How to Choose a Guy (or Girl) in 10 Days: Part 3/4

Here we go! Things 11-15 to Keep in Mind through the Muslim marriage process…

11. Honesty is everything.

Let’s all admit something. Teenagers don’t consider the future feelings of their future spouses when they do things. In fact, you’re lucky if they think as far ahead as tomorrow’s weather advisory. Being young and Muslim in America is all about wrestling with the American culture and trying to figure out where it fits into you and your religion. Parents might like to brag about it, but Islamic values are not always an effective vaccination against peer pressure, especially if you go through that muddy time where “being raised Muslim” is transitioning into “being Muslim.” And so some of us try things in our obligatory confused periods about which we are not proud. Some of us may have drinking in our past, or a relationship with the opposite sex. Some of us may even have those things in our present. Some of us may not be totally ready for marriage but unable to tell our parents. Some of us may have never felt a true attraction for the opposite sex or feel like ever getting married.

When it’s time to meet someone, it’s important to be completely honest about the Big Things with yourself (probably the hardest part) and with the other person, even if you’re not asked. You know what those Big Things are – think about what you would want your children to know in your situation. This point in your life is the time to own yourself: When you add each other on Facebook, make sure everything – everything – is visible, and if you’re not proud of it, remove it from your profile and your character. Marriage is one of life’s greatest responsibilities, so take responsibility for yourself by committing to disclosure and accountability before you commit to another person. Needless to say, it’s important to always be honest about the things that you are asked. Never lie – either tell the truth, or express that you’d rather wait to answer the question and accept the sequelae. We all make mistakes – don’t fear being unaccepted because of your own. You’re looking for the person who will take you as you come, past and all; someone unwilling to do so is not necessarily a bad person but rather someone who has been honest with you about what he can’t handle – that’s good, because that means he isn’t The One. But keep in mind that…

12. It’s neither a confessional nor a private investigation.

For those of you out there with a humongous guilt complex, remember that this isn’t, in fact, Confession. You don’t need to tell him about the time you held that one boy’s hand in Islamic preschool until your teacher told you to stop (He had just wet his pants and looked like he was about to burst into tears, give me a break!) or about every single crush you have ever had. Part of your job as partners will be to protect each other from trivialities that could do much harm if they’re made to matter more than they actually do. So explain those things about which you are asked and offer up important things about which you are not, but keep the bigger picture in mind.

Conversely, resist the temptation to go on jealousy patrol and ask him about every girl he’s ever liked, unless his attraction for girls is a deal-breaker (it shouldn’t be, you want that). Because those matters aren’t things over which you will end your relationship, interrogating will only make you unnecessarily worried and uncomfortable. What matters most is the people you are now and the people you will be moving forward. Ask what is important to you – know your deal-breakers – but above all, ensure that he’s the type of guy who will not do anything to disrespect or hurt you now that he’s in for the long haul, including pursue other women. Then focus on building the present and planning the future – it’s a much more hopeful thing to do. If you’re persistently uncomfortable, question whether it’s because you don’t trust him, and whether he’s perhaps given you good reason to not do so.

13. Communication is everything else.

Good communication takes practice, so start early. You should be able to easily talk to one another through this process, especially about the process itself. Remember, he’s probably new at this, too, and just as clueless as you are. Help each other by making your intentions and perceptions clear. You can avoid misleading or being misled by keeping up a direct and candid conversation about how you think things are going. (It is, in fact, as simple as, “Hey, I was wondering, how do you think this is going?”) Try not to go through your parents or a third party – they are your liaisons, but they shouldn’t be your mouthpiece. Follow the rules that the two of you set instead of deferring to cultural norms that can vary among households and cause confusion. Eastern families are excellent at garbling things in transit, and your dialogue will be one to which the generation before is not accustomed, with different ideas of what is acceptable or offensive. If you are unsure of how to interpret something he says or does, bring it up. Be gentle, be forthright, be honest. If you are able, talk to your parents and keep them in the loop so they too are aware of your intentions. Above all, if you’re interested, make it clear through your words and actions. If you’re not, end it – there is no sense in prolonging a futureless relationship out of guilt or pity; neither will last a lifetime, and the person on the other end deserves better. And when the same happens to you…

