The Social structures that ensure obedience and conformity

A very interesting text, that gives keys to understanding the extremism of muslim converts, and the mechanisms behind e.g.!

Thinking Your Way Out

"Wow Mashallah, you're so pious". What they're thinking: Urgh, why do those converts have to take it so FAR.. “Wow Mashallah, you’re so.. Um.. Pious”. What they’re actually thinking: “Urgh, why do those converts have to take it so far?”.. Image

So what is it that makes someone leave behind a fairly ordinary, everyday type of human experience to adopt an all encompassing, ideological way of thinking? How can one method of thought have so much power over the way someone lives their life?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Muslim world, and in Muslim majority countries. Something that has always struck me in such places is that the absolutism in religious thinking which I found in Muslim minority communities in the West is not as prominent. In fact, religiously zealous people are considered a little bit batty or just too full on.

In a way, that was another part of the transforming experience for me, a part of the unravelling process. Yes, Muslims in the…

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19 thoughts on “The Social structures that ensure obedience and conformity

  1. Here is a Sunni fatwa from a well renowned scholar which states one needs his first wife’s permission to marry a second woman. It also calls into account whether most Muslim men have the ability to be just between two wives.

    Question Details

    Question: I am a 37 year old male married with 4 kids. I live in Canada but I want to be polygamous. Doesn’t God’s law over-rule Canadian law? Also doesn’t my wife have to accept this as part of me?

    Answer: Marrying more than one wife is not a permission granted to everyone, for Allah says:”If you cannot be just then only one.” So you should ask yourself the question: am I being just to my wife by taking a second wife? Justice has many dimensions. One of the most important one is to be able to fulfil your responsibilities as a husband and as a father. Based on my decades long experience in marital counseling in Canada, I don’t think even a man who has one wife and 4 kids (by the way, I am a father of four) can do justice to them in this society, given the nature of work and stress one has to go through life here. Before you claim your rights, you need to ask yourself whether you have fulfilled your duties towards your existing wife and children. If you take time to think this issue carefully, you will realize that marrying more than one wife in a milieu and culture like ours in Canada is indeed a challenge that most people cannot handle.

    Secondly, Islam teaches us that we have to be true to the terms of our marriage contract. And the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘there is nothing more worthy of observance than the terms of one’s marriage”. It is known that by terms he did not mean simply written contracts; they also include those conditions or terms that are simply assumed or taken granted in a particular culture or milieu. Now if, prior to marrying your wife, you had told her that you will be exercising the option of marrying a second wife, would she have agreed to marry you? If she wouldn’t have, then you are bound by that tacit agreement. You cannot marry a second one now without her permission.

    Finally, Islam does not say marrying more than one wife is a religious requirement; rather it is simply an exception. So practicing polygamy is not a religious duty in Islam. In other words, you can still be a Muslim without taking a second wife. Furthermore, as Muslims, we are also bound to obey the laws of the land as long as they are not opposed to our religious requirements.

  2. Hello Bukhari, thank you for your responses, though we have already sort of dealt with a several of answers from scholars of this type in this blog. These answers are usually ‘recommended guidelines’. What if the man already married another woman without meeting these guidelines? Is his marriage invalid then? Will he get strong responses from scholars to immediately divorce his second wife because of not taking permission from first wife or not being able to be just between the two wives or families? What if his second marriage proves to be harmful for the first wife and children? Will he be asked to divorce his second wife then? Because the second wife is under the exceptional category, the first one was the one under the normal category of having a wife, so the preference is for the first wife. Will he be required to atone in some way to his first wife for this action?

    If the man refuses and wants to keep the second wife, and his first wife does not want to stay with him, will he be asked to offer divorce to his first wife, and also give her a large part of his wealth, full or joint child custody rights to her, and continuing maintenance to her and children? This is an important one, very important. In this way the divorced wife and children can still live rather comfortably after the divorce (despite the troubles of not having a constant man in the house) instead of being left in the cold. Are these also part of the scholars’ verdict?

    Regarding polygamy not being a religious duty but an exception, I would say it still shows polygamy in a positive light. The truth is, polygamy is an abnormality in a relationship and/or family structure. Something that is very much out of the norm, psychologically and socially. Our minds and bodies react strongly when we are put in such a circumstance, or even think about such a circumstance, indicating this is not how it should be at all. Only under very very exceptional circumstances can polygamy be useful. Still, many of the reasons given by scholars nowadays for polygamy do not even come close to the very exceptional circumstances.

    Polygamy, even before entering into it, should be thought out thoroughly whether it fulfills the very very exceptional circumstances. Then, with the full-on consultation and permission from the partner, and ability to make it work, can a person sort of move ahead. Even while living it a person should know this is an abnormal family structure so they should be much more careful in dealing with the spouses and families. Forced polygamy under any circumstance, except if a partner is a powerful tyrant, absolutely refuses divorce or did something similar or so, should be made a criminal offense otherwise.

