Singapore – From my eyes I

Those who know me personally, know quite well that I love and respect Singapore a lot. Although I am not a citizen myself, I find myself defending Singapore every where I go and with every one I speak to.

I first visited Singapore in 1995 as a tourist and while travelling back from Singapore I made a little innocent wish of being able to visit Singapore again. I never knew that I will get married to someone 4 years later who lives in here. I moved here in 2009 after I got married and 8 years later, its become home now. Yes, I love pakistan but I respect singapore deeply.

In this post I will only speak about cultural and religious freedom that I have here.

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Singapore is a multi cultural country with people of all religions living with harmony. It’s main languages are English, Chinese, Malay Bhasa and Tamil and the citizens comprise mainly  of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin. The main religions here are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism and there people from all religions are allowed to practice their own religion in their own way as long as they do not interfere in any one else’s practices.

I have spent a chunk of my childhood in UAE and some time in UK for my studies. Although I have never really faced serious bullying in my life directed particularly towards me but I have been called ‘Bloody Paki’ and treated as an inferior muslim for being a pakistani Muslim rather than being an Arab. But a lot of people might be unaware but I’m protected by law in Singapore against such discriminations. No one can call me names due to the way I look (the color of my eyes, my hair or my height can’t be commented upon), I can roam around in shalwar kameez the whole day without being worried about someone being judgemental,  I can sue someone if their dog touches me (yes, this muslim sensitivity against dogs is highly regarded), halal food is readily available and I can even pray publicly in a park without being stared at. Also, the Muslim laws of marriage and inheritance are being looked upon by the Sharia courts of law.

And the best thing about living in Singapore is that we have lots of public holidays too: 2 each for each of the 4 main religions which also ensures that we do not have to worry about going to work on Eid day 🙂

* the beautiful picture of Sultan Masjid is not mine but taken off the Internet. Sultan Masjid might be the most famous masjid of Singapore as it’s a popular tourist destination but there are lots an lots of masjids and some of them very beautiful and majestic in terms of their architecture. The Islamic schools (medrasaa) are in abundance too masha Allah.

 

 

 

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Confused?

I find it really interesting when I read some of the questions by Muslims all around the world like, “Is nail polish allowed?” or “Can I wear heels?” or “Can I get my eye brows done?” and the best of all, “Can the color of my hijab/jilbab/abaya be other than black?”

Oh well, arent we making our lives too difficult? Is Islam really supposed to be so confusing and difficult to practice?

I wouldnt say that questions like these do not bother me. After all I am a hijabi woman and I end up questioning my modesty pretty much every day. Islam teaches us one basic rule of thumb when it comes to questions like these: Muslim women are supposed to adorn themselves only for their husbands and for no one else. In addition to that, women should always look like women and not men. Ah, this makes life so much easier. On the contrary, it doesnt. We all know that being decked up with make up and jewelry is hardly practical while making chapatis. You see it gets really hot in the kitchen and it after all aint very comfortable to be wearing well fitted clothes when you can instead be lazing around in ur old PJs once you are done with your household chores. So, I am one of those lucky women who actually dont get dressed up for their husbands and get away with it by saying, “its too hot.” Now u cant blame me because it actually is always really hot and humid in singapore…so hot that most people prefer to remain half naked! So now that I dont adorn myself for my husband, what do I do wen I go out? Simple, not wear heels which make too much noise or wear so much perfume so as not to attract gazes from the opposite gender. I do not wear gothic make up and nor do I wear flourescent colored hijabs. And yes, I do get my eye brows done…remember, I am supposed to look like a woman, not a man! I remain simple but simplicity does not mean I have to look hideous. A little make up wont make me the most gorgeous woman in singapore, neither would a delicate bracelet make men think of me as sex goddess!