14. Take time to heal and collect yourself.

It’s natural to develop feelings for someone you’re considering. Unfortunately, as we’ve all experienced in one way or another, the attraction is not always mutual. Discovering that hurts. Rejection hurts, reframing your thoughts hurts, and letting go hurts. It’s also scary – Will the next one be as good? Will I ever find him? Am I unlovable? The pain is normal – it speaks to your innocence and humanity and tells you that you’re capable of emotion, love, and connecting with another human being. It will heal with time, and there is no epiphany quite like 20-20 hindsight. But for as long as you’re hurting, your judgment will be clouded. So make sure that before you talk to another person, you are over the one before him. You owe that time not only to yourself but also to the next person; no one wants to be caught on the rebound. Keep in mind, though, that it’s important to soon find the faith in God and in the future that will allow you to keep going, and appreciate that Islam’s prohibition on dating is partly so that the pain of a million breakups doesn’t steal that ability. On that note…

15. Don’t allow yourself to become jaded.

Talking to people who wind up not being right for you can be discouraging. You might find yourself losing the excitement and anticipation with which you began the journey of finding your partner. I hold the conviction that even outside the marriage process, people enter our lives for a reason. Every single person you consider will have something to teach you, either about the world or about yourself, if you allow yourself to learn. Be receptive to and find purpose in those lessons. Make a conscious effort to avoid negative thinking, and don’t let anyone steal your hope. Approach every new opportunity with the same sense of possibility you took into your very first meeting. A guy who doesn’t fit is not another one that bit the dust – he’s simply one guy closer to finding the one meant for you.

*Stay tuned for Part 4 next week!*

How to Choose a Guy (or Girl) in 10 Days: Part 2/4

For your perusal, Things 6-10 to Keep in Mind when talking to a potential partner~

6. Trust your gut and keep your eyes open – there will be plenty of time to fall in love later.

Deep down inside your brain somewhere, there exists a voice whose sole purpose is to shriek like a banshee when you’re doing something fundamentally against your personhood. If you’re anything like me, you’re very good at ignoring it when your heart is calling the shots. They haven’t made a word yet for the uneasiness that comes when there is a disconnect between your heart and your gut, but eventually that little voice forces you to recognize that it exists; the ensuing reality check is seldom fun. You wonder how you could have been so blind and thought something so wrong for you was so right. It’s like that scene in Anastasia (the animated movie) aboard the ship: Rasputin (a very bad man who wants to end the Romanov line forever) sends his flying demon-elves to Anastasia in her dreams. They lead her out of bed, sleep-walking, during a horrible storm and almost make her jump overboard (spoiler, Dmitri saves her at the last second, you guys). The whole time, she dreams that she’s frolicking through a park, while in reality she’s stumbling across this massive ship in the midst of churning seas to a horrible death.

Don’t follow the flying demon-elves. Seriously though – throughout your talks, when something is nagging at you, pay attention. Don’t let larger issues get lost amidst the excitement of planning a wedding in your head. Call a truce with that little voice and promise it that you will listen, if it will shut up next time you eat the last slice of cheesecake. Ask questions of the other person (it’s your prerogative) until the feeling goes away and you’re satisfied with his answers. If it is important to you, it deserves to be discussed; if he doesn’t want to discuss it or if the feeling won’t go away, there’s a problem. If things work out, you will have the rest of your lives to be crazy about each other, so leave yourself no room for doubts about the important things – it’s normal to wonder whether you’re with the right person even after marriage, but walking down that aisle on your wedding day, you shouldn’t have to question whether the man at the other end is prepared to walk with you through thick and thin, as long as you both shall live.

7. There is no such thing as wasted time, missed opportunity, or saying the wrong thing.

Eastern families are constantly preoccupied with finding their children a suitable spouse “in time,” as if we are bananas that spend the majority of our time being either unripe or too ripe, and must be paired off in that narrow window when we are “just right.” Now, I’m a medical student, so I know that there is some truth to a woman’s biological clock ticking and having children before a certain age – fertility declines and the incidence of certain genetic conditions skyrockets after age 35, because women’s eggs hibernate in their ovaries from the time they are born onward. But if you were to believe some of our families, we (guys and girls) expire sometime in our mid-to-late twenties and subsequently enter the Desperation Zone that is essentially Muslim Purgatory. Now, our parents deserve all the credit in the world, because they’re only trying to fulfill their duty of seeing us happy and settled. But the anxiety can go overboard, to the point where time spent talking to a guy who winds up being Not the One is “wasted” and could have been invested in searching for The One. Even worse, during that time, you may have rejected other people who could have been The One, who now become Missed Opportunities.

