never knew I could learn so much about one culture in so little time."
thought the presentation was very informative and explained and
cleaned up many questions I had about Islam. It was good to listen
to someone who knew and was from the culture.
Daughter of the Wind
Title: Shabanu: Daughter
of the Wind
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Other Reviewers' Comments on Shabanu:
Page 3: “If God had blessed you with sons, we wouldn’t have to break our fingers over wedding dresses”
Analysis: This quote reflects the notion that sons are better than daughters. Islamic teachings place no greater worth on a son than a daughter and in fact both are considered a blessing from God. In fact, there is an Islamic tradition that states, “Whoever raises three daughters, treating them well, will be admitted to Paradise.” No such tradition is mentioned with regard to sons
Page 3: “You’ll spend your life’s savings on two dowries and two weddings. Without a son, who will bring a dowry for you? And who will take care of you when you’re old?
Analysis: The term “dowry” as it used throughout the book is defined as the property and wealth that a woman brings to the household of the husband when married. This understanding comes from a practice in other faiths and does not fit the description of what is commonly practiced by Muslims. Islamically, when a man and woman are married, the contract that is executed between them has as one of its conditions a wedding gift, known in Arabic as mahr, which is a gift from the groom to the bride to show his affection and commitment to the marriage. This gift is her property once she receives it and no one, not even her father or guardian has any claim over it.
Page 6: “Dadi will give us each ten camels with our dowries.”
Analysis: See note above on dowry.
Page 18: “Now that she is betrothed, she can’t leave the house without a billowy veil…”
Analysis: The use of the word, “veil,” here is misleading. The covering of the hair by a scarf and modest, loose-fitting dress, commonly referred to by Muslims as “hijab” becomes obligatory for a young woman when she reaches puberty. It should not be confused with the face veil, which is often cultural. The purpose of the hijab is so that a woman is not judged by her physical appearance or sexuality, but rather her character, behavior and intelligence. Also, Islamically, betrothal is not the discerning factor as to when the hijab needs to be worn by a woman. As stated earlier, it becomes required after she reaches puberty. And even then, it’s an aspect of Islamic teachings that is not forced upon a woman, but is her choice. Of course, this reviewer understands that in some Muslim populated countries today, the hijab is forced upon women such as in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, when the Taliban were in power. Hijab takes on the form of a “chador” or “burka” in South East Asian countries, and sometimes is imposed on women in certain rural regions.
Page 28: “In less than a year you’ll be betrothed. You aren’t a child anymore. You must learn to obey. Even when you disagree.”
Analysis: According to Islamic teachings, a person has individual rights and his/her consent is required for decisions that may impact them. And as individual rights relate to marriage, Islamically, a woman’s consent is required in order to validate her marriage. A woman cannot be forced to marry someone she doesn’t want.
Page 30: “Dadi is a wise man, and I’ve never truly learned to obey him. How can I let a boy with a skinny neck and ears that stick out from under his turban tell me what to do?”
Analysis: Once again, according to Islamic teachings, a person has individual rights and his/her consent is required for decisions that may impact them. In a marriage situation, both husband and wife must consult with one another on matters concerning the family. In many instances in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, for example, he consulted with his wife on what to do and made decisions based on those consultations.
Page 38: “Back beyond our camp…in the ancient mosque is a garden, where it is said that the Abbasid Prince kept seventy wives in richly decorated underground cells.”
Analysis: A mosque is a place of worship to God. They can be decorated but usually they are simple peaceful structures designed to facilitate prayer. This passage has many problems in it. First, seventy wives is not permitted in Islamic Law. Islamically, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife, provided that certain conditions exist and he is able to maintain each household equally in every respect, otherwise he must have only one wife. So, the norm in Islam is monogamy, not polygamy. The verse of the Quran in which this issue is addressed was revealed in the context of a period of war in the life of early Muslims (who were being attacked by the Meccans for their monotheistic belief), leaving many women and their children without care or support. Rather than leaving these women and orphans to fend for themselves, early Muslims were given permission to take more than one wife provided that the man is able to care for his first wife, and any additional wives (limited to four) equally. But in the same verse of the Quran, God states that it is impossible to care for more than one equally, so it is best to keep only one.
Secondly, Islamically, keeping women or anyone in underground cells is a kin to imprisonment, and a person cannot be imprisoned without having committed a crime. But even imprisoned people have civil rights under Islamic law.
Page 44: “For the first time in my life, I pull the chador over my face and lower my head beneath the gaze of these men.”
