I don’t get out much. Happens when you’re a work-at-home mom of five children, three cats, and one Egyptian hubby who loves my home cooked food. Much of the information I get about the ‘outside world’ comes from TV and my Facebook feed. A few days ago my wall started lighting up with stories about a sheikh – still unidentified and possibly imaginary – who supposedly said that female Muslims should not be allowed to handle cucumbers, zucchini, or other phallic produce. It was one of those source quoting a source referring to another source stories. You know, the really reliable stuff.
Well, anyway, the uproar was swift and loud. Actual Muslim religious authorities said “phooey” to this phatwa and questioned the scholarly training of the “sheikh’ who made the ruling. Muslims everywhere spit coffee onto their computer keyboards, laughed, and then yelled to their spouses “Hey, honey, you’re not going to believe what I just read!” and then forwarded the link to all their friends. There were guffaws and disbelieving headshakes throughout the Muslim world, and then we got on with our lives. Lives that involve – gasp! – cucumbers, zucchini, bananas, plantains, and other similarly-shaped items. And just so as not to leave the husbands out, I should also mention that Muslim women continue to bring melons into the home. We’ll just have to take the risk that our husbands will see them.
This issue affects me a lot because I do almost all the grocery shopping, as well as the prepping and cooking. I was thinking of having my husband supervise me in the kitchen while I prepare cucumber salad or zucchini bread, but I suppose that might not be wise because the sight of me peeling and chopping up a cucumber might traumatize him, given the symbolism. And grating the zucchini would be even more disturbing. I suppose I’ll just have to continue doing everything like I normally do and hope for the best.
If this dial-a-sheikh, who probably doesn’t really exist, had a brain in his head, he’d be less worried about what’s going on in the heads of married couples and more concerned about the status of our unmarried brothers and sisters. No matter what country you live in, getting married to the right person and staying married is a problem. In some countries, arranged marriages are preparing couples for failure as they join in matrimony two people who have not a darned thing in common other than the fact that they are cousins or share the same financial status. In others, no one can afford an apartment or even food for two so young people are forced to remain single, resulting in western-style dating and fornication. In lax societies, people simply go with the flow of popular culture, serial dating, hooking up, friends with benefits, making no effort to live according to Islamic norms. This is the real crisis, and one that needs to be dealt with at every level, from mom and dad to the young people themselves to the masaajid and universities. We have to make a coordinated effort to rescue marriage or it will become as meaningless to Muslims as it is to much of the rest of the world.
Oh, I think I’m about to go off on a screed…. Okay, I’ll try to keep it short. Learn about Islam. Learn your rights and responsibilities as a Muslim husband or wife. If you are a parent, don’t tell your kids they can’t get married until after college because, sheesh, that means no sex until age 22 or later if they go to graduate school. Don’t you remember how YOU were at that age? Or do you WANT them sneaking off to some buddy’s dorm room to desperately hook up with some (guy or gal) pal just to keep their sexual urges under control? And another thing. Guys, wake up and smell the falafel. Women nowadays want more than just a provider. They want a man who will think of his wife as a friend and confidant. They want a man who will respect his wife, who won’t hit her, who won’t spend all his time with his guy friends at the hookah lounge and only talk to his wife when he wants food, sex, or a shirt ironed. In the U.S., more than half of college students are women. Deal with it. The dynamic has changed. Women, figure out what the heck you want out of life. Make a list of the dealbreakers. Don’t let some sweet-talking dude trick you into giving up your rights. Be strong. Being alone is better than being with a cad. Rely on Allah, learn to take care of yourself, and marry a man who will not hit you and who will make YOU tea. Do your research. For so many reverts, and children of culturally-but-not-religiously Muslim parents, you won’t get any help from family so you have to be your own advocate. If your family is “traditional” and wants you to marry a cousin you don’t know, check the guy out but don’t just go along to get along. Remember, YOU are the one who will have to wake up in the bed next to this guy every day for the rest of your life. You want Ahmed the pious sweet hard working man next to you, or the Pakistani Homer Simpson?
This is a huge issue. I could expand every sentence into an article, every article into a book. And I haven’t even touched on the issues of Muslims who are already married and experiencing difficulties. Marriage is the nuclear social unit so it is vital to have strong healthy marriages in order to have a strong healthy Ummah. If you are a religious Muslim and you understand this fact, then get busy and start working on yourself so you’ll be the best possible marriage partner you can be. If you are not religious, well, start learning about Islam. I think you’ll be very surprised at the progressive, common sense attitude Islam has towards marriage and life. If you have questions, ask. There’s a lot of superstition and downright stupidity out there (see cucumber fatwa above). It’s up to each of us not to contribute to it.