The Paradisal Tilth

I read the following excerpt this morning in Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism by Haideh Moghissi (1999) and was left speechless:

In Islamic societies, the woman’s body generates fascination and pleasure. It is exploited for procreation, and as a symbol of communal dignity. It is manipulated and its activities are codified. It is covered and confined. It is disciplined for defiance and is mutilated in anticipation of trespassing – all this often sanctioned legally and, particularly, culturally. The female body is the state of struggle between the proponents and opponents of modernity and is used as a playing card between imperial and anti-imperial political forces. In Islamic societies, sexuality, the site of love, desire, sexual fulfillment and physical procreation, is, at the same time, for women, the site of shame, confinement, anxiety, compulsion. ‘With the first drop of her menstrual blood, every Muslim girl becomes a temple of her family’s honor.’ Woman’s expression of her desires and the pursuit of her interests contradicts the interests of man and challenges man’s God-given rights over woman. Underpinning the sexual and moral beliefs and practices in Islamic societies is the conception of woman as weak in moral judgment and deficient in cognitive capacity, yet sexually forceful and irresistibly seductive. The susceptibility of women to corruption, in this view, explains the obsession with sexual purity in Islamic cultures and justifies surveillance of women by family, community and state.

Managed independent of her desire and will, sexuality for women becomes the legal possession of Islamic community, umma, and, by extension, of the state. Laws pertaining to marriage and divorce speak clearly of women’s disabilities in enjoying full legal  status. The marriage contract and the termination of it, divorce, are negotiated between the state and male citizens, that is, father in the case of marriage, and husband in the case of divorce. Young virgin women, according to the Islamic Shari’a, need the permission of their fathers or guardians to enter a marriage contract; fathers can legally marry off their under-age daughters for a set price, mahr; and a man can end the marriage contract without the consent or even the knowledge of his wife. The diverging interpretations of Qur’anic rulings and various legal traditions and reforms launched in Islamic societies in the area of personal status have done little to remove women’s legal disabilities in marriage and divorce.

Islam  opposes celibacy and celebrates sexual pleasure as a legitimate right of the believer. Sex in itself is regarded as a sacred function within the domestic field… The promises made to the believer of the ‘good life’ awaiting him in Paradise, a space in which sexual indulgence with ‘eternally young’, ‘fair’ and ‘wide-eyed’ women seems to be man’s only activity, can, perhaps, expose what constituted ultimate happiness for the Muslim believer (Sabbah, 1988:91-7). Eternally lasting physical pleasure and unrestricted access to the female body as the source of physical pleasure would be delivered to the believing man in Paradise as rewards for his piety, good deeds and self-control in life. Decoding Islamic Paradise, Fatna Sabah, suggests that the Paradisal female model, the huri, represents the ideal female and, at the same time, the ideal society for the Muslim believer. The huri ‘is created to be consumed as a sexual partner, her value comes from her physical beauty, which God gives as a gift to the believer’. She is passive and is stripped of the human dimension. ‘She has been created for one sole destiny: to be consumed by the male believer.’ Given the fact that religious instructions in Islamic societies are at the same time state legislation, this concept of sexuality has specific legal consequences for women.

While approving of sexual pleasure, the Islamic orthodox view develops, at the same time, a justification for sexual hierarchy, with women as sexual objects at the service of men. The Qur’an makes men ‘the managers of the affairs of women’, requiring righteous women to be ‘obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding’, and reveal not their adornment…save to their husbands’. The sure outcome of this palpable sexual hierarchy, incorporated into family laws in Islamic societies, is that woman’s very existence is serving men, sexually and emotionally. Women are‘tillage’ for the male believer, to go to when he wishes. If a wife refuses her husband’s sexual demands, she is to be punished.

Moghissi is an articulate feminist and the issues she discusses in her book, particularly in this passage, are some that I have thought about for a long time in various ways. I was quite surprised to see a Muslim, a woman, acquiring an unsympathetic tone and literally ripping apart the Islamic doctrine related to the female gender. Her tone is honest even if harsh and you can sense the condemnation she feels for the huri, for being called a ’tilth’ and for being treated like a ‘temple of her family’s honor.’