Don’t go there. Your spouse will come when it is the right time – no sooner, no later. Any time you spend talking to others is time spent learning and becoming the person you will be when you finally meet him. By extension, there is no such thing as “driving someone away” with something you do or say, so don’t dissect everything to death if it doesn’t work out. “He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them” – so if a guy walks away or never calls, for whatever reason – he by definition was not your mate. Take things as they come, live in the present, and have faith. And keep in mind that overly ripe bananas taste delicious in banana bread.

8. There is no perfect family.

Each of us has a family environment that we perceive as normal, but probably not “perfect.” Some of us have grown up with a single parent who went through divorce or widowhood, or with our grandparents and other extended family, or with both parents who were never really involved. Most every family comes with a little bit of real or imagined dysfunction, or some deviation from what we think of as the ideal of a supportive mom and dad, 1.5 siblings, and a pet bird (no dogs allowed, remember?). And so, when it comes time for us to become part of another family, too, it’s instinctual to try to fill in our own gaps: We wait for that family that will complete us, give us the father we never had or the sister we always wanted, and hand us on a silver platter our Happily Ever After. What we forget is that the families we meet, the girls or guys we meet – they’re looking for the same thing. Simply because we are human, there is no such thing as a perfect family. Don’t expect one. Hope instead for people, in whatever crazy arrangement they come, with good hearts, who will make a relatively good fit for you and your family. Your core relationship will be with your spouse, so it is also important for you to be comfortable with his relationship with his family – how he treats them, what roles he plays, and the influence (good or bad) they hold over his choices. Be honest with yourself about what you are willing to take on. Perhaps most importantly, look for the sort of guy (and be the sort of girl) who is willing to weather any challenge – which can oftentimes be a family member – for the sake of your relationship. What you two make of the situations you face, and the strength that you find in each other and in God, supersede pretty much everything else, imperfect families included.

9. Be yourself.

We all wear different masks in life – in our careers, around our friends and families – except with the people around whom we can truly be ourselves. They are few and far between, but your spouse should be one of them. Ideally, marriage is forever, and forever is a long time to wear a mask; if you try, it will eventually fade, leaving your partner with someone he doesn’t really know. Letting your guard down can be hard, but it’s the only way you can assess your long-term compatibility. The “flirty” you or the “fun” you or the “reserved” you may be what attracts him, but all of those facades fall apart when you come face-to-face with the stresses of daily life – the “you” you is what he will need to love if he’s your guy. To be anything else for a prolonged period of time is unfair, to both of you. It is one thing to have an epiphany about something you’re doing wrong and change for the better – it is entirely another, and wrong on all sorts of levels, to change yourself so that someone will love you. Focus on who you both are now; don’t make the mistake of putting all your marbles in what “might be” if you compromise your identity or personality, do this or that. You will change, grow, and make plenty of compromises as a married couple. But at that point, you won’t be doing it to convince each other you’re worth it – you’ll do it because you’ll already know.

10. But don’t be looking to marry yourself.

If anyone out there reading this has siblings or cohabitates with other family or friends, you already know what a challenge it is to live and get along with someone different from you. At the same time, even though you’ll never admit it to them, the differences between you and those people are what make your relationships interesting and are likely the reasons you love them. Going through the marriage process is not easy; like marriage itself, it involves sizing up another person from the one perspective through which you’ve seen the world your whole life – your own. All of a sudden, here’s this troublemaker with a different outlook, upbringing, and central nervous system altogether who you’re supposed to figure out. There will be things you don’t understand about him (and vice versa), and some days, it will seem much easier to throw in the towel and buy a cat than to try. But anything worth having is worth working for, and they say that a marriage done right is one of those things. Be reasonable about what you can handle, but don’t be put off by your differences. You don’t have to agree on everything – in fact, I can almost guarantee you won’t. What matters is that you work well together, agree on the things important to both of you, and are willing to find common ground or agree to disagree about the rest of it. Plus, the best part about being different is that you make up for each other’s weaknesses: Think about it – it might be easier at first glance to marry yourself, but if you’re like me, you’d have to move out every time you found a lizard in your apartment rather than remove it, because you’d both be terrified. As Linda Carson put it, “A girl needs a man who’s sane when she goes crazy, so I married him.” Find the person who does that for you, and the rest is (wedding) cake.

