Removed from Societal Context: Verse 33:53, the Veil, and the role of Umar

Umar, the only corrupted caliph of the first four, publicized stoning as a punishment for adultery, a penal ordinance that does not appear in the Qur’an and was delivered by the Prophet in cases when the adulterer was non-Muslim, such as the case of a Jewish woman in Medina whose people had agreed to an Islamic government only if it were separated from Jewish law. The Prophet, in order to keep peace and maintain religious freedom by recognizing non-Muslim laws among the residents he governed, allowed Jewish citizens to maintain their own sub-courts. However, association of stoning with Islamic law was promulgated by Umar after the Prophet’s death.

Unsurprisingly, Umar was known to be cruel to his wives and to physically assault them. Attempting to confine women to their homes, Umar also sought to deter women from attending prayers at the mosques, and, though he failed to accomplish this, managed temporarily to assign not only separate groups but separate imams for men and women. Although the men were led by an imam of their own sex, the women, of course, were led not by a female imam but a male one. They were also prevented from being imams themselves, though while the Prophet was alive, a woman—Umm Waraqa—was appointed to lead both men and women in prayer. This separation arrangement was revoked by the succeeding caliph, Uthman.

Part of Umar’s agenda to confine women to separate quarters manifested in his prohibition for Muhammad’s wives to go on pilgrimage, from which they had not been forbidden while the Prophet was alive. He lifted the restriction the year before he died, but the (historically influential) damage of this and other laws was done. It was not the first time that Umar sought to regulate the behaviors of women by restricting their ability to travel or interact with the opposite sex; while Muhammad was alive, Umar insisted that the Prophet separate his wives from himself, as was the practice of wealthy leaders. Umar was initially unsuccessful with this, as Muhammad did not have his own separate room but shared different rooms with his wives on different nights. While it is true that Muhammad’s wives were harassed by hypocrites who would attempt to assault them, Umar’s proposed solution (that the wives make themselves unrecognizable as the Prophet’s wives by separating themselves from the Prophet) was different from God’s—which was the veil.

But unlike what is commonly understood as the function of the veil, the purpose of the hijab is to separate the intimacy between a wedded couple from the patriarchal intrusions of the outside world. When the Prophet married Zeynab bint Jahsh, a woman renowned for her incredible beauty, he was quietly frustrated by indiscreet male guests who overstayed their welcome, and—as the verse curiously notes that none of the Prophet’s wives are permissible to other men—may have been meddling for indecent reasons. The verse reads,

O you who have believed!
do not enter
the houses of the Prophet
except when you are permitted for a meal,
without awaiting its readiness.
But when you are invited,
then enter;
and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking
to remain for conversation.
Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet,
and he is shy of [dismissing] you.
But God is not shy of
the truth.
And when you ask [his wives] for something,
ask them from behind a partition.
That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.
And it is not conceivable or lawful for you
to harm the Messenger of God
or to marry his wives after him
, ever.
Indeed, that would be in the sight of God an enormity.
(33:53)

It is clear from context then that the notion of whether the men were inappropriately interested in the new bride is not one that is out of question. This opens the verse to the possibility of an abstract interpretation: a veil over the heart, to ensure its purity.

Fawzia Afzal-Khan writes in “A Feminist Reclamation of Islam?” the following:

“The verse on the hijab descended at precisely the moment when the Prophet’s desire to consummate his marriage to the beautiful Zeynab was frustrated by the boorish behavior of his male guests who kept sitting in his living room long after the wedding banquet was over, and who the overly polite (“bordering on timid” as Mernissi describes him)—prophet of Islam, simply could not muster up enough courage to ask to leave. Finally, when they did depart, one male companion still hovered around, by the name of Anas Ibn Malik, and it is he who reported the event of the revelation of the verse about hijab as a witness.

Thus, according to Mernissi, the circumstances of this revelation point to an understanding of the notion of hijab as a tool to protect the intimacy of the wedded pair—their privacy—and to do so by excluding a third person, the man named Anas. He becomes a symbol, then, of a male dominant community that had become too invasive in the life and personal affairs of the prophet.”

This means that the hijab, in the most traditional sense, is meant to serve as a sanctuary against patriarchy; and not in the wear-this-and-you-will-be-protected-from-the-male-gaze kind of way accorded by mainstream, contemporary interpretations of Islam. Rather, it is meant to preserve the private expression and pursuit of Divine Love within a marriage from the overbearing reach of patriarchal exhibitionism.