    If I could I would have gone ahead to approve equal polygamy as well, where if one partner chooses polygamy, the other one is also free to go for polygamy, but it is something I am still trying to figure out whether it is acceptable from a religious point of view. But then, I see in real life, people usually give man-made logic or normal worldly reasons to legislate polygyny, ignoring the total conditions in the Quran or altering the meaning to suit them. In that case I don’t see why a woman, who is capable and can be ‘just’ between the families, should be prevented polyandry, from a social point of view as well instead of a more strict religious interpretation.

    I hope you can look into these factors I stated, and try to come up with answers for them too, instead of having more apologist-type scholar’s recommended guidelines only, for such a serious and important humanitarian issue.

  3. Also wanted to add, all this talk about ‘responsibility’, ‘supporting women’, ‘preventing spinsters’, etc in favor of polygyny looks as if a person is dealing with people who are sub-humans, who are content with ‘having half a husband or less’ and ‘as long as he is just in giving equal time, money and affection and is there for emergencies’. This type of thinking is more from a survival mode, rather than a mode of a full and growing marriage which takes care of the smaller ‘insignificant’ details about their spouse beyond meeting basic needs, and also of their children. Already as human beings we can be lazy, so having these survival modes as a full-on model rather than a basic skeleton model can cause additional problems in society.

    Also in that case a woman should be similarly applauded for doing her share in society by marrying more on her own to ‘reduce bachelors’, ‘responsibility’, ‘giving more men a chance to meet their needs by them getting half a wife or less’, etc. That is if she wants to only, in her own choice by free will. But then, that option is cut off completely. All her responsibility is chucked out and she is called an unchaste woman if she even considers herself having an extra man in her life. So yeah, you can understand why it doesn’t make sense to us women when men are given such a ‘right’ with not much strings attached beyond being ‘just’.

  4. Bukhari, Thanks for posting this. For the first time ever, a polygamy related Fatwa seems to be making some sense. Still the scholar is using very weak argument like lifestyle and supporting one family being very hard in Canada. It means this scholar is telling us that Islamic polygyny is ok in other countries or circumstances but the reality is that Islamic polygyny (unequal rights for men and women) is NOT OK. Religion in general and Islam specifically is the biggest fraud/scam in the history of mankind.

  5. I get particularly irritated when men say they want to marry again to “protect” another woman! Can’t they do that without getting their leg over? Oh no, charity without something in return is much less desirable 🙂

    Extreme muslim reverts were lacking something to begin with. To change every facet of life so extremely indicates they were never comfortable in their own skin before.

    I often wonder what they think when they look in the mirror and see niqab staring back. Somewhere in their core it must feel alien.

  6. Regarding people who wear niqaab, not necessarily. I myself wear normal hijab, but I appreciate the privacy of a niqab. I have niqabi friends myself. They are perfectly normal women, with good senses of humor and fun to hang out with, only except they prefer the extra sense of privacy that the niqab gives, and may be more gender segregated than other Muslim women. That’s their choice. Some have a good character, some don’t, like other people. Many of hijabis themselves talk behind a niqabi’s back, since we don’t understand how things are for them. I am sure there are people talking behind us hijabi’s backs as well, since they don’t understand why a woman would cover her body from head to toe exposing the face and hands mainly, like I saw several times in this blog itself. It just makes us wish people would simply leave us alone. I am sure niqabis also feel the same way. The exception is if she was forced into it or made to think it is mandatory in Islam or her culture made her wear it or something. That is different.

    By the way niqabis don’t wear the niqab at home or places where there are no men. They don’t wear the hijab then either. They only wear it in front of unrelated males. So it is not like she always sees ‘niqab face’ staring back at her.

  7. Hi Mariam,

    From my experience niqab sexualises women. My husband’s family all wear niqab and when they visit us (in a western country) they accept they are stared at ALOT more and mostly by muslim men!!!

    I’ve seen muslim men straining themselves to get a glimpse of my 13yr old sil. The non muslim men in my country do not have the same reaction. It’s actually disgusting.

    In the west it has the opposite effect of privacy, it’s demands more attention, it turns women into an object to be stared at, isolated from society or sexualised as men (muslim) strain for a good look.

    Before leaving the house most hijabis would check in a mirror to make sure they are covered properly. That’s what I meant. When a revert looks in the mirror, does she ever think of the person she used to be? I wore hijab for 7yrs and I did.

    Also most women I know look better in hijab. Most sisters I know agree. Maybe it shows facial features better? So again I don’t think covering hair/face always equates to modesty.

