March 07, 2005

Winning Entry for "The Fatima Incident" Writing Contest

In December, Sex & the Umma readers were invited to submit a conclusion to Mohja Kahf’s short story, “The Fatima Incident.” We are pleased to announce the winer, Zuleikha Mahmood, who receives a signed copy of Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Days.

We now publish the winning entry, along with three entries that tied for runner-up. Thanks to all of you who participated, and keep writing!

The winning entry built on elements woven into the story and brought them to a conclusion. The story mentions sexually transmitted illness a number of times, and depicts a man who behaves not only adulterously but with reckless irresponsibility. Zuleikha made use of that and gave Muhammad’s illicit sexual activities serious repercussions. The successful ending also brought the story back around to something from the story’s beginning or a central motif, closure, through its use of the name ‘Fatima” with its disturbing connotations in the story. The sexual dysfunction that is Muhammad and Aida’s complex problem is magnified by giving it yet another victim. – Ed.

The Winning Entry: by Zuleikha Mahmood

Despite their infrequent sex, Aida suspected she was pregnant. It would be their fourth. After two weeks of waiting for her period, she waited in the bathroom with two pregnancy tests. She let them rest face-down on the edge of the sink. She had no du’a prepared, so she repeated to herself “Allah, I accept your will, but please, don’t let me be pregnant.” Aida turned the tests over. Positive.

She waited for Muhammad to come home so she could inform him. He was a good father, and Aida hoped that she was a good mother. Another child wasn’t such a bad thing, especially when she remembered her infertile cousin.

After she put the kids to sleep, Aida told Muhammad. She was able to muster up some joy. “I won’t know for sure until I go to the doctor’s,” she said.

“Another child,” Muhammad said. He remembered how cruel he had been a month ago, about her skirt. The room was dark but he put his hands over his face and wiped down, like after prayer.

Just that day, Ham had visited a strip club on his lunch break.

Muhammad told Aida that he was happy to have another child with her, the best of mothers.

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Posted by ahmed at 09:52 AM | Comments (3)

December 29, 2004

Dissident Sexualities: Muslim and Gay in the UK

UK Gay Muslims march in 2002, Photo by Andrew Hodges

Yakoub Islam takes a look at the gay Muslim scene in Britain and argues that homophobia is an act of social injustice based on prejudice rather than fact and reason.

By Yakoub Islam

As a middle class, white, British-born convert to Islam, nothing has perplexed me more than the ideas and beliefs held by many ordinary Muslims about gay people. I’ve tried to rationalize it, justify it and excuse it. In the end, I felt impelled to put on my sociologist’s cap and investigate the problem. What I discovered was that the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning (LGBTQ) Muslims, even their social reality, has been grossly misrepresented and misunderstood.

In this article, I will attempt to reconstruct the core historical and contemporary realities of LGBTQ Muslims in the spirit of ithar, a term which roughly translates as ‘self-sacrificing generosity’. I will start by brushing off the cobwebs of the past and roughly summarize what is known about LGBTQ Muslims by gender historians. The social research on LGBTQ Muslims in Britain will then be considered, exploring the human rights problems experienced by one section of this population – lesbian, gay and bisexual women.

As I am not an expert on Shariah, I will not be considering the legality of LGBTQ behaviours within Islam. Rather, my intention is to draw people’s attention to the dire consequences of continuing to rely on prejudice, rather than reason and research, to relate to LGBTQ Muslim people in the UK. My conclusions, however, should be equally applicable to other developed nations with Muslim minorities.

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Posted by Mohja at 03:47 PM | Comments (34)

November 27, 2004

The Fatima Incident


The following story is fiction. The situations depicted in it are imaginary. Any resemblance to real persons or events is completely coincidental.

By Mohja Kahf

How Will This Story End?

Write your own ending to "The Fatima Incident," and if your entry is selected, you'll be published on MWU!'s Sex & The Umma and get your very own signed copy of Samina Ali's Madras on Rainy Days.
Deadline: December 18, 2004

Enter Here!

“So what’s your name,” she said indifferently, taking off her black panties and tossing them with her toe to the cobwebby corner of the motel room just off the Turnpike in Iselin. He had a cowed look, watery eyes that wouldn’t settle on hers forthrightly, and office worker hands. She bet he worked in a cubicle.

