Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem.
Obedience is an interesting thing. In the West it used to be considered good, but these days is mostly regarded as bad but with limits. Rebels are revered but the rebel shouldn’t be TOO rebellious in that the rebellion pushes the unseen boundaries of respectable rebellion, the rebel becoming a criminal.
For example Jim Morrison from the Doors was known for his rebellious philosophies, challenging attitude and for pushing the buttons of the authorities but certain things went too far (fueled by intoxicants of.c), and then in the end he got in trouble with the law (somewhat big time), lost popularity and died in relative poetic drug hazed obscurity in Paris. Of course he retained his “die hard fans” but the big numbers were lost.
Children and young people are perceived as “blossoming” when they do some rebellious things (like dressing outlandishly, or questioning everything in school), but once the police are getting involved due to their antics, or more “hardcore” rules are getting broken they are “off the rails” instead.
For me after I rejected Christianity I tried out rebellion. I mean it is the logical next step. I didn’t consciously decide to do that it just happened that way. If there is no God you can do what you want, right? In fact even what is right and wrong is subject to debate. If the law says it is wrong, with campaigning and popular majority opinion swinging your way something illegal and objectionable can become legal and acceptable. So to my teenage mind, then as long as I could come up with a logical or not necessarily logical: an argument in support of my actions why not do it?
This is all very well and results in lots of jolly tales to tell people, of escapades and so on. But in the end it is an empty kind of existence. Just living for the mad moments and times, in between the madness living from those things through memory, and then seeking the next mad thing at the next chance. Yes, it is fun at the time. But it is empty, not a long lasting kind of satisfaction or joy because in the end it is temporary and there is nothing more mad that someone else didn’t do. In the end you are all just doing the same and similar mad things, trying to find your uniqueness to outdo the others madness, but the very fact you are doing it renders you the same as everyone else.
I have a pet peeve on this topic actually. I really dislike terms like “normal” and “weird”. Especially the way people always seem to say things like:
“Sorry for doing/ expressing x, I am really weird” or “I am not normal” and similar kinds of statements.
For a start if you were really weird (and people normally say it when they are not really doing anything particularly odd or unusual anyway) you are then rendered normal because everyone really is as weird and normal as each other. It is normal to be weird, which makes you normal so don’t bang on about being supposedly weird. Sheesh.
So what has all this got to do with obedience?
Well if being a moderate rebel gives you some kind of raised status as a “creative individual” then obedience must lower that individuality, right?
Hence why people think Muslim women are subservient and oppressed.
Hence why it seems people like to break the rules/ law. If not a lot, just a little.
Perhaps it is just me (and perhaps I am out of touch now) but in the UK certainly there are certain rules which people love to and is widely accepted socially as being “all-right” to break (perhaps my social circles were unsavory I don’t know!). For example no one gets a conscience about doing these things, and they will even go to great lengths to get out of punishment when caught, with elaborate and eloquent arguments of innocence, or dramatic displays/tales of some life emergency which compelled them to do said thing. Even though they know they broke the rule on purpose.
For example: parking rules. School haircut rules. Train ticket regulations – or even travelling without a ticket (at my school we were experts at travelling without a ticket in the leafy country lanes of Surrey where the “permit to travel” allowed a lot of fare dodging). A lot of people – tax rules (but of course there are a lot of honest people there too – I have to say that bit don’t I). Drinking rules (underage I am thinking here – extremely prevalent in the U.K). Wide and accepted use of Hasish/ Pot (even MP’s are admitting they “tried it once at Uni” these days). The list could go on.
These kinds of things.
All little acts of rebellion which could get you into some trouble but nothing too major or life changing if you are caught (depends on how wealthy you are on the tax rules one – wealthy stars and MPs still seem to be getting caught for it though! – remember the duck house story anyone?).
Not surprising then that a lot of Westerners perceive Religions (and particularly Islam) as having far too many rules.
We are so conditioned into this love affair with rebellion that we no longer value rules and obedience.
When I realised I had to become a Muslim (I say had to because I realised it was true and thus compelled to become Muslim rather than because someone made me) there was a lot of rule & “way” learning. Islam is a complete lifestyle which impacts every aspect of your life.
I have met people who were interested in Islam and becoming a Muslim, and they have said things to me like:
“Why does there have to be so many rules?”
“I would love to become a Muslim but I couldn’t give up swearing, it is a part of who I am”
(the tragicness of that second statement is really astounding).
Well, one does wonder if you compare the law books of the most developed nations, and those of the most under-developed nations which would have the most laws? I don’t have any facts as back up here but I strongly suspect the law books of Europe and America are far more substantive, comprehensive and all encompassing than any 3rd world/ developing nation.
I mean in Europe there are extensive regulations/ laws on the appearance & size of a carrot so it is deemed suitable for sale. That is how extreme our laws are, to the point they govern every aspect of our lives.
A statement in itself is that studying to become a lawyer is a serious undertaking, and a lawyer does not just learn all the laws and be done with it, they have to specialise in certain areas of law. Why? Because the laws for our countries are so extensive and detailed and all-encompassing that one person cannot learn and become an expert in all of them.
Says it all really doesn’t it?
Makes Islam look pretty moderate actually. : D.
Who heard of a hadith which prevented the sale and consumption of a carrot if it had a few brown patches and perhaps a fork where it grew around a rock.
In fact this kind of law is completely contrary to Islam where we are taught to value food and not to waste it. The amount of wastage that is caused by these rules (on appearance of vegetables to be rendered suitable for sale) is scandalous.
Anyway, so when you look at things this way it is interesting that people regard Islam as having a lot of rules. Given the highly regulated nature of people’s lives in the West.
Lets not even get started on the suffocating health and safety arena.
Shall I get back to obedience?
