The Ethics of Chivalry Between Genders: Imam Zaid Shakir


The Ethics of Chivalry

Issue 67 April 2010

Islam is not a religion of empty laws and strictures but one which points towards a higher ethical order.

In the literature discussing Futuwwa, which has been translated as Muslim chivalry, there is the story of a young man who was engaged to marry a particularly beautiful woman. Before the wedding day, his fiancée was afflicted with a severe case of chicken pox which left her face terribly disfigured. Her father wrote to him informing him of the situation and asking if he preferred to call off the wedding. The young man replied that he would still marry his daughter, but that he had recently experienced a gradual loss of sight, which he feared would culminate in blindness.

The wedding proceeded as planned and the couple had a loving and happy relationship until the wife died twenty years later. Upon her death the husband regained his eyesight. When asked about his seemingly miraculous recovery he explained that he could see all along. He had feigned blindness all those years because he did not want to offend or sadden his wife.

From our jaded or cynical vantage points it is easy to dismiss such a story as a preposterous fabrication. To do so is to miss an important point that was not lost to those who circulated and were inspired by this and similar tales. Namely, our religion is not an empty compilation of laws and strictures. The law is important and willingly accepting it is one of the keys to our salvation. However, the law is also a means to point us toward a higher ethical end. We are reminded in the Qur’an, “Surely, the prayer wards off indecency and lewdness.”(29:45)

The Prophet Muhammad mentioned concerning the fast, “One who does not abandon false speech and acting on its imperatives, God has no need that he gives up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari) These narrations emphasise that there is far more to Islam than a mere adherence to rulings.

This is especially true in our marriages. Too many Muslims are involved in marriages that devolve into an empty observation of duties and an equally vacuous demand for the fulfillment of rights. While such practices are laudable in their proper context, when they are divorced from kindness, consideration, empathy, and true commitment they define marriages that become a fragile caricature. Such relationships are irreparably shattered by a silly argument, a few wrinkles on the face, unwanted pounds around the waist, a personality quirk or a whimsical desire to play the field to see if one can latch on to someone prettier, wealthier, younger, or possibly more exciting than one’s spouse. Continue reading

“Contemporary Muslim Woman” Series: The Dating Dialogue – Muslim Relationships by Zeba Iqbal

GOATMILK continues its original  series entitled “The Contemporary Muslim Woman” featuring diverse Muslim women writers from around the world discussing a gamut of topics in their own unique, honest and eclectic voices.

Zeba Iqbal, author of the now famous  and extremely popular “Dating While Muslim” and “Over 30 and Unmarried” returns to Goatmilk.

dating.jpg Dating image by DonaldDouglas

Young American-Muslims find themselves walking the tight rope between conservative Muslim traditions and liberal American culture. Because of this, Gen X and Gen Y Muslims are well-positioned to pave the way for change. Nearly all have “dated” vicariously through non-Muslim friends. Simultaneously many take their faith seriously and have a sincere desire to propagate it.

We have the Hijabi Monologues, I propose the introduction of Dating Dialogues. Dialogues between Muslims sharing candid stories of life, love, courting, dating and marriage. These individual stories exist and will undoubtedly tell a larger narrative: The story of American-Muslim cultural adaptation and assimilation, and the evolution of a very American Islam.

“Dating-like” options are evolving in the American Muslim community. Most courting couples take advantage of modern technology and communicate via text, email, chat and phone. Many also feel face-to-face interaction is necessary. Some couples seek parental approval up front to meet in chaperoned settings or have a nikah (legal Muslim marriage) soon after or in place of an engagement so they can meet and “date” before the civil wedding and celebration. Other couples meet independently and spend time on their own before speaking to their parents. A variety of permutations and combinations exist, and depending on personal situations, beliefs, and nature and nurture, they may all prove to be acceptable cultural adaptations.

According to Sheik Yassir Fazaga, we need to strive to “make Islam relevant” in America. Dr. Sherman Jackson echoes the sentiment, saying it is necessary to “create a new cultural matrix that can survive in the broader context of America. [Islam in America] has to change for the religion to survive.” Continue reading

“Muslims Talking Sex” Series: Sexual Double Standard – When Women are “Skanks” and Men are “Studs”

GOATMILK continues its original and exclusive month long series entitled “Muslims Talking Sex” featuring diverse Muslim  writers from around the world discussing a gamut of topics in their own unique, honest and eclectic voices.


Women are “skanks” and men are “studs”?

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam and deputy director of Illume Magazine.

The stories are almost always the same: a woman, frequently in a Muslim country or within Muslim communities, is brutally slaughtered for “violating the family honor” by being suspected of fornication or adultery. In the notorious Amina Lawal case in Nigeria, she was sentenced to death for adultery, but the father of the child was let go for “lack of evidence.” Sometimes, a woman or young girl is killed by her brother, who himself has a girlfriend. Yet, this double standard exists not only in Muslim or Eastern societies; it exists even here in the United States. Women who sleep around are frequently called “sluts” (or worse), while a man with multiple sexual partners and escapades are “studs.”

Why does this double standard exist? Continue reading

“Muslims Talkin Sex” Series: Anti-Teen-Dating Diatribe by Mohja Kahf

GOATMILK continues its original and exclusive month long series entitled “Muslims Talking Sex” featuring diverse Muslim  writers from around the world discussing a gamut of topics in their own unique, honest and eclectic voices.

muslims dating

An Anti-Teen-Dating Diatribe

Mohja Kahf

Teen dating: What demented dunce invented it? Aunty Mohja wants to know. What possesses U.S. consumerist culture to promote it as the norm? Let’s send a boy and a girl, their horniness joyfully newfound but woefully untamed, into the dark of a theater or the back of a car, unsupervised. Let’s urge them to contort their emerging personalities around what makes them pleasing to the other they wish to attract.  Let’s expect them to go through relationship after relationship in their teens, getting jaded before they’re out of high school. What species of parent permits such perversion? A dayyuth, in Arabic, is a person who gives someone sexual access to a member of the family: a variety of pimp. Aunty Mohja is just innocently pointing out this word. Continue reading