Islam and “Slut-Shaming”

There’s an incident that occurred in Islamic history that I want to share with you. But first, I would like to introduce you to a phrase. “SLUT SHAMING”

Here, we will be discussing “slut shaming” in reference to the expectations of a woman’s behavior. Particularly, how a community reacted to a woman based on her actions which were contrary to their societal norms.

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It occurred on a journey involving early Muslims. On this journey, the prophet Muhammad was accompanied by his wife ‘Aisha. The caravan would stop periodically, and those traveling would set up camp. In the morning, they would continue on their journey.

One morning, while the caravan was preparing to leave, ‘Aisha realized she couldn’t find her necklace (which was a gift from her husband). In the process of looking for this necklace, not realizing she was gone, the caravan left without her, and she, not thinking the caravan would leave without looking for her, fell asleep hoping to be awaken by a search party.
But they didn’t know she was missing.
Luckily a companion of the prophet, who had been charged with the task of making sure nothing or no one was left behind, had finished his task of checking the camp site, and was on his way to join the caravan when he noticed ‘Aisha sitting on the side of the road crying. He picked her up and they rejoined the caravan.
Whispers started to circulate among those traveling that ‘Aisha hadn’t lost her necklace, but that she conjured that story up as an excuse to cover up her secret love affair.

What happened next is profound. Islam has within it the phenomena of real-time revelation; that is, revelation of Scripture as incidents occur. In this particular instance it was revealed the 24th Chapter, 12th Verse:

“Why, when you heard it, (the rumor of ‘Aisha’s love affair) didn’t the believing men and believing women think better of themselves, and say, “this is a clear lie”?…”

The verse, clearly referring to the above incident, could have easily said “why didn’t (they) think better of ‘Aisha…” Which would have been sufficient. But this is part of the miracle of the Qur’an. It possess nuances that are meant to elevate our thinking. The wording of the verse establishes what is known as husn al zann (positive presumption) or (thinking well [of others]” it invites the idea of “treating others how you’d like to be treated.”

In this era of social media where everyone has an opinion about everyone and everything (most of the time a NEGATIVE opinion) we can learn from the wisdom of the Qur’an. The Qur’an doesn’t promote a judgmental outlook. And I would add that, at the core, no religious perspective invites us to be critical. However, the problem occurs when we assume the role of “Religious Police” who feel as if what others do (or don’t do) somehow affects our position with God, when in fact the text that we profess to believe in states unequivocally “you are only responsible for your own soul.”

We are too quick to state what is “wrong.” Maybe we should invest more in seeing what’s “right.”

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