Muslim Men

About a week ago I had a conversation with a male Muslim friend of mine, who is a Dutch Muslim.  He’s one of the most intelligent and creative people I have ever met, so I was pretty surprised at our conversation.  I asked him what he thought about women leading prayer and his instant reaction was “no!”  So I asked why.

He said that as a man, he wouldn’t be able to pray behind a woman because he wouldn’t be able to not check her out.  So his reasoning was not based on Qur’an, sunnah, fiqh or even logic. No. It was just as simple as “men cannot control themselves.”  EVEN DURING PRAYER.

I asked him what the solution was, then.  He said there is no solution: women should just not lead prayer, since there is no way that men would be able to focus.  He said he couldn’t even focus when a woman was praying near him (ah yes, hence the partitions, walls, upstairs closets. That explains it!)  let alone in front of him.

I’m really pissed.  Seriously.  What have Muslim men come to? They think its actually okay to use this as an EXCUSE for not letting women do pretty much anything.  I mean seriously!

First of all – why is it always assumed women will not get turned on by praying behind a man? Oh right, because men are “visual” and women aren’t. Okay but really.  A more logical reason?

Second of all – will women continue to be deprived of things because men can’t control themselves? Then how is Islam ever going to progress?

Third of all – if educated Muslims are making such arguments, I don’t even want to think of all the other ones.

Finally – why can Muslim men NOT control themselves? Why don’t we have these huge problems in other societies?

Note: this doesn’t apply to all Muslim men, there are one or two who aren’t like this. Well maybe five or six.

Okay. Rant over.

I’m going to go find my box of comfort chocolate.

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46 thoughts on “Muslim Men

  1. Boo! I don’t get it either. Like, you can at least control yourself during prayer! And if its a partion mosque a woman could lead without the men seeing her. With the partion you can see usually from the waiste up when in sujood but not the person’s bottom.

    or the men could just not see the person leading prayer. We do that all the time.

    • We shouldn’t even be thinking of partitions or any other excuses for these men! Why should we just not let the men see the woman leading prayer? I think from now on we should focus on men controlling themselves…I mean if they can’t do it during prayer then when can they? Are men really that animalistic?
      It’s so sad if that’s the case! And it really says a lot about us women…praying behind men for all these centuries and being able to not think sexual thoughts! To be honest, the last thing on my mind when I pray behind a man is how sexy/hot he is bending down…ah wait, this is where men will come in with their “oh but women are different, we men are more visual, blah blah blah…I’m so tired of these excuses!

      Grrr. Need more chocolate!

  2. 🙂 I was just finding the middle ground solution. Ultimately, they could deal without seeing us lead, as we have to do it all the time. Or deal with it period.

    I personally wouldn’t be comfortable praying in front of men because they can look at my bum lol Its sad but true, I feel like they would take it as license to look.

    • Yeah that’s a good point – some women would probably be uncomfortable leading since they know men would be looking. Which comes back to the point – men need to stop looking 😛

      I think it should just be about choice. If a woman wants to lead (as Amina Wadud did for example) she should be able to, and whoever doesn’t want to attend just shouldn’t, as opposed to sending death and bomb threats.

  3. Muslim men can and do control themselves. Funny how he can sit next to you and speak with you, but when he is praying somehow that changes.

    So women are such objects that we are always only seen in a sexual manner? Even an old woman who wants to lead prayer?

    This has nothing to do with lust and everything to do with power, control and threats of “rape” or some sort of sexual abuse of a woman if she does not comply, hence, “we can’t control ourselves.”

    When a woman bends over in the street do men jump on her and grab her? Not to mention women in Mosques are COMPLETELY covered by loose and flowing material.

    This is just male ego and a grasp to maintain men’s control.

    This topic gets me ranting also because it is so blatantly an issue of logic and human decency.

    Funny how these creative, smart, wonderful men can turn so quickly into jerks. I guess your friend never thought of the command to avert one’s eyes if one feels lust. Instead, just curb women’s rights so men don’t have to curb anything. Problem solved.

    Of course, some of the smartest academics in the world are ignorant racists, so why would it be different when it comes to sexism?

    • “When a woman bends over in the street do men jump on her and grab her? Not to mention women in Mosques are COMPLETELY covered by loose and flowing material.”

      Exactly! She’s not going to be bending over in a bikini, which would at least make it somewhat understandable why people might stare.

      I think like you said, its about human decency. These men need to learn it, and it’s as simple as that.

    • “I guess your friend never thought of the command to avert one’s eyes if one feels lust. Instead, just curb women’s rights so men don’t have to curb anything. Problem solved.”

      Yessssssss! This is what I like to argue. If men would do as they are commanded (avert eyes) then women wouldn’t have to go around as if they were invisible. :-S

    • “Even an old woman who wants to lead prayer? ”

      That’s the first thing that I thought about – what if it’s an old woman leading prayer? Not like some hot 18 year old, but someone older and who has a lot of knowledge.

      • Yeah but then do we put an age limit on female imams? And what if it’s a hot 40 year old? 😛 Or a really knowledgeable 20 year old?

