some Muslim women have to face including abuse as well as economic inequality. In the story, a woman is verbally and physically abused by a husband who wants to be scholar and thus, does not work. He forces his wife to work while constantly berating her. I have to say this story, although fictional, seems to be the story of a lot of Muslim women I have encountered. Yet, it is a story that doesn’t really get discussed on mainstream Muslim sites or sites dedicated to Muslim women.

While, I thought those two pieces were the highlight of the site, I thought other pieces on the site were standard fare for sites that are focused on women. One piece titled “Finding Mr. Right” warns Muslim women from expecting a “perfect” husband and to  have realistic expectations when choosing their spouses. I have to admit that this piece did rub me the wrong way somewhat. Yes, there are women who expect their men to be like men from romantic comedies, but I don’t understand why there are so many essays warning women to not have “expectations” when looking for a spouse. Not having expectations or high expectations can lead to settling and weak relationships. This isn’t to say that compromise should never come into a relationship. But what is wrong with a woman who wants a husband who prays five times a day but also enjoys, say, indie films or books on theology? Why is this expecting too much? One good point that I thought the essay made was that happiness doesn’t come from a guy: the happiness has to be with you before you get into a relationship.

Another piece, titled “One-Room Falling-Down Fixer Uppers” was also about relationships, what to look for in a brother, how not have to expectations that are too high, and how there should be more marriage counseling among Muslims. There was nothing I disagreed with in the essay. If was just that the points are things I have heard for some time, so I didn’t really find it engaging. In general, I’m not really a fan of “relationship” sections on sites for women, Muslim or non-Muslim, because it just assumes that being in a relationship is one of our top priorities.

All in all, I think Muslimah Source has a lot of potential and I am looking forward to seeing what the sisters there will produce in the future. The site is still relatively new, so there isn’t a lot of content up yet. However, I think with more content the site will be even better and hopefully the range of topics will become more diverse.

  • http://www.muslimahsource.org Cindy A.

    Thanks for the review. We appreciate your critique.

  • Sobia

    Thanks for the review Faith. I agree with you on the relationship sections. I’ve been hearing the “you’re expecting too much” a lot lately – in public and personal spheres – and it is IRRITATING. Does this really mean that most Muslim women have unrealistic expectations?

  • B

    I think Muslims in general have unrealistic expectations due to relationship immaturity. The average Muslim doesn’t go through several relationships before settling down. Hence, the realities of choosing a partner are never reached before marriage, unless they had several relationships in the past, and that is not the norm among Muslims.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ B: Read our comment policy. Generalizations about a particular group are not allowed, and this generalization in particular is troublesome. There are Muslims who date, there are Muslims who have sexual relationships before marriage, etc. Your generalization hides the fact that Muslims are a diverse group who don’t all think, act, and practice Islam the same. Not to mention the fact that assuming someone who doesn’t date is immature is incredibly condescending. Would you a call a 35-year-old woman who’d never married or had intercourse immature?

    And can you name a single religious group, or anyone really, who doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of a marriage? Media and societal images of marriage are idyllic, which leads everyone to have unrealistic ideas when it comes to the opposite sex and our relationships with them.

  • Sobia

    @B:

    I have to second what Fatemeh is saying. There are many, many Muslims who date, have sexual relationships before marriage etc., and who would still call themselves practicing Muslims.

    @ Fatemeh:
    The immature comment I read as meaning relationship inexperience, not immaturity in general. But B will have to explain that one.

    @ all:
    As for the argument made in the magazine (and other places), implying that Muslim women do not have realistic expectations of men is assuming that 1) Muslim women are socially clueless and somehow self-centered, and 2) Muslim women do not have or have not had romantic relationships. Both assumptions are problematic.

  • B

    Would stating that Muslims – in general – are not terrorists? Would that be a problematic assumption on your website? There is a minority amongst Muslims who are involved in militant activities. No I am not comparing terrorists with Muslims who date. I am just illustrating the site’s futile attempt to be politically correct.

    @ Fetemeh. Yes, a 35 yr old, man or woman, who’s never been involved in a relationship with the opposite gender would lack experience when it comes to relationships. I definitely wouldn’t ask them for advise!

    Yes, there are gay Muslims, there are Muslims who date, there are even Muslim who don’t believe in the marriage institution, but the fact remains that the majority of Muslims enter marriages with very little or no experience when it comes to relationships with the opposite gender.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    …the fact remains that the majority of Muslims enter marriages with very little or no experience when it comes to relationships with the opposite gender.

    Can you provide a credible source for this fact? If not, don’t bother posting again. Whatever you think about our comment moderation policy, it’s there for a reason. And if you continue to make generalizing assumptions based on Muslim women’s marriages and relationship experience, it won’t be tolerated.

  • B

    Title: Transitions to adulthood: a national survey of Egyptian adolescents.
    Author: Ibrahim B; Sallam S; El Tawila S; El Gibaly O; El Sahn F; Lee SM; Mensch B; Wassef H; Bukhari S; Galal O
    Source: New York, New York, Population Council, 1999. [3], x, 218 p. Also available in Arabic.
    Language: English

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    I’ll check this out, thanks.

    Keep in mind, however, that your comments referred to Muslims as an entire group, not just Egyptian Muslims.

  • Sobia

    @B:

    That source is pointless. Its referring to Egyptians, not Muslims. Many Egyptians are Christian and most Muslims are not Egyptians.

