If i should speak, p.15

If I Should Speak, page 15


If I Should Speak

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  But she wanted to!

  Logically, Tamika knew it was not worth it, but still, she loved it. Then why not just sing for women, she wondered? No, that was not her dream. She wanted to be an R&B singer, like the famous singers on television and on the radio, a modern day Billie Holiday.

  Was it the money she wanted?

  No, it couldn’t be.

  The fame?

  No, she was not vain.

  Or was she?

  Then why not just sing for women? Her thoughts tugged at her.

  It was no fun.

  No fun? What was she saying, that she wanted men to hear her? But why? Perhaps she was vain. Maybe she did want to be like the other singers, practically prostitutes, with her “ninety percent” naked body plastered on billboards, posters, and magazines. Maybe she wanted to do “enticing” videos and have men desire her…


  “You have anymore questions for your paper?” Aminah inquired.

  “Uh,” Tamika searched her mind, glancing at the notebook in her lap, gathering her thoughts all of a sudden.

  “Oh yeah,” Tamika said, pulling herself together as she read her notes. “What’s this jihad?” she said slowly, hoping she was pronouncing it correctly. That was a major question Tamika had had. She could understand obeying a man and covering her body, but she did not support terrorism, even if done in the name of God.

  “Jihad?” Aminah repeated.


  “That’s an Arabic word meaning a struggle, but under certain circumstances it can mean physically fighting in the battlefield.”

  “What?” Tamika asked incredulously. “So they do go out and fight people and say it’s for God?”

  Aminah chuckled. “No, I didn’t say that.”

  “But aren’t they fighting people?”

  “Who’s they?”

  Who were they? People Tamika had seen on television? “Uh, the Muslims.”

  “What Muslims?” Aminah inquired.

  Tamika did not respond.

  “We have to be careful of stereotypes,” Aminah cautioned. “Just like you wouldn’t want a person to view Blacks as they’re portrayed on television, you shouldn’t view Muslims, or any people for that matter, based on what you see or hear on television.” She added, “Even if it’s the news. I don’t think I have to convince you that even that’s biased.”

  Tamika nodded. “That’s true, but I was just saying —”

  “I know,” Aminah cut in, “that’s what most people say.”

  “So what is jihad then?” Tamika asked her question again, smiling self-consciously. “I guess I should just leave it like that and you can answer.”

  “Jihad,” Aminah replied, “as I explained before, is simply a struggle, and sometimes it means physical fighting. And I guess you can look at the fight as you might look at the fights American soldiers partake in. Certainly, we don’t look at them as terrorists, do we?”

  “No,” Tamika replied emphatically. Several of her friends and family were in the military, some having even fought before. She definitely did not view them as terrorists.

  “But American soldiers fight in wars,” Aminah pointed out.

  “But it’s to defend and help people,” Tamika interjected.

  “Well,” Aminah replied, “in Islam, it’s similar to that. Just like America does not tolerate oppression in the world and at times goes to help those who are oppressed, Muslims are not allowed to permit people to be oppressed. And when the oppression occurs, Muslims must defend and help the oppressed. These are the two types of jihad, the first being when Muslims fight to help people who are being oppressed, like America does at times, and the second being when Muslims defend themselves from attack.”

  “But is it like a holy war or something?”

  “That’s the term the media likes to use to paint an unfavorable picture of Muslims, but jihad is simply as I explained.”

  “So does this include attacking innocent people?”

  “Of course not,” Aminah replied emphatically. “In fact, killing and harming innocent people, as with any form of terrorism, is strictly prohibited in Islam. This prohibition is so strict that even when Muslims do fight, they aren’t even allowed to harm as much as a tree.”

  “Really?” Tamika inquired with a chuckle.

  “Yes,” Aminah nodded. “Harming the innocent is not something taken lightly in our religion.” She continued, “Terrorism is not allowed in Islam whatsoever, and whoever does take part in it, no matter what religion they claim to be a part of, is risking punishment in the Hereafter for that grave sin.”

  “But what about peace?”

  “That’s the goal,” she affirmed. “But true peace will never come unless people are permitted to defend themselves from attack and are able to help others who are being oppressed.”

  Tamika nodded.

  “And the Muslim does not view peace as refusing to fight when under attack or letting an oppressor continue to torture people, just as a sensible American won’t view letting a serial killer go free as saving lives.”

  Tamika laughed, nodding in agreement.

  “The goal of the death penalty for serial killers is not to destroy life but to preserve it, and that can only be achieved by getting rid of what’s destroying lives, which is the serial killer. If we let such a person live, we are, in essence, murdering innocent people. And the same goes for letting terrorists oppress people,” she compared.

  Tamika paused, considering what Aminah was saying. It made sense.

  She then glanced at her next question. “Oh yeah,” she remembered. “What about those women who cover their faces? What type of Muslims are they?”

  “They’re just Muslims.”

  “But then why do they dress differently?”