However, like many other feminists who are Muslim and therefore who don’t know how else to understand these concepts that exist in Quran and Hadith, she calls these problems as issuing from fundamentalism.

My questions to you are:

  • How do you, Muslim women and men who are feminists, feel about this passage that I have quoted?
  • How do you feel about the ‘insinuation’ (through various verses) that women are primarily made for sex?
  • And how do you understand such insinuations for yourself? Do you, like Moghissi, blame patriarchy, ancient culture or fundamentalism? Or do you think that is how nature is – women are created for sex?
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51 thoughts on “The Paradisal Tilth

  1. sarah says:

    As a Muslim and a woman I have never been led to believe that I am primarily for sex. In all my reading and listening to speeches, and in my personal prayer – I have always been encouraged to have my own relationship with God. This is the cornerstone of faith.

    I have no problem in admitting that women are objects of sexual desire – but that is not their main function. Their sacred role as a mother, a guardian for the future Ummah, is honoured and requires her to employ her brains, intellect and physical strength. As a mother, a daughter and sister she is not a sexual object. The rules on ‘purdah’ and covering should ensure that the sexuality of women is confined as being for the benfit (mutually) of the husband within the marital bond.

    There are many hadith which instruct men to think of women’s sexual pleasure durring sex and not just their own needs.

    Culturally and in practice perhaps some of the qoutes have a truth to them but from my own perspective this is only one aspect of my life as a Muslim woman.

    • Metis says:

      Thank you Sarah! I liked your last paragraph; it makes sense to me.

      I can understand that from reading and lectures you have been told about your different roles which I think every Muslim woman benefits from immensely; but, from your own reading of the Quran, how do you reconcile with the thought of the “Paradisal woman” or being called a tilth, for example? How do you understand that in the Quran at least chastity equals piety for women (chapter 4; 05:05; and 4:34)? How do you feel about the fact that Quran only refers to one role of a Muslim woman – that our roles as mothers, sisters and daughters are not really mentioned in the Quran?

      I am actually trying to understand how other Muslim feminists understand these issues now that I know how Moghissi and Sabah tackle these problems.

  2. Lat k says:

    This form of paradisal tilth is anti-women and does have fundamental issues for muslim women.
    Firstly what is a huri to a woman who attains paradise? If a huri is of no consequence to a believing woman,then she can trash her all she wants! She plays a highly eroctizied function that a female believer cannot and ever fulfill.She is but a product of primarily envisioned by male imagination only.

    I wonder what women those days thought of this.It would have been wonderful to read what stand they took where these hadiths are concerned.Can you imagine Aisha being told that she was half-deficient in intellect and morality? How would she have reacted to men who came to her seeking her knowledge in religion? If she and other women thought themselves as only made for sex,what were they doing giving lectures on religious issues, other than how to clean oneself after having sex?

    Patriachal and cultural backgrounds do have impact on these views. And the author’s opinions are largely based on hadith narrations that are very anti-women.This is largely made to believe so that women will know and accept their place as God sanctioned it.And it worked.Women are not primarily made for sex and if she is so then so is Man! A very hyper sexualised being!

    The tilth of paradise has more meaning to it as ‘sowing of seeds’ can refer to an increase of knowledge and wisdom.What’s the point of talking about physically sowing a seed in the huri got to do in paradise? Believers are there to enjoy the fruits of their labours that they planted on earth.They aren’t going there grow ‘plants’.Well that’s how I understand the Quranic verses and more.

    • Metis says:

      Really enjoyed your comment, Lat! Thanks. This reference to Huris and their effect on earthly women really interested me because I think they create an unachievable standard.

      Not the paradise tilth, but how do you understand the concept of Huris (the Paradisal Tilth) and how do you understand women being called the Tilth of men? How comfortable are you with these terms and concepts?

      • Lat says:

        I think it was Asma Barlas who said something like ‘cultivation’ to the word ’tilth’,meaning vaginal sex? Possibly a proper or decent way to engage in sex without harm done to the woman,I think.The rest of the verse is also a little confusing as to what does , ‘do some good act for your souls beforehand…” mean. Some say foreplay to charity and prayers.

