What is Modesty in a Multicultural World?

We decided to have each member of our staff reflect on the question: What is Modesty?  Our Writing Intern, offered her perspective as Muslim woman, our Editor in Chief tried to define modesty. Today Our Author in Chief, Jenni Taylor, asks what this complex topic might mean in a multicultural world.

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I find myself at a loss when it comes to defining this word, modesty. It is a word that has caused infinite amounts of trouble around the world rather than the freedom and security that should come with spiritual truths. Love, joy and peace certainly haven’t been nearly as controversial, culturally or in my own life. Why modesty?

Currently working in China, leggy skirts and shorts are perfectly acceptable for work while shoulders or a loose blouse will earn a chastising commentary. In other places, in other times, ankles, or hair, or wrists are considered immodest.

I understand clothing modesty is only one facet of the word, but it leads us to a rather important piece of wisdom: values, even spiritual ones, CAN be cultural.

So, I’d like to gently point out that all values may contain validity, but are not equal in importance. If a value leads us to the judgement and closed hearts then maybe it merits less of our attention. In our multicultural world, multiple definitions are always acceptable, each culture can define things differently, and I can define things for myself while allowing everyone else to do the same.

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Desires, Sex, and Love

We’re pleased to share another guest post from Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote When Rituals End. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today Esraa raises questions about love and sexual desire, and whether or not they are interrelated interrelate.

“Desires” in the mere sense of the word, are the fundamental motives behind all human actions. There are plenty of desires in this world and they often overlap, one simply leads to another. Yet it is sexual desire that often comes to mind when we hear that word.

Sexual desire in parallel with one’s need to food and water comes at the base of the pyramid yet one’s urge to fulfill that desire has nothing to do with behaving like animals.  Even when I think that I’ve finally reached a verdict in that issue I find that I am, alas, still stuck in the chaotic ground of desire, sex, and love.

Deep inside my rational voice has no problem with sex as a need. You want to have sex? Then go have sex. Yet, I’m wholly perplexed when sex overlaps with love. How do the desire for love and the desire for sex blend together?

Some say there is a huge difference between making love and having sex, some even say that love can’t be reached without involving mutual sexual desires, but I really never got that point. I strongly believe in platonic unconditional love, which excludes sexual desires from the whole equation.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation. You fell for somebody, you love every single detail about them and there is no way could you see the world without them. Assuming that at the middle of your way together they no longer fit your needs, Will you give up on them? And if you did. Does it mean that you did not initially love them? That you’ve put the urge of your desires ahead of your love for them?

If I were to answer that question then definitely I wouldn’t give up on them. As long as sexual desire was an extra factor in constructing the love, then its disappearance shouldn’t in anyway ruin the relation. I  want someone to fall in love with my soul, I want to someone who would go on loving me with the same potential when I’m no longer young and beautiful.

So the question is, what are we really talking about when we talk about love? In my opinion love is something much more sacred then simple desires, or the need for sex. Love doesn’t have to be involved with sexual desires. You love someone for their soul, their personality, for the idea of them as a human being.

But in the end, I have more questions than answers. Can love exist without desire? Can desire exist without love? Can sex exist without either one?

As a kid like many others, I too went through an “Oh-No phase”, when I could not believe that my parents actually had desires, had sex, or made love. I remember how puzzling and irritating this phase was, and then at some point I thought I had cleared it all up. Yet it seems like desires, sex, and love are still just as puzzling as they were back then; as soon as the blurry image clears up, something new comes along and fogs it up again.