Originally intended to keep out overbearing men, like Umar who attempt to tell other men how to behave toward their wives and seek to seclude them, from the privacy of quiet, marital understanding, the veil, over the centuries, has been misconstrued as a symbol of the exclusive rights of a husband to the beauty of his wife. In reality, the husband is included behind the veil, encompassed in a shield of love, and protected from the bellicose forces of masculine performance and societal expectations. Umar, patriarchy embodied, had attempted numerous times to impose the patriarchal practices of pre-Islamic societies and of the surrounding cultures onto Muhammad—an infamous preoccupation of the patriarchal male.

The hijab-literally ‘curtain’—‘descended,’ not to put a barrier between A man and a woman, but between two men.

(Mernissi 85)

A woman’s beauty, of course, belongs to no one, and can be policed by no one. Umar had tried—for the rest of time Umars will continue, in vain, to try.

Posted in feminism, Feminism, hi'jab, interpretation, marriage, misconceptions, Quran | Leave a comment

Nahida sums up what is happening, in case you’ve been living under a rock.

When Colonialism Isn’t Enough Boko Haram, the male extremist militia who laughably refer to themselves as People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad, is still terrorizing Nigeria. Scholarly male douchebags of color who have claimed that Boko Haram is responding to a culmination of income inequalities, deprivation & poverty, insecurity, and political corruption fail to explain why Nigerian women who also suffer from income inequalities, deprivation & poverty, insecurity, and political corruption aren’t kidnapping schoolboys to traffic into sexual slavery. Since 2009, the male extremist group has slaughtered thousands and are responsible for the rape of hundreds of schoolgirls.

According to Boko Haram, women needn’t attend school because–as their name reads–Boko Haram’s philosophy is that ‘Western education is a sin.’ This, of course, provides men of color all the more opportunity to blame Boko Haram’s crimes against God on the imposition of the West in Nigeria, a symptom of colonialism that has, again, failed to manifest in the women who’ve suffered not only from colonialism but misogyny. But men of color, like white men, will find any excuse to rape women. What’s the difference between a white man and a man of color? The excuse he gives for rape.

Nigerian women have bravely protested and resisted the terror of Boko Haram, initiating every kind of movement except any that match Boko Haram in organized violence and sheer terror, because Nigerian women, like all women everywhere since the beginning of time, are fucking angels.

ISIS is really uncool, and so is the questionably racist propaganda circulating about them Solidarity to the Iraqi Christians who have been forcibly removed from their homes by the absurdly erratic ISIS, who not only insist that women comply with their restrictive dress codes, but have blown up religious sites revered by Christians and Muslims alike. Is it just me or can men seriously not aim? Did the West impose its educational system on you? Take it out on non-Western women! Did the US unlawfully invade your country and bomb it to the Stone Age? Take it out on Christians who have also been bombed to the Stone Age! In like, the same country. For the love of God, stop scoring into your own goal.

In White People Are Assholes type news, someone spread a rumor that ISIS is mandating FGM for all women and girls, which is bullshit and never happened. Where would you get that idea. Could it be STEREOTYPES.

Update: ISIS crucified 8 Christian members of a rival rebel group. What kind of psycho thinks of things like this? (The Romans, you answer, but it’s a little more twisted to do it to Christians for apostasy. That is like a special kind of sick.)

Israel is trying to be white Oh, what the hell, Israel IS white. They are all European Jews, and anyone who is not a European Jew is sterilized for being the Wrong Kind of Jew. Israel receives $3 BILLION dollars in funding from the US because it’s a US colony. It’s a US colony in which white people from all over Europe, who happen to be the Right Kind of Jew, recreate the ultimate vision of Manifest Destiny, slaughtering nearly a thousand Wrong Kind of Muslims and Christians in a matter of weeks. Certain imams believe the Palestinians are being murdered because they aren’t pious enough. I see your poor application of 13:11 and raise you 29:10.

Muslims in China are fired for being Muslims in China “He told me that his relatives back home were asking: would their fast count if they were forced to eat and drink by the government during the day? [...] I asked him how the government does this. He replied that there is a public luncheon (for example his relative is a schoolteacher) and the Muslims are monitored to see if they eat or drink. So there are people whose job it is to check whether Muslims are eating or not. [...] I asked what were the consequences if they refused. He said that best case scenario is that they would eventually lose their jobs, and worst case scenario, jail and imprisonment and fines.” via Yasir Qadhi-who-should-have-never-said-that-one-thing.

According to a friend of mine who’s lived in Saudi her whole life, the government will beat you up if you’re a man who’s seen eating during Ramadan. (They leave the women alone, for menses I presume.)

If no one else pisses me off sufficiently, regular posts pertaining to Islamic feminism will now resume.

Posted in feminism, Islamophobia, misogynoir, rape culture, War On Women | Tagged | 18 Comments

You have the right to bear children.