*Stay tuned for Part 3 next week*

How to Choose a Guy (or Girl) in 10 Days: Part 1/4

Marriage is kind of a big deal. If you do it right, they say, you wind up with a best friend and life partner all rolled up into one awesome person who makes you want to quote Rumi on Facebook. The trouble is, our generation is in a sticky position when it comes to how exactly to find Mr. or Miss Right. Our parents were more often than not set up by their parents, and we can’t do as our peers and ask that pretty girl/ruggedly handsome guy out for a night of fondue and furtive glances and see where things go. And so we find ourselves negotiating a happy medium between an arranged marriage and speed dating, patiently waiting to simply “run into” our life partners, who will ideally have our names on their foreheads, and insisting that when it’s the right person, we will “just know, Mom and Dad, and no, I will not marry my cousin.”

And maybe we will. Just know, that is. But between “running into someone” and “just knowing” is that squirmy interim period when we have to figure out the inner workings of another person – and not for too long, either, because of that elusive line in time when Talking becomes Dating/Sinning/Asking-for-the-pits-of-Hell. So we call them Courtships, and they’re wonderfully awkward, and we have no idea where to start. Well do a shot (of apple cider) and get ready, folks, for a 4-part series on that very topic that might help. A little. Maybe.

Here for your reading pleasure are Things 1-5 of 20 to Keep in Mind, which apply to both guys and girls but are written from the perspective of a girl, because I am one. Substitute the proper pronouns, fellas.

1. If he wants you, he needs to be able to put up with your father.

And with your mother, and your siblings, and your ten uncles who all ask him the same question over and over. Point is, marriage isn’t just about two people – it’s about two histories, two truckloads of baggage now trying to squeeze into the same family-friendly minivan. When you’re committing to someone, you’re committing to all of them: their quirks, their faults, their weaknesses, and yes, their families, too, who are sometimes all three. You are precious, and therefore protected, albeit sometimes by very weird walls. If you are worth it to him – and you should be – then he needs to be determined enough to scale every one of them without blinking (well maybe he can blink a couple of times…but only when he’s asked about his daily fiber intake). Your family and loved ones have a right to asking all their questions before allowing him near their God-given gift (you). If he takes issue with that, you need to take issue with him.

2. It’s okay to have standards.

Finding a partner is a tremendous process, and you’ll meet guys along the way (a few, probably) who will have baggage for which your four-door sedan has no room, and you may eventually reach a point where you wonder whether you should just buy a bigger car. You’ll wonder whether you and your expectations are the problem. You’ll put down your spoon at dinner and ponder the idea that you’re simply setting the bar too high, asking the Universe for something that doesn’t exist. Let me save you the trouble: You. Are. Not. (Unless you’re asking for superpowers or pentalinguality or something downright ridiculous, in which case, stop.) You decided on your standards for a reason, before taking inventory of the fish in the sea. It’s sort of like if you decided to have potatoes for dinner and the market only had ones that were smushed and moldy –  you wouldn’t come home with them anyway because “that’s all they had.” You would wait until the next day, or you would find a different market. That’s how it should be for the things you’ve decided on a moral level to never compromise – drug or alcohol use, for example, or extent of sexual history, or sexist/racist tendencies, or criminal record, or a fascination with clowns. It’s a different story for things that you are willing to compromise (see #5), in which case you may set out for potatoes but decide you’re equally smitten with the asparagus (both are good sources of antioxidants). But remember…

3. It’s not okay to judge.

Every guy you talk to will have a history. He will have a relationship with his parents and his loved ones that will have years on his relationship with you, with patterns (good or bad) of communication and trust that are well-established. He will have his own assumptions, standards, record of deeds and choices, and sense of right and wrong. They may not be the same as yours, but that doesn’t mean that they’re more right or more wrong – they’re simply different, because people are different. In the course of your conversation, however long, it’s not your job to pass a verdict on the life that he has been living for the past twenty or thirty-something years, but rather to assess whether that life is compatible with your own. You have the right to know some sensitive information to make your decision – you don’t have the right to abuse that information by labeling the person who shares it with you a sinner, a prude, a coward, a drunkard, a simpleton, a playboy, a corrupted soul, a Zorgon, a meanie-weenie-bobeenie, or a moldy potato (it was only an analogy, I swear…).They may not be right for you, but they are right for someone else to whom they will one day mean the world. Respect that, and don the lens of mercy through which you too wish to be seen. Your conversations should be a safe space where the two of you set the rules and are free to be honest with each other about anything – and I do mean anything. For that to happen, you have to actively create an environment full of accommodation and free of judgment. If he tells you something he can’t tell his mother, respect and defer to his call. If it works out, continue to do so after marriage. If you part ways, keep the information he entrusted to you to yourself. Accept that there are some stories that you will never fully understand even if you know them, but that you don’t really need to understand them to know whether or not the person in front of you is the partner for you. After all…

