“Well my husband told me that it’s haram to…” she starts in, causing a self-preserving mist to cover my ears as soon as she emitted “my husband.” It would sound like a hyperbole if I tried to estimate how many times I have heard sisters refer to their husbands as religious authorities. I mean their non-sheikh, Average Jamal husbands. Worse is how many times they were simply, flat out wrong. Her husband heard something from a brother who knew a guy who read a blog post about a video… and their telephone game ended with the opposite meaning of the ruling I had just recently read in supposedly the same fatwa. Yes, the same issue, the same sheikh – totally different interpretation of what he said! So what happened? Unlike the meticulous rulings and writings we have access to, when this information is casually handed about something vital is often lost. ‘Lost in Interpretation’ we can call it, but unfortunately we – my friend, her husband, the friend and the fatwa – were all speaking the same language.
A husband’s obligation to foster his wife’s religious education is one of the many things I liked about Islam before I converted. A husband’s holistic support – I wanted in on that! Across cultures and religions there are maxims such as “To educate a man is to educate an individual. To educate a woman is to educate a nation” and of course Islam confirms this with the recognition of the mother as primary and pivotal teachers for their children. But why then, with so much careful attention given to chains of narrations and our appreciation of the purity of the Qur’an, do we toss all that fiqh out the window when it comes to learning from the ones closest to us? “Well I trust my husband!” the sister snips at me when I ask if her husband provided her with some daleel (proof ).
The Prophet r said: “All of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your wards. The ruler is a shepherd and shall be asked about his wards. The man is a shepherd of his family and will be asked about his ward.” Bukhari
This casualness that can exist between spouses is, well, no casual matter! It reminds me of the statistic that the majority of automobile accidents happen near your home, where you are most familiar with the surroundings and likely to let your guard down. Maybe, sis, you aren’t being slack about how you accept crucial knowledge from your “habibi” (baby). I’ll provide another excuse. And maybe this doesn’t even apply to you or your husband, but it may be useful to know one of the many ways that the good knowledge-sharing link can be broken. Studies have indicated that in the US 14% of all adults are functionally illiterate, meaning they can phonetically read, but do not critically understand what they are reading. The 2009 Human Development Report estimated that 20% of the US population lacked functional literacy, they estimated 21.8% of the population for the UK. Wherever you live and read, I caution you to watch your back, sisters – that brother or sister who always seems to have a book tucked under their arm could be that one out of five, if you or your husband aren’t…
Next time your hubby tells you that something is haram, or just orally relates anything new to you in our glorious religion try this: bat your eyes at him lovingly and breathlessly exclaim, “Oh my dear. That is so interesting. You must show me your sources, honey!” Then cuddle up with your husband over a book (or app), expand your knowledge and get your worship on!
Brooke Benoit is a wanna-be polymath who home-educates her six kids and enjoys regular mental sparrings with her husband and good friends. This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of SISTERS Magazine.
**Soap Box is the place for sisters to speak out on issues they feel strongly about. Do you agree? Disagree? Please send your responses to our Soap Box articles or your own original rant to firstname.lastname@example.org