    Your terrorist analogy is inappropriate. Terrorist acts are very public and obvious, enough so that we can say, statistically, that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. Dating, relationships, etc are very private matters. There is no way to provide any stats on it.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    Why are we all getting up in arms? I didn’t think B’s comment was offensive, it was just a little irrelevant. Do you actually disagree with the statement that most standard normative interpretations of Islam discourages women taking on multiple partners before marriage? On the other hand, most normative systems discourage this (Catholic, Orthodox Jew, so on so forth) which is why the statement is a bit irrelevant. But I don’t think we should chastise B for ‘generalizing.’ Generalizing Muslims would be to say that all Muslims think this and that way. But what’s the problem with generalizing normative systems and moral structures? We do that all day long.

  • Sobia

    @ Rochelle:

    Its on thing to say what the interpretations of Islam say, and a completely different thing to say that all Muslims do one thing or behave in one way. B’s comment was not about what the interpretations of Islam say but rather what most Muslims do. Such generalizations are not justified.

  • Muffy

    Now I’m a bit confused about this site’s comment policy on generalization. Nowhere did B say “All Muslims think this way” or “all Muslims do this.” As I understood it, B was just making a point that Muslims are less likely to have multiple relationships/partners before marriage than people of other groups (I would assume Christians/secular people in Western culture). This may translate to relationship advice writings that reflect inexperience. I think it’s a valid point.

  • Sobia

    @ Muffy:

    B said “I think Muslims in general have unrealistic expectations due to relationship immaturity.”

    Muslims in general = generalizations

    It is true that many Muslims do not have more than the one relationship (marriage), but it is also true that many Muslims do. So which will you say is the norm? How can one say “Muslims in general” in this situation?

  • http://www.muslimahsource.org Sammer Z.

    Salaam alaikum

    Jazakillahu khair for reading the site and your feedback. I think its very constructive and the discussion here is also conducive to opening minds about how Muslim women are perceived. The point of Finding Mr. Perfect was not to reprimand Muslimahs for being unrealistic in finding a man. I went through some of that as a teen beginning to embrace my faith. I also have seen many young sisters wanting a long list of characteristics in men, because those fit their paradigm of what is a good man, or what will make their lives happy. There was also the constant urging to get married and its importance without developing other aspects of my life.
    The point of the article was to tell others what I wish someone had told me at that time: Learn who you are and be your own source of happiness, create a lasting relationship with Allah, not relying on men and marriage to rescue or fix your life.

    As for the discussion here, why do we derive relationship maturity only from the ones with people romantically? Our relationships with our family, friends, co-workers all play a part in how well we know ourselves and that is more important than the number of partners or potentials we’ve had before marriage. Self-awareness is more crucial to dealing with new relationships…romantic or otherwise.

    Jazakumllahu khair

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    I think that Sammer just made the best point of all.

  • Aynur

    @Sammer “Self-awareness is more crucial to dealing with new relationships…romantic or otherwise. ”
    I wholeheartedly agree. :)

  • http://muslimnista.org Faith

    Thanks for the comments!

    Cindy and Sammer: Thanks for dropping by and commenting! I do hope my review wasn’t harsh. :)

    “As for the discussion here, why do we derive relationship maturity only from the ones with people romantically? Our relationships with our family, friends, co-workers all play a part in how well we know ourselves and that is more important than the number of partners or potentials we’ve had before marriage. Self-awareness is more crucial to dealing with new relationships…romantic or otherwise.”

    I couldn’t have said it better. Being with multiple romantic partners doesn’t lead to relationship maturity. I know plenty of people, Muslim and non-Muslim, who have been in multiple romantic relationships, marriage and otherwise and they still don’t how to have a good relationship. Once you know yourself, your relationship with others becomes much better.

  • http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com shamsuddin waheed

    As salaamu ‘alaikum,

    There are several elements I could address when it comes to the question of Muslims relationships, however I will limit myself to these few comments.

    [A] Any sort of relationship, be it through marriage or boyfriend/girlfriend, is bound to force the parties involved to “mature”. This is especially true when a child comes into the picture. To assert that Muslims are ‘immature’ because our general practice is to have marriage relationships, and not try on every outfit in the store, is strange and hints at real bias.

    [B] In many societies, including Egypt, it is indeed true that marriage is the ultimate passage to adulthood, but that is not a bad or good thing. It’s just a reality, a societal perception.

    [C] Muslims are not the only ones who attempt to live by certain values, especially those related to intimate relationships. So, should Christians and Jews be considered ‘immature’ as well?

    Regards,
    S.Waheed

  • http://rawi.wordpress.com rawi

    Reading the comments top to bottom, I was already beginning to strongly object to the presumption that relationship maturity (whatever that means) is only predicated on relationship experience. I will echo the above and say that Sammer is right-on. I am esp glad about the reference to other human relationships in relation to romantic relationships. This calls for, I think, some thinking about the social history of romance–i.e. how romantic relationship has come to mean different things now than it has in other places and other times. As I was so thoroughly intrigued to learn in a gender history class this past semester, the emerging modernist (19th c.) discourse of romantic love in, for instance, Egypt or Iran, often used pre-existing notions of male bonding/friendship as conceptual models/precursors.

    There is, BTW, another generalization in B’s comment above that I think needs addressing: that it is Muslims in general who have unrealistic expectations, whatever the cause. The truth is, just as many non-Muslims probably have just as unrealistic expectations when it comes to marriage. (I’m recalling for e.g. the notable article in The Atlantic from last year: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/single-marry)

  • HappyDay

    Thank you for writing about this site, I’m very interested in going to a site by Muslim woman that talks about issues I’m interested in and am not offended by.


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