As salaam alaikum,
Every Ramadan, this is the juz that I struggle with the most...An-Nisaa.
"And God wants to turn unto you in His mercy, whereas those who follow [only] their own lusts want you to drift far away from the right path. God wants to lighten your burdens: for man has been created weak." (4:26-27)
This was mainly about sex in the preceding ayat but can refer to human's weakness surrounding anything. It's true...we are weak and we are forgetful. However, when I first read these ayat, it was frustrating to me because the previous ayat are instructing men about what women they marry...so the man at this point seems like man only, when it doesn't have to be...and probably isn't. My limited Arabic and the aid of the transliterations only get me so far in trying to tease this out, so yeah, I'll leave that to a more brisk discussion with someone who has actual Qur'anic scholarship...
But I will venture to say that while man seems to be especially weak (knowing men), both men and women are weak. At the time the Qur'an was revealed, I feel like a never married woman like myself had a lot more protections in place than current day. Hah, understatement. Maybe that's why there are no specific instructions for women?
So I always begin this surah with a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't like to read any part of the Qur'an like that, but of all of the surah in the Qur'an, An-Nisaa is the most unsettling to me. For one, I never feel like I'm doing enough in my struggle in the way of God (to be discussed later) and instead of empowering me, it makes me feel like a slug. Then...I don't know how to place myself as a woman in these times into this surah.
Of course, I'm not questioning whether or not women should be cautioned against following their lusts as men. No, they definitely should. I'm just trying to figure out what the ideal social position of me as a woman is right now, with no Muslim father to oversee my marriage, and no access to good Muslim men to marry. Not that there are no good Muslim men out there, but one truly matched to me...sparse at best, and most of them are already married. And I have no interest in living as a Muslimah spinster with other sisters for the rest of my life...
But living with other Muslims sisters is the safest way to go...better than living alone, and much better than living with non-Muslim women.
Which makes me wonder about the following:
"Behold, those whom the angels gather in death while they are still sinning against themselves, [the angels] will ask, "What was wrong with you?" They will answer; "We were too weak on earth." [The angels] will say; "Was, then, God's earth not wide enough for you to forsake the domain of evil." For such, then, the goal is hell--and how evil a journey's end." (4:97).
I'm not particularly in an environment right now that will allow me to thrive in Islam. I have been unable to secure a Muslim partner, I am remote from a strong Muslim community and I have not particularly grown in Islam save for putting some undesirable experiences under my belt that will perhaps strengthen my resolve. There are several times that I could have died in the midst of sinning, and this would have been my destiny. Is it my fault for choosing to come here, i.e. Harvard for medical school? Is it my responsibility to move somewhere else in the country or to have gone to another school, something, where I could have found a more supportive community?
If I had gone the good Muslimah route, the way I was trying to be in college, I wouldn't have gone to Harvard Medical School. I would have gone to either Wayne State, Michigan or Northwestern, where I got sizable scholarships so I would have been able to avoid the riba of educational loans completely and would have also enjoyed relatively strong Muslim communities...especially at Wayne State. Maybe I could have even found a husband...it's all what ifs, but I wonder if my first mistake was in coming here...and I wonder if this is a reasonable path that I've chosen.
(I told you this surah always sets me at ill ease...)
"Yet do not argue in behalf of those who are false to their own selves: verily, God does not love those who betray their trust and persist in their sinful ways." (4:107)
The concept of betraying one's own trust is a strong one...and it's true. I've recently betrayed my own trust several times...it's not a comfortable feeling. It's this feeling of, "Well, I'll do this anyway, because it's too hard, and God will see that it's too hard for me." In the meantime, God's not wronging you...you're just wronging yourself by giving up when you still had it in you to continue...it's like betraying a former self that had no intention to do this...and knowing all the while what you're doing is just going to hurt you. It's like putting your hand onto an open flame and holding it there. You know it's going to hurt you, but you were attracted to the flame and curiosity gets you and you give up, knowing that you're going to be burnt... And your self a few seconds before the burn thinks your an idiot for putting your hand into the fire...
But that's it.
So the struggle against self...jihad an-nafs. I know my weaknesses. My biggest struggles are surrounding salat and marriage. For salat, it's always been my struggle to find or create for myself a space or context in which I'm comfortable praying especially Zhuhr while in public. The other prayers are generally around times of day where I can escape to either a comfortable prayer space or home, except for in the winter when 'Asr is also challenging to do, especially here in Boston where the sun sets as early as 4pm some days. I also wax and wane in my dedication to salat over time. This has been a challenge for me, and rereading about those in war who worried about incurring sin for shortening a prayer during a battle, whereas I am not so worried about delaying a prayer to walk all the way home to say it, and other things that I am not comfortable mentioning here...anyway, yes, that's one of my big struggles, not to mention awakening for Fajr.
The second weakness surrounds marriage, or not properly marriage, the avoidance of fornication. I was just in relationships with two (non-Muslim) men who, let's say, did not share my enthusiasm to wait until marriage. Especially in this surah, the way the dedication to marriage is described, marriage for the sake of God and not marriage for the sake of calming lusts, I just feel silly for even entertaining these relationships that ultimately both ended because they realized, oh snap, she really isn't going to have sex with me. Why am I even relating to non-Muslim men?
I thought that this was the only way that I would get married. And what is a marriage that is not for the sake of God?
In reality, I don't have to marry a man who calls himself Muslim to have a marriage for the sake of God, a successful marriage...
But anyway, it's tough when both Muslim and non-Muslim men alike can get sex for free, as I mentioned in another entry. I think this is something that I'm supposed to suffer through, because this is seriously the only prayer in my life that I am yet to see an answer on, a prayer that I've been praying in various ways since I was 12, and I do not understand why it's taking so long for me and for other believing women (and non-believing women, actually), this happens so much faster. I cannot understand.
It all goes back to my wishing there was a surah in the Qur'an specifically for woman. And I know, astaghfirullah...I'm implying that the Qur'an is in anyways incomplete. And it's not at all incomplete. The answers to everything I need to know is there. And when the answer is not explicit, the answer is prayer.
I just don't know what else to do. It makes me cry.
A reminder from this time last year, a little bit further into Ramadan and past An-Nisaa:
"So this Ramadan, insha'Allah, I'll combat disillusion. Loneliness is my portion for only a time, and it's okay that I don't understand why. It's like Musa (as) and the sage...there's meaning behind everything, and I may never know why, but it's better for me anyway, though I may not see it immediately. Allahu a'lam.
“And he who forsakes the domain of evil for the sake of God shall find on earth many a lonely road, as well as life abundant...” – An-Nisaa’, (4:100)."