Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Irtiqa Magazine. The purpose of this article is to share an opinion and to spark debate in a respectful manner
I once liked a guy who told me that I was not allowed to go to university. His reasoning: Good girls become involved in the many vices that form this liberal environment. Good girls may forsake their sense of modesty. Good girls will begin intermingling with males. Good girls begin experimenting with all kinds of noxious substances. Ultimately extensive freedom to a good girl has only one outcome, the inevitable metamorphosis into a bad girl.
4 years later with a degree in my hand, I agreed with him.
We live in an era in which women are experiencing an entire paradigm shift. From being once perceived as the “weaker sex”, we have now been acknowledged as fierce contenders in education, business and society. We are fighting every system and opinion that has tried to suppress our voracious quest for respect. And I will say this; we have undoubtedly earned our seat on the podium.
However, I stand here today with an unpopular opinion: We have progressed. Yet, we have too, regressed.
As Muslim women, we have successfully derailed many of the uncompromising principles which once dictated the ideal woman according to the “Old School of Thought”, a scripture undoubtedly founded on culture and justified by misconstruing religion. For those who are unsure about what I am referring to, this scripture was based on a few fundamental principles:
- You do not have the same privileges as your brother.
- Girls must be shy, obedient and tolerant despite any circumstance.
- Girls should not be more qualified than her counterpart because it will threaten him.
- Girls must be able to produce a flawless briyani, clean and run a household by 17 for a boy whose most impressive role is his position on Fortnite.
- Girls must stay in the house.
- If you contradict any of the above you are modern/disrespectful/shame to the family.
After centuries of silence, together our voices have resonated and we finally started asking questions. We have finally begun educating ourselves about our deen (faith) and understanding its context and we are doing away with many of these perceptions. Alhamdulillah.
I come back to the statement I made earlier: we have progressed, and, we have regressed. I’m going to change direction now and I do not anticipate that what I am about to say next will be as well-received.
We are now witnessing the dawn of a new system which we call the “Modern Muslim Woman”. In many ways, she is a woman we should be extremely proud of. However, being a Muslim girl who has succumbed to many temptations in my journey thus far, I too am one of the “good girls” who became consumed by the digital age, which is the only reason I am confident enough to speak about it.
Living in this century as a young girl with technology at her fingertips and the freedom to fully express ourselves and be who we really want to be, there are times when some of us falter.
The possibilities of what we can do behind closed doors are endless. We can create fake accounts to stalk or insult people whom we dislike. A guy we would never have the courage to pursue in person is suddenly within reach and, at 14 years old a girl is now exposed to new possibilities. It is now easy to get into relationships and even easier to ruin them with screenshots and Whatsapp. We can upload salacious pictures and choose exactly who we wish to view it. We can betray the trust our parents have given us at University by intermingling with guys beyond work and simple courtesy, going for unwarranted drives to racy locations and bunking lectures.
We all know what girls can get up to at university, on our phones or when we hang out with our friends. A lot of us have either witnessed it first hand or engaged in some or all of the above. For many of us who derailed the old system, our newfound freedom has become a catalyst to completely “lose the plot” so to speak. We are usually pointed out and our shameful stories are narrated as a viable explanation to those girls who are not allowed to attend university, possess a phone or go out.
With a conscience as relentless as mine, I reached a point in my life where I came to agree with them. I agreed that having a phone opens the doors to harmful experiences. I agreed that the freedom of University creates an airtight alibi to visit all the places we shouldn’t be. I agreed that social media allows us to engage in all sorts of immoral and unacceptable activities. I agreed that our generation has lost basic respect and etiquette. Eventually I felt despondent and thought that I had chosen the wrong path entirely. I was no longer at peace inside my heart despite my academic achievements.
Then, after many more years, I became entirely conflicted. I heard about girls in full niqaab who were sneaking around with guys. I heard about girls who studied at home with a reputation for being forward. I heard about girls with no social life who messed around with their cousins and siblings instead. I heard about girls keeping secret phones when their parents wouldn’t allow one. I saw the daughters of strict parents’ rebel behind their parents and I saw the daughters of “open-minded” parents do the exact same wrongs. No one related these stories to their girls, but conversely, these are the stories that the “liberal” girls relate back to such people with the common argument that their parents don’t know what they get up to behind their backs
And so I finally realized that the only person responsible for protecting a good girl: is herself.
