Photo credit: Photential / Morguefile

The anguish of sandals

Right, I want to wear sandals today. Wait, hold on, I had this thought… oh gosh… let me research it. What! Why are there so many different views? Who is right? Hold on, let me reword it and see maybe if I am asking the question in a wrong way… Argh, I can’t deal with it. Do I cover my feet or not? I don’t know. Forget this. I will just get on with life. *wears a pair of sandals* Am I going to be punished for this because my toes show? Why did I think Islam was easy?

That is just one thought, drawn out. How can a person live with an internal dialogue like that every day? If they want to live a peaceful life, then they can’t, but they do: it creates anguish. Just ask me, that’s what happens to women who try to understand Islam.

As a woman, I have gone left, middle, right, and then repeated those moves again and again. I have gone in full circles with my faith fluctuating all over the place.

I go to people of ‘knowledge’ and venture into the Labyrinth of Islam on the net. I get answers that suffocate me: in particular, patriarchal interpretations, banishing me to the confines of my home, belittling me as a woman of no value other than home chores, told I cannot show my feet. To which I raise questions. My Rabb has not mentioned in His holy book about women’s feet in particular, so let’s move onto hadith – you see here it says this, but here is another hadith that mentions sandals, or historical knowledge showing that sandals were present in the ages of Our Prophet (saw). Hold on, maybe the women of that time wore long robes, that actually covered their feet but they actually wore sandals underneath. Is that not possible?

Often I am then told – ‘Damn it woman, you’re the Devil’s aide asking this many questions! Can’t you just accept what I say? And I say – NO!’

NO! I cannot accept it, because that is what you think, and your interpretation is one amongst many. In today’s day and age there are so many sects, groups, cultural influences and a high presence of religious ego, so who is right and who is wrong, and who is following the middle path? SOMEONE HELP!

For 26 years of my life, Islam has been dictated to me. No questions. Just follow.

But then my eyes slowly opened, and around me I saw lots and lots of women leading happy healthy lives in varying degrees of ‘practicing’ Islam, according to Islamic values. What was different about them? How have they been able to understand and apply their religion naturally, smiling because they want to wear Hijab, not because they are scared. Some of those who don’t wear hijab have deeply rooted beliefs shaping their lives, extensively involved in charitable clauses, but here I am wanting to be a so called ‘practising’ Muslim according to a certain area, or group of people, and my main concern is whether I may wear sandals.

SERIOUSLY – is this what Islam is about? I laugh and then cry at myself for being at the centre of a religious cyclone. And I hope no woman of any religion is ever trapped where I am.

You see, being told all your life how to be, how to act, how to walk, without ever being given a reason warps the mind beyond repair. Even when someone presents valid alternative narratives on a certain topics, people who have indoctrinated others with their views have done enough damage to keep a person in perpetual agony.

Believe me, you can lose your mind. But there comes a breakthrough: a person or a book that begins to change this suffering, that shows you that Islam is indeed easy. The problem is people, people who say what they say without taking account of the consequences.

The pain, suffering and anguish doesn’t go away, but slowly it eases: enough for you to breathe and smile for a moment. I am not saying that it is forever: today I have been strong enough to ask questions, but I know life will present a myriad of issues, and tomorrow I may succumb to the misogyny that has been internalised for 26 years. Where is the equality in practise that our religion attests?

I pray that Allah swt gives us women help and support, and more than anything the strength to find the true meaning of our status in Islam, because I feel robbed of it in the present day.

I feel in the depths of my heart, that many of my women – my sisters – are leading lives based on these misogynistic interpretations as I myself have done, and at times may still do in the future. We have been unable to see what we were entitled to see in the first place.

These internal dialogues, planted by a patriarchal view of Islam, generate feelings of emotional, psychological and physical exhaustion. Changing these views is a taxing journey, one that almost feels impossible. I hope you still take it, and however many times you fall, you gain the strength to fight on, with the help of Allah swt. You’re not alone, even if it feels like it. Reach out for help. I’m here.