Analysis: The chador is a garment worn in parts of Pakistan & Afghanistan that covers the whole body and often face, and should not be confused by students with modest dress in Islam, commonly referred to as “hijab”. (See the notes above for page 18.) This passage makes it seem like this is a monumental moment. However at the time this event took place, Shabanu still had not reached puberty and thus it was not an obligation for her to wear the hijab.
Page 44: “You know, little one,” he says, “these men will kill the woman when they find her.” I don’t answer. He is reminding me that I must abide by the rules.”
Analysis: This passage is in reference to the couple that eloped to get married. However, vigilante killings that this passage alludes to are absolutely prohibited according to Islamic teachings.
Page 53: “A man in a filthy tunic promises through a microphone that the dancing inside is performed by beautiful women who do forbidden things.”
Analysis: This passage alludes to the subjugation of women in the pursuit of monetary gain. This has been a problem that has plagued human society for thousands of years. According to Islamic teachings, women are not objects that can be used and abused for the enjoyment of men. Islam places men and women on an equal footing before God.
Page 61: “I bite at him like a wild animal. With his free hand he slaps my face, sending me to my knees. He still holds my arm.”
Analysis: According to Islamic teachings, beating another person, particularly a woman or a child, let alone an animal is strictly prohibited. If a parent does abuse a child, an Islamic judge can order the child to be taken away from the parent and given to another relative for care.
Page 63: “Dadi has made enough for Phulan’s wedding and dowry and for mine next year.”
Analysis: See the note about dowry from the passage on page 3 above.
Page 66: “A small boy joins in the snake dance, and the watching men twirl rupees over the dancers’ turbans to ward off the evil eye.”
Analysis: This scene describes a cultural practice, not based on any Islamic teachings.
Page 74: ““This is my wedding present for Phulan,” says the shopkeeper handing it to me. “May she have many sons.””
Analysis: The two aspects in this passage that are worthy of mention are generosity and the issue of sons over daughters. It is considered of good moral character in Islamic teachings to be generous, not only to friends and family but also to strangers. Secondly, sons have no more intrinsic worth to a family over daughters. In fact having daughters could be a reason for admittance into paradise, as stated in the notes above for the passage on page 3.
Page 91: “Our thoughts turn to Channan Pir, the desert shrine where women pray for sons and good marriages for their daughters.”
Analysis: This passage and ones referring to shrines & superstition are some of the most disturbing in the book. Islamically, prayer and supplication is directed toward God and God alone. Mosques, rather than shrines are the only places where congregational prayers are made to God. Praying to anyone or anything else negates a Muslim’s belief in God.
However, based on cultural practices, Pakistan is full of shrines, where people go to pray for many things. So, students reading these passages should be made to understand the differences between what Islam teaches and how Muslims pray versus cultural practices in certain parts of rural Pakistan that either pre-date Islam or are a degradation of Islamic teachings.
Page 95: “Every year we make the trek to the shrine to ask for some kindness from the saint who is protector of all children.”
Analysis: Prayer to saints is strictly prohibited in Islam as well as prayer to anything other than God. However, visiting the graves of deceased family and friends and of saints is recommended as it reminds the visitors of the inevitable and increases the ability to worship God more consciously.
Page 95-96: “I sing about a man whose lover God has taken away and sent to live among the stars where he sees her every night. He can never have her.”
Analysis: This passage may be representing a cultural superstition and has no basis in Islamic theology.
Page 97: “She disapproves of Sharma, who left her husband because he beat her. He was older and already had one wife who had borne him no sons. He married Sharma in the hope she’d bear a boy child. When Fatima was born he began beating both of them, and Sharma refused to lie with him.”
Analysis: Wife beating is strictly prohibited according to Islamic teachings. It has no basis and a man who beats his wife for any reason, can be imprisoned and punished severely. Also, as addressed earlier, according to Islamic teachings, men and women are equal before God. In some rural societies however, boys are usually favored over girls for purposes of labor, and possibly gifts brought them in marriage, as dowry is understand in this book, which is not based on Islamic teachings.
Page 98: “…his elder brother has just had a second child, a girl – too bad, it seems to run in the family.”
Analysis: In addition to the issue of bearing girls which we refer to above, this passage tends to imply that God’s decree has no bearing on whether a child born to a couple will be a boy or a girl. Islamic belief places that decision squarely on God. It has nothing to do with genetics or chance. According to Islamic teachings, God decides on the gender of the child at conception, which is why Islam teaches to be happy with the birth of any child, whether boy or girl.