Obedience in Islam is considered a positive thing. Often I hear Muslims talk about submitting to God, and how wonderful this is. Obviously now I agree with this, but a Western mind listening to someone talking about submission they are thinking:
What! I don’t want to submit to anything. I do what I like !
(conveniently forgetting how many laws they are submitting to, because they are no doubt rebelling and breaking a good few minor laws along the way as their little statement of independence & reluctance to submit – the I choose which rule I will follow mentality).
This attitude to rules is embedded into the modern Culture of the West, into the music, the fashion, the art, even the food. Like I said being a rebel (as long as it doesn’t go too far) is admired.
I think of the climax in the Rage Against the Machine song “Killing in the Name”:
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya! ….
F… you I won’t do what you tell me (repeat gazillion times).
Europeans fear obedience. Being obedient puts you under control, which is dangerous. This is what leads people to behave in dangerous ways. We fear what happened under the Nazi’s, how ordinary people treated others when they were under control of a power.
We even fear being under control of God. Why? Surely God knows best?
Why? The reason is because we don’t trust the Religions we have followed. Christianity produced so much cruelty, and evil behaviour. All done in the name of God. People claiming they had God on their side. We know the history, we know this happened and we fear it for ourselves, for the future.
Europeans for the most part basically believe that there is no pure form of Religion which does not have any human corruption in it (even the Religious ones for the most part).
Therefore, Religion is a means for other humans to control other humans, and here is the big turn off.
Here is why words like submission, and obedience send us running.
We approach Religion much like we do the laws of our country. I will follow this rule as long as I see the sense of it, and I want to. If I don’t want to I won’t. People following a Religion will choose the parts they agree with and adhere to that, and not follow or practice the parts they disagree with.
When I became a Muslim I didn’t really think about it in terms of those two words. But I became a Muslim ready to leave behind my old ways and take up new ways of living please to God, Insha’Allah.
For me the important thing was being clear that what I was following was from God, not people. Once that was clear in my mind I knew there was no going back and no option not to act on my belief.
Once I knew I could not accept that the Quran was from a human I knew the rest would follow, as far as I am capable.
For me it was important that the Religion had a basis for what it was teaching. Where are the rules coming from? How do we know about said rules? Are there clear materials and methods to help the ordinary person establish where the true teachings are? Al-hamdulilah with Islam the answer is a resounding yes!
For Muslims first you start with the Quran, then you look to the Hadith and Sunnah. When we are learning we are supposed to retain a scientific mind. Consider the evidence for ourselves. Use our God given intelligence and bear in mind the whole while considering the micro.
I did not say my Shahada and wake up in the morning a perfect Muslim. I woke up and started to strive. To prioritise – I started with the pillars of Islam, and then began to build and expand on those things. I began to learn and to try to apply what I had learnt to my life.
This process is ongoing, and while I am not able to study as much as I would like (small children, household, husband etc!) it is not something that ever stagnates or halts completely.
In the beginning this new life was a big steep learning curve. Things could be very confusing. Between myself and my husband there was my Western way of thinking – my Culture, Islam and his Culture. Sometimes with only a little Islamic knowledge it was difficult for me to tell the difference between my husbands Culture and our Religion. The only solution was to learn so I could tell!
Obedience of course is something crucial to married life in Islam. In the West people have been removing the phrase “to obey” from their vows.
For me I have had to learn how to obey. Firstly God, secondly my husband.
Not easy. The human nafs (Arabic for like the human desires – to eat, sleep etc) is strong and my habit was to argue back. To question everything.
Something my son has managed to inherit with no end to his never ending “Why” recently starting to expand into “how”s too (cute until you despair and have no further answers except – BECAUSE IT IS!). Trying to explain why the clouds are moving across the sky – because the wind blows them – because they are light – but why are they light – then you have to get sciency with a 3 year old which is beyond me, so we get to – BECAUSE ALLAH MADE THEM THAT WAY – or BECAUSE IT IS!
I digress sorry!
So lets talk about obeying ones husband.
Why is this good I hear the Western reader puzzle, wondering why I would write about this as a positive thing?
I can’t intellectualise it, I can just talk about my experience in doing it. I can talk about what actually happens when conducting a relationship in this way.
Firstly men and women ARE different. We are equal – but this does not make us the same.
Secondly if my husband wants me to do something haram then I don’t have to obey him, and in fact I shouldn’t. A limit is set to the obedience.
Obedience and dis-obedience have to find a balance, and what comes first is obeying Allah over all else.
For example if my husband wanted me to help him murder someone or people, I am obliged to refuse to help. To try to persuade him otherwise, and even to take action to prevent him if I am at all able.
In the everyday life realm then here is the scenario. Lets say me and my husband have a disagreement.
In the past before I was a Muslim in the moment I would have said what I thought, and if he disagreed I would have continued to argue and try to convince him of my “rightness”. What does this achieve? Nothing. Two angry people in even more disagreement. Some loss of respect between them as they see each other in a unflattering angry state. Each one behaving in a unattractive way.
Allah asks and gives the task to the woman to, in the moment of disagreement, not argue back. Allah has given this task to the woman because she is better able to do it. She can quietly accept what her husband is saying or requesting of her. What does this achieve? Well it avoids a harmful argument for one.
The wise woman later can choose her moment with her husband, she can raise the issue again. Insha’Allah this will result in a discussion between them. Usually a husband will listen to his wife. He does take on board what she thinks, feels and does not want her to be unhappy. However, when she argues back usually he just becomes more resolute in his thinking. As does she, and we get people unwilling to hear each other. Unwilling to compromise.
I have found that in my marriage obeying my husband has been the greatest and most surprising blessing, and something which has only enriched our relationship.
Subhana Allah (glory to God) the world is a wonderful, fantastical place.