Monday, March 26, 2012

Woman and Islam

As salaam alaikum,

(If you haven't, read the entry that comes right before this was important to me! Thank you...)

You've heard of Pablo Neruda's "Ritual de mis piernas," or, in English, "Liturgy of my Legs?" Well, this is going to be the ritual de mis uñas.

I never really was into painting my fingernails. I think before now, the only other time I did my fingernails was when I went to prom. I never developed those pictures because I disliked all of the attention, getting fussed over, people remarking about how gorgeous I was all of a sudden after a roller set, some extra spritz, full makeup, nails done, jewelry...everything. Wasn't I gorgeous everyday? What was this about?

Then, as I started practicing Islam again, I came across some sort of source, I don't know, on the internet or something, that indicated that a woman painting her nails was at least discouraged, if not haram, for the purposes of purity during salat. I never knew the exact  reason, but in those days, that's all I needed to hear, and it was easy. I did not do my nails. I was all into my natural beauty, anyway.

I've never been one of those women to dress to the nines. I do like looking nice, but within reason. But in terms of attracting the opposite sex, my stance was, I can look however I want to look, and there will be someone out there for me.

...that remains true, but I have discovered that male attention tends to be ever more distracted by the more heavily made-up, the form-fitting, the revealing. The second look may be against them, but, what the hey, we're all sinners, anyway...

But still, I remembered what I heard, and while I've gone through various modes of dress as a practicing Muslimah, I have not done my nails...until recently.

It started after I took the boards and one of my classmates beckoned me to get my nails done. Not knowing how to back down when my foray into medical school had led me down a road of doing a host of other things that I didn't previously, being around people who were drinking alcohol...I went ahead and did my toe nails. I eventually let that color grow out. Two summers later, in retaliation to my ex dumping me, I think, I did my toenails again and wore socks for salat, figuring that was okay. Then, sometime a few weeks ago, I read somewhere while browsing a random fatwa bank about a hadith that some cite to say that a woman coloring her nails is actually sunnah.

And I think I just threw up my hands at that point. Like, seriously? That's a big difference between haram and sunnah. After years of confirming that it was in fact haram by examining the finger- and toenails of Muslim women in my community and on the street and seeing that none of the most conservative had their nails done...some people actually opine that it's sunnah? Or is it if it's only done with henna?

So, in retaliation, I painted my nails. I painted them dark purple, darker than that, so they were almost black. And I liked them.

And I seriously felt like a teenage girl who snuck out an made out with a boy for the first time in my defiance. Seriously.

...then I realized, this whole thing, the debate, my searching, my purposeful "defiance" dumb!

Dumb dumb dumb!

...but, I like painting my nails. It may be because all of the women in my recent novela had really cool nail polish, know. I'm such a consumer, except it's not benefiting Brazil any, so...yeah.

In the meantime, this morning, I forwarded my last entry to one of my best friends to share with her my current spiritual state. She said that it was inspiring and it helped her, even though she's happily (happily happily, hah!) married. That's awesome, I thought.

Then, she asked me a question that gave me pause.

"Have you ever considered becoming an imam?"

Yeah, it gave me pause, haha.

I explained to her that, in Islam, most understand that imams are only men, in that only men lead congregational prayers. I didn't get into the various layers of controversy over female imams. I explained to her that, even if it were possible for me to be an imam, like, assume I'm a dude (Invisible Muslim, anyone?)...I would feel like I needed to pursue a lot more Islamic scholarship, like, actually be able to speak Arabic beyond just reading the Qur'an with tajweed...Invisible Muslim would not feel equipped, haha, in other words.

But her question made me think about something I reaching my potential as a Muslimah in my community, with other Muslims? The answer is easy. No!

I'm not, and I've known this for sometime. I'm always in search of a community to participate in, and I can only imagine what that participation would look like. There are other ways that Muslimahs can assume leadership roles in the community... Could I find a way to help my brothers and sisters in Islam in a meaningful way?

It also struck me because...her idea, as a Christian, of what a religious leader so different from what my idea of an imam is. That she would see my quality of, I guess, providing inspirational advice and see me as a potential religious leader... Wow. That was a lot to think about...

It made the issue of whether I paint my nails or not seem like small potatoes. And it made me far I can take my Islam, how far we all can...if we don't get stuck on these small things?


  1. aahh the nail debate, there isn't unanimous consensus about it (I've never understood why henna on your nails is ok, but nail polish is a big no-no for some people, unless you want to remove it every time before doing woodoo, or wear it when your not praying like a big banner to the world that it's that time.. ha, ha... but I digress).

    There is an opinion that says if you do ablution before putting it on then its fine... (the sunnah thing, I believe is the henna of course)I guess I didn't realize how big of a deal this issues was till my friend in Qatar got haggled for it ... and then I did... first time at English language Jumuah and this old aunty was more concerned about my red toes than the sermon! I still remember her words, all throughout "it should be removed immediately!" with a loud and voice, I just nodded my head and ignored her in silence... awkward

    someone told me later that they really like the way I handled that... to each his own. Rock on with your nail polish!

    1. Even time I go to the masjid, I may just find some gloves to wear, just in case...hahaha!