    I agree with you 100% that hijab or niqab doesn’t relate to character. I think far too much emphasis is placed on whether or not muslim women cover instead of the more important concepts in Islam like praying, fasting or charity which does have merits.

  8. There are reasons why men invented the hijab. Just as there are reasons why they invented all other aspects of women’s subordination and objectification.

  9. Actually Fiona, I think the allure that underlies niqaab is the same allure of a stripper.

    It’s the anticipation of what lies beneath that excites, hence the sexualisation aspect.

    A man (muslim) looks at a niqaabis hands or whatever facial features are showing to ascertain skin colour, ethnicity, eye colour etc. He sees the way the abaya falls to determine height, shape, curvaceousness etc (these can still be made out in an abaya).

    How is this any different from a man walking into a strip club and waiting excitedly, imagining, anticipating what is under the flimsy lingerie?

    Niqaab seems to be the halal equivalent.

    I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but after seeing the way old muslim men have ogled my niqaabi sil’s it’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

  10. I agree. But I also believes it serves the dual purpose of also constraining women and making them invisible. It’s perfect really.

  11. Fiona, I lost 2 posts this weekend also, don’t know what happened. Must have been July 4th fireworks from the U.S…(One of them was a reference to your mother, and what a wonderful memory her comment about preserves must be for you.)

    Lifeisgood, do I understand you to say that first you were not covered, then you were, and now you are not? Could you share a little of your story with us? (Maybe you have done so previously and I missed it. I’m all thumbs when it comes to finding archived stuff.)



    Why do some scholars say that polygamy is the exception and that the rule is one wife and other scholars say that the rule is up to four wives where polygamy is not necessarily an exception? Which one is it?


    The Ideal is one wife and the permission to marry more than one is a an exception as can be inferred from the following verse:
    Allah says, ” And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among [other] women such as are lawful to you – [even] two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one – or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess. This will make it more likely that you will not deviate from the right course.” (Qur’an: 4:3)

    Thus if there is a reasonable ground to suspect that he may not be able to do justice, then he is allowed to marry only one. It does not take much imagination to see that the stressful living conditions in the modern industrialized societies are not conducive to a plurality of wives; it is a fact that the vast majority of men are struggling even with one wife and children as they are unable to find enough time to give them the necessary, emotional and spiritual care that is essential for their development as responsible Muslims. In other words, life in the modern world has become so fast paced that it is next to impossible to do justice. This is why MOST scholars insist that we should keep to the ideal.

    Moreover, we are also bound by the terms of our marriage contracts. In a milieu like ours where monogamy is the norm, one needs to get the permission of his first wife to marry another; for she had married him with the tacit understanding that she would be the only wife he will be having. So unless such an option had already been stipulated in the contract, he is not justified in marrying a second wife without her permission.

  13. Hi Dale,

    I became Muslim around 9yrs ago. Why? I’ve always believed in God and many of the common sense aspects appeaped to me. I made contact with a mosque where I lived and went from there. I wore hijab, but like many muslim women made sure I still looked nice 🙂 that should’ve been a clue it wasn’t for me. Around a year later I met my husband and married. We’ve had 1 child and lost 1 also.

    Where we lived we were surrounded by modern, educated, great muslims. It was a great community. Naively I assumed all muslims would be like these people.

    The idea of faith was key I think. i was raised catholic so am comfortable with the idea of having faith in something that cant be seen or understood. Thats how I accepted the harsh aspects of islam at first by believing there may be good in something even though I dont understand it.

    Around 2yrs ago we moved to another western country. I approached different mosques and communities and have been disappointed with them all.

    I always believed “Islam is perfect Muslims are not” but thats rubbish. It’s like saying sunburn has nothing to do with the sun.

    Over these 2yrs I have grown to believe Islam IS the reason Muslims worldwide behave so badly. For example husbands that hurt their wives with polygamy feel bad in their hearts about that but put it aside because it’s HALAL.

    Despite what muslims say islamic terrorists are terrorists BECAUSE of islam. Fathers take children off mothers BECAUSE of islam.

    Mu problem with islam is that it stops muslims treating others, muslim and not, with basic humanity. As long as islam says its ok then we can forget when our instinct is telling us something is not ok. Like chopping off a hand for stealing, most people are not comfortable doing that but muslims accept it because its allowed.

    Remember as well to be muslim you have to accept it supercedes all other religions, thats another powerful influence. You dont want to make up your own rules the way islam says jews and christians did.

    Around 1year ago I told my husband I couldn’t be muslim anymore. It’s been hard for him. I’ve refused to have any more children with him because I don’t want them brainwashed by his family. I stopped wearing hijab.