        Plus men are attracted to different kinds of women, so one man’s fantasy could be another’s nightmare.

        Men just need to get over themselves! If they can’t handle it, just don’t pray behind a woman. But don’t tell ALL women they can’t be imams.

  4. I think you should ask him that, seeing as he cant concentrate whilst praying next to a woman – how is he managing to speak to you and have conversation then?

    Because if he cant control himself for a 10 minute prayer – a whole entire conversation with you must be more than his poor visual eyes can bare!;)

    • Hahaha I should ask him that next time 😛

      I’m sure he would come up with some sort of complicated reason (excuse). If anything, during prayer he should be putting more effort into controlling his sense.

      • I think the fact that many men when asked this question, have about the same answer, means this is not something they are just thinking about suddenly, I think it is something they are taught while growing up and repeat it because they were told it was the right thing to say and the right way to think.

        I do not believe for one second that these men actually would feel uncontrollable lust, I think it’s just what they were taught to think. It was/is the “logic” taught to boys about why women should never lead prayer or stand next to men in the Mosque.

  5. salam

    to think of it, all prophets are men. as a woman i accept this.
    actually i appreciate that men have the responsibility of leading
    but that doesn’t mean women are lower caste than men
    women have other responsibilities, like pregnancy – why don’t men get pregnant?
    it’s the way it is
    men have their roles, women have theirs
    we complement each other
    what is a leader without a follower 🙂

    i don’t know if i explain well, maybe i do need to learn more
    al & all only Allah SWT Knows Best

    • That’s true, and it is true that the Qur’an has given men and women different roles in certain circumstances. BUT when it comes to leading prayer there is a debate. Very important Islamic scholars like Tabari have said that women CAN lead men in prayer. So there is disagreement.

  6. women get pregnant, nurse, menstruate, physically women are less muscular. men don’t have these, how should i say it – challenges? sorry can’t find a word to best describe it. so i personally think, for being blessed with more strength, men should serve the leading role & takes care of the ladies. protect us.

    if women have to do it all, i personally it’s too much on my plate! 😀 so if we do it all, what will the men do. a woman’s roles should be appreciated, its not less than men’s.

    • Nisa,

      But there are women out there who do not want the role you describe. Some women are natural leaders, it is just their personality. What do you think about them? I also think the fact that many women do want to lead prayers and do want the segregation to end, and are not listened to or allowed, means we are “less than” men on some level, because we are not forbidden from it in the Quran, and there are some scholars who say it is perfectly ok for women to do this… Yet most places we are not allowed.. Why do you think that is the case?

      • funny you should mention women leaders. coz the news reported women are achieving more than men, that it’s actually a national issue. e.g. marriage drops, birth rates drop. so perhaps, u r right i don’t have the personality for men who accepts being left out in the race. i do find it an issue if women are left to do everything, while men have it easier.

        yes, i prefer my men leaders achievers. men who can support women & her ambitions. men who paved the road for others. who provides & protects his family. i prefer a man leading the prayer, as they must know that its their duty is to protect & provide for the women. even if a wife love being the leader – but it is not her duty to provide for her husband, it is his.

        He must know. He must take the role & not leave it.

        As said, women already have much on our plate. What women do is not less than a man. Women are men’s partners. & as a mother, she can steward her children. lead them to greatness. pls start with that. TQ.

  7. Ooh Cairo. The kind of entries that make me go “OH. hmm. Should I comment? Shall i get myself slaughtered? I think I shouldnt. Not today.” Hahaha. Hmmm… where was I?

    Yes, chocolates. There’s a bar of Cadbury lying around somewhere in the house. Women! 😛

  8. women and men have different qualities and different responsibilities in life. But it should be the job/activity that determines which qualities are needed to be good at it. Being able to have babies or being physicailly stronger are not quality necesary for leading at prayer. The qualities needed for that can be found in both men and women.

  9. Ah it’s totally annoying! So many men think like this because they’ve been told to think like this. It’s not biology, and men CAN control themselves. They’ve been brought up to think boys can’t and that women should be blamed for everything, and it’s women who should be stopped rather than the behaviour of men changed.

    BUT I do think people have a lot of trouble concentrating on prayer anyway, and a woman right in front of him with a woman’s behind will usually make a guy look (whether he’s attracted or not, his eyes will usually snap to it!). There’s not so much TO a guy’s behind for us to look at really, maybe if prayer involved movements and the display of body parts more intimate to men, then they would pray behind us.

    I do believe though, that you’re right. There has to be more reason than that, and most men should be able to control very well at the sight of a covered religious women performing her religious duty.

    Just think of all the amazing things men can’t do, like give birth or have paradise under their feet just because they’re not women.

    By the way, I’ve just found your new blog. I was away from the internet for 6 weeks. I’ve just got back thinking “where are Cairo’s posts?!” and then I remembered this site. WordPress does look a lot neater and more professional than blogger, good job!

    • ” It’s not biology, and men CAN control themselves.”

      Exactly!! That’s what’s so frustrating!

