Have any of you read The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf a Syrian who grew up in the United States? This is a rather cute book especially as it talked about life in the United States from the perspective of observant Muslims Khadra Shamy and her family who moved to Indiana after the family left Damascus, Syria.
It was at times funny and at times maddening to hear American culture discussed (at one point I thought if we are that dirty, why come here to live?!), however, I gradually got used to the style of this book and enjoyed much of it. The reviewer at Muslim Matters liked the first half, but not the last when Khadra started enjoying Western culture and finding fault with the hypocrisy of her Muslim community. What hypocrisy, you ask? I recall when Eyad, her older brother, wanted to marry the beautiful Maha and his father's first reaction was she's as "black as coal." Yet all their lives they were taught Islam saw no color...they were not racists. Uh huh. Other issues as well.
When Khadra married a Kuwaiti studying in the US, their marriage quickly turned sour. First he had a problem with her riding her bicycle even though she was Islamically attired. When his "why does my wife have to ride a bike?" didn't work, he finally pulled the husband rank card and told her she could not ride it. So she put it in storage, but felt more and more that she had to give up being herself while being married to him. He was always concerned about what other Arabs might think way more than she was concerned with this.
Later in the book she meets someone in her photography class in Philadelphia -- Blu "short for Bluma - Yiddish." The young women "discovered they were both emerging from the shell of a highly observant, orthodox religious upbringing.
'Yeah, yeah, yeah, a thousand rules for everything, that's halakha, too,' Blu said, recognizing Islamic fiqh as a parallel structure to Judaic law. 'I get it.'
Christians in Indiana never, ever got it. Protestants found it so foreign and bizarre to have a religious law, the sort with rituals and specific rules and all. If they knew anything at all about shariah, they equated it with stoning. Death, that's all shariah was to them. Yet it wasn't that way at all. Just like American constitutional law, shariah expanded and evolved, and was meant to protect life, and relationships, and all that was good.
So it was a relief not to have to explain every little thing about that to a friend who was an American. Cool to find an American who was not even a Muslim but got it."
This reminded me of how I often think that Jews and Muslims do have a very detailed Law to follow! You may recall my post on our lack of rules in Christianity addressing this topic a bit.
Later I'll share an interesting conversation Khadra had with a guy from Tunisia who declared himself culturally Muslim, but not religiously one.
Do you agree that shariah expands and evolves or do most people hold it rigidly in one way...like maybe how they did things in 7th century Arabia or perhaps there is a mixture of both?
If you are familiar with this book, do you have any thoughts about it?
Oh, when Khadra went to visit her great aunt in Syria, she was given some valuable coins. Her aunt said that there were strict inheritance laws in Islam and the way to get around them was to gift people so her aunt wanted Khadra to have the wealth these rare coins would bring her. I thought that was nice and wondered how often family members get around the seemingly unfair inheritance laws by giving beloved daughters "gifts" rather than inheritance.