inherently empowered

13 Mar

Yes, it’s women’s month, and last 8th was International Women’s Day.

I am a Muslim woman in a predominantly non-Muslim country. I am a Muslim woman married to a man who, although a Muslim as well (Alhamdulillah for that), comes from a different culture. I am a Muslimom–in progress, mind you. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, niece, friend, student, and so much more. I am a woman–a Muslim woman.

Why do I often add ‘Muslim’, you ask.  I can’t help but smile…

Isn’t it funny that we got to a point where we observe or celebrate such days? If you ask me, everyday is women’s day or men’s day or grandparents’ day…yes, everyday. Why did we get here? How did we get here?

Reality bites. Eyes are blind. Minds have numbed. Hearts are still muted. Spirits…worn out. There goes another walking wounded.

There’s so much confusion and chaos in the world that we’ve forgotten what it means to be humane. There’s so much violence…so much abuse that sometimes–or is it often?–one of us whispers it’s no use.

I am a woman. And, to make it more complicated, a Muslim woman in a predominantly non-Muslim society. Yes, I’ve been called a terrorist. Yes, I’ve been asked to remove my headscarf. And, yes, media often portrays me as oppressed. (No, I will not say they are completely wrong because a lack of true understanding of Islam among some of us who call themselves Muslims do exist–leading to prejudice, discrimination and yes, more specifically, oppression.  Yes, they are not completely wrong but they often just highlight, even sensationalize, abuses. Abuses that happen even among non-Muslims, right?)

And if that wasn’t enough, the pull on the other side wants to ’empower’ me by inviting me to join the age-old “battle of the sexes”–there’s nothing a man can do that we women can’t…we are the greater of the two. Feminism that has forgotten beautiful complementarity.

I am a Muslim woman married to a man who, although a Muslim as well (Alhamdulillah for that), comes from a different culture. And, accomplished as I am in my chosen field, I just have to say I am truly fascinated how empowered the women from my husband’s circle are. I love to call them the Ottoman women–beautifully confident and empowered, ma shaa ALLAH. Home management to the next level, indeed. No sitters, no playschool drop offs, no househelp–yet still make great meals, not to mention sweets like baklava! More importantly, however, I realized there’s this difference from our cultures that one should take note–men didn’t mind helping out and were groomed to help out whenever they can. Men tried their best to earn a living so their queens could stay home and manage home affairs without having to worry about finances. My first trip to the pazar had me seeing an almost all-men fruit-and-vegetable market. Most of the wives and moms were there only to decide what to buy, but the carrying and all were done by men. I am reminded of how our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) helped out his wives and spent time with his children.  Secretly, I realized how in my country, the marketing and the chores were almost always all given to women that some men don’t even know what a certain vegetable is or if the chicken is expensive or not. What happened? Why have we allowed our boys to stay as boys? (And, this is so accepted in my society that even most of the women allow it to happen) 

Yes, women in my husband’s circle are probably not the type who would often meet up and discuss social issues (the world’s problems and how we can solve them, harhar)–admittedly, it was something I missed a lot especially during bouts of homesickness; but, they do support noble social projects and can be as socially conscious as my girl friends. I noticed, however, that it’s the main role they played that their networks appreciated and supported so much–i.e, their role as home managers. Noble role, indeed, and it was a career (that, technically and legally in our society, is not considered a profession or career and has no financial compensation) that they passionately pursued–for the sake of Allah. Ma shaa ALLAH. I was fascinated with these Ottoman ladies but, admittedly, also pressured that it will take years for me to even be half as good or half as fast as them in performing certain tasks. Alhamdulillah, my husband reminds me I need not be like them. I simply have to confidently be the best me I can be. Still, having ladies to inspire me helps and makes me remember how Muslim women managed homes especially during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). I pray I can perform this role to the best that I can, in shaa ALLAH.

I am a Muslimom–in progress. I say in progress because there is (and will always be) a lot to learn as a mother. You, dear fellow mom, know this: it is NOT easy. BUT, it is possible and will always be so meaningfully worth it, in shaa ALLAH. I must confess, another important factor that makes it difficult for me in adjusting to this role is this: my lack of training in home work (read: multitasking the chores and what-have-you’s). Conversation with my dear friends had us admitting that we grew up being trained more to pursue a career. Yes, while most women in our culture allowed girls to do most of the chores (if not all), most mothers also excuse their daughters in doing a lot of chores so we can focus more on our studies. And, society (at least, the one in which I grew) had us unconsciously giving less importance to being a full-time mom or housewife. I remember a friend quipping after hearing I intended to give up teaching or emergency psychosocial response once I marry, “so magiging housewife ka na lang (so you’re just going to be a housewife?)?”. He didn’t mean anything bad, really. It was so unconsciously casual. I ended up telling him that yeah, that was my plan; but I also made sure he’d get to correct himself by stating, “hey, it’s not bad. sige ka, so mom mo housewife lang?” With that, he suddenly had a different view of housewives and shared how proud he is of his mom. Are you relating with this? I am reminded of the status of women in Islam–how highly regarded they are. I remember that the beloved Prophet (pbuh) said Jannah lies at the feet of our moms. Ma shaa Allah. SubhanAllah.

Woman. You. Me. They. We.

Sad to say, so much negativity has happened that an international observance of women’s month or women’s day had to be put into place to remind people of our real value. It’s nice to have this kind of month. But, personally, I really hope every woman remembers that everyday is our day–no one should make us think otherwise. Everyday is our day, and we have every right and responsibility to promote what is good and prevent what is evil. What I mean is, let us not allow ourselves and other women to be abused; but if it happens no matter how hard we try, then let us not allow ourselves to give up and give in to our fears. Let’s keep trying, in shaa ALLAH. Everyday is our day, and we don’t need to compare ourselves to or to be defensive against men to make us feel that way; but at the same time, we don’t need to depend on another–a man, for example–to feel it’s our day.

Everyday is our day. Beautifully given. I am a woman–a Muslim woman. Again, why do I keep adding ‘Muslim’?

I am a Muslim woman, and as such, I am empowered much to know that my worth is neither diminished by definitions others try to impose on me nor by my decision to agree to other people’s views or wishes should there be truly nothing wrong with them. As such, I am empowered much to know that my worth is never dependent on the other whom The All-Knowing can, at any time, take away from me. I am a Muslim woman, and as such, I know my worth is reflected on how I make use of everything with which I’ve been blessed, under any circumstance, to serve and to give thanks to The One Who created me.

I am a Muslim woman…and in this often unfair, chaotic and confusing world, my being a Muslim makes that much-needed difference. Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal si wal kufri waddalal.

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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in I + You = WE


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