Monday, November 06, 2006

Dreams of Trespass

I was completely inspired after reading about the book recommendation, "Women and Islam" by Fatima Mernissi, in the latest post on BilalsBlog (see my Truths & Dares Links)..
Professor Fatima Mernissi is a captivating writer and a keen sociologist, able to illuminate the many colours of life seen through her eyes, from her experiences growing up in the harem of an elite Moroccan Muslim household. I have read her early autobiography, 'The Harem Within', and just now was newly informed by Google, that a later biographical account exists, called 'Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood' (1994)
The following is an extract from this work..
"The main thing for the powerless is to have a dream," [Aunt Habiba] often told me while I was watching the stairs, so that she could embroider a fabulous one-winged green bird on the clandestine mrema she kept hidden in the darkest corner of her room. "True, a dream alone, without the bargaining power to go with it, does not transform the world or make the walls vanish, but it does help you keep ahold of dignity."

Dignity is to have a dream, a strong one, which gives you a vision, a world where you have a place, where whatever it is you have to contribute makes a difference.

You are in a harem when the world does not need you.

You are in a harem when what you can contribute does not make a difference.

You are in a harem when what you do is useless.

You are in a harem when the planet swirls around, with you buried up to your neck in scorn and neglect.

Only one person can change that situation and make the planet go around the other way, and that is you.

If you stand up against scorn, and dream of a different world, the planet's direction will be altered.

But what you need to avoid at all costs, is to let the scorn around you get inside.

When a woman starts thinking she is nothing, the little sparrows cry.

Who can defend them on the terrace, if no one has the vision of a world without slingshots?
"Mothers should tell little girls and boys about the importance of dreams," Aunt Habiba said. "They give a sense of direction. It is not enought to reject this courtyard--you need to have a vision of the meadows with which you want to replace it. But, how, I asked Aunt Habiba, could you distinguish amoung all the wishes, the cravings which beseiged you, and find the one on which you ought to focus, the important dream which gave you vision? She said that little children had to be patient, the key dream would emerge and bloom within, and then, from the intense pleasure it gave you, you would know that it was the genuine little treasure which would give you direction and light. She also said that I should not worry for now, because I belonged to a long line of women with strong dreams. "Your Grandmother Yasmina's dream was that she was a special creature," Aunt Habiba said, "and no one has ever been able to make her believe otherwise. She changed your grandfather, and he got in her dream and shared it with her. Your mother has wings inside, too, and your father flies with her whenever he can. You'll be able to transform people, I'm sure of it. I would not worry if I were you."


Bilal said...

glad i helped inspire a post somewhat...
i agree- reading her book is very inspiring. but also, as i replied to you on my blog, i think we do need to have open minds. while i do not agree with all she says, we def need to use her work to break down the misunderstandings common in our communities.
thanks for an interesting post:)

Anonymous said...

true inspiration.

never heard of her before but plan to look her up..

good stuff.

kimya said...

hey bilal..

i agree with you.. everything we read needs an open mind, but we shouldnt discard reading something just because some might not link with what might be more comfortable for us to agree with. Mernissi writes from within a totally different paradigm from our own, perhaps, and there are significant altercations in her thought. But she inspires in a very colourful way, her work has human element from its biographical narrative source, and for what its worth, is a fair recommendation.

Anon. Identify yourself? please:)

Saaleha said...

another one to add to the already too long list. But I'll get there :-)

zee said...

kim...u no me and feminists...we just dont get along when it comes to the nitty gritty:))))

kimya said...

@saaleha : i kno wat u mean.. so many readables, so little readable time!

@zEE : words fail me :P

Bilal said...

slmz kimya
very true- too many people dont read- its always a stupid excuse like,
i cant find the time, or
that book is bad to read!
i say read everything you can get your hands on!

On Mernissi- i find that over the years her writing and views have really changed- looking at the first and last books she wrote.

And @zee- i think the problem with 'feminist'- the way its become understod today is largely western feminism- what we need is women to not tackle the opposite of male thought domination, but rather take up the role of female scholarship that has been closed of largely as a resulf of the male denomination- as kimya said- two sides of the same coin- not trying to fight to both be on the same side....

kimya said...

Hey wslm Bilal..

I love reading.. but sometimes theres genuinely not enough time to get around to it the way i used to be able to, so i identify with Saaleha in that regard. I dont not read, its just prioritised readings :)

Yes, about the feminist dialogue, as i said before or was it at ur blog, while Islamic feminism is not of the fifities bra-burning variety, i dont think we need to ascribe to labels as such to live engagedly and harmoniously according to the Traditions of our Nabi (Peace Upon Him). Male and Female biographies are indeed two sides of the same coin.

kimya said...

oh and speaking about readings.. i just came across Naima Roberts, From My sister's Lips, and mu much awaited copy of Miguel Asins, Islam and the Divine Comedy :))

I must say though, that i love reading whatever i can get my hands on, there was one particular book that evaded me for a long time. I finally got a hold of it a few months ago, bought a copy and sat down to read it on two or three ocassions..

The Satanic Verses. And even though i would like to think of myself as open-minded and as progressive thinkin or the like.. i was at first irritated and then deeply offended by the implications within the pages of this work. I have not been able to complete it. In this way, I may have discovered a new dimension of thought in myself.. and i have as yet not been able to complete the book. Has anyone else read it?

Saaleha said...

the excerpts that I read from Satanic Verses upset me. So I won't bother reading it. Some things deserve to be ignored :-)
But please read 'Does My Head Look Big In This' by Randa Abdel Fattah. It's a young adult book, but it was so thoroughly enjoyable. Funny, witty, and thought provoking.

kimya said...


thnx, saals..

sounds like an interesting recommendation.

as for the satanic verses..
i might just consider blogging about that to get it out of my system.. *sigh*