        In Indian culture,agricultural soil is treated with respect.They pray before they start to do any work in the farm.They don’t wear shoes and so forth.Basically it is sacred or holy.Do you think it could somewhat have the same meaning here?

        Comfortable? what do you think? 🙂 I think it possible just possible that this huri thing could be a prophecy for the future world,meaning today.How it ended up to taking a place in the pleasures of the hereafter is really confusing and it doesn’t make sense unless I remove them….totally.

        • Metis says:

          Ibn Kathir explained it like this much before Barlas. According to Ibn Kathir, Ansari women didn’t allow their husbands to approach them from behind saying the children would be produced squint. So the Prophet recited this verse. However, it is confusing because according to Ibn Kathir the full narration is:

          “he (the Prophet) recited this Ayah: (Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth, when or how you will.) He added: (Only in one valve (the vagina).)”

          “but do some good act for your souls beforehand” was not recited at that point, it seems.

  3. unsettledsoul says:

    * How do you, Muslim women and men who are feminists, feel about this passage that I have quoted?
    * How do you feel about the ‘insinuation’ (through various verses) that women are primarily made for sex?
    * And how do you understand such insinuations for yourself? Do you, like Moghissi, blame patriarchy, ancient culture or fundamentalism? Or do you think that is how nature is – women are created for sex?

    1. Anger. I feel anger when reading the quoted passage, because I know this is how a lot of cultures view it, and it is how a lot of women are viewed. Yet I also feel like saying “duh, of course” lol.. Because this is how all monotheistic, patriarchal religion is. Men are telling stories to other men about who and what women are. Women are not the ones with a say about who they are and what they represent, at least not in the interpretations. So men uphold these “beliefs” and “traditions” even to this day, while women who are speaking up and trying to have their say, are labeled as frauds.

    2. How do I feel about the insinuation that women are primarily made for sex? Well, again, I feel like it is nothing new. That is partriarchy in general, not just Islamic patriarchy. The American media itself sends that exact same message to society. Muslims and Non-Muslims have different ways of enforcing it, of course, but in the end all of it is about the use of women’s bodies, hence, their sexuality. Non-Muslims tend toward the exploitation of the female body, while Muslims and other religions tend toward the control of the female body. Either way it is something that is not for us to decide ourselves. We are subjected to it.

    3. I see it as proof we are still an oppressed/repressed/disadvantaged minority. In America, among non Muslims and with the media, I am seen as a sexual object to be exploited. I am valued for my beauty, my youth, and my body. Once that runs out I am invisible.
    In Muslim countries that practice shariah I am seen as a sexual object that must be controlled out of fear of my independence and who or what I would be if I was not controlled.

    In both instances, clothes have become the proving ground.

    We are minorities. We deal with the same prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping of any group that is not the majority in power.

    Islamic religion is no different. Men use it for manipulation. Story of our lives.

    • Metis says:

      Wow! That is even more honest than Moghissi! 😀 Thanks US! I will think more about your comment and if there are questions I will pick your brain, ok?

  4. sarah says:

    Metis, I do not think that the Quran refers to women in one category. There is the story of Maryam – in whose name her the messiah is always refered to in the Quran. She is described as being very pious and Godly. There is also the wife of Pharoah who was steadfast aginst the tyranical rule of her husband. There is the example of the Queen of Sheeba, a woman of power and influence. There is also the example of Abu Lahab’s wife. So women are not absent from the Qur’an they are everywhere in it;s pages as wives, mother’s, monarchs, daughters, etc.

    And there are countless examples of the phrase ‘those who believe’ and ‘believing men and believing women’. These passages speak to me as an individual and not just as a sexual being.

    • Metis says:

      Sarah, I was talking about Muslim women. Mary, Queen of Sheeba and Asiya were women who had long died before Islam. I was referring to women who were being addressed in the Quran through the men. Women are referred to 86 times in the Quran. From that, about 20 verses refer to women who had existed before Islam. Some 10-13 verses refer to both believing men and believing women. The rest all refer to women during the Prophet’s time or the Muslim women from the Ummah and their roles as other than a wife are never once discussed in those verses. You are right that Quran lays emphasis on chastity of men as well but do you think it links male chastity to piety like it links women’s piety?

