TRANSFORMATIONS

Compiled By: Hajj Mustafa Ali

Transformation of An American Feminist

Most people that I have met since becoming a Muslim have assumed that because I am a woman I must have done it for my husband. It is interesting that they never assume that a man did it for his wife. The truth is  that I became a Muslim and left my home town to join other Muslims the same way that a kitten is moved from one place to another by the mama cat. Looking back it seems that there was very little will or choice involved, at least in the way I then thought of those terms.

I was unmarried, the thirty two year old mother of two teenagers. I thought that I was satisfied with my life. I had a job, house, a vocation and pastimes that I enjoyed and found fulfilling. I was physically very active and in good health, and I lived in a city that I dearly loved for its physical beauties and livability. I often thought that I was quite lucky, and that if I was restless or sensing a vague feeling of wanting MORE, it must be a passing mood, quickly dispelled, usually by more activity.

One day at the food co-operative store where I was part of the management team, several men came in to buy their groceries. I noticed them because they were different from the usual customers or members of the coop. They were very neatly dressed, all had neatly trimmed beards, and they were to a man extremely polite. In the semi-hippie, “counter-culture”, radical-chic circles that I moved in, these three qualities made them quite noticeable characters. Another thing I noticed was that they were quite careful about the foods they were buying, inquiring about animal products or by-products, rennet in the cheese and so on. When they came to the checkout, one of them asked to cash a small personal check, and as manager I had to look it over and make the decision whether or not to cash it. It was from Puerto Rico, and normally it would have been a simple “no”, but something told me to do it, that this man was trustworthy and it would be o.k. As I carefully looked over the check, I asked how to pronounce his name: for all I knew, it was Puerto Rican. He amazed me by not only pronouncing it, but explaining that it was Arabic and proceeding to tell me the meaning of it. Not only had no one in my life told me the meaning of their name like that, it had such a profound spiritual meaning that I was stunned for a moment. In my so very predominantly material world, the beauty of parents naming their child  “the slave of” an attribute of the One Creator was like coming upon a rose in the desert.

The transaction passed very quickly, and being very busy I soon had left it far behind. But the very next day the same man returned to the store with a “small” gift for me, an M. Pickthall translation of the Qur’an in paperback. Once again this was a highly unusual occurrence; a complete stranger bearing a gift, and one that obviously means a great deal to him. I took a few moments break to thank him properly, and he told me the second stunner: that the man Muhammed whom Muslims followed and whom I was vaguely aware of as some mythical, fantastical, robe wearing, horse-riding, sword-waving fictional character, was in fact a historically verified, proven, accepted REAL PERSON, with historically accepted lineage, and a well known accounting of every aspect of his life.

This was a very amazing idea to me. How could it be that someone like myself, a fairly intelligent, state college educated (didn’t America have the best schools in the world?) person learn all that history  and know nothing of this? That thought passed not as a denial but as a sort of wonderment while in a moment the whole world shifted to accommodate this new to me viewpoint.

The visiting stranger urged me to read the book, beginning with the introduction which is an outline of the history of the Prophet’s life and times and explains the revelation of the glorious Qur’an. He then gave me a warning that if one knows and denies, the price to pay is far higher than if  one never had known at all. As he took his leave it seemed that the only thing existing in the world was this book in my hand, and I wanted to read it forever – it was nearly unbearable to return to work.

The next few weeks were a tremendous, internal upheaval for me. Each time I read the book I would have incredible physical reactions. Chills, tears, fever, heart thumping. It seemed that it was speaking directly to ME. It answered questions I had forgotten, spoke to needs in me that I had barely been aware of. I had always denigrated “religion” as emotional blackmail and basically crowd control, ever since I had given up the search quite consciously at sixteen. I became terrified. I kept remembering the warning, but I knew that it meant complete revolution in my life to fully accept and become a Muslim. I as yet knew no Muslims. I had no idea of how they really lived or behaved except for my brief encounter. Most notions in my mind were strange pictures gleaned from old films. There were ideas about the maltreatment of women which had very dubious sources, and which certainly were not confirmed by the book I was reading. Still, this was a major stumbling block. Didn’t Muslims suppress their women, treat them as chattel, force them to wear claustrophobic costumes and bear too many children. Weren’t they considered to be much lesser beings than men?

