Monday, December 18, 2006

Sex Without Love

I second questioned myself about posting my response to this poem I read. I have been reading alot of poetry for the last two days. I felt the need to since I don't know I've appreciated fine writing and treated by eyes to beautiful prose in a long time. Anyways, I found this poem by Sharon Olds 'Sex Without Love' and it got me thinking to the point where I started breaking it down to its core. Here is the text of the original poem:

Sex Without Love
By Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
Gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth, whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Analysis of ‘Sex Without Love’

In “Sex Without Love,” Sharon Olds takes a direct approach of asking a question many people may have considered: How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? One of the most interesting things about the poem, aside from the question she asks, is her decision to simple state the heart of her poem. Unlike other poets who construct complex imagery, symbolism, and other forms of fugitive speech to allude to the heart of the poem, Olds takes the opposite approach and simply presents it to the reader. However, this does not take away from the poem or even lose the interest of the reader but it is arguable that such a question captures their attention.

The topic has always attracted attention because of people’s conflicting views on sexuality. The reader does not get any simple answer to the question but follows Olds as she draws a beautiful rich image of two people having ‘gliding over each others bodies like ice-skaters as they grasp on their bodies, tender and vulnerable as new born children. The final clause of that sensual sentence describing sex, ‘whose mothers are going to give them away,’ is unexpected because the reader is naturally inclined to believe a mother will hold and caress a new born child, not give the child away – perhaps suggesting that sex without love is analogous to a new born that seeks the warmth of a mother but is denied that by the mother’s choice.

Instead, she describes those loveless sex partners as ‘purists’ who don’t mistake the pleasure they are achieving as coming from their partner but themselves. Yet the same purists who refuse to worship the false Messiah engage in contradictory behavior loving the Priest more God, like the one who engages in sex not mistaking another for their pleasure, only to make the bigger mistake of finding themselves as the lovers. In the end, they have engage in nothing more than mechanical behavior of running like great runners who lose scope of the larger picture achievement of running a marathon. In this loss and appreciation of love, Olds seems to suggest that sex without love is the single body alone in the universe measuring and demanding pleasure not from their lover but themselves.

The message is quite blunt and cold; after the beautiful prose they uses to describe two people in a seemingly affectionate act of passion, she reminds us that if there is no love between them it is nothing more than a discarded new born alone in time and space. Re-examining the writer’s choice of a restrictive-free style, the reader senses that Olds strengthened her ability to address a topic that must be of importance to the writer because of her forwardly intimate approach that ends with a pity-evoking image of loveless lovers.

Applying the Analysis to Muslims

For many Muslims, the topic is of sex and love is taboo. I’m not sure if many Muslims have made the distinction between love and sex, and hence treat is as one and the same. Meaning, you’ll find Muslims truly in love being denied marriage by their parents because the parents believe their children are just behaving lewd and lusting; something they’ll be over in a little while. On the flip side, some Muslims believe that the one courting them in marriage is only in for love (everlasting love) but we later find out it was more of a sexual desire and the two quickly jumped into marriage.

When attempting to apply the question of is there sex without love amongst Muslims, the answer seems like yes. But Muslim could have told you that - just as there is love without sex in Islam. For instance, the 2nd wife of the Prophet (saw), Sawda (ra), would give her night to be with the Prophet (saw) to Aisha (ra) because of her old age but just because the Prophet was going to Sawda (ra) at night did not mean he stopped loving her.

Considering the Analysis in Context of Islam

Since loveless sex is such a sad moment, the question to ask, does Islam promote loveless sex? (Short answer: no; longer answer to be explained below)

Considering that the only way any man and a woman will be able to engage sex in Islam is through relations after marriage. Hence, marriage is the pre-requisite to relations. This begs another question, who is marriage for?

Marriage is for Lovers

The answer to the above question, who is marriage for, is quite simple and beautifully expressed in a hadith of the Prophet (saw):

“There is nothing for two who love one another like marriage.” Recorded by Ibn Majah.

Hence, the conclusion: Marriage is for lovers!

Obviously the answer cannot be that simple. Lets examine some commentary by the Scholars on that hadith:

Faidh al-Qadeer (the commentary on Jami` as-Sagheer) al-Munaawi said:

“‘It is when a man looks at an ajnabiyah [unrelated woman] and his heart has desire of intercourse, then marrying her will result in increased love.’ This was mentioned by at-Teebi. And more correct than him is the saying of some of the elders that the meaning is that it is the greatest remedy to treat the passion of desire for marital relations. For it is a remedy which there is no equal for by any means. And this is the meaning which is indicated by Allah, Glorious is He, after making women lawful; the free of them, and the slaves of them due to need, by His saying:

“Allah wants to lighten [the burden] for you, and man was created weak.” (An-Nisa’ 4:28)

So by Allah, Glorious is He, mentioning lightening in this subject and informing about man’s weakness, it proves that he is too weak to carry this desire, and that He, Glorious is He, lightened its matter for him by what He permitted for him of pure women. And with this explanation it clarifies that the information relates to when he intends to propose to a woman, and he sees her and feels love for her, then it is legislated that he may plan to marry her merely based on what he saw.”

