عمران بن حصين قال قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم الحياء لا يأتي إلا بخير
“Modesty brings nothing but good” [al-Bukhari]
Thanks to Allāh, my health has improved and basics like ablution and prayer are no longer such physically taxing mountains to overcome several times daily. I however delayed writing on a few topics I had in mind, since I had applied to write for a UK based blog. More important than the financial remuneration offered, I thought that being part of a systematic structure would be beneficial to me. However, it seems that swimming in a stream of rejection is my medicine for cleaning the heart of arrogance.
Today I read a tweet by a brother, “What are your thoughts about a Turkish man proposing to his fiance in front of the Ka’bah. Is respect being lost?”
I hit the reply button, “Why have you called her fiancé even before the proposal?”
He thereupon tweeted, “I haven’t. This is what a newspaper where I got the story from described her as”
My reply was, “The newspaper should check that fiancé is male and fiancée is female” “more importantly, terms create reality. Islamically they had no relation. We need not copy west in Islamic media.”
Petty Issues are symptoms of Broader Issues
If a certain dear friend of mine should read the above, he would berate me, “Are there no bigger matters for you to concern yourself with? Why do you nit-pick like this?” (His name I shall not mention, but shall indicate him by his vowel deprived birth place of Hrvatska – hint, hint).
To me there are enough people addressing “the important issues”. Besides which, there are not many who explain the link between the “petty issues” and the “bigger issues” at play.
Terms create Reality
I have written several times on this point. The words we use help create perceptions and ultimately new realities. See for example, my article on calling Palestine, “Israel”. Yet with the copy-and-paste attitude of Muslim media, one sadly notes Muslims calling al-Ḥaram ash-Sharīf in Baytul Muqaddas, “The Temple Mount”, for example. They never pause to consider the broader issues and the role they are playing in removing our claim to our sacred place.
So what is the big deal of saying “fiancé” whether before or after the proposal? In itself, as a simple description of a man and woman intending to marry each other, it is merely a word of identification. That is not a problem, for that is what the dictionary says. However, my gripe is with the unislāmic social conventions attached to the term, and which have become institutionalised amongst us as well.
Firstly, the issue of Tashabbuh bil Kuffār (imitating the non-believers), an issue which Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and the jurists discussed at length, seems to have entirely disappeared as a matter of concern from present day Muslims – scholars and the masses. Where does the concept having a fiancé as an institutionalised norm originate from? Is the custom of prolonged “engagements” even compatible with the Sunnah? Would we even need to describe someone as a fiancé or fiancée if we adhere to the Sunnah instead of alien social norms?
Fiancé is not an empty term. It is a word used by the non-Muslims to indicate an entire social condition which is anathema to Islām. An Islamic wedding is simple both in implementation and expenditure. Beyond the social customs and financial extravagance of the engagement (which Muslims are so eager to ape) being a fiancé in practice becomes a licence to take liberties of marriage, which Islām does not condone before the actual marriage transaction. How many of the customs, parties and extravagances which occur between the proposal and the wedding have any Islāmic sanction, and how many anger Allāh, thus depriving the couple of blessings?
On one level, Muslims imitate the non-Muslims in discarding the laws of Ḥijāb and seize the term fiancé as a justification. They would date and say, “She is my fiancée!” A woman is either a stranger who should be respected with all the applicable laws and barriers of ḤIjāb, or she is your legally married wife and partner. Where in Islām is there scope for this intermediate stage of fornication on whatever level? By using the terms of unislamic immodesty, we help create an atmosphere where it becomes socially acceptable.
On an even more extreme level, accepting fiancé as an institution is already leading to the western way of the engaged couple living together before the marriage. She is my fiancée, we are living together to save expenses and to get to know each other.
I try to keep abreast of global developments. Yet I must confess to be completely taken aback to read on that when Prince William of the UK married his “fiancée” they had already been living together. Not that I do not know that it happens, but somehow I expected more from the future head of the Anglican Church. Yet it was not the immodesty which shocked me, it was the blasé manner in which the British media mentioned it, it was so normal. This is what I fear for us, not that we sin, but that our hearts accept this as normal.
Going to the Kaʿbah and proposing, which would entail so many violations of Ḥijāb (e.g. travel), is simply an extension of the license Muslims have illegally allowed couples who are “engaged” or have indicated that their dating will lead to marriage. By allowing respect to unmarried couples because “she is his fiancée,” we all share responsibility in this disrespect shown at the Kaʿbah.
Polytheism in Legislation
Another concept which many Muslims are no longer bothered about is ash-Shirk fit-Tashrīʿ (ascribing partners unto Allāh in the right of legislation). A man and woman who fornicate but acknowledge that it is a sin, remain Allāh’s sinful slaves and the doors of repentance are open unto them, however much the self-righteous judge them. On the other hand, someone who defends the right of couples “to express their love” before marriage (fornicate), even if he does not do the deed himself, has challenged Allāh’s right to sole-legislation, and is in a much worse spiritual plight than the actual fornicator.
There is a growing disease of Muslims having divorced, but remaining together, because “what will people say?” I unfortunately know such couples. Justifying such adulterous cohabitation is worse than the act of the adultery. However, the process of desensitising the couple’s aversion to adultery begins when their families are happy to let them defy Ḥijāb, “because we are fiancé and fiancée.”
Ḥijāb of Words
Ḥijāb is not just how we dress or even interact with each other, but the lives of the Companions of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ teach us modesty of the mind and words. A most beautiful example is that of the wife of ʿAbdullāh bin ʿAmr bin al-ʿĀṣ, may Allāh be pleased with them.
ʿAbdullāh رضي الله عنه was devoted to his worship and was not inclined to marriage. His father, ʿAmr رضي الله عنه, eventually got him married. ʿAmr رضي الله عنه visited his new daughter-in-law, may Allāh be pleased with her, to enquire how she was being treated. She replied, “He is a pious man. He spends the day fasting and the night praying.”
ʿAmr exploded in rage and complained to Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ against his son.
Er…. Did I miss something? Yes, the lady was being so modest yet eloquent, most of us who do not give account on what words should and should not be used, would miss the point. She had in fact most respectfully and modesty, yet honestly, indicated to her father-in-law, that she was a woman with human needs. With her husband who fasted the entire day and prayed the entire night, there was no opportunity for satisfying her natural desire.
Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ advised the young man to exercise a balance and to fulfil the rights of all.
Those who were present when the Word of Allāh was revealed, understood that the words we use have an effect. If we are to institutionalise immodest terms amongst ourselves, especially when it implies so much more, we allow for immodesty to become the norm.