Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The 7 ways Islam kills romance

As couples the world over celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, many no doubt recalled the great Muslim love stories:
Romeo and Juliet and Fatima and Dalia and Naima; A Midsummer Night’s Stoning; the movies Veiled Woman and When Harry Beat Sally – so many

Right-thinking people today would find such quips “Islamophobic” and distasteful; far more distasteful, however, is the grim reality they represent. When Valentine’s Day rolled around last week, Muslim leaders rose to oppose it with a fervor they have seldom mustered against the jihad terrorists who have supposedly twisted and hijacked their peaceful religion.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department thundered that “social ceremonies such as this are a stepping-stone towards greater social ills such as fraud, mental disorder caused by alcohol, abortion and baby-dumping, and other negative ills that can invite disaster and moral decay among youths.” The Indonesian Ulema Councildeclared that “celebrating Valentine’s Day is against Islam.” Saudi Arabia’s feared Islamic religious police banned Valentine’s Day and hunted for people toting suspicious roses and candy boxes. A Saudi cleric who has said that “devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer” dubbed Valentine’s Day “immoral.”

In Uzbekistan, Muslim clerics preached against Valentine’s Day in their Friday sermons. In Kashmir, Mohammed Akram Wani, a student at Srinigar’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic studies, declared: “The event is anti-Islamic and Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the day because in Islam the day has no importance.” And at Pakistan’s Peshawar University, devout Muslim students decided to celebrate February 14 as Haya (Modesty) Day, which consisted of stoning students who were celebrating Valentine’s Day, firing on police who intervened, and setting several rooms of their hostel on fire.

This hostility to Valentine’s Day, some Muslims explain, is because celebrating it is bid’a – innovation, an unacceptable concept in a religion that Allah has “perfected” (cf. Qur’an 5:3), and because it has roots in Christianity and has become an excuse for drunkenness and promiscuity. But there is a deeper reason as well: Islam is hostile to romance. “Asking a Moslem about his women,” the heroic journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote back in 1964, “is like asking him about a secret vice.” The condition of those women, and the state of Islamic romance, has hardly improved since then.

A few of the principal ways in which Islam is a romance-killer:

1. Polygamy

Polygamy destroys romance. Is she the one, the only one, who has captured your heart, delighted your eyes, put a spring in your step and filled your heart with joy? No, she is just one in a series. The Qur’an tells Muslim men to “marry those that please you of women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then one…” (Qur’an 4:3). It seems fair: a man who cannot be just with multiple wives should restrict himself to just one, but in such matters, what constitutes just behavior is all too subjective and elusive. Islamic authorities have generally understood this to mean equal economic support and equal time in the beds of each.

But the human heart longs to love and be loved uniquely, and this desire cannot be extinguished. In
 Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453–1924, Philip Mansel’s elegantly written history of Constantinople after the Muslim conquest, he offers a moving case in point involving the daughter of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire:Yet even if all this were scrupulously managed, an equal distribution of affection wouldn’t be possible. Even Muhammad favored his child bride Aisha over all of his other wives. A hadith has a Muslim making bold to ask him, “Who is the most beloved person to you?” Muhammad answered with one word: Aisha. (Bukhari 5.62.3662) What might his other wives have thought of this?

Yet even these most powerful and privileged of Ottoman might be tortured by jealousy. Adile Sultan, daughter of the great nineteenth-century reformer Mahmud II, married an army officer, Mehmed Ali Pasha. They were in love. One day at the fashionable meeting-place in the Golden Horn called the Sweet Waters of Europe, she attracted his attention. Since she was thickly veiled, he did not know who she was. He dropped a scented handkerchief at her feet. That night the Pasha found the handkerchief on the pillow beside his sleeping wife.

One day, according to Mansel, Adile Sultan traveled to a mosque far from her home. Taking advantage of the celebrated Oriental hospitality, she stopped for a rest at a mansion that was on the way. While enjoying coffee and sherbet set out by her hostess, she was astonished to find that her hostess, too, was the wife of Mehmed Ali Pasha!

She said nothing, however, and returned home — where, Mansel says, “thereafter she lived in seclusion, writing poems of increasing sadness. When she died in 1898, she was buried beside her husband. They never referred to his infidelity.” In Islamic terms, it wasn’t infidelity at all. But nonetheless, it gnawed at Adile Sultan’s heart.

It doesn’t take much knowledge of human nature to recognize that it’s a story that has been repeated and is still being repeated in polygamous households the world over.



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