“Ham,” he replied, unzipping his chinos. Mohammad, really, but his boss back when he’d started work on the software development floor had taken the middle syllable as the only pronounceable one, and he’d been “Ham” ever since. To the kuffar society, anyway. “What’s yours?”

She had a trim figure and eyes that were a faded blue, the color of old jeans, but he wasn’t looking particularly at her eyes.

Fatima,” she said, pronouncing it FaTEEma.

“What?” He stopped short. “You can’t be Fatima.” He pronounced it FAH-tima. “Where are you from?”

“None of your business, Ham.”

“That’s not your real name, is it?” A note of panic in his tone made her look up.

“Why? You know any Fatimas? Your mother’s name is Fatima?” She was kidding, but he was going green around the gills. She couldn’t afford to lose the income. “All right, you got me. My real name is—” the first name that came to mind was that of her dead aunt in Sarajevo. “—Kedija,” she said. It was suitably exotic, like Fatima. Most clients liked exotic. “My real name’s Kedija.”

He looked even sicker. “Tell me where you’re from!” he shouted, looming over her, his fists balling at his sides.

Her eyes flickered. Now she just wanted to get out of this one without any bruises. She’d call Effron and tell him he had to screen them better for her. “Okay, okay, Mister Ham, calm down. I’m from Bosnia, okay? Just calm down.”

“Oh my God. You’re Muslim, aren’t you,” He sat on the edge of the bed, deflated.

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October 25, 2004

The Warm Fluids: A Ramadan Khutba of Imama Halima Holiness Hennings


The Indian Meridian in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. Photo by Bret Wallach.

By Mohja Kahf

Halima Holiness Hennings is an obscure figure in the history of Muslims in America, about whom very little is known with certainty. She may have been related on one side to Hajj Ali (“Hi Jolly”), the late nineteenth-century Arab immigrant to America who helped the U.S. government in a failed scheme to promote camels in the American West. Textual evidence suggests that she received at least some rudimentary education in Arabic. However, whether she was part-Arab or not, she was certainly African American. County records kept in Norman, Oklahoma show that a woman named Holiness Hennings, listed as “Negro,” paid property taxes on a small farm in 1927-29, toward the end of her life. Her first husband may have been a cousin of Inayat Khan, the Indian immigrant who brought Sufism to America around the turn of the century. He died, and Hennings (her maiden name, which remained unchanged throughout her life) married at least once, possibly twice more, and had anywhere from three to nine children in toto, although at least two are believed to have died in infancy. Hennings, who was called Sister Holy by her congregants, is assumed to have died in 1931 at the end of a very long life. Although no grave marked with her name has been located, there are several plausible reasons why no grave would have been found, among them the possibility that she requested that her burial revive the very early Islamic custom of not marking graves with the identities of their occupants.

Most importantly for the history of Muslims in America, Hennings was one of the earliest twentieth-century African American Muslims, espousing orthodox Islam, pre-dating the founding of Nation of Islam. (In fact, some historiographers speculate that she had something to do with establishing communication between Fard and Elijah Muhammad; given her possible marital connections to the South Asian community, this is not impossible.) It is not known whether she was a convert or born Muslim; if the relationship to Hajj Ali is true, she would have been born Muslim. If she converted, she did so at a very early age, because by the time she was thirteen she was beginning to gain reputation as an eloquent girl and a skilled qaria, or reciter of Quran. She grew up in the Louisiana Delta.

What is known for certain is that in the last years of her life, Sister Halima, then a widow, led a tiny Muslim congregation on the outskirts of a now-defunct small town in Oklahoma, on the border of a Cherokee reservation. It is said that they simply congregated in the woods without walls or floor or cover from rain; later a rudimentary dirt-floor log shelter was built. This is no longer extant, and indeed, even the approximate location of the open-air mosque is no longer known. The congregation was primarily African American and Sister Hennings’ own family comprised its core, but it included four others of indeterminate immigrant origins, one of them may have been Chinese, and reportedly one white couple, but another source has them as Quakers who visited the mosque in interfaith fellowship.