I was a self identified feminist. Among the women I worked and lived with, feminism was always the  central concern. This was the not the feminism of the media or American politics. We were not man-haters, but mostly mothers or mothers-to-be genuinely concerned about the obvious and pervasive unfairness in virtually every aspect of American women’s lives: valued primarily as sexual objects, sought after and used when young and thrown away when old; manipulated through our best instincts into making very rich the purveyors of every kind of over-packaged, over-advertised, over-priced product to “improve” or take the place of our housekeeping and mothering skills; systematically kept ignorant of the very processes of our own bodies so that in order to bear, feed and care for our children the “modern” "over-educated”  American woman must totally depend upon paternalistic, male, “experts” who by the by also happened to become very rich by our dependency most chilling to us in both personal and general ways was the “open season” on women in this nation extolled as a pinnacle of “you’ve come a long way baby” women’s rights and freedom: rampant and only tokenly punished molestation of girl children, rape, wife battering – even murder, by men of women in endemic proportion. Prostitution and pornography considered to be “victimless” and construed as having the weight of constitutional rights. Glamorized in films and common enough to be part of the scenery of American life: in any cop movie or television show, when the scene takes place in the police station, watch the background: there will always be prostitutes being hauled in. Many times I sat with friends seriously plotting how we might execute a known rapist and torturer of women who was openly walking, stalking the streets after serving a nine month or even probationary sentence. We were never willing to risk jail ourselves for such scum, being mothers we had to be self-protective, so all we ever did was try to console each other. But we had no respect for the “law and order” of a system that condoned and even encouraged such brutality against women. We were only too aware that our daughters and ourselves were at high risk in such a state. We literally felt under siege.

Our discussions and references were underlined by a determination to find and implement new ways of living and relating with people. That seemed to be our only possibility of effecting any lasting change in what we were seeing. We tried many things in the process, some crazy, many not so crazy. For many of us, involvement in what was/is known as the co-operative movement was an attempt to make that active change beyond simple analysis. My job was manager  of a natural food store co-operative, I lived in a co-operatively owned and run women’s household, and was actively involved in the inception of a co-operative counseling group for and by  women.

So it was that when I began reading the second chapter of the Qur’an, more amazement and delights unfolded as the specific parameters of human behavior are delineated from ‘The One’ spiritual source. One of the first things I noticed all throughout the second chapter was the detail in regard to personal relationship and transaction. And how each right has a responsibility, and with each mention of MAN is mentioned WOMAN……. not the supposedly all-inclusive “man” which in normal English usage conveys to the subconscious an actual exclusion of women, particularly from spiritual concerns. I had been raised a Christian. Throughout childhood my family attended many different churches; Baptist,  Methodist, church of god, etc, etc. I and my sister were baptized as infants in the Roman Catholic church under the influence of my father’s older brother who had married an Irish Catholic woman. My mother is Australian; she was a “war bride” who met my career army officer father in Melbourne during World War II. She wanted to attend the American version of Church of England but the small coastal Oregon  town we lived in did not have one, just a circuit priest in old west style, who would come to us once every three weeks and give communion in the home of one of his flocks. My father came from a very large family and we had aunts, uncles and cousins all up and down the coast of Oregon. We often visited them and I remember going to many different versions of Protestant services, and hearing my aunts read the bible in their homes. I always enjoyed church, my favorite thing was the stories in Sunday school where they told about prophets, using cut outs of the characters applied to a felt-backed board. As children we loved best stories involving children and babies: The baby Jesus, of course in his mother’s arms, everyone adoring him. We were taught to love him.