4. You cannot know everything.

And that’s a good thing, because if you did, there would be no point to marriage. One of the awesome aspects of a Muslim marriage is that it is truly the beginning of a relationship rather than a culmination, but most couples of any or no religion will tell you that it is normal to learn new things about each other even years into a marriage. Discovery is where the fun’s at – it brings your marriage to life, reminds you that the wife who has been making tea for you for the last decade is a woman in her own right who chose you, or that the husband who has snored every night since your wedding can still be delightfully unpredictable. So in the mere months you spend talking to a guy, you cannot not know everything. There will be a great deal left to discover, even after your deepest and most heartfelt conversations. The key is to know enough about what is important to you and enough to believe that he will gladly be your partner in that discovery. Which requires you to…

5. Know what is important to you, and reevaluate frequently with an open mind.

It is said that half of marriage is knowing yourself, and this world we live in, I’m sorry to inform you that it’s one gigantic “gray area.” In order to navigate it without getting lost, you have to be intimately familiar with your own grays, as well as your blacks and whites. With every new courtship, sit down with a (halal) pepperoni pizza and ask yourself what you want. Are they the same things you wanted a week ago? Why do you want them? Does he meet enough of them? Which of them no longer matter, and which still do? Then answer. Write it down, do it out loud, and don’t be afraid to tell the guy in the next booth to quit looking at you funny. You may find yourself changing your mind several times – it’s okay. People have a way of taking your expectations of them and beating them to such a pulp that you’re left standing with your mouth open holding an empty ice cream cone. Your assumptions will be challenged. Your preconceived notions will be laughed at (figuratively – if literally, he’s rude and get your butt out of there). What you thought you knew will not be what is, and you may conclude that you actually know nothing at all. You’ll probably be right. But the beauty of it is that you will come to know more about yourself in the process than you ever thought possible – what you believe, what you are capable of, what you are willing to take and what you won’t under any circumstances allow in your passenger seat. If you find the courage for it, many of the incorrect assumptions you always held as truth will melt away and leave in their place a shiny new understanding of and acceptance for what makes us human. And that, I think, is a pretty good freaking start.

*Stay tuned for Part 2 next week*

Rape: Know More

(Originally published at http://www.altmuslimah.com/b/gva/4742 on January 14, 2013.)

Two days ago, in the second gang rape to occur in northern India within a month, seven men attacked a 29-year-old married woman after cornering her on a bus. The sequence of events was oddly familiar: The woman boarded a bus, and when she was the only passenger left, the driver and another man approached her. She was taken to an unknown location, where the two men and five others, who joined them, repeatedly assaulted her. The woman was dropped off at her village the next morning and alerted the police, who have taken six of the men, including the driver, into custody. She is alive, but the victim of the first gang rape suffered a far worse fate. On December 16, a group of six men gang raped a 23-year-old female medical student for 45 minutes behind tinted windows on a moving bus in New Delhi, India, before dumping her and her male companion, also beaten, on the side of the road. Two weeks later, the woman died in intensive care from multiple organ failure.

This woman and I were uncannily similar: I too am a South Asian medical student, a few months shy of 23. What makes us so different that she died of unimaginable torture, and I sit here telling her story? Dr. Anita Shukla, agricultural scientist by choice and woman by regrettable fate, would say that the difference is in our morality, because “Women instigate men to commit such crimes” – this one by frolicking at night with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, I am sitting pretty because I have not crossed the line and thereby painted an “attack me” sign on my forehead. The Indian government would assert that the difference is in our respective security, and so the Indian Cabinet has promised to explore increased safety measures for women. I’m not sure what I possess that she did not – mace? – because the safety measures that supposedly protect me still permit sexual assault to occur under the American government’s watch every two minutes.