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Posted by Melody at 06:17 AM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2004

lesbo goes to muslim bridal shower


Photo by Craig Volpe

By zuleikha mahmood

i put on a baby yellow sweater and a brown and white polka-dot skirt, so i look conservative almost, except for my jewelry: big yellow-brown earrings, bronze cuff bracelet from a garage sale, and, the shocker, no allah necklace. go with my mother and sister to bushra aunty’s house up in mountaintop. leena and i used to have sleepovers, watching scary movies that she could never stand. she’d always end up repeating i’m scared zara, i’m scared sab. she’s getting married in a month in dubai. i don’t even know if that’s a city or a country.

leena’s not that much older than me, but then she’s also thinner and lighter-skinned. still, there’s danger here.

the other girls come in hooded, like jedi knights. this is the source of their power. usually my mom heckles hijabis, saying, excuse me but how conceited are you, to think you need to cover even your eyes, or, i’m muslim too, but i don’t have to wear a sheet around to prove it. today my mother doesn’t say anything because she knows i’ll get embarrassed and end up apologizing for her, because i used to know those girls, used to be in the youth group with them, used to watch boys with them. back then the girls would say, of ali or isa or sinan, he’s so cute, i hope my father arranges me a marriage with him. they weren’t joking, and it’s not a joke anymore, not since the iron curtain of hijab fell and i feel too guilty to laugh. it all started with just one girl, anida, who was particularly inspired by the imam who i always used to fight with about whether or not a wetsuit was Islamic attire. anyway, all the women in her family fell, and then hijab spread from girl to girl faster than an std in a whorehouse.

anyway, the hijabi girls all take off their jilbabs to unveil strappy, tight, and glittery dresses that are so prom, and that show a tad too much boob for a bridal shower, even if it is only in front of women. who the hell are they trying to impress?

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August 23, 2004

Medically Speaking: Hymens, Tampons, and Virginity


Fibs, the first Kotex tampon marketed in the US, appeared in the late 1930's. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health.

By Laila Al-Marayati

Welcome to my first column addressing the more medical and clinical aspects of female sexuality. My interests lie in those areas that specifically impact Muslim women, although I'm sure there is great overlap among women of all cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. I will be writing about issues that are based on actual experiences and encounters with patients although I will not reveal any information that could be linked to a patient's actual identity. I hope that the topics will spark conversation and response so that we can expand the discourse on subjects that are too often considered taboo in our community.

Can a doctor tell if a woman is a virgin?

The concept of virginity and the role of the hymen as proof is an issue that crosses cultures and religions. I have had patients who are Christian, Korean, Muslim, Armenian, Arab and others express some form of concern over keeping the hymen intact to preserve one’s virginity. I have had patients request letters from me as their physician to give to their prospective spouses, validating their virginity after a careful vaginal exam by me. I have to admit that I can’t always tell if someone is a virgin due to the fact that the hymen can come in different shapes and sizes. I’d rather not be in the position of making that call, especially when I disagree so strongly with the basic premise of “hymen as proof of virginity.” In the US and around the world, the business for gynecologists specializing in “vaginal reconstruction” (a very special kind of cosmetic surgery) is booming. Women who need proof of virginity, whether it was lost because of sex or something else, would rather undergo an operation than be accused of not being a virgin on their wedding night and shaming themselves and their families.

Years ago, on a couple's wedding night, the mother of the groom would wait outside the room for her son to produce a blood-stained cloth indicating that his bride was pure; that is, her hymen was intact and properly tore upon vaginal penetration, causing her to bleed. If she did not, the circumstances could be dire. Some couples got creative and would use the blood of a chicken to stain the cloth, in the event that spontaneous bleeding didn’t happen. Even though the “cloth” is a thing of the past, the obsession with proof of virginity persists.