The baby Moses, sent off into the river in the little cradle made of rushes by his own mother’s hand. We always wept for him, for her, for our own mothers. Even as I write I realize I am seeing those indelible images exactly as they were presented to me: the blessed mother Mary in a blue and white nun’s habit, gazing down at her little Gerber baby. The brave mother of Moses; Heddy Lamar with bare arms and flowing hair, pushing off a look a like babe. (Obviously these babes were w.a.s.p.s. like us!) But even as a very young child I was really puzzled by the holy ghost character. Jesus I could see everywhere, was a handsome, blue-eyed, clean shaven man with a kind look in his eyes. God of course looked exactly like my father at his most majestic and stern moments, only much taller. But this “holy ghost”??? All I could imagine was a dancing white sheet with two eye-holes. How could they all be one thing??? Whenever I asked this embarrassing question, the stock grown up answers seemed to apply: “you’ll understand when you’re older” or, “its a mystery”, neither very satisfying. If they were older, did that  mean they understood? If so why couldn’t they just explain it to me, like subtraction and addition, or reading and writing? Or maybe it was a mystery like the ones on the radio programs…….. but they were always solved! Until I was ten years old and my father died, those answers were acceptable to the child-mind as just another case of the inscrutability of adults.

My  father had been badly wounded in World War II and for ten years afterward was on and off unwell, surviving according to the doctors, on force of will.

In the winter of 1956 he gave up and returned to his maker. He spent his final illness at home rather than in hospital. We had a very small house and from my room I could  easily hear his belabored  breathing and moans of pain. On his last night of breath, I prayed long and hard to God to release him from his struggle. In the morning I awoke late, the hour for school had passed and something was not right. I found my mother at the dining room table weeping. The house was so quite, I knew  that he was gone in the instant before she told me. For years I felt guilty  about that prayer …… for causing my mother so much pain. I  was upset with God that that He had to answer it in that way. I tried to take it back but, it would not work.

The big problem for me with religion came right after that. I became obsessed with a need to know what had happened with my father. I saw his body at the funeral. It looked like him, but wasn’t. Where was “he”? People were always saying things to us children like “you have such pretty curly hair”. Who or where was this “you”, if the  hair could still be there when “you” die??? I would stare into the mirror and try to separate this “me” from that body looking back. I wrote to one of my Roman Catholic cousins, asking her to explain. She just wrote back a sweet condolence letter. I asked the young priest who had finally come to our small town to establish an Episcopalian (American Church of England) parish. Again it was pats on the head and understand when older and mysteries. I started to  think, “They really don’t know , do they?"

I still attended church with my family for form’s sake. At times I even felt exalted by it, particularly during the singing. Mostly it was social, and that is why when I was sixteen I very nearly became a Mormon. A good friend of mine at school was from a strong Mormon family. Since my mother had never remarried and had to work a lot to support the five young children she was raising, she was not around very much. My friend's mother became a surrogate for me, teaching me to bake bread, sew, etc.

Their home was very family oriented and I was very drawn to them. They would invite me to spend the night on Saturdays so that I could attend their church meetings with them. When they knew I was attracted to them they brought their missionaries to give me their weekly lessons. I could very well have become a Mormon but for a timely gleam of light which showed their doctrine for the sham that it is.

At the same time that the Mormon missionaries were plying their program, I was studying current American events in school. It was 1963, the middle of all the terrible unrest in the south over civil rights of black Americans. I decided to research the history of the American black civil rights movement for a term paper. In 1963 and even until just recently the Mormon church had a doctrine that black men could never be members of the priesthood that all other men of the church automatically become at adulthood. When asked why, they said it was a revelation to one of their leaders who is always considered to be a prophet, speaking with the authority of revelation. It was  said that the color of black people’s skin was a punishment from God for some past transgression. This appeared so blatantly racist that I had a very hard time rationalizing it and would argue at length about it with missionaries. But when I discovered that the “revelation” came about at the time of the U.S. Civil War when the state of Utah which was primarily populated by Mormons wished to remain neutral, and that they presented  this doctrine so that they could say, “we are not a slave state” in order to satisfy the North,  and “but you see, blacks are not quite as human as whites” to the  South, then, at that moment, all taste for “religion” left me until the moment that the traveling Muslim told me the meaning of his name.