Page 99: “Women kneel in rows in the packed mud courtyard of the mosque. Rotating their bodies, they toss their oiled hair over their heads, back and forth and around and around with a whipping motion like horses’ tails, in a frenzy of devotion. Women whirl like dervishes, ankle bracelets jangling, their skirts flying out like disks of color. All around are women: wailing women, silent women, with children clinging to their skirts, women dancing and playing flutes and singing songs about the life of Channan Pir. Beside the entrance to the shrine a woman, her head thrown back, wails her anguish at having lost a child.”
Analysis: No ritual in Islam bears any resemblance to the acts related in this passage. Worship in Islam is directed toward God, and is solemn and dignified. These maybe cultural practices in certain rural parts of Pakistan but even then, does not really reflect Pakistani culture either.
Page 99: “I pray with all my heart that Phulan will have sons. … I pray she and Hamir will be happy and that life will not be too difficult for her.”
Analysis: Such supplications as the one made in this passage are acceptable in Islam; however, Islamically, they must be directed toward God. The context in which these supplications were made imply they were being made toward the “saint” at whose shrine these women were praying. Again, the emphasis on sons is stereotypical.
Page 101: “…Dadi the favorite, has won. The crowd is nearly mad with ecstasy, calling for blood.”
Analysis: This passage is in reference to a wrestling match that Shabanu’s father had just won. While the women were at the shrine, the men were engaged in near fight to the death-wrestling matches. Such fighting expositions where the intent to is hurt the opponent is prohibited in Islamic Law.
Page 104: “Sharma tells a story about a woman, her friend, who was stoned to death because her husband accused her of looking at another man.”
Analysis: The punishment mentioned in this passage, which is based on an ancient practice, was only executed after a husband or wife has been found guilty by a judge of committing adultery. Further, in order for a judge to give such a sentence, four independent witnesses, of outstanding character & reputation, must actually testify to having seen the actual penetration of the man’s genitals into the woman’s for this sentence to be executed. It is nearly impossible, and certainly would not be done by the mere accusation of ‘looking’ at another man. Mention of it in this passage is absurd.
Page 106: “…but Hindus and Muslims alike come to worship at the mound of rocks where the infant was thrown, and where his body lies today.”
Analysis: This passage again implies worship of something other than God, which is considered unIslamic.
Page 107: “For the first time I feel a communion with the saint; his presence is like a soothing hand on my shoulder.”
Analysis: Communion with the dead is not something that is accepted in Islamic belief.
Page 119: ““I want to die at Derawar,” Grandfather says, his voice stronger now. “The nawab will bury me in a martyr’s grave, with turquoise tiles and lapis carvings. He’ll plant colored flags at the head of my resting place so people can pray at the grave of a man close to Allah.”
Analysis: According to Islamic teachings, martyrs, who are people that die purely in the cause of God (and not anything else), are buried no differently than any other person. Planting colored flags at the head of a grave or people praying at the grave describes cultural practices, not found in Islamic teachings.
Page 122: “It is our custom never to get onto the camels in front of our house for fear we’ll never return.”
Analysis: Superstitions such as the one described here have no place in Islamic belief.
Page 125: The legend of the thirsty dead says if you find a thirsty man too late to save his life, he’ll moan and clamor, his ghost following you the rest of you life.”
Analysis: Likewise legends and stories of the unseen world outside of what is related in Islamic tradition do not have a basis in Islamic teachings, nor does the belief in ghosts. Islamically, once a person dies, their soul leaves the body and enters the next phase of its journey to God where it resides in a world known as “Barzakh,” which is a state between this life and the hereafter. That soul has no further interaction with this life and it definitely does not come back to haunt or follow people around.
Page 126: “I climb into the prickly shrub to retrieve his turban. Dadi turns the man’s face toward Mecca and chants the prayers a family says for its dead. He pours water into his palm and sprinkles it over the lifeless face as a token of the ritual washing of the dead. He wraps the turban like a shroud about the man’s head and shoulders, and we sit silently for a moment, wishing his soul well on its way.”
Analysis: When a Muslim dies, it is incumbent upon the Muslim community to properly wash and dress the body of the deceased. The washing and dressing are described in detail in Islamic Law. Then the community will perform the funeral prayer, in which the living will pray to God for the forgiveness of the deceased. The body is then buried in the ground. This passage alludes to this burial custom and in fact given the circumstances by which this dead man was found, was handled admirably.
Page 130: “Dadi leaps up from his quilt and turns Grandfather’s head toward Mecca so his soul can pray.”
