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Category Archives: Unhijabed

Unhijabed #4: Submission

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It is very interesting how, when I stop wearing one article of clothing, many seem to assume that I have adopted numerous other habits… you know, things like drinking, promiscuity, Satanism and worst of all, a video game addiction (which I’ve always had, actually, but you don’t know that now). A further inspection of these assumptions reveals a very dark undercurrent of resentment owing especially to self-hatred, dark pasts, guilt and projection. A very sad reality, and it has been a challenge to deal with such people firmly but fairly as not to be void of compassion.

As such, I try to keep things as impersonal as I can here. Now, on to business.

As we have been typically taught, the word “Islam” comes from the word “Aslama” which means to submit. This is related to the word “Salima” which means the acquirement of safety, as well as “salam” which means peace. The concept of this submission could not be understood fully without a proper grasp of “Tawheed”, which I also refer to as Unity, which makes perfect sense because the word is taken directly from “wahhada” , meaning ‘to unite’. Now, these words are the bare basics of Islam. They are extremely critical and heavy concepts that will take time to sink in. This is exactly why the Sharia was only implemented 13 years after Prophethood.

The confusion comes when we think that the will of man and the will of God are separate. This would then enable man to ‘disobey’ since he has a choice whether or not to comply with God’s Law. However, this understanding is impaired because if man had his own separate will, it would be something that rivals the will of God. How can this be, when there is no likeness to Allah (“laysa ka mithlihi shay'”); there cannot exist anything comparable to Him even. God just Is.

Whether one subscribes to the Ash’ari or Maturidi school here is irrelevant because this is a discussion beyond moral values or comprehension. It is not man in relation to God or God in relation to man, rather one’s consciousness that there cannot be a duality. The Shahadah testifies to this denial by beginning with ‘la ilaha’. Meaning that there is no power, no authority, none worthy of worship. We then examine the term ‘worship’. The way I see it, there is no path to worship besides love. I believe that I was created out of love, and I am sustained out of love. For what else can it be?

The Shahadah then ends with “IllAllah” meaning except for God. Thus there is none worthy of worship (love) except for God. That is the chorus of creation, referred to as the reflection of God in Islamic traditions. And now we must lift the veil of duality in loving God. Let me tell you now, that the closest you can ever have to loving God, is to love yourself. It might be heavy to grasp, so you could begin by thinking of it as a sort of appreciation for all that God has done for you.

Self-love is an immense feeling of liberation. It is done by finding compassion within yourself, for yourself, and then realizing that you are compassion. It is the ability to indulge in kindness and generosity with no strings attached, towards yourself as well as others. Eventually, the self is lost, and all that is left is the simple desire to give. This peaks at death, where everything is given away, or given back, whichever way you prefer to see it.

Love cannot exist until fear is eradicated. Fear is a form of self-hatred that manifests in negative thoughts and feelings such as guilt and anger. One should not be taught to fear God because then he is taken away from the Divine Essence. Yet that is exactly what we are cultivated to think. People subscribe to rituals a law they don’t even understand because they fear the consequences of neglecting them. They suffer under the assumption that they worship a coercive and vengeful God. They then bring their own children up with these values. It becomes a vicious, mind-numbing cycle. The mind then closes, and the heart dies with it.

Only you can end your suffering.

[Post Scriptum]

Hi everyone! It’s been a long while since the last post as I have been busy with wedding preparations. It’s been a couple of weeks and there is much to talk about with regards to marriage. I hope to keep up the momentum this time.

Lots of love to all of you for your comments and messages. There are some truly amazing individuals out there, and I would love to hear more from you.

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Unhijabed

 

Unhijabed #3 : Background Check (1)

wildflower-meadow-deHere I shall recount the essential years of my life that played the biggest role in shaping the ideas I hold so steadfastly to now. This was mainly the period spanning from my early childhood to my graduation from secondary school.