But the defiant droves flooding India’s streets, mostly students, would inform you that there is no difference between me and that woman. I am simply lucky where she was not. And they would be right. Safety measures and stricter curfews for our girls won’t stop rape, because rape isn’t about vulnerability, recklessness, promiscuity, or even sex – it’s about culture. It is about the fact that those six men were molded by a culture that accepts gender inequality and puts reputation before righteousness. Rape is about power – possessing it, wielding it, and making your victim submit to it. Power is a product of inequality: In order to be powerful, someone else must necessarily be weak. That even in the United States nine out of ten rape victims are female indicates that the “someone else” is usually a woman.

Inequality and the power dynamic it creates are taught, and thus, sexual violence begins at home. Both Western and Eastern cultures perpetuate sexism, but an emphasis on the collective over the individual makes our Eastern cultures uniquely dangerous. Eastern cultures scrutinize individuals through a communal lens, their choices a reflection upon their families. The children of these cultures are taught to preserve the family’s reputation, inviting shame if they do not. The Indian police force that took the six men into custody is notorious for discouraging women from reporting rape, even pressuring them to marry their rapists to save face. This pervasive game of appearances stiches sexist norms indelibly into the fabric of our communities, and groupthink leaves little room for progress. Women are placed in a disadvantaged environment where it is both possible and permissible to exploit them.

Not insignificant among the sexist norms that facilitate rape is an idolization of sons. It starts when parents are disappointed at the birth of a daughter, or insist their own grown and married children keep trying for a boy. Those boys are often given more attention, lenience, and resources. Eastern mothers are wont to hold their growing sons’ apron strings more loosely than those of their daughters; little girls are told to sit properly, while their brothers’ inappropriately boisterous and sometimes violent behavior is laughingly excused, as “Boys will be boys!” A teenage son might be allowed a later curfew than a daughter of the same age, and his cursing, flirting, and revealing wardrobe are attributed to raging hormones instead of poor choices. A girl who behaves similarly is not only punished, but branded with deficient character and upbringing. Growing daughters are asked to clean up after dinner and finish the ironing in preparation for managing a household, but sons (who also dirty their dishes, wrinkle their clothes, and will one day form the other half of a household) are dismissed. Boys are sent off to school wherever they so choose, girls too often restricted to “more suitable” careers and stopped from living alone. At puberty, daughters are taught modesty, but sons are not taught to look away. People develop a sense of right and wrong, respect and insolence, and personal space and its violation through accountability. By assuming our boys and men are incapable of self-control, we raise boys and men who truly are. As an Indian woman protesting in the streets put it on her sign, “We live in a society that teaches women not to get raped instead of teaching men NOT TO rape.”

The attack on December 16 had nothing to do with religion, and the people involved were not Muslim. However, we would be amiss to ignore that Muslims comprise a good percentage of those who embrace the Eastern culture that constitutes fertile soil for rape. Muslim homes often justify gender inequality with incorrect religious interpretations, double standards and unspoken rules spoon fed to our youth as fact. Oft mistranslated is the Qur’anic passage, “Those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance…strike them” (4:34). In reality, the Arabic imperative “daraba,” translated as “strike,” has a dozen different meanings. “Leave/go away from” would grammatically fit in this passage and is more suitable considering that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself never struck a woman. It is used by Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar and supported by ISNA in the first Qur’anic translation by an American woman. When we rationalize discrimination and abuse using God’s Word, objection to that abuse becomes sin, sowing the seeds for far greater injustices: Telling a wife to have patience with her abusive husband is only a few steps away from telling a woman to refrain from filing charges when she is raped. Rape begins long before an attack, when parents and communities absolve boys of responsibility for poor decisions, creating men who ultimately absolve themselves.

If rape is facilitated by self-serving, cultural interpretations of religion, then teaching religion correctly is the answer to eradicating it. The early Muslim women, including Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah (RA), were educated leaders who stood toe-to-toe with men who accepted, respected, and learned from them. The Qur’an itself states that strong, smart, ambitious women are invaluable allies in this life and in the next. In passages that are overlooked while we garble others, God says, “I never fail to reward…you for any work you do, be you male or female – you are equal to one another” (3:195). Surah An-Nisa (The Women) states, “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness” (4:19). As Muslims, then, we must interfere in situations of abuse with the same gusto we use when people pray incorrectly and we must counsel young men to seek partners in women, especially their wives. Let us instill in our sons the discipline and piety we instill in our girls, and give our daughters the confidence and independence we give our boys. Above all, let us teach our boys, girls, men, and women that a woman’s body is not property, entertainment, or a means to an end. Let us teach them, for God’s sake, that a woman’s body is sacred.