It was time to find some Muslims, to learn more than what my limited intellect could tell me from my reading. In Portland I only knew of the men who had visited the store. Upon enquiry I soon learned  that there was a rented house  in the neighborhood that foreign students used as a masjid. However when I tried to speak with any of them, they were very stiff and strange toward me, although not impolite. They simply were not very open or forthcoming with help or information as the man from Puerto Rico had been. But finally one of them told me that the man who had been so generous toward me was a traveler who had stayed in the masjid for a few days. I was given a contact phone number for him, which I called. It was an American family; father, mother about my age, and three children. I visited them often, and they shared with me their understanding of Islam. They had began to teach me how to make wudhu and how to pray. We had many long discussions about the guidance for living contained in Islam. Mostly, I was interested in simply watching how they lived and interacted. The woman had a unique honesty which I greatly admired and thank her for to this day. She explained to me that while I may observe her resisting some of the practices, it was due to her own internal struggles and not to any inherent fault in Islam. She told me, “If you are seeking a spiritual path, Islam is definitely the best and most comprehensive. Please do not let my rebellion become yours.”

I was drawn more and more strongly  to this strange yet somehow familiar way. My sleep was filled with vivid dreams, mostly of traveling and parting with family members. I still felt in inner turmoil, unsure what I would really be letting myself in for.

One day about three week’s after the visitor’s appearance, I became very fed up with the indecision and agitation of my mind. I had read a few references to fasting, and from friends interested in various health practices, had heard that fasting was a good way to purify one’s thoughts as well as body. So I determined to fast until I knew what to do. I had no notion of the format for Islamic fasting, but the next day I just did not eat anything, although I did drink water. I worked that day and had an appointment in the early evening across town. I recall that about halfway there, as I was crossing a wide river and the sun was setting, the thought entered my mind that when I reached my destination I would have something to eat. Directly after that, another thought came, but not in my own, another thought came, but not in my own voice: “What are you afraid of, you will still be yourself.” At that very moment I knew my decision was made, the relief was so great.

Later I called my Muslim friends to ask them what to do. They had me come over, take a ghusl, and dress in clean clothes. One syllable at a time, I repeated after them, “Ash-hadu an la ilaha illa’llah, ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulu’llah.” They gave me the name Nafisa after one of the daughters of `Ali ibn Abu Talib, the cousin of the Prophet. That night I had a dream: I was sitting on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. Three incredible white, as if made purely of light, birds swooped down and skimmed over the sea. The same voice that spoke in me on the bridge said in my mind, “You can  be like them, and do that also.” Suddenly I was skimming over the waves, I could not feel my body, only the coolness of the ocean spray.

There still remained the task of finding a community of Muslims in order to learn and practice what it really was to “be” a Muslim. My new friends knew of a Sufi  community in Tucson, so we contacted them and they invited me to visit or even to move there with them. I wanted to check it out before moving my family, so I flew down for a ten day visit without my children.

