I have been thinking about this question ever since I have started reading the blogs of Muslim Feminists and also those who have left Islam. I notice a strong sense of individuality in the voice of Muslim Feminists and the manner in which they perceive and practice Islam is progressive, fresh and often non-traditional.
For example, before I knew anything about Islamic Feminism I wrongly assumed that all Muslims including Muslim Feminists treat homosexuality as taboo and that consequently they would exhibit homophobia. I was quite surprised to find many Muslim Feminists fighting for the rights of gays and promoting that people can be gay and Muslim.
Similarly I found that most Muslim Feminists don’t believe that men should supervise women or that husbands can discipline their wives. I also learned that a few Muslim Feminists don’t believe that hijab is compulsory and some don’t believe that Quran is the exact word of God. Yet each one of them is strongly Muslim.
This does not meant that Muslim Feminists who fight for the rights of gays or talk about the non-compulsory nature of hijab aren’t given grief. Muslims who don’t share the views of Muslim Feminists are quick to condemn and debate with them and question “what kind of islam r u talkin about? making up ur own religion…”
And this is why I have been thinking – what is Islam? Does Islam become how one practices it or is it monolithic and unchanging? Even if it is monolithic, whose Islam is the right Islam? Why are others worried about how someone practices their religion? If Islam is unchangeable then why should anyone worry how a Muslim practices their religion?
“Traditionalists” as a blogger-friend calls orthodox Muslims view Islam as rigid, unchanging with every thing that could be understood and interpreted being already understood and interpreted by the “unanimous” scholars of the past. On the other hand, progressive Muslims (and many Muslim Feminists identify with the progressive or Sufi branch of Islam) view Islam as constantly developing and morphing according to the needs of moving times. They treat Quran as a Text that can be interpreted in a number of ways for a number of people. Hence making Islam easily fit the description “for all people and all times.”
If Islam becomes how one practices it, then it is not the monolithic block of the “traditionalists” but is fluid and easily malleable like the Progressive Muslims see it.
What do you think about these questions? Do you think a religion becomes how it is practiced? A friend pointed out that others worry how we practice religion because they feel that they are “enjoining good and forbidding evil” but doesn’t that also sometimes pushes people to apostate or at least become unnecessarily defensive? Do Muslim Feminists face such people frequently who wish to “enjoin good and forbid evil”? How do such people make you feel when they want you to view things in a set manner?