      I do think though that many women are attracted to a man’s behind – they just control themselves more than men who are attracted to a woman’s behind.

      Sooo glad you found my blog! Missed you and your comments! Hugs!

  10. We actually just discussed this a group gathering regarding Islamic Culture. Most first/second generation Muslim Men between the ages of 18-30 want to see the segregation changed. They want to be able to have a conversation in person with a female friend and not get glowered at or sit in the same room as the women for a lecture so everyone can see. They want to break the race barer down and get to know people outside their ethnicity. They want to change what they are taught. But its much more diffcult because the elders do not want change. We are trying slowly in my community. We have our discussions in a circle, women on one half, men on the other. we encourage looking at the speaker and looking people in the eye when speaking to them regardless of gender. We encourage the men to look out for the ladies in the late night on their way back to the train (if she is going your way walk with her). So its changing, slowly.

    I think to change this we first have to allow a woman to lead prayer in a space where the man cant see the leader. I think that is a good place to start because the issues the men site will not be there.

  11. I once asked my husband if he’d pray behind a woman and he said yes! Without hesitating. He thinks that although some men will stare at the woman’s behind, most will just use it as an excuse to embarrass a woman from leading prayers. He thinks that many men won’t pray behind a woman because it is shameful for them to be led by a woman especially in religion because they think they are superior to women in religion. Maybe your friend was also making an excuse? 😀

    I wrote this about two years ago (http://achelois.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/would-i-pray-behind-wadud-2/) and think that women should demand separate opportunities for religious growth and ambition. I know it is not really related to your post but I know you are interested in Islamic feminism 🙂

    • I know men that would also say yes without hesitating, which shows that it isn’t some universal biological thing that men can’t control themselves when confronted with a woman in an abaya bending down to PRAY.

      I do agree that a lot of men seem to use this as an excuse because they simply wouldn’t want to pray behind a woman for other reasons.

      Thanks for the link – great post! And yes, send anything on Islamic feminism (and Islam in general) my way 😀 Especially if its smth you wrote…love your style and your opinions!

    • My husband says he would not pray behind a woman… Wow, this was news to me.. It made for a long night of discussion about religion. Broke my heart hearing him say that.. The funny thing is he doesn’t really know why, he didn’t really have an answer for me.. Just that he would feel uncomfortable.. He is so open minded, such a good guy.. I was a bit shocked… What bothers me most is that he doesn’t really know why, just thinks that’s how it is and that’s how it will and should be. Because a woman leading would be abnormal. He also spoke about the man being the leader and men leading prayer being a part of that leadership role..

      I think this is fine, it’s his opinion, but can’t men be leaders and women still lead prayer? Or at least stand in mixed company for prayer? Plus, if you don’t really know why you feel that way, shouldn’t you look into it?

      I feel a bit let down..

      • I know without asking my hubby that’s what he’d say … although he is more conservative than your hubby though. He would just say ‘that’s the way it is’ without worrying about asking ‘why?’. When we pray together he prays at least a step ahead of me … which is fine I guess but he won’t pray shoulder-to-shoulder with me.

        • Aynur: that’s so interesting. I really think its a power thing. Scholars do have reasons for not allowing it (the hadith as usual) but many Muslim men don’t have any reasons! Its ridiculous. Yet many of them are so sure about it.

      • 😦 I’m sorry to hear about this Sarah. Your husband sounds like an amazing, liberal guy.

        “The funny thing is he doesn’t really know why, he didn’t really have an answer for me.. Just that he would feel uncomfortable.”

        This is the problem. A lot of comments here mentioned that: there is no real reason or solid reason, men just don’t like it because it gives up some of their “power”.

        I think it also has something to do with consensus…most Muslims agree on it so its scary to disagree, esp. if you’re a man.

        HUGS!

  12. I LOVE this post, seriously. Please question this man! I asked my husband a while ago what he thought and he churned out the same argument. I then asked him to let me lead him in prayer and he agreed. Low and behold, there were no indecent thoughts and I was not struck by lightning! I think that he has definitely changed his opinion for the better so whenever you get a nice guy saying that PLEASE say something, who knows, he’s probably just repeating what he’s heard all his life.

    I think Achelois is right, too, about the pride thing. Men like this want to be the men you see in cartoons – ie to be the best, the strongest, etc. They may even encourage their female friends/relatives/wife to seek out her rights but won’t even pray behind her, because it’s personal matter of pride.

    I honestly cannot stand men like that.

      • “because it’s personal matter of pride.”

        EXACTLY! But soo many men are like this…I think its rare to find one who doesn’t feel that way, although most of them won’t admit it.

        Like Sarah said before, women should start leading prayers at home first…so great job Ellen! Yay! You get some (virtual) carrot cake 😀

        • Please make sure the cake has a lot of icing! 😉

          Yeah I think he let me because I told him that I’d make it work for him, like I wouldn’t be so much in front of him, more so beside him. I don’t think for him it was to do with pride but more so just that he had no idea about that and didn’t even think to research it – I mean he is Saudi so he would have been bombarded with that sort of info from when he was even in primary school.

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