Breaking Stereotypes

Being driven by many cultural things, we have left the teachings of Islam. Letting stereotypes make their place in our homes to our hearts, we have not left any place to make improvements. We left working on our shortcomings. Generalizing our wickedness, behind the cover of “Everyone is doing that”, we made the sins normalized. Normalizing stereotypes has been done in many ways and has been a barrier to development for a relatively extended era. It doesn’t only affect the psychology of generations but also the inbuilt immoral personality in the upcoming generations.

  • Boys don’t cry! 
  • Girls don’t ask such questions!  
  • Oh, girls are the chatterbox!
  • Be a man, how can you show your emotion here.
  • Men are emotionless.
  • Women are way too emotional.

Who says? Worlds says. Be it, liberals, Westerners or our cultural heritage, these lines have been endorsed as an inheritance from our forefathers. And we too use them when we feel like it, be it consciously or unconsciously, we all have done it.

But, does our deen tolerate this sort of behavior? No, our deen teaches us to be a beneficial human being to humankind, to get better every day, and to overcome our shortcomings.

But unfortunately, we have not internalized these teachings and this is a cultural conception not just in any one culture but across the world. They are women, they just talk a lot without thinking, women are very chatty and we use that as an excuse. We are raised with that. Unfortunately, we have all of these conceptions about what women are like quote unquote right and what men are like. Boys will be boys and that gives men a kind of license to be aggressive, right to express their anger and then others feel that all we need to just put up with this because that’s just the way men are. We know we don’t allow boys to cry because we think, oh! boys don’t cry. Why don’t they, of course they can cry. They have emotions. It’s better that they let out their emotions than to pent-up frustration and sadness by crying then by beating somebody up.

We pass them on to our children, when we react in the way. We raise them thinking like that. We are tolerant of other people’s negative traits because we just think that she’s just being a woman and he’s just being a typical man whereas that’s not our criteria. These cultural norms are not our criteria so this assumption that we have about women that women are just naturally chatty, women are just talkative, women are just going to speak without thinking, women are just going to say things that are nonsensical or hurtful because the emotional, they don’t have any control over their emotions. These are cultural kind of stereotypes; they are not in accordance with the sharia. The prophet’s teachings about preferring silence over speaking aren’t just for men.

The first point that I want to bring to your attention is that the prophet has encouraged people to stay silent alright. This is something that women find particularly difficult to follow but this is from the teaching of the Prophet AS. He said whoever stays quiet. They are exonerated. They are saved from the punishment that results from that sin. The prophet said about the tongues, that tongues fight. He said that their physical size is very small but their crimes are big. The prophet guided us, the criteria that he gave us was that only speak when speaking is more beneficial than staying quiet. When we plan to say something, we should estimate that whether I say it or not, the benefit is going to be more or less the same. In that case, what is preferable is to just stay quiet and not to say that we’re only supposed to speak when our words are going to have more benefit than our silence.

These teachings are for women as much as they are for men. Therefore, everybody similarly if we look at the way the men around the prophet AS alone, were they not cry. They cried. The best of the Sahaba, our Hazrat Abu Bakar RA , it is said that he used to cry a lot. So crying was not seen as a sign of weakness. It was actually a quality, a positive trait in the men that they were sensitive, that they felt strongly about Allah SWT They cried when they were hurt. They expressed their emotions that way comfortably so that their frustration and their sadness was not pent up and they eventually erupted by beating somebody up.

Being emotional is not something negative at all. I don’t like emotional being used as an insult. I think the reason why it’s become used as an insult is to do with misogyny. Because women are more emotional than men and so emotionally seen like a negative trait as a weakness, whereas it’s not. Alhamdulillah Allah SWT has made women more in touch with their emotions, more in touch with the emotions of others, more able to deal with their emotions, more able to deal with other people’s emotions. They are more able to express their emotions because they have to raise children and they have to manage a whole household. They are the pivots in a family and when you are a pivotal role in the family when you are somebody who’s raising children and who has to manage children, husband, in laws, own parents and extended families, etc. You have to be in touch with the emotions of others and you have to be able to respond to them.

