To borrow a phrase from a fellow teacher: You’re Problem, Not My Problem.
I have now listened to Hamza Yusuf’s Men and Women CD three times, and have taken some time to digest its content. As previously, I really enjoyed Shaykh Hamza’s method of explaining things; his use of analogies and stories to enlighten the points he makes is particularly helpful for me. However, my mind keeps coming back to the issue of women, hijab, and the reasons for wearing them. I have no problem with women who choose to wear hijab to be modest before Allah and the general public, although at times I think that since God created us, we should not be ashamed of how we look or appear. Anyway, the point that women wear hijab to protect themselves from men and men from their own baser instincts troubles me, thus the title of this post. I feel that it is the responsibility of men to be accountable for and in charge of their feelings (base or otherwise) and their actions that stem there from, and not the responsibility of the women to cover up to shield men from temptation. Not that I am advocating people walk around naked, although that does seem the logical end to this line of thinking. My turn for an analogy: statistically people in the United States are overweight – we have numbers and health claims to back this up – yet we do not advocate closing all bakeries, fast food restaurants, or ban selling the ingredients to make cookies, simply because people lack sufficient self control to stop themselves from consuming them. (Do not get me started on the people suing McDonald’s etc – I think that is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard.) People need to take responsibility for their own actions – I believe that is one thing that separates adults from children and humans from many other species on the planet – our ability to not act on every thought that flits through our minds because we understand the difference between right and wrong. Asking women to wear hijab, or more, to assist men with their weaker nature seems to be an abdication of the men’s responsibility for their own behavior.
I do understand that men have some responsibility in this arena: to lower their eyes and not look upon someone who is not a relative or not their spouse, to work on the mutual modesty from their own side of the equation. However, I guess I just feel that the equation is not balanced; that women have been given greater responsibility in the modestly arena, and not just for their own relationship with Allah, but for the men’s benefit as well.
For an extreme take on this issue see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2422621,00.html, about the Australian cleric who equated uncovered/un-hijabed women to meat left out and then eaten by cats, taken by many to be blaming women for rape.
On a separate note: Thank you to the several people who corrected my misunderstanding/misperception of women and men spending time together. In previous blog entries, I talked about finding a chaperone so that I could “hang out” in public with a male friend. I have been informed that I needn’t have taken those measures: we could have spent time together in public without concern or chaperone. Again, another example of something I would have continued to misunderstand had I not undertaken this experience – and written about it in a public forum.
As always, I reserve the right to change my mind on how I feel/think about everything in this post, as I continue to read/discuss/learn about these issues.