Islam teaches us shame

One of the ExMuslim blogs at EXMNA is Chista’s Contemplation. Her most recent post is A Conversation With My Mother.

Chista’s mother dragged her to visit a shrine, to pay respects to an “Islamic Saint” buried there. And then they got to the mosque…

I observed how the Male Prayer Hall was opulently decorated with grand chandeliers and exquisite furnishing. I observed how elaborately designed curtains were hung before the Mihrab and how the intricately decorated prayer rugs were generously spread around. Most importantly, I observed how ventilated the Hall was. Doors were unbolted. Window panels were unlatched. There was a beautiful blend of sunlight and chandelier light throughout the grand hall.

And then, there was a Female Prayer Room, a tiny shoebox all the way at the back. A dilapidated room that one could have easily mistaken it for a storeroom. Simple plain white lights and a few prayer rugs. Most importantly, I noticed how it was completely shut off from the rest of the world and enclosed by heavy curtains.  It was so stuffy and stifling.  The doors to all 4 walls were closed and women had to open the doors carefully so as to ensure that the outsiders can’t get a glimpse of the women inside.

Stark, isn’t it. The men get space and opulence and beauty and freedom of movement and fresh air and light. The women get a small stuffy hot closed-off functional box. Men get all the good things, women get no good things.

It’s strikingly overt. It’s a quite blunt and open insult and dismissal. “We get nice things and you get nasty. Shut up.”

Chista asked, pretend-innocently, if women could be Imams. She got the expected response, and they argued.

“Who says leadership positions are for men only?” I carried on, somewhat perplexed. “Women have become presidents. Women have conquered Mount Everest. Women have gone to space. Women have done a lot more than what they have been credited for.”

“So you think a woman should be able to lead the prayers? Do you know why men and women cannot pray side by side? It’s because of Hayaa. Islam teaches us shame and we women must protect our Awrah,” she retorted. She went on and on about how it is the duty of women to not cause Fitnah for the ‘poor men’.

Islam teaches us shame”; what a beautiful thought.

I stared at her in disbelief. It is not our duty or responsibility of their sexual desires, or the lack of control of it, I screamed at her in my mind. But I did not dare say it might come off as being too controversial to her. Instead, I cut away our eye contact and looked away in fury.

“I am so sorry, Chista. I know it is very hard being a women. I have cried many days and nights for being born as a woman. It’s a sin, Chista. It is a sin.”

An even more beautiful thought – it’s a sin to be born female.



  1. Blanche Quizno says


    “Hayaa” = “‘modesty’, ‘self respect’, ‘bashfulness’, ‘honor’, etc. It is of two kinds: good Hayaa – is to be ashamed t commit a sin which Allah (swt) and His Messenger (PBUH) have forbidden: Bad Hayaa – is to be ashamed to do that which Allah (swt) and His Messenger (PBUH) have ordered.”

    “Awrah” = “a term used within Islam which denotes the parts of the body, for both men and women, which must be covered with clothing. Exposing the Awrah is unlawful in Islam and is regarded as sin. The exact definition of Awrah varies between different schools of Islamic thought.”

    “Fitnah” = “The word fitna comes from an Arabic verb which means to “seduce, tempt, or lure.” The Arabic word fitnah includes meanings of testing and trial.”

    I have cried many days and nights for being born as a woman. It’s a sin, Chista. It is a sin.”
    An even more beautiful thought – it’s a sin to be born female.

    Yes, yes, that’s sad indeed, but let’s not forget that in Christianity, EVERYBODY “sins” by being born human. Without this “original sin”, Christians couldn’t claim that their jesussy human-sacrifice-cannibalism is something that is necessary for all people – see how this works?

    It’s all bad, in other words.

    * I had to go look ’em up O_O

  2. says

    But it’s a whole extra level of bad when it’s one half of humanity that it’s a “sin” to be born as while the other half isn’t. It’s the great Othering mechanism and it sucks. If we’re all in the same boat that’s one thing, but if half of us are way up there looking down on the horrible slutty sinners, that’s a very different thing.

  3. David Sucher says

    I am totally secular so no particular fan of Islam but don’t you think that Judaism and Christianity had a little to do with it?

    I really don’t know their histories but I thought that everyone is into shame. Seems like the Japanese & Koreans would have it e.g. suicide when making some huge mistake such as the tragedy with the ferry just weeks ago,

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Blanche Quizno @ # 1: … Allah (swt) … I had to go look ‘em up …

    Me, too – but I still can’t figure out which of the official five definitions of “swt” applies (best) to Allah.

  5. Crimson Clupeidae says

    The thing that struck me (unless I’m reading it wrong) is that the highlighted phrase is spoken as a positive.

    My gast is flabbered.

  6. Jane Cobb says

    I seem to recall that male Jews have a prayer in which they thank god that they were not born female.

  7. David Sucher says

    Yup, I’m afraid it’s all over the place…part of the evolution of human beings I guess. Are there any/many cultures which don’t have/never been male dominant?

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