You have the right to bear children. No one may enter your body and alter the state of your existence with an entitled twist of cold medical instruments. If you are impoverished, you have the right to bear children. If you are disabled, you have the right to bear children. If you are of color, you have the right to bear children. If you are transgender, if you are intersex, if you are not heterosexual, if you are diaspora embodied, if you are ill, if you cannot read this, you have the right to bear children. You have the right to bear children in a country that is not yours. You have the right to bear children who may “burden” society for 18 years. You have the right to bear children of men who resemble you. You have the right to bear children of men whose hearts have been crushed by the weight of distress. You have the right to bear children of women in male bodies. You have the right to bear children you cannot afford. You have the right to bear children who are disabled, of color, transgender, like you. You have the right to bear children. You have the right to love, and you have the right to bear children.

And once they have been birthed, your children have the right to exist.

#ENDForcedSterilization

Posted in child rights, class, color, culture, feminism, misogynoir, morality, race, religion, social justice, War On Women | Tagged , | 5 Comments

State of Israel Devises Ethnic Cleansing of Ethiopian Jews and Palestinians

Ayelet Shaked is a parliament member and lawmaker in Israel, the settler state built on Palestinian land, who remarked that all Palestinian mothers “have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” appearing unaware that her agenda and occupation of Palestinian land breeds the “terrorists” intent on re-securing their homes and human rights. Although Shaked supposedly represents only the politically far-right of Israel, the rest of the occupying state actualizes her vision, as more than 425 Palestinian citizens have been killed and over 3,000 are injured. At least 100 of these are “terrorist” children.

At Shifa Hospital, a girl who looked about 9 was brought into the emergency room and laid on a gurney, blood soaking the shoulder of her shirt. Motionless and barely alive, she stared at the ceiling, her mouth open. There was no relative with her to give her name. The medical staff stood quietly around her. Every now and then, they checked her vital signs, until it was time. They covered her with a white sheet, and she was gone. A few moments later, a new patient lay on the gurney.

On the side of the occupiers, 18 soldiers are killed, and 2 citizens.

Basically sums up your author's position.

Basically sums up your author’s position.

The tactics of the occupiers to target women to prevent the birth of children are unsurprising, given both the widespread implementation of ethnic cleansing throughout the history of any illegal occupation as well as Israel’s obsession of producing a nation of non-black Jewish citizens in order to maintain the majority. Not only have Bedouin women been aware for decades of the shifty atmosphere,

But the hospital also inspires troubling rumors, the most alarming of which involves a general distrust of Caesarean sections owing to fears of un-consented sterilization. Other rumors suggest that hospitals “use Bedouin women’s placentas for all kinds of experiments and even sell them.”

but these “rumors” are supported as Israeli officials admit that Ethiopian Jewish immigrants are forcibly sterilized. The immigrants themselves have verified this claim.

“They told me if you don’t take the shot, we won’t give you a ticket, so I took the shot, but I didn’t know that it would prevent pregnancies. I didn’t know,” one woman told RT correspondent Paula Slier.

The vaccination, Depo-Provera, forcibly sterilized 13,000 impoverished women, half of whom were black, in the U.S. state of Georgia as a cruel human experiment during which several of the women were unaware that their bodies were being used for immoral scientific advancement. A great many of them died. Consequently, white women were provided with safe methods of birth control.

The same injection has been forcibly used for several years on Ethiopian women in the settler state, a strategic method to curb a population it views as inferior. Forced sterilization, under the guise of “birth control” campaigns, has been paraded by several United States organizations (as well as employed in US-backed Israel) throughout non-white countries, carried out by even reputably benevolent organizations, such as the Peace Corps. As Frances M. Beal writes in “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” “[...]what the authorities in charge of these programs refer to as “birth control” is in fact nothing but a method of outright surgical genocide.[...] Under these circumstances, it is understandable why certain countries view the Peace Corps not as a benevolent project, not as evidence of America’s concern for underdeveloped areas, but rather as a threat to their very existence. This program could more aptly be named the Death Corps.” In the United States, Beal notes, “Threatened with the cut-off of relief funds, some Black welfare women have been forced to accept this sterilization procedure in exchange for a continuation of welfare benefits.”

Following suite after its unrelenting sponsor the United States, the Israeli settlers of Palestine have denied Ethiopian Jewish women relief (apparently you’re not promised the Promised Land by God if you’re black?) unless they accept a vaccine that will sterilize them. In traditional Judaism, sterilization is illegal.

Posted in feminism, misogynoir, morality, race, rape culture, sex, social justice, War On Women | 17 Comments

Imitating the Appearances of People of Color

I’ve been thinking about appropriation–not just cultural appropriation, but of a variation of appropriation that is equally if not just a little more sinister: the appropriation of appearance. This is something that is bodily, involves policing the autonomy itself of women of color, and results in valuing the woman wearing the imitation more than the woman whose body inspired it.