      At least that it what I noticed which is why I wondered about this excerpt for a long time. I don’t completely agree with it but it made me think.

  5. sarah says:

    As for chastity – it is for men and women – not just for women. I would expect a relgiouns minded Muslim man to be abstinent before marrriage as well as women. As for chastity equalling piety, I think it speaks more about the dignity of women. A woman is more dignified if she conducts herself in an appropriate manner. ‘Loose’ women have never been respected across most cultures and religions. It’s just that the modern world does not equate chasitity with virtue nor sexual intercourse before marriage with immorality. I don’t seek to judge other women but I am quite comfortable believing that abstinance before marriage is preferred but I hold this as true equally for men and women.

  6. Zuhura says:

    I agree with Mernissi completely, though I think most of this is true in all patriarchies, and thus independent of Islam (though it takes particular forms within Islam). I’m curious about this huri business, though. I’ve heard that many times but I didn’t see it in the translation of the Qur’an I’ve read (Muhammad Asad’s). Where is it? I’d like to compare different translations.

    I’m not sure I agree that the Qur’an implies women are made primarily for sex, but it certainly does speak to men more than women (on a literal level at least) so it’s understandable that it’s been interpreted in ways that favor men.

    Metis, what do you mean by “feminists who are Muslim […] don’t know how else to understand these concepts that exist in Quran and Hadith” other than by labeling them fundamentalism? Personally, I would label them literalism used to buffer patriarchal interpretations, but you seem to be suggesting there is some other means to understand these concepts. If there is, please share it!

    • Metis says:

      Well, there is the esoteric interpretation but I really don’t think early Muslim men were too smart for that kind of analysis. To them Quran was literal and hence acceptable.

      The Huris are the “Hoor-al-ain” in 56:22; 44:54; 37:48. Asad being one of the most modern translators appeals to our modern sensibilities a lot more but I now feel like the earliest commentators were not dishonest or any more patriarchal than the first Muslims. In fact I think their thought was much closer to the earliest thought.

      • Zuhura says:

        You seem to be suggested that “the earliest thought” is the preferable one. Is that what you mean? I’d say the earliest thought was uber-patriarchal and should definitely not be a model for us. Thanks for the verses. I will look them up when I get home.

        • Metis says:

          “I’d say the earliest thought was uber-patriarchal and should definitely not be a model for us.”

          I never thought like that and I must say I like it – that is ijtihad – Muslims of every generation should read Quran according to their times. I completely agree with that.

          I don’t think the earliest thought is ‘preferable’ but I do think it was/is closest to what was initially intended. Some Muslim scholars like Reza Aslan think that Quran was meant to have evolved hence it wasn’t codified by the Prophet but I don’t know how to accept that. The Huris, for example, are explained in great detail in hadith and the explanations are compatible with the Quranic mention. But I know that many contemporary Muslims reject those ahadith. It seems like early Muslims were these patriarchs who imagined the Huris and then created ahadith to fit that imagination, and I don’t know what to think about that.

          • Lat says:

            “It seems like early Muslims were these patriarchs who imagined the Huris and then created ahadith to fit that imagination,”

            That’s exactly how I think.It’s not that they were completely wrong themselves.Since they simply may not have known what’s a huri is,with a female verb or turned noun, hur was conveniently converted to a woman.They could have derived ideas from someplace else to help this match making take place.Or in other words to make more sense of the verses to understand them.

  7. Becky says:

    Thank you unsettledsoul, you managed to put my thoughts and feelings into words much more eloquently than I could’ve done myself.

  8. sarah says:

    Metis, perhaps I had missed that aspect of your comment. But I think that those women are ‘Muslim’ in the sense that they followed God. If their stories are related in the Quran it is because they are directly related to me as a Muslim woman and I can learn from their example.
    Are the Huris literally loads of women waiting for heaven where every carnal desire can be indulged without limit? To me it is not literal but is just an illustration of motivation towards wanting heaven. Heaven has to be depicted as desirable and Houris appeal directly to men’s basest desires. Perhaps the idea does not entirely appeal to women in the same way – our sexual desire and satisfaction function differently.
    It comes to the question of whether these are literal states of being in the next life. Will we really be drinking rivers of wine or burning in Hell or are these just images used to motivate and disuade.

