I seek refuge in God from satan the accursed.
In the name of God Most Compassionate Most Merciful.
A couple of years ago, a group of Canadian Muslims in the Toronto area got together and decided to hold a talent show and contest. Their mission was to bring out Muslim youth and showcase their talent, build their confidence, and boost community involvement. Excited about this new Muslim initiative, I opened The Toronto Star to read more about this upcoming event. But as I read the article, I became increasingly uneasy, and by the end of it, I felt miserable and sick.
The article explained how the talent show was soon holding auditions in different artistic categories, including singing. But what got me upset was the fact that the organizers were only allowing singing to be done by male competitors. This was obviously due to the widely circulated and accepted myth that women’s voices can somehow sexually arouse men and cause mass chaos and the eventual breakdown of society as we know it.
This attitude of women being temptresses by nature and the intense need to control their lives has somehow taken over our community. I don’t know how excatly it came about, but it seems to be gaining momentum under the guise of “Islamic morality.” It is time to expose this myth for what it really is: a means of controlling women and keeping the public domain in the hands of men.
In case you think my judgement on this topic is heretical or far fetched, allow me to elaborate on this topic. It is time we all wake up and realize the truth staring us in the face: it’ not just men who are attracted to women, but in fact, women are also attracted to men! So, if men can be aroused by women’s melodious voices during a singing contest, women can also be aroused by men’s voices. The fact that “opposites attract” is just a basic fact of nature. So why is it that we as women are labelled a detriment to men’s spirituality whereas men are free to express their creativity in front of us as though we are some sort of asexual beings?
Let’s turn our attention now to the Quran and see if the Book of Light can help us solve this issue once and for all. It is clear that God Almighty tells both men and women to lower their gazes and guard their modesty when in the public realm or around people who are not blood relatives. So we know right away that our Merciful Creator has created both men and women with the desire for one another, and therefore, in order to purify our lives, He advises us all to watch how we dress and conducts ourselves, regardless of gender. But in practice, our community is extremely lopsided and full of hypocrisy and double standards.
The other thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much we try, people will feel attracted to one another, even if everyone is dressed and acting in a modest way. That is because it is the only way people can actually get and stay married. There is no magical “love button” that switches on during the day of the nikkah. Therefore, what the Quran sets for us are boundaries for our behaviour that we ourselves must monitor.
Part of this myth that only men have desire for women, is that women must try their best to stay confined to their homes or female dominated professions because men are animalistic in their pursuit for sexual pleasure through women, and that if women choose to show themselves, then men are “by nature” going to aggressively go after them. This idea is not only demeaning to women, but also to men. But before you try and justify this idea, let’s examine the story of Prophet Joseph pbuh, which completely destroys this myth from its core.
So the Quran tells us that Prophet Joseph pbuh was blessed with not just the ability to interpret dreams, but also exceptional beauty. He was thrown down a well by his jealous half brothers, rescued by a travelling caravan, and eventually sold to a wealthy Egyptian, where he grew up to mature as a very handsome man.
Remember the part where the lady of his house desired him? Oh wait, I thought only men were mesmerized by women’s beauty. Remember how even he desired her, and that she was the one who aggressively pursued him, and despite being attracted to her, he turned to God and was able to fight his temptation to commit any sexual acts with her? Oh wait! I thought that men couldn’t control their desires and that women were to blame for the men who pursued them. I know the skeptic in you in thinking, “But that was just one woman!” Remember how all the women at the banquet went crazy for him because he was so good looking? Remember how the lady of the house threatened to get him imprisoned if he didn’t agree to commit sexual acts with her? Oh wait! I thought that only men aggressively pursued women and that only men had sexual desires that need “instant quenching.”
Now I can hear the skeptic in you saying, “Okay fine! But Prophet Joseph was a prophet, so we can’t expect Muslim men to be so controlling like him.” Oh really? So do we all remember how many times Allah SWT has repeated in the Quran that prophets are just people like everyone else, and that they don’t have any special abilties? If prophets were some sort of super humans, then why would Prophet Yusuf pbuh feel attracted to her in the first place? Why would Prophet Jonah pbuh abandon his mission only to be swallowed by the whale until he begged for forgiveness, why would Mary pbuh wish for her own death while giving birth to a child in a society that would make a scandal out of her situation, and why would Prophet Jacob cry himself blind from losing his beloved Joseph? Prophets were different from us only by the fact that they had an extra burden of constant missionary work. Other than that, they needed to eat and drink like the rest of us, and they felt fear, sadness, happiness, hope, nervous, excited, and all the range of emotions found in regular human beings.
So, in conclusion, if Prophet Joseph being an exceptionally handsome man could turn away from women throwing themselves at him, then average Muslim men can also do the same. Would you blame him for attracting all those women? No! He was never trying to tempt or cause “fitna” (this word seems to be our favourite). Using the same principle, let’s not suffocate our women, making them feel guilty for simply being pretty or beautiful. Yes, we should dress modestly, but let’s not divide society by gender so much. Let us not forget that women are also attracted to men and the goal should be create a comfortable environment where everyone can live, work, contribute to humanity, and enjoy a respectable life.