Analysis: The ritual prayer in Islam must be done while the person is facing Mecca. However that is in the case for those who are still alive. This passage takes place after the grandfather has died. Once dead, the soul leaves the body in Islamic belief, and prayer is no longer possible for such a person. This passage shows the ignorance among the characters of Islamic teachings or practices.
Page 131-132: “…mounded tombs to mark the place where the troubled and needy might find a place to pray besides a spirit that has influence with God.”
Analysis: Again as mentioned above, prayers are directed toward God and not toward the dead in the hope that their prayers are answered.
Page 137: “Finally we secure the sticks with colored flags at his head where pilgrims might pray.”
Analysis: This describes a cultural practice, not found in Islamic teachings. For Muslims, pilgrimage can only be made to the Mosque in Mecca for the purpose of the Hajj or the lesser Hajj known as Umrah. Pilgrimage to graves is prohibited. Visiting graves is on the other hand allowed and encouraged.
Page 141: “This will be my first year to keep the sacred fast, as children aren’t required to do so until they stop growing.”
Analysis: The actual time when a child is required to observe the ritual fast of Ramadan is when they reach puberty. In the story, Shabanu has not reached puberty yet and is still about 12 years old. However, students may be interested to know that it is customary for Muslim families to let children practice the fast at a younger age than puberty, where they may fast half the day or do without food or water for a part of the day so as to get prepared for the day when they have to fast as adults. Abstentions from the fast occur when the person is too young or too old, when a person is sick or on medication, when a person is traveling, and when a woman is pregnant or nursing.
Page 144: “Many young women come to their husband’s houses as slaves to their mothers-in-law.”
Analysis: This is a cultural practice in some societies without foundation in Islamic teachings. Nothing in Islam prohibits living with the in-laws after marriage, but the new wife does not become the servant or slave of the mother-in-law. The in-laws should however be treated with respect and dignity as one would treat one’s own parents.
Page 154-155: “…Nazir Mohammad, the land-owner, has hunting parties. He offers each of his guests a girl, usually a tenant from his land, for the time they are with him. When the man is finished with her, he gives her cash and sends her back to her family. Some people are grateful for the money and are willing to forget the indignity.”
Analysis: The custom described in this passage is nothing more than prostitution and sex slavery, both of which are prohibited under Islamic teachings.
Page 171: “She raises her arms and throws back her head with another primeval wail. “God, my life was perfect, and you struck him down. Just when I’m happy, everything changes!””
Analysis: Islam discourages such displays of grief after someone dies and limits mourning to three days after the death of a person. Even though grief extends for sometime after three days, Islam encourages people to keep focused on life and the worship of God and not the person who died.
Page 188: “Shabanu, really. What we decide for both of you is what you will do. You aren’t old enough to know what’s good for you."
Analysis: According to Islamic teachings, a person has individual rights and their consent is required for whatever may impact them. And as individual rights relate to marriage, a woman’s consent is required in order to validate her marriage. A woman cannot be forced to marry someone she doesn’t want.
Page 190: “…I wonder if one of us is to be married to the Holy Koran, as some girls are, so that there’s no question of sharing the land.”
Analysis: This is a reference to an unusual practice, which has no foundation in Islamic teachings or practices.
Page 191-192: ““How many wives does he have?” I ask, my chin thrusting forward. “Three,” Mama replies. “But you will be the youngest by nearly twenty years. You will be the last and always his favorite. He will provide well for you and your sons.” “How old is he?” “He’s only fifty or fifty-five,” Mama says. “He’s old enough to be my grandfather!”…””Shabanu, you are still young. You aren’t even of age yet. You have another six months, perhaps a year, to get used to the idea.”
Analysis: Islamically, Shabanu’s protest to this marriage makes her marriage contract invalid, as the woman’s consent to the marriage must be sought before she can be married to a man.
Page 192: “Your father was very angry with you for not keeping an eye on the boys and ending up in a tree when Rahim-sahib arrived in his car. He was angry enough to beat you.”
Analysis: With regards to beating a child, see the note for the passage on Page 61 above.
Page 193: “I’ll go live with Sharma’” I say, and Mama’s slap send my head flying back and my eyes reeling.”
Analysis: See earlier notes regarding passage on page 61 above, regarding striking a child.
Page 196: “He has already bought you. He has paid more that a fair price for a troublesome girl like you. You may as well get used to the idea. Can’t you see he wants you to be happy?”
Analysis: This passage is in reference to the gifts that Rahim-sahib keeps sending Shabanu and her family. Again there is no such thing as a bride price in Islamic law that is given to the family of the woman in exchange for her. Any gifts related to the marriage come in the “Mahr” or wedding gift to the woman as part of the marriage contract, as previously described in the notes regarding the passage on page 3.