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Posted by Melody at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2004

Lost Pages from Sahih al-Bukhari’s Chapter on Menstruation


"Water of Hagar" by Hajjah Ann C. Saunders, Acrylic on Paper

By Mohja Kahf

They ask thee concerning menses. Say: They are a hurt. So withdraw from women in menses and do not go near to them until they purify. When they purify, go to them as God has commanded you. Verily God loveth the returners and the purifiers. (Quran, al-Baqara 222)

On the authority of Rizvana Bano, narrated by her niece Tamequa Jackson, that her great-grandmother who was a Companion of the Woman Who Loved Her Period, Bibi Moina the Truthteller (MGEH—may God empower her), said:

Behold, my period comes. I start feeling soft and melted and sexy a night or two before, and want to be held tenderly and protectively and made love to mightily, and then I want to be covered gently and left to sleep a bonus sleep that is off the clock, no babies crying no kids homework no dishes no phone calls let my partner take care of everything for a few hours. And that is how I know it is coming, and it feels like an old, familiar friend whose face I love. For behold, I love my period. (She said this latter three times.)

And verily the people said: Here comes bint khaltek, your cousin on your mother’s side, Um Kulsoum, that time of the month, Aunt Flow. On the rag. Ya muftra, ya mum, ya shakhakhet dam. Has the moon been sighted yet?

And she said: Yes the moon has been sighted; let the festivities begin! I’m driving my red convertible. The queenly egg unwinds her red turban. Roll out the red carpet.

And one said: I am not pregnant. What a relief. And the other said: I am not pregnant. What a sadness. And the Truthteller said: Knowledge that comes with blood, I welcome you. Help me to witness truth for my people.

On the authority of Rasula bint Nabia, one of the many ancient female messengers and prophets of God (MGIHM—may God invent her memory): A river runs through you. It is not unclean nor has it been created to give you pain, but to keep you tender. It is your moisture like tears are the moisture of your eyes. It is permissible to use it to fertilize your daffodil bulbs and rhizomes.

And the seventh layer of commentators added: This is what it feels like to have a tradition that includes words of love for women.

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July 09, 2004

Yusef and Lynn


"Aisha Of the Pearls" by Hajjah Ann C. Saunders, Acrylic on Paper

The following is excerpted from The Taqwacores, a novel published by Autonomedia. The story is fiction, and all situations depicted in it are imaginary.--Ed.

By Michael Muhammad Knight

taqwacores-cover-120.jpgLynn was in the recliner, a dread-headed white girl sporting a little spaghetti-strap top.

“As-salaamu alaikum, Yusef” she said as though trying to be cute.

Wa alaikum as-salaam,” I replied. “I don’t know if sitting in that chair’s a good idea, it’s been through a lot.”

Lynn, the Muslimah-gone-wrong; maybe it was Islam-done-her-wrong. She had converted to Islam, or re-verted to Islam or embraced Islam or however they say, from a Catholic upbringing. Somebody had turned her onto Rumi which led her to read up a little on the deen and she liked the general idea of it—you know, One God who doesn’t beget children, remembering your Creator five times a day, the whole racial-unity Malcolm sense and theoretical lack of a priesthood. So she went to a masjid in the suburb of Amherst and took shahadah. They gave her a hejab but were nice about it. They were nice about everything—those guys could say the meanest, most ignorant things but still use a gentle voice and try to sound rational and loving through it all. Told her she had to break up with her then-boyfriend, get rid of her dog, throw away old kufr clothes and cover it all except the face and hands, take a nice Arabic name, stop listening to her favorite artists, give dawah to her family or else their brains would burn and boil like Abu Talib, the whole nine. Eventually Lynn gave up on it, kept to her Rumi and stopped going there. We constituted the last vestige of her abusive relationship with the umma.

“You here to carry out the fatwa?” she asked.


“You know—I’m an apostate, technically you can kill me.”

“Really,” I replied with a half-laugh.

“Give me the Salman Rushdie Special,” she said with arms outstretched and eyes closed.

“I think that’s only applicable in Muslim countries.”

“Oh. Phew.” She ran the back of her hand along her forehead to gesture facetious relief.

“So you really consider yourself an apostate?”

“Well, when enough people tell you you’re not Muslim,” she replied, “eventually you start to believe it.”


“But until you reach the point when you don’t even care anymore, it’s pretty painful.”

“You still believe in Allah, right?”

“I believe we were created, or came from, Something… and that Something has a compassion for us that we are nowhere near comprehending.”

“That sounds like Islam to me.”

“Yeah?” she asked with raised eyebrows.

“The hadiths say, you know, Allah’s Mercy overwhelms His Wrath.”

“If you eat with your left hand, you’re imitating the devil.”