My initial contentions with cultural norms resulted as a culmination of the issues I had with Malay/Muslims ever since I was first introduced to the community. This was, namely, when I first enrolled into a local Madrasah (religious school). Before, I spent the golden years of my childhood in acting school and Montessori, and I had always felt right at home with my multi-cultural friends and teachers (in fact, I can remember each and every one of them, faces and names, even now). It was a very healthy social environment, nurturing and conducive. The same goes at home. We spoke English almost all the time and there was much emphasis on reading. Life was very halcyon, so to speak.

Of course, in an attempt to balance my education, my parents sent me to religious kindergarten as well. The demographic was a Malay majority but under an English syllabus. Things weren’t so bad if you don’t count the bullying. I remember my Montessori friends being distinctly different from the friends at religious school. One group was definitely more benign and accepting than the other.

My years of misery and misfit officially began on the first day of school in the local Madrasah. No exaggeration intended, but no amount of melodrama could justify the traumatic experience that was my first 2 weeks of school. It was a huge struggle especially because I didn’t speak colloquial Malay. I learnt it formally, but that definitely didn’t prepare me for such an environment. Everyone was so similar and so different from where I previously came from. Needless to say, I was automatically ostracized as per the idiosyncratic herd mentality that both my friends and teachers had.

So that was it. I knew I was radically different from the beginning. I gave my caretakers (parents and otherwise) a hard time to get me to go to school. I loathed everything about it initially, especially my teachers. Their methodology of teaching was very fear-based. It seemed as if the only way to get into heaven was to fear hell. The key to being good was to fear punishment. The teachers, despite being all female, seemed bereft of the loving, motherly nature my previous teachers had. They were older and hard-faced, merciless or otherwise indifferent.

After much resistance I finally succumbed to the expectations of the Madrasah community and tried my best to fit in. Being a mere child and under so much pressure, I decided the only way to get by was to do so. It took a lot of effort to suppress my thoughts and feelings in the tender years that followed, and as a result I remember being a very temperamental and confused child.

My angst continued into my teenage years, and the confusion developed into a deep sense of loneliness. It was something very typical of my enneagram type (I’m a 4 with a 3-wing), I realize now. But that period of my life was no less painful than my childhood. My temperament worsened and on several occasions I took it out on my friends in school (verbally and psychologically). This also manifested in a few attempts at suicide and self-mutilation. I thought I was unreasonably sensitive but I never knew why.

I was never a fan of the school system and rebelled in my own secret ways (I suppose there isn’t any harm in talking about that now that I’ve left it 4 years ago). I fail to recall exactly what I did but I always sought ways around the stipulated guidelines. I purposely skipped classes, broke rules. However, I never rebelled outwardly. The act of defiance in itself satisfied me that I didn’t need to be seen, just acknowledged by the Universe.

With the exception of one or two of them, my teachers generally never made an impact on me. This was simply because we came from completely different worlds. I never understood the love my classmates had for them, and hardly ever cared anyway. The few who did make an impact, for some reason, never stayed long. The year they taught me was almost always their last year in the school. And I’ve always wondered why.

I also expressed myself a lot in artwork and poetry – particularly character design and extensive, mournful ballads. But that itself never sufficed for I never felt validated by the people around me. My parents and teachers were often dismissive of the things I drew and wrote (not that I often showed them anything, but these things had the habit of being ‘discovered’ by them). I now realize, of course, that I was denying myself my own validation all this while. It took a long time for me to finally accept that I am talented.

The things I studied in school didn’t occur to me as questionable at the time of learning. Religious subjects were taught in Malay, with the textbooks and exams being in Arabic. To me, it was all simply a test of memory, not understanding. Despite this, I was very clear about certain principles in terms of Islamic creed that were repetitively taught over the 4 years of secondary school. Which will be the topic of discussion … in my next write-up.

[ Post Scriptum ]

It has been roughly 4 days since the first unhijabed article was published, and I am very pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of support I’ve been getting. It is very comforting to know that many are conscious of what’s happening, and share my sentiments on the matter. Or otherwise, as with those who have made an effort to show their concern for me in their own ways, I am thankful for their honesty and kindness.

