WHAT DOES JIHAD REALLY MEAN?

One of the most-asked questions I’ve received since opening up the blog for questions: What is this thing—Jihad—that are causing Muslims around the world to be violent in the name of holy war?

Heh, okay, let’s break it down, shall we? It’s really quite simple, and probably not what you’ve heard on your television screens. 



Jihad means “struggle.” Nothing more, nothing less.
A struggle with oneself internally, a struggle against injustice, a struggle against tyranny.

Jihad does NOT mean, on the other hand holy-war-against-so-called-infidels-that-all-Muslims-are-supposed-to-do-so-Christians-should-be-scared-of-their-Muslim-neighbors-and-kill-recent-college-graduates-over-a-supposed-parking-spot.
Yeah. How about not.

While my neighbors are still probably scared of me and my family regardless (gotta love the racism in the south!), I think it’s important to note that we Muslims are in fact quite friendly (and dare I say quite dashing). But let’s not get too off topic for once.

There are really two types of Jihad: internal and external.
The greatest/major Jihad mentioned in the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) is the internal struggle with ones full self and soul in order to constantly self-improve: continually stand up for justice, become more truthful and sincere, and overcome vices and weaknesses. It involves a transformation of one’s character, overcoming an obstacle, and deep self-reflection. This is the Jihad that you don’t really hear about in mainstream news yet serves as the greatest Jihad for Muslims.    

What you do hear, on the other hand, and quite over-excessively, is the mention of the external “Jihad of the sword.” This jihad, or struggle, is not described with the same level of value or importance than jihad an-nifs (Jihad of the self) has within the Qur’an. This Jihad is in reference to using violence—if absolutely necessary—in order to overthrow injustice. Today in mainstream media this is taken out of context (surprise, surprise) and therefore is an incorrect understanding of what the term really means.
This external Jihad is used in the Qur’an in the context of the time when Muslim communities were being attacked on all sides (think: the crusades (these were of course much later but you get the point)) and needed to defend itself. But the key here is that this is not the same as an unprovoked aggression or holy war that western media makes it out to be.
External Jihad is mentioned in the Qur'an in a highly particular and specific context from which it should not be separated. 

Of course, as any part of any text, there are the select few nutcases that misinterpret what they read (or just hear), and, coupled with their own personal insanity and pressures, crack. Think: ISIS. Think: Israeli Zionsim. Think: France banning headscarves in schools aka taking away rights in the name of religious freedom.

But I think you’ll be glad to know that most Muslims (well I say all Muslims as ISIS or the Saudi Arabian government, for example, don’t count as real Muslims, technically speaking according to the Qur’an) understand the true meaning of Jihad. So much that some of us (Muslims cooler than me, clearly) made a hashtag (#MyJihad) about it.
And a neat-o website that I just discovered.
If you’re still confused/would like testimonials + examples please feel free to take full advantage of the above hyperlinks. ^_^


I know this was a large chunk of text to get through and mostly just a simple overview, so if you have any follow-up or clarification questions, please don't hesitate to ask! Or, if this sparked any other non-related-to-Jihad-which-you-now-know-is-actually-basically-a-peaceful-thing questions, feel free to ask in the comments below! 

This week I finally get to move to Tehran, start my research, shoot some streetstyle, and work on some really exciting projects! Can’t wait to share everything with you on this space! (And Instagram!)

<(') 



Special thanks to Tahir, my university’s spiritual advisor and friend for helping me with the deets of this question. :) 

-If you enjoyed this post and think it could help others understand a misunderstood concept, please share! Thank you!-

WHY I SAY NO TO "FLATTERING" CLOTHES

Open almost any magazine or fashion publication today and you'll be able to find the "right" clothes “for your body shape,” using various fruit and vegetable analogies to feign a level of politeness: are you a pear or an apple this time? 

This post basically is here to say that this is all just a bunch of B.S, and why we need to move past the conception of "flattering" clothes. 

Concession: as a thin and oh-so-slightly above average height (I’d like to think so) petite girl, I’m speaking from a place of privilege. Who am I to tell the rest of the fruits and vegetables of the world that they should embrace the bodies that the rest of society refuses to do? (Sure, I've experienced ostracization as a Muslim woman in the USA, but never because of my figure). So, I'd like to admit my privilege in this conversation and put it out there for you to consider while reading this.
(But that doesn’t mean stop reading—you’re not off the hook just yet)

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Photo via Refinery29

Alright. Still with me? You’re great.
The conception that we should constantly be buying “flattering” clothes is based on a standardized idea of what beauty is—and, therefore, what it is not. The thin white girl with the curves in the right places and a waist you can put a keychain around still takes home the cake (but, of course, she just can’t eat it)—and flattering clothes are media’s conceptions of what can bring you closer to this ideal.
And I quote.

