SORRY, CAN’T, MY DAD SAID NO.
The moment I realized my choices were not mine to make was in 9th grade when I wanted to study Spanish as a second language. I came home with the form for my parents to sign and when I got it back, I saw that Spanish had been barred and instead was the other option, German. When I questioned my parents why, they told me it was because I would have better opportunities in Switzerland – my home country - if I learned German. With a hint of betrayal, my 13 year old mind convinced myself that the people who seemed to have it all together obviously knew more about opportunities than I did.
Little did I know that when faced with those “future opportunities”, I wouldn’t even be able to pick the one I wanted.
Years later, many instances once again displayed how choice for a woman in Muslim cultures was synonymous with “a big fat joke”.
In my case, I had to be grateful with the everyday choices I could make like whether I would get guacamole with my Chipotle order or which TV show I would binge until 4am. However, field of study, career path or any other big life decision that essentially would only affect my everyday life would be selected by a patriarch.
At the time, I typically left it at me being “too young” to make an intelligent choice but came my 20s and not much changed. I was then at an age to understand the life paths of women in my own family or around me, and this same pattern appeared recurrently. Choices were made for them and sadly, many times were probably not the best of ones. The obvious bad choices that stood out the most were ones regarding marriage. Men picked out of a list of potentials compiled based on pedigree and reputation presented to the world, would be assigned by the male members of the family to daughters, sisters and cousins. A ceremonial “Are you ok with this?” can be presented to her but everyone in the room knows that the final decision is essentially made by the men. Eventually, like any marriage regardless of how it came to be can either go well or very badly, with ups and downs along the way. However, the danger with being nudged into a union by someone else as opposed to entering into it of your own choosing is, the blame game. At any minor adversity, aiming the blame of the issue towards the person that put you into the situation in the first place can happen so easily.
Poisoned family ties and unsatisfied lives bear the brunt of the circumstances.
Why is it that a woman’s voice in regards to her own life aren't taken into account?
I’ll tell you why. Because God forbid she chooses a path that brings her joy but doesn’t conform to cultural norms, she may be bringing the utmost of shame upon her family as well as bruising fragile male egos along the way. However, her brother whose honour she must maintain may prance around from blonde to blonde and sliding into all forms of DMs, without a worry in the world. The logic is just so overpowering.
I believe a bunch of men one day gathered and determined that these sensitive, PMSing women couldn’t possibly know anything about the big, scary world out there.
That these damsels in distress desperately needed the irrefutable wisdom and intelligence of these men to dictate which path would be best for them. * Barfs *
It is unfair though to totally bash on the present male population as this behaviour comes from centuries of Islam being misinterpreted for male benefit. This paired with misogyny, constant objectification of women and glass ceilings; it is no wonder that the idea that women do not garner the cognitive skills to make critical decisions is widespread.
However, I will not say that things need to be modernised. On the contrary, these social constructs need to be taken back to their roots in Islam. A time when, a divorcée with her own thriving business personally chose a man much younger than herself to be her husband. I obviously speak of Khadija (RA), the wife of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). This need to revert back on
This need to revert back on the status of women’s choice may not be felt by today’s men but it is and has been for a long time by women.
For this reason, as the millennial generation slowly create their own families, implementing this knowledge into our daughters and especially sons will hopefully bring about change. InshAllah.
For this reason, as the millennial generation slowly create their own families, implementing this knowledge into our daughters and especially sons will hopefully bring about change.
By Zainab M Khan
Zainab is an eloquent blogger, constantly posting the most sarcastic hashtags. Currently she is studying for her Master’s degree in Marketing Communications. She was born and raised in Geneva, with Pakistani heritage. She hopes to one day be on the cover of Times magazine but for now will settle with having her picture up on her Instagram account which you can follow at: