Written by Aisha Ali-Khan:
Last week a good friend of mine shared a tweet to our private Facebook group. The tweet, ‘How to find out if she’s a virgin’ was posted by a ‘sheikh’ in support of his ‘Game of Marriage’ course, a free online resource helping couples towards a successful marriage. The course promised to answer even more pertinent questions such as ‘Is sex on the first night necessary?’ At first glance, this seemed like a parody account posting deliberately antagonistic material in order to incite a reaction.
But alas, no. The so-called sheikh actually has a significant social media following; over 200,000 likes on Facebook, more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, and millions of views on YouTube. In this day and age, in which women are sole breadwinners, ensuring their family’s financial well-being while trying to smash glass ceilings and even glass walls. Female athletes represent their countries on the world’s stage, and there are businesswomen capable of turning over billions in profit every year, and even CEO’s and directors of Fortune 500 companies (though we still have a long way to go on this front). We even had a movie playing in the theatres not long ago recognizing the contribution made to America’s Space Race by three awe-inspiring women, whose individual stories had been whitewashed from history until now.
But somehow, all this pales into insignificance when it comes to the state of our hymens, or lack thereof. I felt compelled to send the aforementioned ‘Sheikh’ a direct message, asking him to ‘take down the offending course literature and remove the virginity testing aspect of your course immediately’.
His response was: ‘Walaikum as salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu sister, I think the video clip was heavily misunderstood. It was a clip taken from an entire lesson that talks about the benefits of marrying a virgin and a non-virgin (divorce/widow) in a lot of detail, and then I went through the reasons why a non-virgin is at times preferred and better to marry over a virgin The reality is that our Prophet ﷺ discussed all these issues and there is guidance in knowing it. I hope that helps explain where I was coming from’.
So, basically, according to the response above, women fall into two camps; you’re either a virgin, or you’re not. There is no mention about personality, about piety, about qualities that a woman may possess as a wife or a life partner.
This kind of talk is deeply dangerous, as it’s one of the reasons we have such atrocities as ‘honor’ killings and ‘honor’-based violence in our communities. If you struggle to understand then consider this: a woman’s state of purity is a direct reflection on the standing her father, brothers and uncles (in fact any male member of her family) hold in their community. If she has had a sexual encounter (or has even been raped) then she is no longer considered ‘pure’ and untouched. To have that as a label, even if it is only a rumour, is considered a fate worse than death.
For the men of these women, it is even worse...
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