White, lesbian, or working class

Is Muslim feminism really inclusive of the concerns of a Muslim woman who may also be White, lesbian, or working class?

This question may be a little far removed from what is expected of Muslim feminism. As Muslim feminists, we are concerned about what empowers us as Muslim women. The obvious place where many of us find strength is in our faith, and many more turn to sacred scripture for self-affirmation. This is perhaps where the lines between Muslim feminism and Islamic feminism blur.


Alicia on MMW.

Muslim women and non-Muslim men

I read this a long time ago on Khaled Abou Fadl’s website:

Surprising to me, all schools of thought prohibited a Muslim woman from marrying a man who is a kitabi (among the people of the book). I am not aware of a single dissenting opinion on this, which is rather unusual for Islamic jurisprudence because Muslim jurists often disagreed on many issues, but this is not one of them…

…This is the law as it exists or the legal legacy as we inherited it. In all honesty, personally, I am not convinced that the evidence prohibiting Muslim women from marrying a kitabi is very strong. Muslim jurists took a very strong position on this matter–many of them going as far as saying if a Muslim woman marries a kitabi she is as good as an apostate. I think, and God knows best, that this position is not reasonable and the evidence supporting it is not very strong. However, I must confess that in my humble opinion, I strongly sympathize with the jurists that argued that in non-Muslim countries it is reprehensible (makruh) for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim. God knows best–I have reached this position after observing that the children of these Muslim/non-Muslim marriages in most cases do not grow up with a strong sense of their Islamic identity. It seems to me that in countries like the U.S. it is best for the children if they grow up with a Muslim father and mother. I am not comfortable telling a Muslim woman marrying a kitabi that she is committing a grave sin and that she must terminate her marriage immediately. I do tell such a woman that she should know that by being married to a kitabi that she is acting against the weight of the consensus; I tell her what the evidence is; and then I tell her my own ijtihad on the matter (that it is makruh for both men and women in non-Muslim countries). After telling her all of this, I add that she must always remember that only God knows best; that she should reflect on the matter as hard as she can; then she should pray and plead for guidance from God; and then ultimately she must do what her conscience dictates.

This is quite liberating and empowering for a Muslim woman to read. We don’t see many scholars telling a Muslim woman that “she must do what her conscience dictates” even if what her conscience dictates goes “against the weight of the consensus.”

Of course, this leads to the questions: 1) How important is the the “weight of the consensus” when it is clearly almost always patriarchial? 2) How *fair* is the concensus? and more importantly, 3) Doesn’t Muslim Feminism appear to be an antithesis of  the “concensus”?

Do you know any feminist work done to the topic of Muslim women marrying Christian/Jewish men? Can you help me with some resources on ‘fatwas’ like Abou Fadl’s? What do you personally think about the topic?

On Hijab

Zuhura has an excellent post up on her blog about hijab. Many Muslim feminists cover their heads, while many others don’t.

I have some thoughts on hijab but before I share them with you I would like to know from women who don’t wear hijab why they don’t wear it. I have never been intrigued by women who wear hijab because I usually know why they cover their hair, but it is always interesting to know the nature of informed thoughts of women who consciously decide not to wear hijab.

So those women who read this blog and are “non-hijabis”, what are your thoughts on hijab?

Thank you!

Ex-Muslim feminists?

The comments on this post made me realise something. Where do we place feminists who were Muslim once? They are actively reinterpreting scripture in their own way so in some ways they behave like Muslim women whom I earlier called “Islamic feminist theologians” (the process Wadud calls Islamic Feminism), but these women are not Muslim feminists.  Women like Wafa Sultan, Taslima Nasrin and Ayan Hirsi Ali are extremely important, influential and powerful women. They are braver than the men who leave Islam because they don’t hide behind pseudonyms and they have almost always been victimised by their society in the name of religion.

Furthermore, I don’t know how to argue that what happened to them “was not Islam!” because we also acknowledge that Islam is not monolithic. What happened to Hirsi Ali, for example, is Somalian Islam. To a Yemeni girl who is married off when she turns nine years old – that is Islam. That is not *our* Islam, but then we are not Yemeni either. The Islam Nasrin knows is Bangladeshi. A woman exploited through Mutah in Iran or Misyar in Saudi Arabia experiences the Islam in these two countries. Where do we draw the line? How do we say what is Islam and what these women saw and suffered from was not Islam?

