You might have felt judged by seemingly more pious women. Or this may also be a thing in you, about you. You don’t think you are a religiously modest woman and you see this as a failure. You think that the lack of hijab and the lack of introversion, the abundance of opinion and your own innate talent to be a leader have worked to strip you of any modesty that you were probably born with in a Muslim household. I felt that too. For many years. Hijab and burqa made me insecure. I felt that people who wore it are automatically better Muslims, better women and better role models. To me, modesty in clothing directly translated to modesty in character. This is how I became judgmental of prostitutes and sex workers. I constantly felt myself superior to them. In a young mind with an overwhelming guilt of not following sharai pardah, my comparison and competition came in the form of prostitutes. Women who I thought were morally corrupt and whose occupation in life usually made me feel so good about myself.
How my further knowledge of socioeconomic factors that drive prostitution, human trafficking, unwilling victims and how after listening to a myriad of accounts by many prostitutes of how they felt raped each time during a consensual encounter with a customer opened my eyes to the concept of piety and modesty is a whole another journey of self-discovery that isn’t the focus of this post. My somewhat sisterly relationship with a transgender sex worker in Pakistan made me a controversial person to my family and friends but showed me the light. That story deserves its own beautiful rendition. But I can tell you how my transgender friend opened my eyes to the very atrocious sin of judgement. I will also tell you what my father’s take on Eman was.
My father was a man of profound Eman and strong beliefs. His unwavering trust and confidence in Allah came into his wife and children through sheer osmosis. I like to call us a modern face of Muslims who question and challenge what has trickled through scholarly articles and education to us and refer to authentic sources to get to the bottom of clergy teaching.
But first the pearls that I leaned from my most beloved transgender friend who was able to carve a path out for herself out of prostitution and into home Urdu tuitions through the combined and forceful efforts of her own brother and his wife.
Modesty is an internal state of being. Emaan and Haya are with each other. They’re not limited to women who belong to a certain family or station in life.
A woman who maintains sexual relationships with men is not a guaranteed “characterless woman”. Her character and integrity, if there was a measure for these moral values, might put us to shame.
I don’t think I’ve driven a more profound understanding of Eman and Haya through any of my life experiences with my other women friends.
And lastly I’ll leave you with a little conversation that I had after I asked my dad what the meaning of Faith (Eman) is.
Me: Papa! What does Eman mean?
Papa: Your belief system
Me: what does a belief system mean?
Papa: what you believe in.
Me: so like religion?
Papa: yes, also religion.
Me: what besides religion?
Papa: everything that you believe in.
Me: I don’t believe in anything besides my religion.
Papa: okay. Then that’s your Eman.
Me: and that’s your Eman too?
Papa: No. My Eman is a little different because I’m older .
Me: okay. Tell me about your Eman. May be that’s better than mine. Then I can follow it.
Papa: No. You go to school to be an independent thinker . You don’t have to follow my Eman. Because you won’t answer for my Eman. Make your own Eman. I will tell you one thing so you can compile your own Eman values. Eman is the purest thing. It is so pure that even when you think dirty, it gets dirty. And it’s easily washable that even when you think clean, it becomes clean again. It’s the most delicate of all things but when you need to rely on it, it becomes your strongest ally. So when you build your Eman, look for the purest things, then look some more. Then look for the things that you thought weren’t worthy of your Eman and look for the beauty in them. This way when you will have your Eman ready, it will be the most unique thing. And this way you will guide your Eman, just as your Eman guided you.