In Kifayat al-Hajjah, (the commentary on Sunan Ibn Majah) as-Sindi said:

“It is, when there is love between two, then that love will not be increased by anything among the various types of means of drawing nearer, nor will anything make it last, like the marriage tie. So if they are married with that love, then the love will increase and become stronger with every day.”

MashAllah! Just read above at the wisdom and deep understanding the Scholars have about love.

After reading this hadith, you may pause and ask yourself something like this: ‘hey, this hadith is saying that I need to be in love before I get married, and what other way to fall in love than by “getting to know” the other?

Getting to “Know” One Another?

Ah you see, Islam is a system that contains wisdom that would realize this type of reaction and makes it clear from the commentary that the meaning of “love” in the hadith, is desire, not the complicated concept of love that modern people intend.

Abu Khaliyl, a student of knowledge who has ijazah in certain books of hadith from the deceased Safi ur Rahman Mubarakpuri, further adds:

So, a man loves bread, and his love of his bread is similar, and at the same time not similar, to his love of his wife. When he is hungry and he sees bread, his desire to consume it increases until he does so. And yet, we call that, “love” of bread.

This is the type of love that is common through out this topic, it is present in the two mentioned in the hadith, and it is present in the man when he sees bread.

But man’s love for bread does not increase after he consumed it, while marriage causes love to grow. So the love that comes from marriage, is not the same as the love (i.e. desire) before it. And this is obvious and common in normal speech.

Conversely, the modern evil concepts of marriage dictate, ‘we must get to know each other well prior to marriage.’ While this has nothing to do with love, but “getting to know.” And knowing something is not the same as loving something. Then, it is no secret what this concept leads to, and even among Muslims.

So the Prophet (sall Allahu `alaihi wa sallam) did not say: “I have not seen anything for two who love each other like fornication.”

Rather, he said: “marriage.” That is, marriage increases love, while fornication will only lead to anguish, in this life and in the Hereafter.

But man’s love for bread does not increase after he consumed it, while marriage causes love to grow. So the love that comes from marriage, is not the same as the love (i.e. desire) before it. And this is obvious and common in normal speech.

And Allah knows best

Great Stuff huh? Responses/comments welcome.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Acknowledging the Holocaust & Regaining the Moral High Ground for Muslims

I keep reading about Muslims who want to question the severity of the Holocaust, or straight out deny that it ever happened. This has come to the forefront in the media recently because of the conference in Iran that seeks to question the Holocaust.

I read this recent article about a group of Jews who are against the state of Israel, arguing that the teachings of Judaism instruct that only the coming of the Jewish Messiah can lead to the creation of a Jewish state:

The book of Jewish law or Talmud, they say, teaches that believers may not use human force to create a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah.

They also go on to make a valid point about how the Holocaust has been used by the Jewish people:

He [Austria-based Rabbi Moishe Ayre Friedman] says the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it.
The main thing, he argued, was not Jewish suffering in the past but the use of the Holocaust as a "tool of commercial, military and media power".

These Jews were at the conference in Iran but they were there to object at Israel, not debate the valdity of the Holocaust, which they believe happened without a doubt. However, I believe just examining this group is important because they can teach us Muslims that you can accept the Holocaust and still find objection to Israel - which Muslims don't seem to understand.

Let us Muslims face the facts:

Any reasonable Jew would find any statement questioning if the Holocaust happened as offensive, and rightly so.

One the flip side, any Palestinian has a right to be offended when people (Jewish or non-Jewish) speak about Israel’s legitimate right to Palestinian land, especially using the Holocaust as a justification.

The Holocaust and Israel are two distinct issues that often get messed together because of emotions.

First, the issue of the Holocaust. As a Muslim and a human being, I find it offensive and foolish that anyone would try denying this horrible crime. People may debate about the specific ways or precise number of deaths that occurred but outright questioning whether it happened is absurd. The Holocaust was genocide, and genocide is a grave crime against humanity – humanity is something all people, regardless of creed are members of, and crimes against humanity are an offensive to us all.

The second issue is the state of Israel. The fact that the Holocaust happened doesn't give one the privilege to arrive in a foreign land (although historically Jewish) establish a new state and marginalize the native population. There were Jewish people living in Palestine before Israel was created but those seeking the creation of the Jewish state were European Jews who created the impetus and pressure upon England (i.e. Balfour Declaration) towards supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This is one of the reasons, the main reason in my opinion, Arabs and Muslims in the world perceive Israel as a permanent mark and continuation of colonization (a period where the Arab/Muslim civilization was humiliated by Western Imperialists) upon the Arab/Muslim world.

I find it unfortunate that because of the creation of Israel, Muslims feel enmity towards the Jewish people because we really shouldn’t since Muslims and Jews have both suffered at the hands of a common oppressor: Western powers. Jews suffered through hundreds of years of persecution in Europe culminating to one of the greatest crimes ever committed. Likewise, the Arab/Muslim world also suffered at the hands of the Western colonialists and imperialistic powers for much of the 19th and 20th century.