I finally realized that there is no such thing as a “good girl”. There is a girl, a budding woman – and she makes mistakes. She is pursuing her own journey and the only person who is responsible for judging her is herself and her Creator. The fundamental difference between His judgement and ours is that He judges with love and not bitterness. Whether she has a boyfriend or has never looked at a male, whether she dons the hijab or dresses in a way that makes her feel good, whether she posted an inappropriate picture or posts herself with niqaab – she is the only person authorized to judge herself. Not society or other women. Her sin is her personal regret and that is something she is responsible for atoning.
No one gets to define what makes a girl good, no one gets to drag her name in the mud, and no one gets to make a girl feel like she has no escape from her past because, that is the cruellest thing society has enabled. In the same way that a girl’s lack of goodness should not be judged- neither does university, technology or the freedom our parents have entrusted us – deserve to be blamed. And so, as much as I believed that the guy I was once liked was right, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The University is offering her an education to go out there and be an asset to society. We all know that Sayyidina Khadija was a highly successful 40 year old woman who was involved in the most lucrative business: trading. Academic education is offering a girl the chance at making a difference in society, offering a talent or service as well as financial freedom and stability. Being financially stable as a girl is not something that we should be ashamed of aspiring for. Some may say that it is a mans’ duty to provide for a woman, whether father, brother or husband. And this is true – we are not disputing Islam, we are not preventing them from providing us. But that does not mean that we are not allowed to earn an income, to assist our men if circumstances change.
I was told in madressa that my “matric certificate” would not take me to my grave but only deeni knowledge would and I agree 100%. That good-looking piece of paper will do nothing for me in my grave: the people I help in practice, the dawah I offer in everyday business, the character I portray, the charity I give from my earnings, the gifts I give – those are laden with the rewards that offer “profit” for the hereafter.
The phone is offering girls a platform to reach out, to spread awareness for good causes and not excluding a platform to build and advertise her business. There are so many girls out there offering goods and services all the way from graphic designing to cupcakes and personalized hats: and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
After much rumination, I have come face-to-face with that the fundamental problem in society as a whole: extremity. It doesn’t work. Being extremely oppressive does not mean you are protecting yourself and being extremely liberal does not mean you are open-minded.
Islam drives home a principal which can solve both the problem with society and the internal conflict in Muslim females:
“Verily, Islam is in moderation”.
It is a simple statement which is difficult to execute. What we truly need to develop, is a new system of female mentality called “Balance”.
- We need to aspire for marriage, education, children and running a home efficiently with just as much enthusiasm as we do a career and achieving our goals.
- We need to give our character as much importance as our self-confidence.
- We need to study Islam and to understand it and implement it in every single thing that we do.
- We need to seek an education: academic or Islamic, through correspondence or via an institution – and no matter which platform we choose, we need to be good Muslims and good women and keep OURSELVES in check, not other women.
- “It is better for a woman to stay at home”. Ultimately to run a home and run a business from home successfully. There is great wisdom and love in this: anyone who has experienced the world out there will agree that the best place is home. However, it is not always realistic when females-only universities are unavailable to us.
- We cannot fight the technological age, it would be futile to even try –therefore we need to enjoy our social media in a healthy manner and we need to search for ways to use it to propagate good. Some people try to shame and mock at women who are frequenting social media to promote themselves and this should not be the case.
Extreme restriction and extreme liberation is not the answer. There will be over-compensation somewhere along the line. Parents are not solely responsible for protecting their daughters after a certain age. Allah has provided guidelines and rules only out of love to protect her and a parent’s duty is to teach her these guidelines and thereafter: the choice is hers. The responsibility is hers. The consequences are hers.
Every single one of us is a “good girl” who has fallen in different ways – we should seek forgiveness and then very importantly, forgive ourselves. Inherent goodness will always remain in you and me – no matter how far we fall.
So the next time you find yourself tempted to veer onto the extreme left or the extreme right – remember what you ask Allah several times a day:
Guide us to the straight path.