When women quote Islam online in response to cultural problems and they’re Pakistani women I try to remember that I squashed this conundrum eons ago. That I separated being a Muslim from being a Pakistani and have found great intellectual satisfaction in it. I try to stay away from these debates because they invariably, in my head, lead to the problem I faced for my entire young adulthood where I equated being a brown Pakistani to be the factory fitted Muslim that I was.
I don’t think that anything is our identity except who we are. So when I was growing up I was culturally a Pakistani. I identified more as a Pakistani. I grew up in a household that identified more with Pakistan and the Pakistani culture. Islam was our religion but in a way Pakistan was our religion too. I’m not saying it in a blasphemous way. I’m just saying that my allegiance to Pakistan was also very strong. Islam was my practice in private and the guidelines that Allah has laid for me to be a good Muslim didn’t look like they were different from the guidelines that were laid for me by the constitution. So to me, on a wholly moral level, being a good Muslim and a good Pakistani was the same thing.
But as I grew up I realized that being a Pakistani Muslim wasn’t empowering. It was confusing. It had many stipulations that I hadn’t known before. As a young woman growing up in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I was confused.
For example, Islam allowed me a man of my choice. Islam allowed me looking for this man, proposing to him and even getting to know him. The Pakistani culture kinda didn’t allow that. Love marriages are a dime a dozen but people don’t tell anyone they had a love marriage. They use cover stories for their love. Sadly, it’s more prevalent in the seemingly woke and educated classes.
Arranged marriages are acceptable. The Pakistani culture makes arranged, mismatched, deceitful marriages easier than honest, straightforward, love marriages. When I was growing up I thought that this was because Islam has prohibited me from considering men as partners until a partner is chosen for me. I found out in my young adulthood that that wasn’t true. Islam almost exclusively wants marriage to be a contract entered into with love and some protective stipulations.
Growing up I thought education was allowed to me because my parents were amazing people. I didn’t think of it as my right. And how could I? I had many examples around me of girls who went to top notch high schools and then pulled to get married. I didn’t quite realize that Islam wanted me to educate myself. Allah wanted me to be an informed and aware person.
I also thought that dressing a certain way would lead to men soliciting me for sex. I was conditioned to think that girls who had premarital affairs dressed a certain way, acted a certain way and looked a certain way. I also thought that girls who had love marriages were perverse in their chastity and weren’t the type of girls that I’d never be rubbing shoulders with. Slowly I realized that a love marriage or a premarital love relationship is the biggest form of validation that a man and a woman could give each other in a strictly conservative society like Pakistan.
So obviously I grew up with a lot of judgment for men and women who fell in love or spoke loud or argued for what was right. Two such people were my parents. I judged them constantly for being different. I judged them for standing behind feminism. I judged them for not conforming to what was considered good and right.
I didn’t see that many arranged marriages were forced marriages. I didn’t see that many girls who wanted to partner up and enjoy a marital relationship were overlooked constantly for better and bigger dowries. I was close-minded. I was born a Pakistani and was raised a Muslim but somewhere along the way, society started raising me as a cultural fool who didn’t even understand the rationale behind the creation of Pakistan itself.
I grew up ultimately and the account of my growing up is spread all over this blog. But here’s the thing.
Pakistan wasn’t created for Islam. This is my thinking and opinion. You can have your own. Islam was created for Muslims to live a life of freedom and independence. If we were to live another life of suffocated idealism then why sacrifice so much for Pakistan? Why did we ask for freedom when freedom just meant following another set of stifling rules?
I don’t think Jinnah created Pakistan for it to become the cesspool of foolish tradition. I think he created Pakistan so we could all be free in our freedom without the fear of judgment.
I don’t think Allah wants us to live a life of traditional values that rise above moral compulsion. Allah wants us to live a life of morality, whatever the definition is to us, and as long as our definition of morality doesn’t harm others we shouldn’t be judged. We should judge ourselves and make sure that we follow the guidelines that make us a good human or a harmless human but we shouldn’t enforce meaningless guidelines on others in the name of tradition and culture.
So I learned that in my twenties. So finally in my twenties I started loving my parents for their vocal support of some things that Pakistanis don’t support generally. I finally learned that just because my parents are different from the traditional people around me doesn’t mean they are wrong or they need to be corrected. I finally was born a brown Pakistani Muslim and raised myself a human.