Muslim should accept the Holocaust at its face value and take the moral high ground by pointing out that both of us have suffered but Jewish suffering didn’t privilege Jews to come into a land they left over two millennia and reclaim it as the state of Israel. The last they should be doing is having conferences that have former KKK leader David Duke.

However at this point, Arabs/Palestinians/Muslims should also realize there is no way to “get rid” of Israel since the state is clearly established. We should just focus on at least getting any Palestinian state because it seems like that option may not be available to Palestinians soon, even though in principle Palestinians had a greater claim to more land.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughts on Hijab/Niqab and Its Relationship with Modesty

The whisper of a pretty girl can be heard further than the roar of a lion.
[Arabic Proverb]

So I came across this discussion between two Muslims online about hijab. I wont comment on them but let you read what they said first.

Muslim X says:
Girls without hijab are like unwrapped hard candy...I won't touch that. If you saw a jollyrancher that has been opened and licked on, would you want to suck on it? Metephorically speaking: that is what a non hijabi is like!

Muslim Y responds:
THis is funny reminds of my kid brother back home in Jordan..He would play pranks on his friends.. HE would take a jolly rancher candy ,unwrap it ,lick it ,Wrap it back and give it to his friends…and they would suck on it like champs!!


I have respect to all women ( in hijab or no hijab/ muslim-non muslim) . APPEARANCE don’t mean NOTHING! ITS ALL ABOUT MORALS!



You would not touch unwrapped candy! I don’t think you can get any candy in the 1st place! PEOPLE LIKE YOU GIVE 3ARABS A BAD NAME! I wish we had a face to face conversation; there would have been a lot more interaction!

SO, when the big day comes , and you get your wrapped candy bar, remember my brothers pranks, ENJOY!

I was thinking about what I think this can be best analyzed through the principle of what hijab is, not the reality of people practicing it.

Hence, in Principle: Hijab functions as the phsyical dress form of modesty.

Modesty is the larger principle that hijab functions to serve. Modesty is principle that both Muslim men and women are encouraged by Islam to follow.

Thus, a sister wearing hijab is simply fulfilling one of the duties towards achieving modesty.

There are other duties commanded upon us, such lowering one's gaze (men and women), not shaking the opposite gender's hands (i know its hard), not being alone with a person of the opposite gender, etc., that as a whole function to create modesty.

In sum, people tend to be simplistic in their understanding of modesty by just associating modesty with dress. In reality, modesty is very difficult thing to achieve because it requires many things more than just hijab/niqab.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Broken Doors

I'm re-posting this from a new blog I found... I really liked it and I thought I'd share it.

Why the Broken Doors

The Doors have been broken and the windows shattered. The glass is all lying around and i can’t hide from the wind. The rain i used to love is destroying the very foundation i built. I ask myself, “Why the Broken Doors only in my home”. I thought i could seek refuge behind the doors but all was shattered and even the curtains were razed. I was trying to hide from the rain only to be hurt by the glass all around. I tried to walk tiptoed to save myself from the broken glass but little did i realize i was numb to the pain. The glass became the canvas, rain the brush, and what better paint than my thick red blood.

I'll write more about my thoughts on it later, inshAllah.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams

I feel the need to share this beautiful poem with others... I've been thinking about it lately. Its been defining my prespective for the last 2 weeks.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.

I'm not sure what Yeats meant by the poem but it has taken on a different meaning for me. For me the title and poem's body speak to two different things. First, the title "He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" speaks to the narrator's desire for something so beautiful, that it's heavenly. Second, when examining the body of what the narrator intends to do with that majestic cloth, it is to offer it to another - possible the beloved.

These desire expressed in the title means that it is only the means to achieve the real desire - to offer something to one's love. This begs, the question, why does one speak about offer something in the title, when in reality the objective is express the love to the loved?

The way i interprete this is that the narrator has lost focus of the loved and sees the 'Cloths of Heaven' as the only means of achieving love itself, so much so that he percives them as the end itself.

I especially feel this in the last few lines...
"But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams."

The narrator cannot offer those cloths but only his dreams in return. The dreams will be walked upon, but more importantly what are his dreams? Are his dreams the love for the loved or they his desire for the cloths of heaven?

I empathize with the narrator because he may not know the anwer himself... the process of pursuing his loved his led him to lose scope of what our dreams and desires are about: love in itself; not the material offers to win love.

Why have I been thinking about this so much... perhaps I to became like the narrator and lost prespective on what are my true dreams, since they cannot be the Cloths of Heaven I have been coveting.

When thinking about a dear friends situation with marriage, i feel this realization actualize more. My dear friend strives for the cloths of heaven in the hopes that he may spread them beneat her feet and express his love. But being poor, he has only his dreams, his dreams of love... if he spreads his dreams, she will tread upon his dreams, even if she treads softly.