In the Middle – Lebanon: A Journey to the Edge (Vigil 4)

by Rayan Harake 

As agreed, I met my tutor at 5 p.m. the following day, a Wednesday. He went over his tutoring plan and how many sessions he thought we would need. He started off with some basics and was glad I could comprehend things quickly. I wanted to say I always comprehended things quickly, but well, that didn’t add up to the grades I’d been getting.

The thing is that, since my first semester, I had lost all motivation to study. I didn’t seem to have support from anyone. I was no longer the smart girl, but the one that struggles with basic everyday tech. My religious beliefs – which always encouraged me to move forward – were now being challenged; implicitly ridiculed by this new open academic environment. On top of it all, when I arrived at school each day, I used to spend countless hours on Facebook, as if catching up on everything I had missed. Furthermore, I would read random Wikipedia articles during boring classes, and google topics I had always been curious about.

During one of my English classes in my first year, a student said he had been wasting a lot of time on the internet. He had grown up somewhere in Africa where the internet is really slow, then came to Lebanon to attend the university and couldn’t unglue himself from the web now that it was easily accessible. I thought that no one could understand me better.

Other girls in the scholarship who came from similar backgrounds as me didn’t seem to be having as much trouble. I felt I was missing something when I saw their profile pictures and Facebook posts, with their families around them, proud and supportive. My family on the other hand, was fighting over the ‘new money’ and how to spend it. I wasn’t allowed to use it as I want or even ‘possess’ most of it, as it seems I wasn’t mature enough to do so. According to how my father understands religion, being a woman puts you in a constant state of immaturity.

The first time I went to the library bathroom, I saw a lot of things scribbled on the walls. One of them said ‘Stop Patriarchy’. I had never heard that word. I googled it later and found out that what I’ve been living under my whole life actually had a name.

For me, my father wasn’t a true Muslim man. I spent a big chunk of my adolescent years going to religious lessons, where we would often have sheikhs, or men studying religion, give us lectures. They were balanced (which my father never was), and kind, and respectful. The type of men who are protective of a woman because the world out there is unforgiving, not because of fear that a woman would bring ‘shame’ into the family.

But they weren’t the most progressive people either. We learned of course that a woman should ‘submit’ to her husband. That a good woman would endure a bad life for the sake of her children. That was her precious kind of ‘Jihad’ – to face the difficulties of life as a wife and mother. And if she ever had the bad luck of marrying a bad husband, her reward would be so high on judgment day for being patient with him.

Her sacrifices were comparable to the sacrifices of men that died in battle. While men faced the horrors of war (not an unlikely event in my society), she had only to endure a bad life to attain a very high place in heaven.

It seemed as though someone missed a point, that even though fighting a war is indeed difficult, men died with dignity, with all of society feeling nothing but pride in them, with their pictures hanging all over the streets and their names sung at festivals. A woman’s life with an abusive husband, on the other hand, was a sacrifice of her dignity. She was to be pitied when looked at, and most of the time, be overlooked. Zeinab (as), a revered Shia religious figure, was called the ‘Mother of hardships’ for having to see her whole family murdered in front of herself, then taken prisoner, while not once showing resentment towards her fate, but only submission to God’s will. An exemplary Shia woman. However, she was always mentioned as a dignified person. If imprisonment is humiliating, it had been caused by her enemies, not her closest kin. In her home, she was not offended or beaten or abused. Nor was Fatima (as), her mother, and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) daughter. How are abused Shia women supposed to relate to them? If abuse is not to be tolerated, why then is there no punishment for it? Was female dignity only reserved for the family and kin of the Prophet (pbuh)?

Of course, religion didn’t look favorably on an abusive husband. If the sheikhs who gave us lessons were to hear about my father, they would greatly disapprove of him. But while a woman could be punished and even beaten if she was not being a good wife (things we would usually overlook in our religious lessons), a husband on the other hand had no ‘earthly punishment’ for his wrongdoings. He was only to await Judgment Day when he would answer to God, and could live his whole life believing he was righteous.

Yet most men around me were not abusive. My extended family was full of men that, in my opinion, made great husbands and fathers. My father was one of those rare men who had a ‘difficult mind’ and a ‘backward attitude’. That’s how he would be talked about when he wasn’t there. I had always wondered why, of all people, I had ended up with a father like that. It was perhaps my appointed ‘Balaa’ – testing – by God. I was very smart and blessed in almost everything, so there was bound to be some kind of testing in my life after all.

Before I was accepted to AUB, I’d always wanted to speak to the world, to tell it that the image it had about Muslim men was not correct. That I lived among good Muslim men and that they respected women and led good lives alongside them. But as the days went on, it became very exhausting. I would come across difficult debates – feminist arguments – and try to defend Islam against them in my head, only to go back home to face exactly what they were saying was wrong with the religion. And then there were other women, who lived in the same society, who were also suffering, trapped in bad marriages or forced to pay huge sums of money so that their husbands would agree to divorce them, only to have their children taken away afterwards.

It was what hit my religious belief the hardest. People around me would often say that people who had a problem with Islam usually had it because of some bad experience with it. Well, isn’t that an accusation rather than an excuse? Weren’t my experiences and the experiences of other women happening because God gave men authority over women? Just because it wasn’t happening to them, then it meant that Islam was right in giving that authority?

I went back and forth between defending and opposing religion. It wasn’t a very healthy mental state; I couldn’t make a final argument for either side. Days would come and go, and I would eventually lose my scholarship, and my father would eventually have a strong (but not total) change of attitude, leaving me angry with a man from the past, feeling lost as to what I should feel about religion. But today I was here, tutored by a ‘nice’ religious guy, wondering if I was ever going to stand on solid ground again.

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Rayan Harake

Growing up with Abuse – A Life of Extremes – Rayan Harake (transposing emblem)

Economic Uncertainty in Life – Rayan Harake (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: North Governorate, Lebanon – Left alone – Mark Frangie (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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