Thursday, April 20, 2017

Commercial Muslim website on swimming


Alsharifa is a online seller of Islamic swimwear out of Canton, Michigan. They make it clear that they are not an authority on Islam, however they collected some ideas from their 'customers and friends' as they put it. 

Muslim Women: To Swim, or Not To Swim?

"The most commonly cited drive behind wanting to swim is the Sunnah of the prophet (pbuh) through the verified hadith: {Teach your children : Javelin throwing, Swimming, and Horse Riding .}  The hadith in Arabic uses the word “Awlad” which has the literal translation of children.  It did not talk about “boys” alone, so both men and women are included."   
No source is given for the hadith. I will discover later and elsewhere where this quote is from. According to my reading of this, one Islamic sport is military-related (spears), one indirectly military (cavalry), and the third (swimming) neutral. Just my take. None are completely non-military games like Scottish tree hurling or Italian soccer. Are Christian or Hindu 'sanctioned' sports as martial? Sikh ones perhaps. I know archery has its place in Buddhist traditions. Just trying to see all of this in cultural and historical context.

And I find it odd that the most common reason to swim is religious. I don't believe it. Don't most people, including Muslim women, want to swim for recreation and health? Are female Muslims some special brand of humanity?

Follows arguments why women who were companions of Mohammed by inference must have known how to swim due to the requirements during pilgrimage and war, and how four times as many Indonesian women (in some cases *only* women and children) died in the (undated, but we know it was 2004) tsunami. The author adds that there are Middle Eastern countries where most women do not know how to swim. He/she argues that in Egypt women used to wear western style swimwear but were being harassed by men, but that since the advent of Islamic swimming costume, now "women have the freedom to participate in watersports.." I find it curious that instead of men changing their behaviour, women are required to cover up. 

This company blog then quotes two Islamic religious scholars...
"Suad Saleh, Professor of Fiqh at al-Azhar University and the former Dean of the College of Islamic Studies opines that hitting the beaches to relax and getting relief from stress  is permissible as Islam is “deen-ul-waseeta”, which means it is a religion of moderation."
"Pof [sic Prof?] Mustapha Umara who is a member in the Higher Council For Islamic Affairs in Cairo, Egypt, has the opinion that woman is “awra” or “aurat” * as a whole so she cannot wear short or tight clothing, or anything that shows the details of her body, whether at the beach or in public places.  The direct definition of Awra / Aurat is 'something than cannot be exposed in public.' "
* From Wikipedia, entry 'intimate parts in Islam'... In Arabic, the term 'awrah or 'awrat (Arabicعورة‎‎) derives from the root ‘a-w-r which means "defectiveness", "imperfection", "blemish" or "weakness". However, the most common English translation is "nakedness"

Alsharifa designs their swimsuits according to the aurat principle, "highlighted in the addition of long tunics, modest roomy upper arm and thigh fabric cuts, buckles to secure tunic to pants, and clips at bottom of legs to tighten them to avoid exposure or control length from ground or ankle level." 

Among two other sensible reasons for women to wear such garments, I found #1 most telling...

Safety Measure by the Pool.  Some women purchase a full-cover swimsuit to stay by her children as they swim in public pools.  If there is an emergency where she needs to help her children, she can jump in while dressed in proper swim clothes.  Otherwise, local ordinances may deny her pool area access if she were not dressed properly.  For example, if she was wearing cotton that would absorb water.. or just imagine the alternative, jumping in dressed up in an abaya.  This alternative is unacceptable vis-a-vis the Awra concept and showing modesty, the abaya fabric will cling to her skin and show her awra."

[Hermes: I will endeavor to find the case where a Muslim woman almost let her child drown because she was unwilling to enter the water. And of course, there are no restrictions on women wearing normal swimsuits to rescue their drowning children]

In the final paragraph of this Alsharifa swimwear company post the author adds, "Most of the disagreements are not on the right to swim, or the what about swimming, but rather they are focused on the how and where. The answer to these questions will be subjective and will differ by culture and location.  Some countries like Saudi Arabia offer women-only clubs where Awra concepts still apply between women. In the US we have heard of many groups having women’s only hours at pools and fitness clubs.  Other initiatives in North Africa and Europe includes beach rentals for women-only."

[Hermes: And I might add, numerous cities in Canada, including tax-funded facilities 

To see the full blog post go to...

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