If women will not emotional then what would they do when their children cry at night? They would stay sleeping. It’s a strength that they have, that better equips them to perform certain responsibilities. Being emotional is not a negative thing. This is not just a habit. The sahaba were emotional about the deen. They were emotional about the prophet AS. That’s why they were ready to lay down their lives for the deen and for the prophet AS. They were willing to endure hardships. If they were not emotional about the deen, then deen would not have had survived. Anybody who has achieved any kind of change are those who have made changes in the rights of minorities or rights for women. They’re all people who feel emotional about their cause, isn’t that the case, if they were not emotional then they would not be willing to make personal sacrifices for a larger cause. Just like women, make personal sacrifices for the sake of their families and their children.

So being emotional is not something negative, being emotional is an asset as long as it remains within the limits of the sharia that is where we start going wrong men and women both of us. The emotions can exceed the limits of the sharia. Even anger is a positive thing, if it’s within the limits of the sharia, someone who doesn’t feel anger if another person comes and beats up their child. If a husband doesn’t feel anger if some random stranger comes and gropes his wife. The person who has no emotional response. That’s a negative thing so not all anger is negative. We need some level of anger to be able to protect those who we love, to be able to stand up for what you believe in, to be able to defend what you believe in.

All of these all of these traits as long as they are within the limits of the sharia, they are positive and once they transgress the limits of the sharia, that’s when they get problematic. If being emotional means that you start speaking in a way that is hurtful for others. If you start saying things that are unnecessary. If you start saying things that are untrue, you start launching accusations on others that we are just transgressing the bells, the sharia. We are lying. We are hurting others, all of those are sins. If we are going to be emotional and express that in a way that you know you’re going to start harming other people. That’s a problem. It’s when our being emotional just like everything else. If it transgresses the bounds of the sharia and makes us do things that are contrary to the Sharia, to the teaching of the prophet AS. That’s when it becomes problematic and the same is with speech.

We don’t have to say useless things, women don’t have to say things that are hurtful, women don’t have to say things that break the rules just because they are emotional and if they are so emotional that they can’t hold themselves back, then they need to work on that. We do not believe that, we just accept ourselves as we are and say oh that’s just the way women are.

Let’s change that because our criteria are not what society’s norms are. Our criteria are not what people around us are. Our criteria are not what the media tells us. Soap operas and TV dramas, the image of women that they’re presenting or that is a reflection of reality, so this is just the way we are. No, we don’t have to be jealous. We don’t have to be emotional beyond the bounds of the Sharia. We don’t have to have this regard for rules. We don’t have to be careless etc,etc.  Our criteria are the sharia and the prophet AS teaching were from both men and women. We don’t hear of sahaba who were aggressive and angry all the time, we don’t hear of Sahaba who didn’t cry because oh! boys don’t cry. Similarly, do you hear of any sahabiyat who just used to be talk, overly chatty, just used to talk.  No. We have to correct our norms based on what the teachings of Prophet AS and the Sahaba were.

Man feels shy to show their love to their kids and wife, as it’s not manly enough. While our beloved Prophet SAW played together, drank from the same spot of the cup, and constantly exchanged sweet words to one another. His strong love is very well known and beautifully mentioned in many books. Our Prophet SAW was never shy about showing his deep love for his daughter, Fatima RA. When she entered the room, he would stand up for her, kiss her, take her hand and make her sit in his place.

This absence of backing has barren the women as an intellectual species. Women are asked to remain quiet or else talk only when they are asked to talk, while prophet SAW complimented the women of Ansar for their quality of questioning. He praised them saying that these women don’t let their shyness come in between their way of gaining knowledge. The wives of prophets SAW used to be very cheerful ladies and used to ask many questions and queries. His wife, Aisyah RA, was a scholar who used to be consulted by other companions RA on religious matters and expressed herself freely in the public sphere, and with her excellent presentation, we get to know more than thousands of hadiths. She proceeded to impart awareness to the companions RA. As she was the closest person to the Prophet SAW, she was one of the most attentive individuals during that time. She inherited many of the hadiths from the Prophet SAW which she went on to transmit to others around her. She played a leading position in conveying the message of the Prophet SAW and became a key reference point for the Islamic tradition. Her contributions and offerings to Islamic scholarship are one of the legacies she left behind for us and the coming generations.

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