Muslims mostly reject the pain and efforts of these women because they are now outside the Circle, but how should Muslim feminists handle the fragile situation of these women? I do feel that the more we reject these women, the angrier they will become with Islam and Muslims. It is plain psychology. Should we reject their views outright? Can we learn anything from these women?

Praying behind women

Until the 15th Century the Friday khutbahs were preached in the name of the queens and women heads of states in Yemen and Iraq. That is an extreme honour because these women literally dictated the sermons so, in effect a woman did ‘deliver’ the khutbah. I have been told that there are also a couple of ahadith that suggest that women led prayers in the Prophet’s time and he acknowledged that.

However, traditionally the Friday prayer has become men’s hanging out time in a ‘religious manner.’ It is a time to create brotherhood bonds, discuss religion and politics, and generally ‘chill out’ Islamically. That is why, I believe, Friday prayers should be a soothing experience and the sermons should stimulate the intellect.

On the other hand, we must realise that women are increasingly getting involved in politics and work outside the home. They need intelligent conversation too. Where I live I have plenty of relatives living in the same town. However, all my cousins are homemakers who haven’t studied beyond high school or best attended some college courses. I share no interests with them and our conversations become extremely boring after a while because despite my efforts I cease to contribute effectively.

I think women also need congregations where their concerns are raised. I don’t want to discuss anything with men. I don’t want them to pray with me. I don’t want men to pray behind a woman. I don’t care for all that. That is not equality and that is not what interests me. I want to discuss investment opportunities for Muslim women within Islamic means and regulations. And I want to discuss it with a woman who knows about Islamic finance because I know that a man will tell me to sell jam.

We need to hear from another woman and not a man what lies for us in religion. Blogosphere is not our khutbah place. We need to connect with women in the real world. At least I need that. I want to hear what a Muslim woman like me thinks about politics, religion, feminism, marriage, child-bearing and child-raising. I want to know what God says about women. I want to know what lies in Heaven for women. I want to know how God feels about lesbians. I want to discuss the feminine side of God; how He loves us like 70 ‘mothers.’ I want to know what should be done to men who rape their wives. Sorry but the khutbahs don’t tell me all that. I want to do more than swap recipes and talk about fashion with women.

Consequently, I don’t look forward to Friday for spiritual revitalization. I wish I could look forward to it as a day when the entire family can go out and meet like-minded people; where we can spend a good hour or so praying and talking about what is important to both men and women in Islam.

Therefore, I feel that it is important for women to be included in Friday sermons. One way of doing it could be to have separate sections in the mosque where two separate khutbahs could be delivered – for men and for women by men and by women respectively. Having it on any other day after any other prayer will dampen the spirits of the many interested women because Friday prayer is so hyped up in Islam. Mosques should ideally arrange for a child-minding facility while mothers congregate because many women can’t attend Friday prayers as they have to stay home and look after their children. This way women will be able to see and communicate with the khatibah rather than peek through screens to see the khatib.

So here is what I think: feminists should stop trying to tame the shrew. Sermonizing men and women and leading them in prayer is the end product; the process is different. Women like Wadud are jumping at the result without going through the process.

First, we need to convince women that it is important for them in the 21st Century to get involved in religion and politics. Women should reach out to like-minded women and tell them that it is equally important for women to communicate and share ideas. I am very sure that women who have no where else to go if they need answers or if they are in abusive marriages will love the idea of meeting up once a week for Friday prayers and opportunities for discussions.

Would I pray behind Wadud? Yes, I would. I would do it for the novelty of it. And I would because I haven’t prayed behind an imam in many years. I don’t want to pray behind a man who has no interest in me as a human being. In all the khutbahs that I have attended, none ever addressed women issues. When Muslim men believe that woman outnumber men, shouldn’t they discuss issues that plague women? I am certain listening to Wadud speak in the khutbah would have been rejuvenating for me.

If I were in Wadud’s place I would insist on separate prayers and discussion opportunities for women. I have both led women prayers in my school and prayed behind women. It was the single most uniting experience for me. I wouldn’t care about men praying behind women just because I don’t even bother about their religiosity.

What are your thoughts on this? How many of you think equality is achieved through men praying behind women? How important is this issue for you as a feminist?