Gender segregation is everywhere you look in this country – and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing

A few weeks ago I went to my local swimming pool for the first time in a long time and I was appalled to see that there were still separate changing rooms for men and women! How can this be allowed Britain today? Continue reading “Gender segregation is everywhere you look in this country – and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing”

Boris Johnson is not a British Trump – be careful not to make him into one

If there are two facts about Boris Johnson that are true, one is that he is a clever man and the other is that his only interest is his own self-promotion.

He made headlines yet again this week by refusing to apologise for alleged Islamophobic comments he made in his column¬†in The Telegraph. He is clever because there is nothing in his carefully-written piece that amounts to Islamophobia, even the now-infamous letter boxes and bank robber lines. Continue reading “Boris Johnson is not a British Trump – be careful not to make him into one”

How to use cannabis: practical advice from a Muslim doctor

Lots of my patients smoke cannabis every day. In fact, I am no longer surprised when people tell me that they do. I have seen everyone from new-mums to grandfathers, labourers and lawyers who admit to using it. Some use it to relieve the symptoms of migraine and anxiety and others for chronic pain; some seemingly just smoke it for the enjoyment.

Continue reading “How to use cannabis: practical advice from a Muslim doctor”

Can Muslims get a Brazilian wax?

Let me remind you that I am a doctor, because it will make what I am about to say seem a whole lot less weird: I have seen the pubic hair of hundreds of men, women and children, up close and personal. I have seen the spectrum; from thick overgrown forests, through sparse open woodland, to empty deserts of skin.

Most people with no pubic hair have chosen to remove it themselves (or paid someone to do it), but a few have no choice. Children, of course, but also adults who have lost it as a result of illness. Common examples include skin rashes, hormonal imbalances and alopecia – a condition which causes hair to randomly fall out all over the body for some as-yet-unknown reason.

So it is clear to me that among the Great British pubic public attitudes towards pubic hair, or the lack of it, vary wildly. But what about British Muslims? Is it ok for a Muslim to have a Brazilian wax?

Unfortunately, when Islam was written down, Brazil did not exist, let alone their infamous beauty treatment, so there is no mention of it in the original texts. There was, however, some guidance that pubic hair should be kept short, along with instructions to keep toenails trimmed and to wash before prayers, to name just a few examples of the kind of general hygiene advice that appears throughout the Quran.

Most people agree that the advice to trim or shave pubic hair is a matter of cleanliness: it is hard to wash thoroughly with a thick mat of hairs covering up the dirtiest parts of your body.

Some would also argue that pubic hair should be kept neat in order to please your spouse, just as man might trim his beard or have a hair cut because his wife preferred it a certain way.

It can be argued that when Allah created humans he created a perfect being, even down to the shortest, curliest hairs. Pubic hair must, therefore, serve a purpose?

I can tell you the genetic and biochemical reason that certain hairs grown in certain places on our bodies but I cannot tell you why we have pubic hair. Possibilities include something to do with pheromones, sun protection or that it is just a remnant of our evolutionary past, a bit like the appendix. Shaving or waxing pubic hair does not seem to cause any long-term negative health effects, but it does occasionally cause minor issues like ingrowing hairs and intimate rashes.

Personally, I think that think that each person should be free to choose what they want to do with their own pubic hair. Some people are naturally sparse and for them just leaving it to nature will do. Others with more coverage should consider their own personal hygiene and take into account the preferences of their partner. If your wife likes it bushy and you can keep it clean then go for it, but if not, then even a quick trim can work wonders. There does not appear to be any reason that waxing, as opposed to shaving, should be prohibited in Islam, and for that reason I think that a Muslim should be able to get a Brazilian wax, if that is their preference.

Describe your pubic hair… only joking, this is one subject that I would prefer people not to comment on.

More sex please, we’re Muslim

Recently, I had one of the most uncomfortable car journeys of my life. It was not a problem with the road or my suspension, but what was on the radio. I was driving my mother-in-law to the shops and we had BBC Radio 4 on in the background as we chatted politely about all the safe topics that mother-in-laws and son-in-laws tend to talk about. After the news, the announcer told us, there was a programme about Muslim attitudes towards sex.

I knew that we had both heard the mention of Muslims and sex – when Muslims hear that there is going to be a discussion about Islam on the BBC they tend to take notice – but we pretended that we hadn’t, out of mutual embarrassment.

After the news, the show started and it quickly became clear that this was going to be more than just the usual, gentle Radio 4 discussion; the first words we heard were from a gay British Pakistani Muslim. The presenter went on to interview several more Muslims about their sex lives. She spoke to couples, Imams and even a Muslim marriage counsellor who had a special interest in sex, purely in her capacity as a professional psychotherapist, we were assured. Continue reading “More sex please, we’re Muslim”

I didn’t convert to Islam

I have not yet written about how I became a Muslim, but when I do you will recognise all the hallmarks of the classic conversion story: a time of crisis followed by deep personal reflection, and the final, glorious revelation. I swear the stars aligned and I felt myself change on a molecular level at moment I decided to convert.

Except, I didn’t convert.

When I went to the mosque to say shahada (the declaration of faith), I got speaking to an old man; one of those who you know has a deep understanding of Islam, and life in general, as soon as they start to speak. You could tell he was happy to see me there. He shook my hand vigorously, grinning broadly as he congratulated me on my reversion.

“Reversion”?

He explained that conversion meant a change to Islam, whist reversion meant a change back to Islam, the implication being that everyone is born a Muslim, but that not everyone is taught Islam. Depending on your point of view this will make complete sense, or it will insult your very being.

I still refer to myself as a convert because it is a term that is widely understood and that most non-Muslims are familiar with, but I have no problem seeing myself as a revert, in fact, I think it describes my journey into Islam very well: I have not had to change who I am; I am still the same person, with the same family, the same past experiences, the same thoughts, hopes and fears.

What has changed is what I do: I pray, and I read the Quran and I fast during Ramadan, or at least I try to. After all, being a Muslim is as much about what you do as what you believe, isn’t it?

I am interested to know what other people think about the use of “convert” and “revert”. Which do you use and why? And where do you stand on intentions vs actions? Do you think that it is possible to be good Muslim without following all the rules?