“Oval-shaped women hold most of their excess weight around the middle [thanks for that discovery, Sherlock]…chances are you have a good-sized bust so there are plenty of ways to draw the eye away from the waistline”

Yeah, um, how about not.

It seems we’ve (a “we” that is rooted in the patriarchy, btw…as is the oppression of women globally but just blamed on Islam…) become all too comfortable on giving women orders on how to dress and what to look like. In focusing all of our attention on outward appearances, of course it’s what is most important (aka character & intellect) that is often forgotten to cultivate. (All part of the patriarchy’s master plan, ladies).

Using “flattering” as a rubric for dress, us women are pushed to squeeze our waists and pump our rear ends (or whatever the kids are doing these days) in order to perpetuate society's conception of ideal beauty--a conception that women must consistently strive for but will never reach. Certain jeans are off-limits to tomatoes or styles of dresses for carrots--all because it won't help you mold and hide parts of your body that are hindering you from reaching that golden bar of beauty.  
But reaching (and breaking) the glass ceiling is far more important, I think.

Of course, definitely not insinuating here that we should all go out and run around in paper bags, or even to stop wearing things that "fit," but rather to reinterpret and redefine your style based on what makes you personally feel wonderful and confident so you can take on the world. (Like these wardrobe essentials). It's not what makes your waist 2 sizes smaller that is important than what lets you move past a society that encourages women to be obsessed with fitting rubrics. 
On JooJoo Azad we're also moving forward together on a minimal wardrobe project in order to lessen our attachment to, and dependence on, material goods (clothing) in general as a preoccupation of our lives. 

TL;DR: Screw society's standards of beauty. Wear whatever makes you personally happy and confident. Wear what defines you as a person, not hides you as an object.

<(‘)


P.S. This post was inspired by me trying to be productive in a 12hr layover in Dusseldorf (…for a flight to Hamburg…even though I probably could have walked there in 12 hours…) and thinking about my upcoming research in Iran. If you’re also interested in women’s bodies as the center of politics (via fashion, of course), stick around because I’ll be sharing some findings on this space!

P.P.S Not into words? Then follow along on Instagram or Snapchat (@hodakay)! 


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WHY I'VE JOINED THE SLOW BLOGGING MOVEMENT

I feel like blogging has fallen into the capitalist mode of production: quantity over quality. Keywords and numbers of reasons why someone should do something* are systematically slapped together, materials of which were ripped off another blogger's stolen work. Titles manipulated to disguise the lack of words, only aimed at growing pageviews and followers, rather than readers.

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Can't say that I hadn't tried it out myself once or twice, just as everyone wants to play in capitalists' game of fast-fashion--hey, we all love immediate albeit temporary satisfaction for little cost--fast-blogging seemed a guarantee to  a quick fix on feeling successful. A couple silly posts hit record pageviews but left me with few reader relationships and fewer time on my own hands left to work on projects that inspired me. I invest (quite a bit of) time (whatever little I have as a university student aka expert procrastinator) into every blog post, and after an academic quarter/2.5 months of committing to blogging every other day (& failing, of course--as a Persian, time-commitments and deadlines don't compute) and making JooJoo Azad my part-time job, I realized that the biggest thing holding me back from executing all of the exciting projects I had dreamt up (& truly growing my blog) was, in fact, making sure that my blog was on schedule. Which is kind of silly, if you really think about it.

Simply put, the JooJoo Azad (for those of you new to the show this means "Free Bird" in Farsi, and, contrary to popular belief, is not my name) had caged itself.

Now that I'm really committed to a number of major projects and collaborations, I don't think committing to posts every other day would be sustainable (for either of us). In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, Jen of JennyPurr, "Make yourself smaller so you can make yourself bigger."
So well-said.
And I think it is only after 2.5 months of making this mistake that I've really learned what that means. Not to mention this means less burnout and writers block.

So, I'm committing to two posts every week, with each post being something worth your (and my) time. Deal?

If you're interested in slow blogging & want to learn more be sure to check out Jen's Slow Blogging for Creatives and the Slow Blog Manifesto.

*Okay maybe I was a bit too harsh. Numbers in titles seems like a current blogging fad but I'm kind of a fan. My life is organized into lists.


TL;DR: Fast blogging is like capitalism. I am not a capitalist and therefore I will no longer embrace it. What I will embrace though, are quality posts and thinking ahead/sustainably. Also, apparently I understand everything through politics. 