    • Metis says:

      Metaphorical meaning is one that I mostly hear from contemporary readers of the Quran and one that appeals to me most even though I don’t really know if that was the initial meaning.

      “Heaven has to be depicted as desirable and Houris appeal directly to men’s basest desires. ”

      That is a valid point but again is it a valid *religious* point? Is it ok to bring the level of Paradise – the Ultimate and Pure Garden – down to the ”basest desires”? Another point – wouldn’t it be almost a lie to tell people what they want to hear but what will not be so?

  9. Amira says:

    Many Muslims draw parallels between the Muslim world and the West and between Islam and Christianity. It is a fair analysis but I don’t know if it is the right approach. There are over a billion Muslims who have chosen Islam for themselves and we believe in Islam’s perfection and supremacy so if Islam is perfect it weakens the argument for me if I have to compare it with Christianity and say it is just as patriarchal as Christianity. If it is just as patriarchal then why did I convert?! I should have tried to reinterpret Christianity rather than abandon it for Islam.

    Can you tell that this excerpt you have posted is going to give me a sleepless night? 😀

    • Becky says:

      Well I converted from Christianity to Islam, because I became convinced that Jesus (pbuh) wasn’t the son of God, but “merely” a prophet.
      That doesn’t change that the way Islam is usually interpreted, the traditions and culture that have become associated with Islam are not deeply patriarchal.

      • Metis says:

        Becky, that is very interesting. I am reading a book about why women convert to Islam and it appears that most actually come to similar conclusions as you. So did you convert only for this reason or did you find Islam most compatible with your understanding of the “status of women”? Did you ever consider Monotheistic Christianity? I’m intrigued because apparently most people don’t even consider Monotheistic Christianity and think Islam is the only religion that teaches that Jesus was a prophet. I was recently pleasantly surprised to meet a number of monotheistic Christians at a comparative religions meeting. They are more in number than we think they are!

        • Becky says:

          Metis, I’d never even heard of monotheistic Christians!
          Well, for me it was a number of things. I was studying the differences between Islam and Christianity, and like I said, became more and more convinced that Jesus (pbuh) wasn’t the son of God, but merely a Prophet. Then as I was studying Islam, I started to become convinced that Mohammed (pbuh) also was a Prophet. I did also feel, that women are treated more respectfully and equally in the Qu’ran, than in the Bible and the Torah.
          I was a Christian before (not just by name), grew up in a very Christian family so it did take several weeks (though mind you, I had first started learning about Islam about 4 years before that) of careful studying, thinking and praying, until one day I just “knew” that converting was the right thing for me to do.

        • Becky says:

          And for some reason it posted my comment above yours, not beneath, sorry!

      • Zuhura says:

        Becky, did you mean to say *are* deeply patriarchal?

    • Metis says:

      Amira, Welcome to Metis and sorry that this post will give you sleepless nights 😀 That was not my intention at all!

      I think I know what you mean.

  10. luckyfatima says:

    I think Moghissi is spot on if she takes a look at what these verses have meant to people throughout the centuries.

    I know some will find this apologistic. But can we say that Paradise is full of rivers and greenery? Perhaps such language is metaphorical and alludes to a Paradise beyond human comprehension, but is described in language that can appeal to desert people. Perhaps there are no houris and no Purified Companions exactly, but this is language for the simple man to understand. I do not want “ghilmaan” or male-houris in my Paradise.

    I tried to google you up an essay called The Hoor’s Last Sigh…you may have read it, but it is a few years old and seems to no longer be online. Moghissi is not the first or last Muslim woman to think about such issues.

    • Metis says:

      It is online – The Hoor’s Last Sigh by Ali Eteraz – http://alieteraz.com/hoor/

      That is right; she isn’t the first one but what Sabah said is something quite dangerous – the effects of such a creation even if metaphorical on the entire ummah. I think I’ll do another post on it just now.