Of course, on the other hand, I have predictably received a fair share of hate mail. I knew what was coming and really wasn’t surprised at all. I cannot say, however that I have emerged from it all unaffected due to my chronic, idiosyncratic resentment of stupidity. But nevertheless we wish these people well for we are all where we are, reality just is, and resisting it is to suffer. 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Unhijabed

 

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Unhijabed #2: Giving Modesty a Name

5-beautiful-eyes-www.cute-pictures.blogspot.com_In recent decades the community I come from has shifted its focus in several aspects. I am being conservative by only referring to my community, when truthfully these shifts have been in lieu with the evolving global environment. We cannot argue that there has been a serious lack of values and an overwhelming sense of superficiality dominating many aspects of life. As a reaction to this development, religious communities, which are supposedly the dispensers and enforces of such values, become all the more coercive and uncompromising in enforcing their respective laws. These laws are seen as barriers between them and the corruption of the outside world. There was suddenly so much emphasis on building a unique, Islamic image that would give its followers a sense of security. Of course, after much branding and marketing, this successfully gave birth to an ‘Islamic’ pseudo-culture, much based on long-accepted traditions and superficial understanding.

Little did these enforcers know that they have become exactly like their worldly nemeses. They are just as superficial, arrogant, hypocritical but most importantly, judgmental of the people around them, and each other. But of course, all that is merely my opinion.

So now everything ‘Islamic’ has a theme, so to speak. Suddenly, a certain way of speaking is more Islamic than any other mode of talk, for instance. Akhi, Ukhti, you must speak with correctly transliterated Arabic words even though you haven’t a clue about Arabic grammar because it is the language of the Al-Qur’aan and of Jannah. Also, it makes you look a lot smarter than you really are.  Suddenly, the Arab way of dress is deemed more ‘Islamic’, because any other clothing is deemed an imitation of the infidels – thus I surmise from here that anything non-Arab is virtually cursed to Hell. But let’s not forget that the Arab culture was once Paganist, and even now still belong to several other ancient faiths.

Now, still on the topic of dress, it would be unwise to say that only women who dress a certain way are ‘religiously approved’ (for lack of a better term). But sadly it has long been so, and from experience, it is believed a woman can be chaste and well-mannered, but all that will go to waste if she didn’t wear the Hijab. Again, the chauvinistic misconception of socially acceptable Muslims (as mentioned in the earlier article) is at play. I’d hardly think God would be so petty to throw her to hell just for that, you know.

That said, I think the headscarf has been overly glorified for the wrong reasons. Not only are the various scholarly opinions related about this unknown at large, the judicial instruments and developments herewith are totally ignored. For some reason or other context has lost its relevance almost entirely in the formation of customs, which is pure insanity. There isn’t a problem with donning it, of course. The problem is the way we see the individuals who don’t.

I’ve had numerous Muslim friends (converts or otherwise) who did not grow up accustomed to wearing it and to my knowledge now suffer under the judgmental eyes of the local Muslim community. This undertaking was to prove a point.  I know I don’t need society’s approval to be modest. I don’t need to be part of a shallow community that validates me by what I wear.

And these are my rants.

[ Part 1: Being ‘Irreligious’ ]

[ Part 3: Background Check ]

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Unhijabed

 

Unhijabed #1 : Being ‘Irreligious’

I know clear and well this is a precariously controversial angle to take this topic from. I anticipate much outrage to be directed at me henceforth, but I also hope the ones I speak for will find comfort and a supportive soul in me. If you have often dabbled with the idea of putting the hijab on or taking it off, or struggled with society’s preconceived notions of the ‘modest woman’,  this is especially for you.

Firstly, a little background: I come from a fairly average family and have zealously covered everything save my face and hands since the age of eight. I was educated in a school whose graduates are looked up to as the ‘religious pioneers of the future’ (which I will prove wrong very soon). I even taught religious classes for a significant period of my life. Basically, I grew up in a rather sheltered environment, with principles that were never to be questioned, and a blind idolatry of a religion that is supposedly supreme over every other belief.