Page 200: “Flags begin to appear around the house where Hamir’s body lies buried under the floor. Someone brings inscribed marble slab with the promise of a full tomb after the first anniversary of his death. Word of his heroic death and our resultant wealth spreads wider and wider, like ripples in a pond, and Hamir’s house becomes a shrine.”
Analysis: See the earlier notes regarding passages on worship in shrines or the tombs of deceased persons.
Page 202: “Bride price is common here in the desert – I don’t begrudge Mama and Dadi that. It has insured their future, and they won’t have to worry about drought or anything else ever again.”
Analysis: The bride price, a gift of monetary value that is given to the father of the bride for his daughter is strictly prohibited in Islam. The bride price is something of a relic of a practice in other faiths where a price was given to the family as the daughter was taken in lieu of the service she provided the family. It’s a practice not accepted in Islamic Law.
Page 205: ““everything! She’ll be his fourth wife. He already has seven sons. His youngest wife is still of childbearing age. He’s not so rich that he can afford to leave all of them land and houses and money. They all live in one house now. That’s difficult for women sharing a single man.” “Shabanu will be their slave; they’re all uppity-uppity women. They get along all right. But what about her? Do you think they’ll take a desert girl into their circle? And when he dies, the seven sons he has – and perhaps his third wife will bear him one or two more – will inherit his property. She’ll be a penniless widow by the time she’s twenty.”"
Analysis: Everything that Sharma says in this passage could conceivably happen to Shabanu. Many things are unacceptable Islamically with regards to having more than one wife. First, provided that the man has married these women in good faith and under Islamic law, is that each woman must be housed in her own home unless they agree to living under one roof, in which case they must each have their own room. However, Islamically, each wife will receive a portion of the inheritance, and not all of it will go to the sons as mentioned.
Page 219: “Dadi has given Phulan for her dowry with things for the house where she and Murad will live: a stone wheat grinder, goatskin water buckets, clay pots, butter churns, a sitting bed with carved wooden legs clothes, reed mats, goat hair carpets with saffron-dyed cords, woven bags for spice and rice.”
Analysis: See earlier notes regarding dowry. Although there is no prohibition in giving gifts to newly married couples. Islamically, however, it is not a dowry that becomes the property of the husband, unless it was a gift to the husband specifically.
Page 221: “A maulvi chants the call of the faithful in a high, nasal wail, and their vows are exchanged three times, with Phulan nodding her assent.”
Analysis: This passage describes a cultural ceremony of the marriage itself. The marriage contract, if carried out correctly validated the marriage, but the wedding ceremony itself is left open so that different cultures could maintain their traditions such as the ceremony described here.
Page 222: “Our aunts hold the Koran overhead between them, making an arch through which Phulan passes.”
Analysis: Holding the Quran overhead someone is a cultural practice, and not based on Islamic teachings. The Quran is a book of revelation that is recited and studied. It, like any other object in the world has no inherent power of its own.
Page 231: “Perhaps I can learn to read and write. Would he be afraid of a woman who can do such things?”
Analysis: Islam teaches that knowledge is the right of every man and woman and no one can be denied an education. Islamic teachings encourage Muslims to seek out knowledge even if it be in China, meaning even if a person had to travel a great distance to learn something it was considered a noble thing.
Pages 236-237: “I keep waiting for the enormity of my flight to frighten me or to make me sorry – knowing that I’m letting Mama and Dadi down, that Murad could lose his farm, that I could be caught and beaten. But nobody felt sorry or frightened for me when they offered me to Rahim-sahib. No one even asked how I felt.”
Analysis: As mentioned earlier, consent of the woman in a marriage is a necessity, according to Islamic law.
Page 239-240: “Without speaking he lifts me to my feet and brings his stout stick down across my shoulders. I stand straight and let the stick fall against my ribs and shoulders. I am silent…. I refuse to cry out, and Dadi in his fury is like Tipu, bloodlust in his eyes. He can beat me to death if he likes. The pain grows worse as the blows strike already-bruised flesh…. I hear sobbing, as if from a great distance, and my knees crumple. Dadi catches me in his arms and buries his face against my bloody tunic. He holds me against him, and through the haze of pain, I realize it is Dadi sobbing not me.”
Analysis: This is possibly the single most disturbing passage in the entire book. The issue of beating a child has been discussed in several passages above, but in this case the beating is quite severe and brutal and absolutely prohibited, according to Islamic teachings.