I honestly would love to hear from you. Are you a fan? Have you thought about slow-blogging?
P.S. Keep the questions on Islam coming--they are all so interesting so far!

<(')

P.S. I'll be in Germany in two days(!!!!). Come along!

Q: WHY DOES ISLAM TREAT WOMEN BADLY?

Q01: "I don't feel like women are treated very well in the religion of Islam. Why is that?" 

Classic. 
I get so many variations of this question--with varying level of politeness, of course--and I suppose it's about time to roll up my sleeves and answer this one, given that I'm already about a week behind schedule (the Iranian is late? Surprise, surprise...) getting to the questions you've left me via emails, blog comments, twitter, etc, since agreeing to answer your questions everyday during Ramadan 2015.

I was initially planning on doing a video series but 5 attempts and a lot of poor lighting later, I finally gave up on that endeavor--at least until I move to Iran for the summer (T-2 weeks!)--I've concluded that Oklahoma isn't the best place for flattering natural lighting. Or politics.

So, for now these will be in text format. (your eyes will forgive me).
Let's get right into it, shall we?

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Part of the idea that women are treated poorly in Islam is purely perception. But, unfortunately, there is a degree of reality to this conception. The reality is that there is this thing called the patriarchy (that needs to be dismantled--asap) and unfortunately it is pretty hella strong and it is strongly rooted in the Middle East, as it is throughout the USA, Europe and the rest of the world. This same patriarchy that is oppressing women in the "West" is also alive and doing well in the "East," but because Western media does not like to represent the East and the West in a similar manner (Edward Said's Orientalism has a few words to say here--a great read by the way and highly recommended) so it seems as if this issue of women's subjugation is purely an "Eastern" thing when it is in fact, unfortunately, a global issue. 

Another source of this misconception I think I can attribute to the extremism of Saudi Arabia and ISIS, and many onlookers ignorant of Islam conflating their actions with Islam, when, it is clearly nothing farther from it. Doing so is comparable to using the crusades of early Christianity or the Westboro Baptist Church to understand Christianity or Zionism and the terror of Israel as a manifestation of Judaism--in all examples faith is being used as a tool to grow power and publicity, rather than acting as a product of faith itself, and therefore I think it would be rather unfair to conflate the two

In fact, Islam actually promotes the status of women. When the religion was brought down to the Arab tribes in the 7th century, it ended the cultural practice of killing female children and gave women the right to marry and divorce whoever they want, own and sell property, and even the right to vote. So that was like, major, given that women in the USA weren't even allowed to vote until the 1920 (and you're saying Islam oppresses women?! ha!). Not to mention that throughout the Qur'an women and men are repeatedly described as equals. 
I mean, it's difficult to get more clear than that. 

TL;DR: The patriarchy sucks, it is a global institution not specific to the Middle East, and it oppresses women. Not Islam. 

As a feminist I approve this message. 

If you have any follow-up questions (or any other questions not related to this topic) pleeeease feel free to drop a line below (I'm fully committed to JooJoo Azad being a safe space--anything horrible will be immediately removed--trust me, I work fast (my phone is glued to my hands)) or hide away your identity and leave one anonymously and I will try to answer anything that is on your mind to the best I can! 

<(')

If you enjoyed this post, please share! With knowledge comes understanding & with understanding comes love! 

(& We all love love.)

PRE-DEPARTURE

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T-7 days remaining until Germany and T-17 days until Iran! I would be sitting on the edge of my seat if it wasn't Ramadan and trying to balance myself on the edge of anything requires more energy than I can muster, so maybe saying that I'm laying on the couch in anticipation is more accurate. I've never been to Germany before (nor do I speak any German when I'm detached from my friends at Google Translate) but I'm really rather excited to see some family before heading over to Iran to see...more family (and conduct research for my B.A. thesis)! Huzzah! (This means more streetstyle for you!). I'm also collaborating with a few Iranian photographers, stylists, and designers so be sure to #watchthisspace! I also recently started a little Iranian Culture/Art/Fashion Pintrest Board that shall be frequently updated if you are like me and just can't hold your excitement~

I centered this mood board around an absolutely beautiful ethical brand I recently discovered--Kowtow Clothing--and their 100% organic cotton Evolution Dress (psst, it's on sale)! Gotta love a brand that knows their shapes and their free shipping! Yes, it seems that summer always gets me out of my usual pattern play and into something that seems to visually weigh less.
And yes, I, like you, am also surprised there is virtually no black on this board, as it's usually my go-to summer color. Because that's logical, yah?

<(')