    He asks me to pretend to everyone Im muslim still. He gets a hard time at the mosque because I dont cover anymore. We may end up divorcing becauae I get less and less patient with islam, eventually we probably will part.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    I am grateful for my experience though because Ive been on the inside of islam, I know how people behave in communities, at mosques, I know the parts of islam many muslims aren’t comfortable with but won’t say to a non muslim.

    And finally people like me are everywhere. I dont believe islam will rule because while many revert just as many leave like i did.

  14. Thank you lifeisgood. That is extremely well written. I don’t disagree at all, with anything you have said. And some of your phraseology, is perfect: “It’s like saying sunburn has nothing to do with the sun.”

    Since getting to know Mariam, and Saad, on this blog, I’ve tried to be a lot more circumspect about what I say here, because I wonder what it must be like for them to read these things. So I don’t feel free to dive off the diving board of some of your comments, although I’d like too. From my standpoint, religion has nothing to do with God, and God, following the ideas of Carl Jung, is an “objective mystery” at the core of everyone. It is a paradox, which has no dependence at all on our thoughts and feelings, although it is through those functions that we can connect.

    I deal with a lot of Conservatives, and they would laugh their heads off at that statement. I already know what they think about the phrase “God is an objective mystery”. The fact is, I’m a Liberal and this is how I see things.

    Usually in our lives when we make these changes, we’ve tripped over what a friend of mine calls the “51%”. I just call it the boiling point when water becomes vapor, and that’s it, you’re done with a previous phase. DId one “last” thing happen to you which pushed you over the edge in your practice? Hope you don’t mind me asking, it helps me too, and makes me feel less alone.

  15. Hi Dale,

    That’s a good point, I don’t want to offend anyone about their beliefs, and my comments probably would have annoyed me when i was practising. However, having said that I wish someone had raised some of these points with me years ago.

    One last thing that tipped me. Not really that I can recall. I think it was an accumulation of a few things.

    My husband’s family are pretty devout (genuinely) but think nothing of lying for different purposes. That disgusts me. Remember islam allows lying for a variety of reasons (war, repair relationships etc).

    Racism was another turning point for me, although this I dont blame islam itself for. Its prevalent in muslim communities and I will fight anyone who disagrees on this point. Racist in terms of colour and ethnicity. I have seen much much more racism in muslim communities than outside.

    The hypocrisy that I saw all around me was a big frustration. And in my attempt to reconcile that as a problem with muslims, not islam itself, I just unearthed fresh doubts I was blinded to before. There is alot of rhetoric used in islam to stop people critically assessing it.

    An example of rhetoric is the story about Fatima’s husband wanting polygamy and the Prohpet saying no what hurts my daughter hurts me. Muslims say it doesnt mean Prophet was against polygamy, just he was against the woman chosen as she was the daughter of an enemy. Que – sigh of relief for pro polygamists 🙂 However thats illogical. Ali could have married another woman couldn’t he? Of course he could have, but he never did during her lifetime then after Fatima’s death became polygamous. If we think about these things sensibly the rhetoric falls apart.

    Iv sat through too many discussions with women saying its hard to follow their husbands when their husbands are foolish, bad with money or just whimsical. Too many women exhausted by pregnancies ans childbirth still having more because husbands insist on it while doing little to help. All the while the threat of polygamy looms overhead – the constant elephant in the room.

    Im tired of the peacocking by muslim men. Strutting around like “respect me respect me respect me”. A sense of entitlement just because they were born male.

    I used to say these are problems of individual muslims, but I couldn’t accept that anymore. If islam and quran is easy to live and understand, then why are muslim communities worldwide in disarray. Because they are not practising islam? No, its because they are practising islam.

    I cant believe anymore Islam is aligned with human nature.

    Im a research analyst and if i was presented with a set of data similar to my observations about muslims and islam I would conclude there is likely a strong correlation. Sure I couldnt prove causation, but there is definately a relationship between muslim behaviour and islam.

    Blaming things on culture is just more rhetoric I believe.

    And remember muslims fear changing islam more than anything, as that would be making the same mistakes as other religions.

    Parts of the quran are very persuasive, such as description of embryo forming, nature etc. These parts act like evidence, like saying here’s evidence you know is true now just believe the rest the parts you dont know to be true. That was it for me, why I accepted islam at the start. True for many reverts I think.

  16. Actually I do want to apologise to Saad or Mariam and anyone else I may have upset.

    I gather you are trying to live the best of what islam offers and my comments may make you feel like I’ve personally attacked you. Thats not my intention here.

  17. I do hope Saad and Mariam and others do understand that I am not out to offend them or faith either. I rage against all forms of misogyny, racism, discrimination and oppression. In my life, muslim polygyny has been the main pain. Therefore, it is my Moriarty.

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