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Appreciating the men around us

In the current exposé climate we live in, it is easy to become swept up in the furore of public outrage and condemnation. However, as reflective and forward-thinking people, we should always scrutinise a bandwagon before jumping on it.

It is frustrating to see how different problems and issues that are independent of each other become merged together. At times, it seems that we deal with injustices by being unjust. As reasonable as it is to think that not every White person is racist, not every man is sexist too. We cannot deal with racism by demonising White people, and we cannot bring greater respect for women by hating men. Sweeping generalisations do not help anyone – real equality should be in treating everyone with respect. The greater danger of this stereotyping is that it can make one lose their identity and create self-fulfilling behaviour, lowered self-esteem, and may even lead to problems in relationships and marriages. Too often, the ugly stories of evil deeds are given so much attention that we are left wondering, “Are there any good guys left?”

We all know there are issues within the Ummah. While it is important to not hide from problems that are taboo, these need to be tackled systematically rather than quick fixes or actions that may later destroy the very fabric of the nuclear family and communities at large. We can see that change is needed. Rather than accept common perceptions and norms, we need to use our own model – one that takes our history, culture, and religion into consideration. Through this, we can create our own discourse by which we can navigate and push for positive and meaningful change.

“He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allāh.”[1]

We are living through a unique time in history, with many learning points from what is going on in this current pandemic. For example, taking all the good we have been blessed with for granted is a grave error. The UK is the world’s 6th richest country,[2] but when schools were closed, forget all the teaching time the young were missing: food collections were needed to provide food for many children in what was perhaps their only proper meal for the day! As difficult as it may have been to be stuck at home with running water, electricity, and Wi-Fi, this cannot be compared to the many trials that those around us are facing. A number of us enjoyed reconnecting with our husbands, wives, and children, even if it lasted a couple of weeks before we got on each other’s nerves! However, for some, lockdown was a sentence. There was no escape and nowhere to retreat from the violence that only escalated. The charity Women’s Aid reported that ‘67 per cent of survivors who are currently experiencing abuse said it has got worse since Covid-19 and 72 per cent said their abuser had more control over their life.’[3]

Numerous families in the UK have absent fathers. Children are having to be raised in single-parent families, and the connection between this and problems at a later age are well documented. Raising children with a father who is present – and one who cares and contributes to the children’s nurturing and tarbiyyah even if on a minimal level – is no small matter. Being safe in your own home and not fearing for your life cannot be taken for granted. Being with someone who treats you well and values you as a human and is generally a good person should not be taken for granted. It is possible to simultaneously appreciate the good while working on the bad – this is the meaning of commitment.

So, as a forward-thinking and reflective woman who uses my own discourse to understand the world around me, I need to realise that I am the result of some great men around me who ultimately gave me the safety and security to be who I am. I know this is the case for the majority of Muslim women. Many of us have had the good fortune to live with (and to have been raised by and work with) decent and honourable men. This should not be forgotten nor overlooked. Rather, we need to celebrate this and be grateful to Allāh.

Being grateful and appreciative when looking at people’s positive qualities helps us to deal with each other better and create the opportunity for growth and development. Whether we are dealing with our children, husbands, colleagues, or siblings, being grateful aids us in improving and forming better relationships.

“They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.”[4]

The majority of Muslim men take their roles as heads of household very seriously. Many women do not worry that bills will not be paid or that their children cannot get new clothes. They deal with everyone around them with decency and uprightness. As brothers, Muslim men love and honour their mothers and sisters. As fathers, they show mercy and kindness. As husbands, they are devoted to their wives. Many work with women and know how to keep their boundaries. Our leaders and imams make great sacrifices to build communities and provide services.

“And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allāh makes therein much good.”[5]

“Let not a believing man hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one quality in her, he will be pleased with another.”[6]

I do not deny that there are bad apples amongst us and that the suffering they cause is far reaching, but I choose not to allow that to ruin the whole bunch. Sometimes, a fruit or vegetable might have a small bruise, but this can be removed and the rest of it is still of use.