PS: I am not a scholar and am not trying to be one either. The above is simply my opinion which I have made over the years by reading various texts. My opinion might be wrong and might even change over time. If you intend to follow any of what I have written, please do not blame me on the Day of Qayamah 😀

Why, oh why? [Women and Masjid (Pakistani Perspective)]

Growing up in a family like mine, I never realy felt any biases against myself due to my gender. I had the same curfew time and went to the same educational institutes like my brother. I learned to drive pretty much the same time and interesting both of us were taught to offer salah by our grandfather too. In fact, a lot of the times it was my brother who thought I always got the advantage, being a girl, and got away with a lot of things and now wen I think back, I cant really deny that completely 😛

But as I grew older and started going to Pakistan more often (and then later lived there), I realized, things were ‘culturally’ very different from what I had been taught at home and from what I had learned from books. I am not saying that Islam really differs too much between the two genders, but the difference is way too visible in the predominantly so-called Islamic State. You know, as it is said, if you want to understand Islam, look at Islam itself and not Muslims. This saying started to become a reality for me.

Soon, I found out there is not a single masjid nearby where women could go to pray if they wanted to. Funny. Yes, I am a Hanafi and I always knew that Prophet Mohammed (SAW) encouraged women to pray at home but did that mean women are not allowed into the masjid at all? I started digging for answers and interestingly, I found a hadith which says:

Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Do not prevent your women from attending the masjid, even though their houses are better for them” [Sunan Abu Dawood]

Not bad at all! This was all very logical…something I knew already but just didnt know from where it came. Praying at home is better for women but Islamically, men could not prevent women from praying at the masjid. The meaning was straightforward: a masjid is supposd to provide proper facilities for women at masjid and then it is upto the women whether they want to go or not.

Now, talking about fiqh. Hanafis are usually the most strict wen it comes to women praying at the masjid and as it is the predominant fiqh in Pakistan, I really needed to know whether it is something cultural or Hanafis really believe that going to masjid is, in fact, haram for women. I found the following:

Hazrat Aisha (RA) has been reported to have said, “If the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was alive to see what women are doing now, he would surely have prevented them from entering the masjid for prayer just as women of Banu Israel were prevented” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Now the above is simply an opinion by Hazrat Aisha (RA), not a ruling. It is also of common knowledge that Hazrat Omar (RA) prevented women from attending masjid for prayer as part of the law during his reign without making it part of the religion itself. Futher, the fatwa on this matter must be scrutinized far more carefully:

“It is disliked for women to attend congregational prayers in the masjid even for Eid and Juma prayers, and even for old women attending night prayers, according to the more reliable position in Hanafi School, due to the corruption of time.” [Imam al-Haskafi, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/566]

So, again, it is disliked and not considered haram as the common misconception in Pakistan. Further, if you look at the Hanafi rules, you will in fact find various laws regarding how a woman should behave in a masjid if she is having her periods. Now , if according to Pakistani jurists, women are not allowed in the masjid at all, why do we need to talk about wat a women should do if her periods start when she is in the masjid?

And then at times I think, if women are allowed to go freely to markets, lawn exhibitions, fashion shows and social gatherings where men and women intermingle, often (not always obviously) in the most un-Islamic manner, then how can going to masjid be considered haram? Sadly, in a country like Pakistan, even the most religious women often have to miss their prayers because they were either stuck in a traffic jam or were buying essentials at a market. You would be shocked to know that most shopping malls in Pakistan do not even have a prayer room for women and interestingly, most shops remain closed till around 1 in the afternoon.

So what are women supposed to do?

Well, I guess just wat they have been doing so far…prayers can wait!

The Bastards!

No, I am not calling the Pakistani players bastards….I am disappointed and heartbroken but I am done with my wailing and have comforted myself that there can only be one winner, that winner can win by merit or can be gifted that victory but at the end of the day, the winner takes all and yes, I want to be an Indian right now…but, wait, I am supporting Sri Lanka on Saturday because I know they can avenge Indians just like they did in 1996. Oh God, stop me now, I dont want this post to become something I dont want it to become. And yea, I cant help it but I still like the perfect ‘X’ that Afridi makes with his body after every wkt.