  “It’s just a different way of dressing,” Aminah explained. “Because in Islam, there are two different views based on proofs from the Qur’an and statements from the Prophet, peace be upon him, on how a woman is required to dress. One view is that in public and in front of men that are not closely related to her, she must cover everything, even her face, uncovering it only out of necessity, like for identification purposes and so on. And the other view is that she must cover everything except her face and hands, the face veil being highly recommended, best, but not obligatory. So those who don’t think it’s obligatory will either not cover their face or will do so voluntarily, for extra blessings. And, of course, those who think it’s obligatory will cover their faces.”

  Tamika had never heard that explanation, having been told that the ones who were single did not cover their faces, and the ones who were married covered theirs. “I thought it had to do with marriage.”

  Aminah laughed. “A lot of people say that, but I don’t have a clue where that came from.”

  “So you don’t think it’s obligatory?” Tamika inquired curiously.

  Aminah sighed, considering it. “I guess you can say that, but,” she sucked her teeth, “I really don’t know sometimes,” she reflected honestly. “When I read the proofs for either side, I’m convinced. But, either way, I’d like to cover my face eventually.”

  “So why don’t you do it then?” Tamika wanted to know.

  Aminah laughed. “I ask myself that every day.”

  Tamika chuckled, her face growing serious a moment later. “So you don’t think that’s extreme?”

  “To cover your face?”


  “No,” Aminah replied emphatically, shaking her head. “I think it’s the best thing for a woman. I don’t think it’s extreme at all. It reduces a lot of problems.”

  “You think so?”

  “Of course. I mean, I’ve even had guys come up and tell me that I’m pretty and I’d look better if I ‘took off all of those big clothes.’”


  “Yeah, and it gets me thinking maybe I should go ahead and cover.”

  “Why, because of how you look?”

No,” she clarified, “for my own comfort and protection.”

  Tamika wrinkled her nose. “You don’t mind walking around in all of those clothes?”


  “Even in the summer?” She found that hard to believe.

  Aminah shook her head.

  “But won’t you get hot?”

  “Do you get hot in the summer?” she inquired.

  “Yeah!” Tamika told her.

  “Well, I’m sure it’s not too much different,” Aminah commented. “And you’re wearing shorts, and you’re still hot.” She laughed. “If it’s hot, it’s hot.”

  “All those clothes make you hotter though,” Tamika argued.

  “Actually,” Aminah corrected, “all those clothes make me cooler.”

  Tamika stared at her as if she were crazy.

  “You’re hotter uncovered in the sun,” Aminah told her, smiling. “You don’t find people in the desert protecting themselves from the heat by taking clothes off,” she reminded. “You find them putting clothes on. Besides,” she continued, “even in America, you see people with umbrellas to protect them from the sun, and people put on sunscreen, don’t they?”

  “Yeah, that’s true.”

  “Well,” she said with satisfaction, “my clothes are my sunscreen.”

  Tamika nodded, indicating that she understood.

  “I just had one more question though,” Tamika said, raising a finger and glancing at her notebook.

  Aminah listened.

  Tamika smiled self-consciously. “What about polygamy?”

  “What about it?” Aminah asked casually.

  Tamika chuckled. “Well, isn’t it allowed in Islam for men to marry more than one woman?”

  “Yes, they can marry up to four,” Aminah replied matter-of-factly.

  Tamika chuckled again. “So that’s true?”


  She smiled uncomfortably, having expected a more detailed explanation. Aminah had responded as if she viewed polygamy nonchalantly, but Tamika found such a sentiment hard to believe, especially coming from a woman. “And you, uh, don’t have any problem with that?” she inquired, a half smile still on her face.


  “But that’s not fair, is it?”

  “How is it not?” Aminah challenged.

  Tamika forced laughter, eyes widening, “Can a woman marry more than one man?”

  Aminah shook her head, chuckling. “Let me ask you something.”


  “Let’s say I had two people to feed,” she began. “And one was a 350-pound body builder, while the other was a 90-pound seventh grader. To be fair, should I give them the same amount of food?”

  “No but —”

  “But what?” Aminah interjected challengingly. “Is it unjust if you don’t give them the same amount?”



  Tamika sighed, half-smiling, “But you can’t compare —”

  “Okay, then let’s look at men and women. Is it unfair that women carry the children? I mean, why can’t men?”

  “That’s how they were created,” she argued.

  “And who created them that way?”


  “And God’s also the one who made it permissible for a man to marry more than one woman.”

  Tamika paused, sighing. “But still, it’s not fair.”

  Aminah forced laughter. “You can call it unfair if you want, but I don’t view it like that.” She paused. “In Judaism and Christianity, it’s allowed too.”

  “But not anymore.”

  “It’s still allowed,” Aminah replied confidently. “Although modern day Christians wish to deny it. In fact,” she stated, “there are Christian men who live in America who practice polygamy.”

  There was a long pause.

  “But anyway, that’s beside the point.”

  “So you don’t mind your husband marrying more than one wife?” Tamika inquired, unwilling to believe that Aminah did not care.

  “That’s irrelevant,” Aminah informed her with a smile. “What if I had a problem praying? Should we now remove that requirement from the religion?”

  Tamika nodded. “I see what you’re saying.”