    • unsettledsoul says:

      I think all of us women believe, or at least I hope, that we have a purpose greater than just a sexual object. My point though, is that although we all believe that, is it how society treats us, as a whole? I know that is a bit off topic, but was my immediate thought after reading #2

      • unsettledsoul says:

        For some reason it posted on top of the comment I was referring to.. Anyway that was a reaction to Sumera’s comment

  11. Sumera says:

    Moghissi seems to be ranting as opposed to making an intellectual argument. I feel in that paragraph you have quoted that she has done what many others do; take things on face value, looking at the historical and cultural context – just really a mini rant really!

    1. I feel she should’ve gave up when she started the first sentence, because it is mere generalisations

    2. I believe I have a purpose greater than being a prop for physical enjoyment – Eve was created to provide companionship for Adam, to complete him; and their general purpose was to worship God. Women as well as men are created primarily for the sake of worshipping Him. Everything else is secondary.

    3. Patriarchy and cultural hang ups. What people fail to recognise in many of the Islamic laws regarding marriage and gender interaction is the cultural and historical context of the era in which they were laid down – and that not all of the observations made by the Prophets wives (such as wearing niqaab, not marrying after being widowed, not gaining any inheritance) were specific to them only and not to the ordinary Muslim women.

  12. Sumera says:

    take things on face value, not* looking at the historical and cultural context – just really a mini rant really!

    • Metis says:

      Sumera, in all fairness to Moghissi she does base most of her discussion on the fundamental attitudes (as related to the title of her book) of a few countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. She gives a lot of examples from the actions of these countries. But I completely agree with your 2nd point.

  13. mariam says:

    salam 🙂
    when I read your post , I felt a big anger both from situation of women in Islamic countries and from muslim feminists like Moghissi who blame all things(including dying a fog in one of remote areas of Islamic countries!!) on Islam.
    honestly while reading Quran I have not felt that” women are created for sex” .( I try to be free of any bias ,while reading Quran).I am still struggling with many issues in Quran but I dont think my problems as a muslim woman in my country stem from existing word ” Huri ” in Quran.she is exaggerating about it.
    personaly I have many problems with assuming Huri as reward of men :
    -what about homosexual men ?
    -what about those men who love their wives too much that wish and pray that be with their this world partners after death, they want their soulmates no other woman!
    -in my idea those that should be feel offended by Huri are not women but men themselves.how cheap and low level is piety and Taqwa of men that can be awarded with sex with girls. why I have not heard about Huri debate from this side?
    and last issue , why she generalize all Islamic countries ? there is a big difference between Iran , Pakistan and Saudi Arabia .each country has its own characteristics.culture is completly missed in writing of Moghissi( what you posted).role of culture is far greater than Islam in most Islamic countries.bashing and blaming Islam is a easy task but studing cultures is far difficult.I want to ask some question from Moghissi:
    can you say why there is a big, meaningful difference between average marriage age in two city of Iran?( Kermanshah and Ardabil)
    can you say why in city of Ilam women are burned for being pregnant out of wedlock and in city of Shiraz a woman with same situation is helped to abort her child?
    can you say why divorce rate in Tehran is 1 in 3 marriage and divorce rat in Zahedan is 1 in 27 marriage?
    and this list of questions countinues and seems endless( in my idea).
    I advice to all readers to read ” post American World” by Farid Zakaria in some parts of his book clearly explain why Europa became Europa and India became India! just one word CULTURE .United State is United State because of its culture and Saudi Arabia is Saudi Arabia because of its culture not because of Christinity or Islam 🙂
    mariam-Iran

    • unsettledsoul says:

      I totally agree with mariam’s comment! The idea of Huri is definitely more common in Arabic speaking countries. In malaysia and indonesia and the southern phillippines, noone has ever even heard of (hence, been taught) : when they go to paradise they will have wide eyed virgins, etc etc etc…

      I think most people focus on the middle east for just about everything they think of Islam, even though southeast asia is actually the most populous Muslim region in the world. My husband is from Malaysia and was raised to believe if a man goes to paradise he will be with his wife for eternity. When the hijackers on 9/11 were caught and this whole story about “99 wide eyed virgins in heaven” came out, he was like “WHAT?!” He swore up and down he had never heard of anything so ridiculous.