So, I shal talk about something else: Dogs! I dont know why I seem to attract them! I mean, why do dogs come and brush their head on my body wen I dont even look at them. Cant you see I am a hijabi woman…who does not hate dogs if they are just being cute and staying away but definitely hates it wen they rub themselves all over my clothes and I have to come back home, feeling disgusted, needing to change before I can even read my namaz! And no, it aint funny, especially on a day wen I am already feeling blue!

Blissful Marriage (8)

Contrary to popular belief, Islam is the most feminist religion/systems of all. Dont believe me? Read on!

Financial Obligation

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. [4:34]

No matter how much husbands think they are favoring their wives by going out, sweating out to earn bread for the family, it is in  fact one of their religious duties. Since it is an obligation, men have to provide for all the necessities of their wives whether they like it or not and can never ever think of it as a favor to their wives because thats how Allah has devised the system. In return, women are only supposed to stay loyal to their husbands and obey  them in things which are not contrary to Islam. If a woman has her own financial income, she has no responsibilities to fulfill, at least not islamically. She is allowed to keep all to herself or spend it the way she wants to without worrying about anything. She might decide to help, but her husband cannot force her to do so.

Household Chores

We have all grown up seeing our moms spend hours in the kitchen and many of those who have been brought up in the West might even have seen our moms scrubbing toilet floors. It is inculcated in us that its a woman’s duty to do all that. Interestingly, while on the one hand, men are supposed to earn bread for the family, there is not a single ayah or hadith which I have been able to find that makes it compulsory for women to do any of the household chores! Women can actually not do any of the household chores and still not be answerable to Allah (SWT). If women do any of it, they do it out of love for their husbands and children and to help their husbands save a few extra pennies. There is no law (religious or secular) that coerces them to make dinner and then not be appreciated for it. Now if you are a married guy and ur wife attempted to make gulab jamuns for you which tasted more like kacha milk powder, get up and kiss your wife’s forehead and appreciate her for at least making an effort cuz she was not supposed to do that, she just did that out of love for you 🙂

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Rewards in the night

Establish regular prayers – at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory! [17:78-79]

Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their Lord, in Fear and Hope: and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them. [32:16]

As to the Righteous, they will be in the midst of Gardens and Springs, Taking joy in the things which their Lord gives them, because, before then, they lived a good life. They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night. And in the hour of early dawn, they (were found) praying for Forgiveness. And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy,) him who asked, and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking). [51:15-19]

Hazrat Abu Hurayra (RA) reports that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “The best prayer after the obligatory prayers is the night prayer.” [Muslim]

Hazrat Amr bin Abash (RA) reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: “The closest that a servant is to his Lord, is in the last part of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah at that hour then do so.” [al-Tirmizi]

‘Now I know why Allah wants us to stay awake at night and pray,’ was actually the first thought that crossed my mind right after I hit the Publish button for my last post.

The underlying meaning is just beautiful. The more I think about it, the more it fascinates me. The term Salaah (or Salaat), loosely translated as ‘prayer’ in English, literally means to supplicate. Now the term supplication itself means to seek humbly for something you crave for by being submissive. Craving in itself is a strong word for desire. Thus, it means when you pray, you are actually begging Allah (SWT) to fulfill a strong desire of yours. Unfortunately, as most of us do not understand a single word that we recite during our Salaah, we just offer them as part of our daily ‘rituals’ and the ‘urge’ never really brims to the surface.

Now obviously, to properly supplicate, we need to meditate, contemplate and try to understand what we are praying for. And what better time there could be than the night, at least for the night owls, when it becomes easier to concentrate. And for the larks and the hummingbirds, there is just nothing to lose as well because Allah (SWT) promises great rewards for those who sacrifice their sleep to be able to pray, read the Qur’an and grasp its meaning.

May Allah (SWT) help me and everyone else to understand the Message clearly and implement it in our daily lives. Ameen.