The first taste of this community confirmed all my most optimistic hopes of what living Islam could be. They were celebrating the birth-date of the Prophet with a dhikr and feast. Many of the elements that my feminist friends and I had discussed as ideals of simple behavior that we found missing in average American social life were present in this group. The women and men sat separately, although I could observe the men greeting each other with  warmth and brotherhood. This was a big thing for us feminists in many discussions. How in the dominant culture of America, men, any men, assumed  that they could interrupt, address and interest any woman or women who were unaccompanied by a man. And how women had been enculturated to devalue one another’s company and friendship, often dropping another woman like the proverbial hot potato when a man, any man, no matter how inane, appeared on the scene. And by the same token, how western men seemed to have forgotten any idea of how to be brotherly with each other, looking to women for all their emotional needs, affirmation and moral support. This syndrome was clearly  not in operation with these people. Children were well behaved but obviously relished. There was a giving, a generosity of time, helpfulness, food, small gifts that lighten the heart. There were so many spiritual references in common conversation. In Arabic, “thank God, praise God, if God will’s”. The greeting and its return, “As salaamu alaykum - wa alaykum salaam.” “Peace be upon you - and upon you, peace.” Dozens of times a day, directly to another human being, small prayers for peace. Here were people who were joining belief intention and vision with action  and transaction. And they were from many different races and cultures . Black American, white American, Jewish American, Mexican American, American Indian, Japanese American. European: Belgian, British, French, Spanish, Danish. African: East African, West African; black, white, Jewish and Indo-South African. Pakistani, Iranian, Iraqi; Arab and Persian. Malaysian and Chinese. Australian. I looked back at the groups I had identified with before, particularly those striving for purposeful action with meaning in this life. This suddenly appeared so very small and insular. A handful of people scattered about the west coast of America. At times embroiled in petty ego battles, speaking a common language that only the initiates could ever understand. Extremely ignorant about other cultures, other spiritual paths and extremely arrogant about their own. The hit song made by American pop stars for African famine relief in 1984 (?) “We are the world. We are the children.” was highly appropriate albeit unintentionally. Americans DO think they are the world, and they are on the whole children. Just cross them or their belief systems and watch the tantrums fly! But so very cute and sweet when given their candy and toys, and kept safely in their big playpens.

On the second day of my visit in Tucson, one of the women played a tape of their living, teaching Sufi Shaykh speaking. It was unmistakably the voice in my waking and sleeping dreams. This was too much. I nearly began to doubt my sanity. I felt ill with severe bronchitis, and spent several days flat on my back in my motel room. I watched television for hours on end; mindless, stupid shows. I was afraid to let in anymore. On the second day of the illness, a dear and noble sister, Zuleika, visited me. She brought me a string of 99 wooden beads with amber markers every 33, and one long bead at the beginning/end. She painstakingly taught me to say, “la ilaha illa’lah”–THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, for each bead. She also gave me grapefruits, and I soon recovered with the aid of these potent remedies for both body and spirit. I returned to Portland fully determined to disentangle all involvements in order to return and be with these people. I felt like the prospector who has found a few huge and very pure nuggets of gold which he knows  absolutely can only lead to more and more and the mother lode. But I could never have foreseen the obstacles that now were about to spring up in the way, testing “to the max” the depth of my sincerity in intention. Up to this point my family’s attitude  had mainly been an indulgent, “There goes our eccentric sister/daughter/aunt/mother once again.” I was the family rebel, radical, hippie, “free spirit”. My poor dear mother had long before given up any notion of my fulfilling the working class upward mobility into middle class and good credit. She loved me still but I had been going on my own way for many years.

But suddenly in the news was a shocking revolution in Iran. Muslim fundamentalist fanatics! The effrontery of carefully cultivated and staunchly supported puppets booting the USA out of their ever so profitable country! And always yelling about God! What a bunch of brainwashed barbarians!!! An enormous threat to all freedom loving peoples of the free world!!!

Suddenly my family is worried. Now she has really got herself into something bad. Informed that the group in Tucson is of practically every nationality you can think of, they decide it must be a cult. It is just too different. Most of them just faded into the woodwork, but the active Christians leaped upon me to save me from the infidels. It was a mini  Crusade; banners flying and armor secured, they attacked in full force. They even brought in their special knights, to argue history and biblical points. I was saved by having no defense. I was still too ignorant about Islam in every way to debate with anyone. All I could say over and over was that since my heart accepted the basic premise, I felt no choice but to accept the responsibility to learn more and to practice the basics. I could not truly understand why anyone  would really be threatened by the small changes I had made. I simply stopped eating pork and un-halal meats, drinking alcohol, dating. I dressed more modestly and behaved more modestly. I prayed in a more specific way, but in the privacy of my own room. None of these seemed to be that huge of a change – and all improvements, especially to Christians, one would think. But  a pointer came to me from my eldest sister when she said, “You can worship anyway you like but you cannot call my God ALLAH.” Even when I tried to explain to her that every language has a word for “God”, but that ALLAH is the only word that has only ever been used to refer to the ONE Creator, the very same that she called “God”, and that her word could be used with many different meanings, and that on top of all our arguments, she purported to be a follower of the beloved Jesus, and Allah was much more likely what he had used……there could  be no argument at all that he said “God”. STILL she stubbornly maintained that by using this word I was insulting her and referring to some other god.