      I think this entire concept of Huri is only particular to certain regions, and is definitely focused on by certain cultures, not others. I totally agree with mariam that we should be focusing on how cultures practice Islam.

      I know Lat (one of your readers) is from Malaysia, am I correct Lat? Were you ever raised with any knowledge of Huri?

      Possibly it is just my husband’s experience, but I notice southeast asia’s way of practicing Islam is certainly different from middle eastern ways. I think this has much to do with culture.

        • Lat says:

          Checked it out,the comments are hilarious! But it also proves the point of the importance of culture that mariam spoke earlier.

      • Lat says:

        Hi unsettledsoul!

        I’m not Malaysian but Singaporean.And you’re right that SEA Islam is practiced differently from the ME.I like this ‘Islam’,if I can so so 🙂 This is because primarily Islam was introduced by the Sufis here.

        It’s true that I was not raised with the thought of huri or with boys and men teasing us about them.Religious people in my extended family never ever mentioned huri to anyone.Maybe because they found her blasphemous 🙂 But I agree with you that the huri is definitely an Arabian Nights fantasy!

    • Metis says:

      Mariam, I don’t think Sabah or Moghissi were deliberately exaggerating the concept of Houris. They are very much part of Islamic literature (see my comment here which has reference to a few ahadith from a collection of many more). I was under the impression that all Muslims know about them; it is really an eye-opener that many cultures don’t talk about houris so I’m glad I posted this. Moghissi is Iranian and since she knew about houris I assumed all Iranians accept the concept.

      In the book she does refer to the same point you make that Islam is *not* monolithic and that Islamic cultures differ from one another. She makes the point that Armenian Muslims find no problem with eating pork, for example but even the mention of it to other Muslims would be blasphemous. Or she refers to the Hudood Ordinance of Pakistan and its problems. She also refers to Khomeni regime often.

      But yes she did shock me with this passage.

    • Metis says:

      One more point – I once asked a woman scholar that same question – what happens to gay men, what do they get? Her answer was simple: “Who said they will be in heaven!” !!

  14. Sumera says:

    Nice points mariam! I agree

  15. susanne430 says:

    I’m not a Muslim so I don’t feel this post was directed at me, but I have enjoyed reading the thoughts each commenter provided. Interesting stuff!

  16. wafa' says:

    Men in general -the majority of them- thinks or like to believe that women are here to fullfil their -the men- sexual desire.
    As a woman i hate the preaching that “i was created for sex”. Yes, a lot preach that and if someone argue with these ideas they would simply retreat to “we -both sex- were created to worship God-. Look at the haidth they are preaching to make a woman’s only goal in life is to satisfy the man’s sexual need. Are not we -women-going to be cursed constantly if we refused to sleep with our husbands until he forgive her !! or the one hadith of how important the man’s right that even if he his wife kept licking his ulcer it wont be enough or repay him justice.

    Yes, there are a few things here and there of how to please a woman sexually but nothing compares to men’s need.

    So…
    either
    1- our religion -or all- are in favor of men and their needs, which is kinda hard to believe since we are created equally.
    or
    2-most of these interpretation are made by men so of course they are going to be in favor of their sex and made up a few hadiths on the way to men’s sexual power.
    or
    3- we are created only to satisfy men ,which is not true at all, why ? cuz the Quran stated clearly that we are BOTH created to worship Allah, not men.

    the problem is not with men, they are big children, anyway. but with women who believe in all that.

    Btw, what about women who never married in life, what would she get in the herafter !!!

  17. Sara says:

    “Islam opposes celibacy and celebrates sexual pleasure as a legitimate right of the believer.”

    YEAH!

    “sexual indulgence with ‘eternally young’, ‘fair’ and ‘wide-eyed’ women seems to be man’s only activity”

    Aaaand no.

    Never underestimate how blind patriarchy has made us. God would never sink so low as to be patriarchal.
    It’s an insult to men that the reward they get is endless sex with virgins. If all men are like that then we might as well all be lesbians.
    Oh wait – that’s haram.

    • Metis says:

      “It’s an insult to men that the reward they get is endless sex with virgins. If all men are like that then we might as well all be lesbians.”

      That is exactly what my husband says!

  18. […] 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 […]

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