At the age of 19* I developed a healthy skepticism towards what I was taught, or rather, what I was programmed to think. My reflections concluded thus: my so-called ‘religion’ has made me nothing but a self-indulgent hypocrite.

One moment, though. If you happen to believe any of the following…..

  1. Angels are afraid of and/or dislike dogs and hence will not enter your house should you keep them as pets,
  2. All Muslim men should have beards because it helps you tell them apart from Jews and Christians, or
  3.  Only Islam is the truth and that anyone who does not believe in, namely, Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), will go to Hell,

….. and, even now, have never questioned any single one of these ideas, I would not recommend that you continue reading. If your curiosity is suddenly piqued, then congratulations, your life is on the way to making sense. I will digress a little further to give a clearer picture of the way I see things, so that you will know where I am coming from when I eventually come to talking about the Hijab.

Firstly, to do any of the sacred text justice, you have to put it in context. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is an absolute violation of human intelligence and, not to mention, the text itself. Look at statement (a) – and let’s put it this way. Angels are majestic creatures of light, created to carry out specific, honourable roles, et cetera. But somehow this narration has given the idea that for some reason or another, angels do not go near dogs. Dogs. Seriously? What are they, retarded? They’re technically not even in the same realm for God’s Godly sake. Then it occurred to me that the dogs normally kept during the time were for hunting or sheep dogs. You know, really big ones whose natural habitat is the wonderful wild world beyond. So of course, keeping them in your house would be an act of oppression, no? Remember how sorry you felt when you saw your neighbour’s canary all alone in its cage? Try feeling that for a Great Dane locked up in a house. It’s exactly the same thing.

To prove my point, here’s a picture of a puppy. I personally think puppies are fluffballs of Divine Love.

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So it wasn’t the dogs that the Angels were so wary of, it was the oppression. And that being the case, I’d assume this narration is applicable to all creatures, not just dogs. So, myth: busted.

And then there are some narrations which make you wonder if they are still applicable in your context, like (b). Coming from Singapore, I’d naturally wonder what’s so important about being different from the Jews, considering I’d be hard pressed to even find one around here, or the Christians, many of whom I’ve made good friends with. Why do we have to be so exclusive, anyway? Because we’re special? That’s real mature. Understandably, it would make perfect sense if that narration came from a time of war. Naturally, you’d want to attack the right bunch of people, and because there’s so many of them, and I don’t recall Arabs of that time having uniforms, there has to be some form of identification. So I suppose that’s another myth busted.

Lastly, the biggest culprit behind all that is pompous and unholy in my life thus far. Let’s look at (c) and pay special attention to the conveniently italic ‘namely’. Yes, because apparently there is only one way to express the inherent Divine Oneness of existence and that is through verbal expression, people. Of all realms, media and cultures, and the times and languages therein. There is only one exclusive (and limited) ticket to paradise. And God created everyone else to burn in Hell eternally. This thought, especially, has screwed with my mind for longer than I can remember. Now, what if I told you that God doesn’t live in a word? That the Divine is something so obvious yet so hidden at the same time?

You would go mad trying to understand that there was no duality in the first place. If there was no duality, why would God create heaven and hell? Why is there good and evil? Or is there? What am I doing here if God is the only reality? Am I really here? Is God in me?

Does your head hurt yet? The point I’m trying to drive here is, how are we subjecting people to the punishment of a God we don’t even know?

… well, the answers are attainable, actually. The answers are within. All you have to do is inquire. Drop the texts, the dictionaries, the fatwas. The years I spent swimming in them never amounted to much, and it probably won’t do you much good either, not yet.

[Part #2: Giving Modesty a Name]

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*I know what you’re thinking. Only 19 but has teaching experience? Beats me. I think it’s ridiculous, too. So here’s some advice, if you have any kids attending conventional weekend classes to learn their religion, pull them out NOW. They were better off finding God by themselves before they got brainwashed. 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Unhijabed