“Yeah, there’s that.” I nervously tried to laugh again.

“It’s hard,” she said. “It’s like there’s some things in Islam that sound so beautiful and make you just… feel it and love Allah so much… and then, then there’s the stupid shit, you know?”

“Yeah,” I replied, wondering if my confession of Islam having stupid shit made me an apostate as well. “But it sounds like you have tawhid down, that’s the important thing.”

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Posted by Melody at 12:00 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2004

Chaste Love to Explicit Sex: Three Types of Arabic Love Poetry


Detail from the medieval love story of Bayad and Riyad, 13th Cent. AD, Spain.

By Mohja Kahf

Early Arabic love poetry developed into three models that might be called Hijazi, Udhri, and Kufi. You could say Hijazi love poetry was the Dating and Romance Network of classical Arabic literature. From that Hijazi baseline, Udhri love takes the high road, expressing chaste, idealized love, while Kufic erotic poetry is the soft porn of its time.

Hijazi Love: Meet Me by the Mosque, Darling

Hijazi love poetry developed in Mecca and Medina just a few decades after the advent of Islam, taking its name from the northwestern region in the Arabian peninsula where those two cities are. It speaks of relationships between men and women whose feet are firmly planted on earth. Lovers in the poetry sometimes get a glance at each other, a conversation, a touch, a clandestine rendezvous (can we say ‘a date?’).

Umar ibn Abi Rabi’a* (d. 93 AH/ 711 CE) is the best-known exemplar of Hijazi love poetry. Born in Medina the day of Caliph Umar’s terrible assassination and named for him, he grew up in a wealthy family. Later he moved, avoiding Medina’s political turmoil, to Mecca, where many of his love poems are set.

Umar ibn Abi Rabi’a loved pursuing women who were traveling to Mecca on Hajj. He declares,

Standing at the two Marwas stirs me—
Passion is thought created in a lover
(Arthur Wormhoudt’s translation in Bitar, p. 25)

The phrase “two Marwas” refers to Safa and Marwa, the boulders near the Kaba between which pilgrims run seven times to commemorate Hajar’s running, part of the landscape Umar traversed daily. Meccan landscape, holy site for Muslims becomes, in Umar’s poetry, backdrop for scenes of the lover’s passionate adventures—not pining for a Divine Beloved, but scanning the cityscape for a lady of recognizably human dimensions:

To Aisha daughter of Taimi: I have
A fever in the heart whose heat I fear not
A gazelle reminds me of Taimi’s daughter
(Arthur Wormhoudt’s translation in Bitar, p. 25)

Umar praises the ladylove, sometimes named ‘Hend,’ sometimes ‘Um Amr,’ sometimes “Aisha bint Taimi,” for her beauty, character, and lineage. She is “Mistress of women in the king’s house, her ancestors dwelt on peaks of respect” (Wormhoudt in Bitar, 29). The lady figure in his poetry is not a pedestal persona standing for all womankind, but a typical woman belonging to Umar’s era, specifically one with “Quraish gravity,” “good manners and spotless garments” (Bitar, p 29), who journeys on Hajj with her kin, dispatches servants with notes for her boyfriend, and gives him the time of day for a date.

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Posted by Melody at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2004

Lost in Freakin' Yonkers


The following story is fiction. The situations depicted in it are imaginary.--Ed.

By Randa Jarrar

New York, during the summer of ’96, sees its highest temperatures on record, and it is towards the end of this summer that I sit, my enormous pregnant belly to accompany me, on an 80% acrylic, 20% wool covered futon. I look over the tag again, and under the materials it says, made in ASU. So I’m sitting on the futon, sweating— we have neither an air conditioner nor a fan, and our window is held up by an embarrassingly huge copy of “Dirtiest Jokes Volume III”— and wondering: should I marry my worthless, idiotic boyfriend, and: was the tag-maker dyslexic? I quit worrying and start to masturbate, reminding myself that the pregnancy book says in the last trimester the mother is ‘at her sexual peak,’ and that each strong orgasm brings her closer to real contractions. How totally unfair this is, considering I can hardly reach my own crotch.

The phone rings, and it’s my mother calling from a pay phone, wondering if she should make the 96th Street Imam wait much longer.