Just before leaving I attended a church service with my mother. It was the Christmas season and for her a very important family tradition was to attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. So for her sake, not knowing when we would be together again, I went, but told her I would only sit, and not take part.

For the first time I really listened to the words. I tried to hear them rationally, and suddenly realized that most people mouthing them could have absolutely no idea of their meaning. If they did they might be horrified! The bloodthirsty, cannibalistic attitude toward Sayyidina `Isa, (a.s.) appalled me. I have never felt the slightest inclination to step into a church  since then.

The second major stumbling block was my eldest daughter. She violently objected to leaving her school and friends. I may have considered allowing her to stay with my family and remain there, but I had been for some time already very unhappy with her American liberal “education”. Both my daughters could read BEFORE they attended first grade. They read avidly and were very quick at mathematics.

 I had been watching helplessly as their education in the state public school system became more and more merely socialization, and definitely not GOOD socialization. For a year my beautiful daughters had been learning how to dress sexily, wear make up, drink wine, smoke pot, cut classes, and dance like Las Vegas Showgirls.

When I informed her in no uncertain terms that she could NOT stay behind, that until she was of legal age she must stay with me, she performed several extremely worrisome stunts. As I plodded determinedly on, selling my share in the house, resigning from the job and training someone to replace me, and finishing off debts, etc. and etc…. she was every single day trying a new tactic. It finally culminated in her running away aided and abetted by a schoolmate’s mother! (The ignorant woman  thought she was saving  this poor little girl from a fate worse than death––Islam!!!). When I found where she was after several sleepless and frantic days, she refused to come with me but said that she would meet at a counselor's office. My Muslim woman friend encouraged me in every way and helped me plot how to get my daughter back. She came over to my house and helped me load up my car and kept telling me to “Go, go, go, get out of here!”. I literally met my daughter and nabbed her with the car set for the drive to Tucson. We set off with one girl jolly and looking forward to an adventure, and the other in the darkest of moods.

During  all of this struggle and harassment, I occasionally spoke on the  telephone to people in Tucson. The day before leaving I phoned in a panic looking for some support for the difficult journey we were facing. Another tremendous woman who I had not yet met in person got on the line and after discussing the route and preparedness of the car, etc, told me to say  Aoodhu billahi minash-shaytanir-rajeem” whenever I felt fear, wavering or outside obstacles. Now I know how to pronounce it, and what it means and that it was very good advice. But at that time I knew no Arabic at all (still saying my prayers from a hand-held booklet with transliteration), and I stumbled and stuttered  over the phrase. And this very astute and quick-witted woman said, “Never mind, just say BISMILLAH.” So we sailed over the mountains and through the valleys on ten thousand “bismillahs”.

This was just the beginning, very nearly ten years ago, of an unimaginably adventurous inward and outward and never-ending journey. In the first year of my fifth decade of the great gift of life, I found myself continuously unfolding and blossoming into full and true womanhood. I find myself looking forward to the growth of learning and wisdom, if Allah wills, of the ageing process rather than the bemoaning the passage of youthful attributes as most women of my age and culture do. I watch actresses my age spending vast amounts of time, energy, money, and pain on the vain attempt to stop or reverse the ageing process. They look silly and pathetic to me, I genuinely feel sorry  for them. I am not suppressed who encourages my endeavors and expressions as long as they are within the broad parameters of spiritually  ordained responsibility…….toward him, toward other Muslims, toward all human beings, for my own heart’s sake. We had an arranged marriage when I had been a practicing  Muslim for a year and a half. We knew each other but there had been none of the “usual” dating or courtship….. no romance in the beginning but plenty of respect. Through the months and years of serving each other in a myriad of ways, love has developed in an entirely natural way into true romance: love and trust, with all its concomitant delight.