  “The point is that God allows it, and that alone should be sufficient—if we believe in God.” Aminah went on, “But yes, there are many, many benefits of its allowance, like the opportunity for more children, the protection of women’s rights, in that they aren’t doomed to be mistresses and the like, the man having no responsibility toward them. Because in polygamy he has to support them and treat them fairly. And even within our nature, it’s natural to accept it, even for women—if we’re honest with ourselves.

  “But, still, this point goes back to the classroom analogy I gave earlier about questioning why things are like they are. We’re not here for that. God created us. He made the rules, and all we have to do in life is first find the correct religion of God, and after that, we submit, no questions asked. That’s faith.” She was silent momentarily. “You can think what you want, but that’s the only way to salvation.” She paused then added, “And if someone doesn’t like it,” she shrugged, “they can go to Hell if they want—and take their opinions with them.”

  Tamika grinned, amused by both Aminah’s words and her personality. She would have never guessed Aminah was so outspoken and strong-minded. Aminah’s appearance gave the impression that she was quiet and soft spoken.

  “But,” Aminah added more calmly and thoughtfully, “it’s not obligatory or anything—just allowed. So if a person doesn’t want to do it, they don’t have to, and if a woman doesn’t want to marry into it, she doesn’t have to. But still, the allowance is there for those who choose it, and we should have no problem with that.”

  Tamika nodded as she listened.

  “Islam is a comprehensive religion,” Aminah explained, concluding. “But all of its laws are for the protection of a civilized, moral society and individual, the society’s rights taking precedence at some points and the individual’s at others, depending on whatever brings the greater good. Islam complements our natures completely. It did not come to oppose our nature but to perfect it,” she told Tamika. “And that sometimes means permitting things we don’t want and forbidding things we might want, because what a person desires is not always what’s best or even complementary to his or her nature. In reality, in Islam there is nothing in which the benefit outweighs the harm except that Islam permits or mandates it. And likewise, in Islam there is nothing in which the harm outweighs the benefit except that Islam cautions against it or forbids it.” She paused. “And if we carefully and honestly analyze each rule or allowance in Islam, even polygamy, we are forced to admit that, whatever potential harm it can cause, the benefit is so much greater.”


  That night, after listening to Aminah pray in the other room, Tamika lay awake in the darkness reflecting. Aminah was now in bed, and Dee still had not returned home from studying. Tamika reflected on everything Aminah had said. She was frustrated because it sounded so logical coming from Aminah, but Tamika still could not bring herself to actually become Muslim. It seemed like too much, but she knew that it was just a matter of perspective. If she really wanted to, she could view everything as Aminah did, which would make her life a whole lot easier. But she could not—would not.

  Tamika kept thinking about her mother, her aunts, her uncles, and even Makisha. She despised even the thought of what they might say to her, how they would look at her. She shouldn’t care, she knew. But she did. But she shouldn’t!

  Was Tamika going to be the typical disbeliever and turn away from God because of family, friends, and society? Tamika hated herself for being so weak, but she knew the answer to that question was not a good one. Yes, she should just become Muslim for the sake of her soul and worry about all the rest later, if ever. Yes, that made sense. But right now, Tamika was not making any sense, not even to herself.

  The sound of the front door opening and closing interrupted her thoughts. Dee was home.


  Couldn’t she just be like Dee, Muslim, but still doing what she wanted? Dee was a singer, about to make it big, and yet she was Muslim. Couldn’t Tamika just be like that?

  Dee turned on the hallway light so that she could see in the room, not wanting to wake her roommates by turning on the light in the bedroom.

  “Durrah?” Aminah’s sleepy voice inquired.

  “Yeah,” Dee whispered, unaware that Tamika was not yet sleep.

  “Did you pray all your prayers?” Aminah’s scratchy voice asked with concern, reminding Durrah of her religious obligations, as she often did.

  Dee groaned. “I’ve been studying half the night,” she whispered, aggravation apparent in her voice.

  “But you should still pray Dee,” Aminah told her hoarsely as her voice cracked from sleepiness.

  “Just don’t worry about it,” Dee replied irritably.

  “Durrah,” Aminah warned her, her voice now becoming clear.

  “Just leave me alone, Aminah, gosh,” Dee complained. “I don’t need you nagging me all the time. I already have a mother.” Her harsh tone shocked Tamika. It was unpleasantly foreign to her ears.

  “Shhh,” Aminah reminded Dee to lower her voice because Tamika was still sleeping.

  Dee sucked her teeth, but she heeded. “Worry about yourself,” she retorted in an aggravated whisper.

  “I am.”

  She changed into her nightclothes. “Then do it now.”

  “You should pray.”

  “I’m tired.”

  “Prayer is better than sleep,” Aminah reminded, nearly singing the words from her bed. It was obvious that she knew she was getting on her friend’s nerves, but she did not care.

  “I’m not in the mood right now,” Dee said as she climbed into her bed, referring more to Aminah’s nagging than to prayer.

  “Whatever you want,” Aminah gave up. Displeased with her friend, she turned over in her bed in frustration.

  “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Dee murmured from under her covers. “Whatever.”

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