‘Don’t bother,’ I say, ‘Tell him to forget it, tell him to go home.’

‘Why, habibti? Come on, do the conversion, and get married. We’re all waiting for you.’ She sounds unconvinced and hurried. Who is ‘we’? I imagine that mama had picked up a few Hell’s Angels and a couple of Squee-G boys as witnesses on her way into the city.

‘He’s not even here,’ I say. ‘He’s not converting. I don’t want him to convert. He’ll be a shitty Muslim, and a shitty husband too.’

‘Oh, it’s not about shitty Muslim or no shitty Muslim, come, yalla, let’s get this finished. Conversion, marriage, boom, boom, two stones with one pigeon, do they say?’ Leave it to an Arab to mangle an idiom beyond recognition and to double the called-for amount of stone.

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Posted by Melody at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2004

The Rites of Diane


The following story is fiction. The situations depicted in it are imaginary.--Ed.

By Mohja Kahf

“What is virginity anyway?” Batool says, taking out the crotchless lace panties and peering through the hole in their middle. She is folding up the gifts-and-wrapping-paper mess of Reyann’s bridal shower as she talks.

“Hello? If you’ve never had sex, you’re a virgin,” Chand says. “No-brainer.”

Everyone is gone from Batool’s apartment but the four of them, Chand, Diane, and Batool, and of course the bride-to-be, Reyann. She and Batool came over from Gaza the same year, as little girls with their parents, the year the Intifadah broke out. One retaliatory Israeli shell that broke through the apartment next door and killed the two little sisters whom Reyan and Batool, neighbors, used to play with, was enough to send both sets of parents queuing up for visas to America. There is a little plastic Dome of the Rock penny bank on the chrome baker’s shelf dividing the dining area from the living room of the little apartment, like the penny banks in the homes of Batool’s and Reyann’s parents; the girls grew up saving money to send to Palestinians made homeless by the Occupation.

“I’ve never had sex,” Reyann says.

“So you have nothing to worry about, habibti,” Batool says, smoothing out a piece of sapphire blue tissue paper.

“What’s she worried about?” Chand asks. Her chin-length hair is straight black sheaves that divide around her plump, pleasant face. The three of them, Chand, Reyann, and Batool, have known each other since they began the second grade at the same Paterson, New Jersey grammar school.

Batool looks at her.

“Oh—the bike accident…” Chand’s voice trails off.

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Posted by Melody at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004

Tea for Two


By Patricia Dunn

“Yes,” Jared smiled. His teeth were straighter than she remembered.

“Is your cable working?” Mo flashed her two dental surgeries and three years of braced teeth and still her right incisor bent to the left.

“It might be…but I don’t have a TV…Would you like to come in for some tea?”

Mo stood for a moment before answering. Her remote was the only thing that felt right in her life. Smooth, long and slender, and everything that implied. Mo hadn’t had sex in almost a year and she never learned to masturbate. Besides, cable gave her choices that sex never had, and the reception was picture perfect.

She usually didn’t trust people who didn’t own TVs. She thought they were trying to prove they were above the ordinariness of life. But Jared looked to Mo like a man who didn’t have anything to prove.

“Yes,” she said. Mo thought Jared had a tea drinker’s eyes—steady and intense, not hastened and flighty like a coffee drinker’s.

Mo followed Jared into his apartment, and none of the alarms went off that should have gone off in a woman’s head about to enter a strange man’s apartment, especially the quiet guy who lived next door and all that implied in a world where serial killers are given celebrity status. “Three hundred and twenty five dollars down the drain,” Gerri, her mother, would have shouted had she been there. For the past two Christmases Gerri had given Mo ten-week self-defense training courses. One of the talk shows Gerri watched insisted every woman living in the city do it. “Never put yourself in a compromising situation,” the tan and tall instructor had said.

A night without cable was a night of compromise.

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April 23, 2004

Exquisite Parts


The following story is fiction. The situations depicted in it are imaginary.--Ed.

By Mohja Kahf

Tabari IX:113 “Allah permits you to shut them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not severely. If they abstain, they have the right to food and clothing. Treat women well for they are like domestic animals and they possess nothing themselves. Allah has made the enjoyment of their bodies lawful in his Qur’an.”

