Islamic Studies

In a World of "After you" and "Ladies first"

It’s easy to get swept into this society’s norms
In a World of “After you” and “Ladies first”
All wrongs seem to come at you in the right forms.
In a World of “After you” and “Ladies first”

In a world where girls and guys can intermingle
In a world where it’s a virtue to stay single
Where the only guideline is in each persons ability
Where everyone has stripped themselves of liability

We tend to forget the people of our history
making the achievement of good deeds a mystery

such as the story of a man in madyan
who helped some women get water from a well
such as the story of a man in madyan
who into his desires, he did not sell

“come with me” the girl said
and to her father, he was led
the father was impressed with his manly nature
He wanted to see this man of great stature

on the way he did not twiddle
making sure there was no chance for shaytan to fiddle
Ahead of the girl he chose to walk
and if he were to walk too far, he bid her to throw rocks

he dared not walk behind her
not because of arrogance or pride
he dared not walk behind her
for fear he would take joy in her stride

a man of great stature indeed
a man who truly did succeed

A different story, today’s society does tell
A different story, into which many of us fell
a story of “After you” and “Ladies first”

About the author

Reehab Ramadan

After graduating from the University of Houston with a BA in Computer Science, Reehab Ramadan actively fills her time with exciting and fulfilling projects. She is a private tutor in Qur’an, a teacher at her own Hifdh class, and has served key roles in many organizations such as the MSA and Crescent Youth.

Reehab’s enriching experience in community activism, specifically with social service and youth work, provides for a rather enlightened perspective. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.

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  • Assalamu Alaikum,

    I loved the mention of Musa without mentioning his name:

    such as the story of a man in madyan
    who helped some women get water from a well
    such as the story of a man in madyan
    who into his desires, he did not sell

    I really enjoy when clues are given about people or references without the name and so we are able to see that personality through their actions or qualities.

    I do have one critique though – I feel that the poem’s primary thrust is wonderful, praising haya and controlling the gaze.

    However, I feel like it is unduly putting a liiiiittle attack on concepts of Western chivalry like “Ladies first” and “after you” which in the western context, are really not seen as moves so that men can check out women or oogle. They are just western chivalry. There is nothing originally harmful or ill-intended about that so to connect them with desires and corruption – I don’t know, I could see it turning non-Muslim readers off because many of them would be surprised that “ladies first” was linked to an immoral gaze in the Muslim mind – ….. I don’t think that really the idea behind it.

    I think there is a lot of critiquing that should and could be done about the loosness and general moral decay between genders in Western societies, but I just feel like the “ladies first” concept isn’t really one of them (at least by intent).

    Nevertheless, I think the poem encourages us to lower our gaze and reminds us of the nobility of protecting our gaze for Allah’s sake. It served as a great reminder for all of us.

    jazakillah khair

  • This is a great line:

    “All wrongs seem to come at you in the right forms.”

    “After you”, and “ladies first” convey an attitude of protection and respect to ladies. However, this poem hints that the right attitude is coming in the “wrong form”; a form that actually puts ladies on a kind of display that is not protective.

    Contrast this with ladies walking behind men, which at first appears denigrating; the “wrong form”. But the poem delicately shows how truly protective and respectful this can be.

  • A great poem. although i must add how a soceity dignifies women is upto them, Islam just gives guidlines. I agree completly with Br Abdul Sattar
    and just to make the point even this is understood by Non western people; The reaction of sisters in Saudi Arabia when I indicated for them to go first a few times in different occasions (its a habit) they were chuffed


  • Asalaamu alaykum,
    I agree with abdul sattar, indeed I was going to write what he said before I read down and saw that he had written it.
    Some times one must look beyond the action and figure out what the person means. A particular medical professional that I see is male, and I have to see him because at the time I first needed to go there weren’t many women, and the ones that there are were all fully booked. Anyhow he always encourages me and who ever is accompanying me to go first, and holds the door etc. we always just go first etc, because he is in his fifties and so he would have been taught that this is the correct way to behave, and if he had haraam intentions then he has had plenty of opportunities to try and exercise such things when examining me etc, plus I am blind so I think he just tries to be extra helpful. I also think some times if one makes a fuss, it can make it worse for the person who before you mentioned it would never have thought of looking at you. I mean if every time he stepped back to allow us to walk first I protested its just annoying, and creates an odd atmosphere, especially as he is always trying to allow me maximum coverage during my treatment, and is very considerate.

    I also know of some men who make/force women to walk behind them, because they are on some ridiculous power trip. So like even if there wife knows the way somewhere that they don’t, rather than them following her she has to try and direct them from being behind them.

    Anyhow I did enjoy reading, thank you

  • Maybe it’s just me, but in the context of this poem and its subject matter, I’m getting other connotations and indirectly a whole other scenario. That is, a courtship/dating scenario, where the chivalry has a definite purpose. I’m getting that especially because it is directly contrasted with the courtship of Musa (as) and his soon-to-be wife.

    The “ladies first” of this poem as I see it is like on a first date, where the man is showing he is a gentleman – letting her go first, opening the door for her, letting her sit down first at the restaurant, opening the car door, getting flowers, paying her dinner – in a series of behaviors intended to maximize her good opinion of him; to show he is a gentleman in order for her to feel flattered and desired.

    The date culminates in the “reward” he’s earned by this chivalry – getting a good night kiss – or possibly more – if it was a good date.

    The experience of the date would most likely be recounted (by both parties) to friends (“Is he/she a good kisser?”, “How far did you go?” “Are you going to call?” “Do you think he’ll call?”)

    As the poem suggests, “ladies first” is part of the courtship of singles (“In a world where it’s a virtue to stay single”), there is no clear purpose of marriage nor even expectation of exclusivity. Indeed, if a date started talking about marriage and being exclusive on the first date it would be usually considered very bizarre and desperate.

    Quite the opposite is expected; there is no problem if both men and women are going to be doing the exact same thing with other people the next night and the following weekend. That they were able to get so many dates might even make them more desirable to the opposite gender!

    If they both want another date, want to see each other exclusively, etc. and in some random fashion of falling in love all goes well for a few years maybe eventually there might be a request of the father to marry his daughter.

    I see “ladies first” in this poem as this kind of chivalry within a system that does not prioritize marriage — contrasted with the courtship of a muslim man whose manliness is in holding himself back from getting more or even seeing more, who goes directly to the girl’s father, whose clear intention (and the girl’s) is only marriage from the get-go.

  • “it can make it worse for the person who before you mentioned it would never have thought of looking at you” Couldnt agree more

    about the power hungry men, i cant understand them, i would feel much safer for my wife if she walked in front of me then let her walk behind me out of my sight

    Ramadan Mubarak ALL!!

  • Jazakum Allahu Khairan for all of your *Constructive* criticisms.

    Um Hana, that is EXACTLY what i was talking about when I was writing this poem! Obviously every guy who opens the door for you and lets you walk through is NOT checking you out. That was not my intention at all when writing this. My intention is ever so eloquently explained by Um Hana. Jazakillahu Khaira =).

    Ramadan Kareem to all!

  • asalaamu alaykum, ramadhan kareem to all. i have never understood the out of sight thing either, especially if it is really busy. insha allah sister (the author) you didn’t take my oppinion in an offensive way, i was just calling things as i saw them on first reading it. i wonder what about chivalry after marige. anyway thats another topic for another time possibly. may we all bennifit from this blessed month insha-allah.

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