From my own experience on this great adventure of Islam, and from my observations of women in the various “Muslim” cultures we  have lived in, there are far greater opportunities for women’s fulfillment and happiness than in any other way of life. Islam is what we make of it by our actions in this life. Most assumptions and viewpoints of women in Islam are veiled and colored by cultural adaptations that have been made by different peoples as they became Muslim. And certainly injustices and wrong actions are undertaken by Muslims in the name of  Islam, but that is true of anything that human beings have attempted to live by in all of history. Not only “religions”, but also types of governments, ethics, every sort of philosophy. And always, in every time and place, women have been oppressed by men. That is recognized in Islam by the fact that so many rights of women are clearly delineated, and equitable behavior by men toward women is pervasively enjoined through the teachings. If men were inherently just toward women, why should this be necessary? In our time the teachings and guidance of Islam from the ONE  source through His messengers, books, and learned, purified beings are readily available in every language. All Muslims, men and women alike, are enjoined to continuously seek knowledge. When a woman learns for herself what she must do for her own soul, and what she has a right to as a spiritual being with the authority of the One Authority, she becomes safe from oppression. If men transgress their power over women and become oppressors in any way, personal or general, there is a grave reckoning in this life or the next.

The first absolute proof for me of this and of the high esteem of women in Islam was when I learned that the punishment for rape is death. Not probation or six months jail time. The bounds of human behavior are so violated by this act that a return to answer to the Highest authority is all there can be. Anyone whose life has been touched by  this reprehensible act can immediately comprehend the correctness, the compassion of the punishment that fits the crime. As I reflect now upon the teachings and examples presented to present day Christians, I see a deeply ingrained double message regarding acceptable behavior toward women, even of one’s own family: in the old testament of their book, well-known and admitted to have been many times changed by men, and only partially intact, there are stories told of the prophets themselves transgressing decent human behavior. Filthy tales of prophets, purified and guided men appointed by God as living examples of noble behavior, committing murder in the pursuit of lust, or committing the most heinous breach of family incest. The Christian who even realizes what this is saying usually will say something to the effect that since they were men, they could make mistakes,  and that there forgiveness by God for such actions is proof of His mercy and forgiveness. I say it is lies upon these perfected of beings. That the prophets brought us guidance not only in written form, but by their own guided actions.  They were men, yes, but they were guided by the One guide, protected by the One protector from making every possible mistake and crime that humans are capable of.  For examples of rape, incest, murder, lust, we have plenty of criminals in every age.  But no wonder these terrible crimes are tolerated, and even nurtured, in a culture with the tradition written in their own “holy book”, of men of God committing them and still being revered as “prophets”!  For this reason alone the present day bible would be unacceptable and suspect as “word of God”.

The second and daily confirmation of the status of women in Islam is Chapter thirty-three, verse thirty-five, of the most Noble of books, the one proven to be revelation with never even one letter changed from its first earthly appearance, the Holy Qur’an:

“Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember–– Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.”

I have lived and traveled around the world, meeting amazing beings from every race and walk of life.  The ONE, most Generous of Providers has provided for me every need beyond my wildest desires.  I’ve had many hardships, tests, struggles, on every level.  And still my Lord unceasingly fulfills every promise, despite my unworthiness and obtuseness, to wear away at my impurities as water smoothes the ragged stone.

Each and every day there are proofs near and far that Islam is the best social transaction and the widest, surest, and quickest of paths to inner transformation.

I thank ALLAH, subhanahu wa ta`ala, for the great gift of Islam and for the guidance of all the prophets, for the final Prophet and the book he brought with him.  Blessings and Peace upon the Prophet Muhammad and his most noble and pure family.  May Allah protect and bless and further all the Muslims in all the world in all their struggles. Amin.