Tabari I:280 “Allah said, ‘It is My obligation to make Eve bleed once every month as she made this tree bleed. I must also make Eve stupid, although I created her intelligent.’ Because Allah afflicted Eve, all of the women of this world menstruate and are stupid.*

“Who are you?” Maryam asks the man between her legs.

Tabari,” he says, looking up, his black beard glistening from where he has been.

Tabari who?”

Tabari the Great Islamic Historian,” he says. He slides back under. Maryam remembers something that troubles her.

“Wait—aren’t you the guy who wrote all those horrible things against women? I heard of you in the mosque halaqa. You’re an asshole.” It’s too bad, she thinks. He is doing such a—oh—such a good job otherwise.

“Aw baby, I’m just misunderstood,” Tabari whimpers.

“Don’t bullshit me,” Maryam says. His beard was so tickling her. It was like a love tool all by itself. Okay, he can bullshit me a little, if he goes on doing what he’s doing, she thinks.

“I never said those things were true,” he says, taking little breaths while he—well, anyway—he goes on.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Maryam says. “It’s obscene, what you say about women. What did women ever do to you?”

“I just reported whatever people told me,” Tabari insists. The conversation is starting to distract him from better things. “I never said it was true, yammer. I wasn’t after accuracy, yammer yammer. I like to be inclusive of everyone’s opinion, see, and really, after all, it’s a yammercation of what the yammerarchical cultural discourse of the yammerological—”

Shuttup, Tabari,” Maryam moans, but Tabari yammers on and on. If only he would use that mouth where it would do some good.Shuttup, Tabari, shuttup, Tabari, shuttup, Tabari…”

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Posted by ahmed at 12:55 AM | Comments (100)

April 09, 2004

Lustrous Companions


Detail from "Women of Arabia 7" by Hend Al-Mansour

The following essay is fiction. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.--Ed.

By Mohja Kahf

(They will be) on couches inlaid
Reclining on them, facing each other
Round about them (serving), eternal boys
With goblets, beakers, and cups (filled) from

clear-flowing fountains
No after-ache will they receive therefrom,
nor will they suffer intoxication
And with fruits that they may select
And the meat of fowls, any that they may desire
And Companions with beautiful,
big, and lustrous eyes,
Like unto pearls, well-guarded.
(Quran: Al-Waqiah, 15-23)

“Do we get dick in heaven?” my best friend’s Aunt Maryam whispers to me during the ladies’ Quran study halaqa at the Jersey City Mosque. We are doing “The Merciful,” the chapter of the Quran where all the sexy virgin babes are promised to men in paradise. “Men get pussy. Do we get dick?” Maryam says. I snort laughing, but turn it into a coughing fit and cover it with the scalloped edge of my headscarf.

Ecksi-kuse me?” the assistant imam says in his excessively Egyptian accent. “Does zi sister have a question, inshallah?” Dark-skinned and muscular, he’s sitting next to the visiting sheikh and fielding the questions. This session, for ladies exclusively, had been scheduled on the visiting dignitary’s agenda at the insistence of Nany Elhamadany, the matriarch of the sisters’ Quran group.

“Yes, brother,” Maryam says. Oh my God. I can’t believe Maryam is going to ask it out loud. Then again, it shouldn’t surprise me; that’s Maryam for you. “Do women get to have sex in paradise too?”

Ecksi-kuse me?” The dark-skinned assistant flushes an even darker shade under his manly thick beard. Beards turn me on; it’s a Muslim girl thing, I guess. We are all sitting on the prayer floor after maghreb, with our legs tucked to one side under our caftans, at a safe distance of about three yards away from the two men—but still close enough to smell the sandalwood scent from the stocky body of the assistant imam. He sits semi-kneeling with his ankles tucked up under his butt, his pants straining against the posture. I try not to look at his crotch. Carpet. Carpet. I look at the curlicues in the carpet instead. Maryam, who’d come to the mosque straight from her factory shift and is in black jeans and a long purple turtleneck, sits cross-legged at one end of the horseshoe half-circle we form, a prayer rug laid over her lap where her legs are apart. Her bushy black curls push out from underneath the edges of the purple and black checkered headscarf she’s wearing.

Continue reading "Lustrous Companions"

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