The Morality Of Asking Personal Questions

The Morality Of Asking Personal Questions
Pakistani celebrity Sunita Marshall has requested her supporters to not harass the Youtuber who asked her why she did not convert to Islam after marrying a Muslim man. She remains firm against the asking of personal questions. Hers is a class act – easy on the person, tough on the problem.

However, this is a quintessential Pakistani question. One that is based on people inquiring about particulars including age, salary, and marriage status. In contrast, Islamic morality is clear against asking personal questions. A tradition attributed to the Prophet reads that a characteristic of a believer is that he does not concern himself with that which does not concern him. Muslim scholars preach this teaching through the simple aphorism – Mind Your Own Business.

Such a question would not sit well in a pluralistic Muslim society. This was historically true during the time of the Prophet when the marriages of women, who converted to Islam before their husbands, remained intact. The covenant of the Prophet with the monks of Mount Sinai has a line:

“Should any Christian woman be married to a Muslim, such marriage must not take place except after her consent, and she must not be prevented from going to her church for prayer.”

Even Pakistanis would know that the marriage of Muslim men to the People of the Book is permissible. Many scholars across the globe including Khaled Abou El Fadl, the late Khaleel Mohammed, the late Hassan Turabi, Usama Hassan, and Moiz Amjad have argued that this holds for Muslim women as well.

Khaleel Mohammed even went beyond the People of the Book, which commonly refers to Jews and Christians, to include Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, and atheists. This is reminiscent of the Quaid e Azam, who stated: “If there is a fairly large class of enlightened, educated, advanced Indians, be they Hindus, Mohammedans, or Parsis, and if they wish to adopt a system of marriage, which is in accord with the modern civilization and ideas of modern times, more in accord with modern sentiments, why should that class be denied justice?” (Jinnah: A Life by Yasser Latif Hamdani, p. 25).

Thus, both Islamic morality and the vision of the Quaid e Azam would reject probing questions on what is deemed permissible. Though, such questions arise from Islamist supremacism that is rooted deep in inferiority complex of those Muslims who refused to come to terms that they lost power and privilege under British colonialism. This complex has become intergenerational through the rousing “shikwa” (complaint) of Iqbal that yearns for lost Muslim glory.

Moreover, such theological exclusivism is not confined to Pakistanis. Some western homegrown Muslim men also turn to a very narrow, rigid, and judgmental form of religion.

Regardless, social media, international travel, cultural exchange, and free flow of information, should facilitate Pakistanis to become aware of their own Islamic heritage and values that frown upon asking personal questions.