Midway through the month of Ramadan, a friend shared a post on Facebook of her husband making samosas.
It showed a man, in the kitchen, preparing, and then later cooking. Culturally, for many Muslims of South Asian descent, a man preparing food for the family is alien. Yes there are exceptions but the vast majority of British Muslim men rarely if ever step into the kitchen, let alone cook in one.
As Ramadan is a month of reflection, increased spiritual awareness, learning and of education, to the men out there I ask: why not go out shopping to buy ingredients, step into the kitchen to prepare a meal and serve and feed your family and guests?
Why not then do the household chore of washing up afterwards?
Too many of us still expect to be mothered like lost puppies, despite being doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, teachers – the list goes on. The kitchen is still too readily thought of as a woman’s domain.
We could explain this away as a reflection of modern life with traditional gender-role models applied, where men are the breadwinners and women look after the home.
But increasingly this is no longer the case. The World Economic Forum identifies working Muslim women as a trillion dollar market, with over 50 million joining the workforce since the year 2000 and women being the majority of students at universities in the Muslim world.
Nor can we say it’s historical: as the classical Muslim scholar and jurist from the 9th century AD, Al-Jahiz observed, not only were women involved in the workforce, but they appeared in public stylishly dressed, and work was just part of everyday life.
As I sit here typing, I’ve noticed that one of the top buttons of my shalwar kameez (the traditional south Asian outfit of baggy ‘trousers’ and a long shirt) has come off.
I’m torn between two options: doing as my late father, a surgeon, did and picking up a needle and thread, or passing it onto my mother or even to one of my siblings, smiling like a poor injured cat in need of assistance.
Gendered stereotypes of women alone being responsible for household chores do not therefore find their origin in Islamic texts, rather they are a reflection of culture and misinterpretation over the ages.
The lazy part of me anticipates the latter while the politically aware and equal rights campaigner part of me is reminded of Prophet Muhammad’s own example: when asked, Aisha said that Prophet Muhammad would do as everyone else would do, stitch his own shoes, patch his garments, even sew.
Gendered stereotypes of women alone being responsible for household chores do not therefore find their origin in Islamic texts. Rather they are a reflection of culture and misinterpretation over the ages.
As Muslims we believe Prophet Muhammad is the best example and insist on following his ‘sunnah’ – the way he lived his life. Yet when it comes to certain things, we move away from what he actually did, adopting a cultural interpretation of everyday roles.
The word Ramadan comes from the word ‘ramada’ meaning ‘to burn,’ and it refers to fasting as one becomes inflamed by the heat of hunger, especially in the desert environments where the Abrahamic faiths originate from.
For me, during the month of Ramadan, I am reminded that if, along with the heat from fasting, I do not wish to feel the heat of the fire by way of punishment in the next life, I ought to be more fair in how I live my life.
This includes adopting my fair share of the household chores, from cooking meals, washing the dishes, vacuuming, and more. And not just during Ramadan.
For who would have thought that a man making samosas for his family – cooking which is often viewed as a chore – would be a path for him to get closer to God, and make God happy?
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