We need to realise that what we imagine as the ‘perfect’ person is itself a construct of society. The problem with this mindset is that these ideals are often generated and reinforced to create false expectations. Currently, about a third of the planet’s food goes to waste, often because of its looks. That’s enough to feed two billion people.[7] None of us are perfect. What we all really want is to be able to feel that our flaws are overlooked and put into context rather than them becoming a label that we find hard to shift.

A woman’s role in creating a better society is pivotal. As Muslim women, we need to start with ourselves in moulding a positive mindset as well as being the ones to encourage this in others. We need to take active responsibility in cultivating our sons to become great men like those from our illustrious history, and we should support, encourage, and recognise the worth of our menfolk. In so doing, perhaps we can make a bandwagon of our own that suits us better.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Sunan Abi Dāwūd

[2] https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/

[3] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/survivors-say-domestic-abuse-is-escalating-under-lockdown/

[4] Al-Qur’ān 2:187

[5] Al-Qur’ān 4:19

[6] Sahīh Muslim

[7] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/03/global-food-waste-statistics/

The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.

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About Umm Sulayman

Umm Sulayman is currently a full-time mother, residing in Bristol but forever a Londoner. She has previously worked as a deputy head teacher and has been involved in community and dawah projects. Her interests are family, the environment, dawah, gardening & DIY.

2 comments

  1. On the whole, a lovely sentiment that makes perfect sense. Jazaak Allahu khair.

    However, regarding “Many of us have had the good fortune to live with (and to have been raised by and work with) decent and honourable men.”

    When our beloved prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I have not left behind me any fitnah (temptation) more harmful to men than women,” he was referring to all types of men: the honourable ones as well as the dishonourable ones.

    It is a mistake to think that slipping up when dealing with the temptation of women is something that only dishonourable men can do. Men and women who work together in close proximity and over long periods of time are literally playing with smokeless fire as they are underestimating Shaytaan.

    Even if on the outside it seems like the relationship is purely platonic, only the people involved really understand the effects of it on their marital life at home. We hear about the trouble caused when spouses compare each other to Muslims in the public eye such as dawah carriers, imams and scholars, thinking that their spouse falls short compared to them. This is the case even when we are aware that what we see on our screens is a polished, well-groomed, well-spoken version of an individual whose day to day life we have no knowledge of. Accordingly, we are far more likely to make comparisons with those we work with and who have far more opportunities to show us that they can be kinder, more attentive, more invested, more sensitive and more considerate than our spouses.

    And then there’s the issue of what is deeply hidden: the nafs and what it whispers to the individuals involved, which they typically don’t reveal to their colleagues.

    Also, Allah’s Messenger was the most honourable of men, yet he segregated the men and women even in our most holiest of places: the massaajid, and then he sat amongst the men. As the most honourable of men, he said that he would rather be pricked in the head with an iron prick than to touch a woman who it was forbidden to touch. As the most honourable of men, once when he was sitting with the sahaaba and a woman walked by him, he went to one of his wives and when he came back, he told the sahaaba that if they had seen what he had seen then they should do as he had done.

    In fact, the ayah of the Qur’an asking men to lower their gaze refers to believing men, who are the honourable ones right? So we shouldn’t be naive in thinking that it is okay for honourable men to put themselves in places of fitnah, as they will not be susceptible to falling into it. Nor should we think that if they do slip, they must have been dishonourable, as the many evidences above show that they were revealed to help stop honourable men from falling into sin due to the temptation of women.

  2. ‘it is possible to simultaneously appreciate the good while working on the bad – this is the meaning of commitment’.

    Depends how bad the bad is. There is a world of difference between a guy who spends too much time playing computer games rather than spend more time with kids and a guy who uses his wife as a punching bag.

    Sometimes religious types will advise a woman to stay on with a husband regardless of violence and controlling behaviour ‘for the sake of the family unit’. That’s just wrong and needs to be called out. We need balance.

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