There is, in other words, a kind of appropriation that is merged with white supremacist ideals of beauty, and how, in order to remain the standard, these ideals have relied heavily on disparaging physical features of people of color that are otherwise “objectively” attractive. For example, the first thing that comes to mind are caricatures of black women’s/men’s lips as drawn by racist white artists. Because these lips are stereotyped to be fuller, they’ve been exaggerated in political and cultural cartoons/”art” to ridicule the entire black race.

But fuller lips are more appealing. And as a feature, they are not just appealing on women; they’re equally as appealing on men. I would even be so brazen as to argue that people who are attracted to men tend to prefer full lips on men–if not for the aesthetic, for the sensation. It’s bizarre then that this was one of the features chosen to be mocked. To be a little more impudent, I would go so far as to allege that it’s jealousy.

There’s historical evidence for this being a petulant act of jealousy. The hair of women of color, which tends to be thicker, more voluminous & abundant, and has the ability to hold a variety of styles with less effort, is constantly under attack as “frizzy”, “unkempt,” and altogether “unprofessional.” Consequently women of color are compelled to change our hair, sometimes at devastating (financial and personal) costs. And because most salons charge extra (typically an extra $10) to the list of provided services for women with “more hair,” not measured only in length but thickness (read: mostly just women of color) we’re not just driven to appeal to white standards of beauty but simultaneously discouraged from “raising our statuses” with these additional costs. But as Cassandre explains, black women were banned in the 1800s from showing their hair in public–not because it was unsightly but because it was too attractive:

Apparently, women of color were wearing their hair in such fabulous ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride that it was obscuring their status. This was very threatening to the social stability (read: white population) of the area at the time. The law was meant to distinguish women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their beauty.

While women of color are discouraged from wearing their hair without flattening, thinning, chemically treating, or otherwise travelling great lengths to force it to comply with the settled string-yness of white hair, white women meanwhile seek out all means possible to thicken their hair–because, of course, white people quietly know what is actually attractive, and a function of institutionalized racism is convincing women of color that they aren’t, while white women transform themselves to have these very features. The shelves of any store selling shampoo are lined with products promising to provide volume. It doesn’t stop at hair either, of course–the descendants of white artists who parodied the lips of black men and women in outrageously racist cartoons are the first clients for lip injections that imitate the very feature they publicly disparage.

Black women have constellations in their hair.

Black women have constellations in their hair.

And a woman (most likely a white one) might angrily and defensively claim that I’m stretching it by including this, but, I kid you not, a white woman once tackled me in a drug store because I had picked up the last jet black mascara.

She was blonde.

So were her eyelashes. I was 17 at the time and aghast at the fact that I had just been tackled. Why do blonde women insist that their eyelashes have to be full and voluminous and jet black? Stunned as she flew out of nowhere into my vision and pried the mascara from my hands, I cried, “That doesn’t even match your hair!” It was a cruel thing to say, I realize. But by the mercy of all that is heavenly, she just, like, physically assaulted me. For mascara.

It’s characteristic of both women and men of color to have fuller and longer eyelashes, but that’s something desirable, that isn’t as prominent as hair or lips, and is thus never attributed to race. There’s a lot about “the problems with Asian hair” or “the problems with Black hair” but never about “the problems with white eyelashes.” White people, you’ve got to stop tackling me at Rite Aid with your eyelash issues, seriously.

She's a threat alright. Who wouldn't want to look like that?

She’s a threat alright. Who wouldn’t want to look like that?

One of the (obvious) reasons it’s so irritating that white people will often reply with, “But light skinned women tan their skin all the time!” in response to black women bleaching their skin and using harmful lightness creams is that a white woman who has tanned her skin to be the same color as a woman of color’s natural skin will be valued more highly for her beauty–even though it’s only an imitation. I don’t mean to sound all, “But are they REAL?” about this, but it’s a clear and disturbing indication of how harmful cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to appearance, is when a white woman attempts to thicken her hair, tan her skin, inject her lips, and assault a woman of color for her eyelashes and still walk out considered more beautiful. This phenomenon has all of the symptoms of a kind of appropriation: when these features/customs are worn/practiced by a white person, it’s “stylish, worldly, and beautiful”; otherwise, it’s something that needs to be altered and suppressed at all costs.

Posted in body image, color, feminism, misogynoir, race | Tagged | 12 Comments

The State of Oppression and the Strategic Refusal of Responsible Parties to Recognize Justice

When confronted with criticism from immigrants, white Americans will often nonsensically retort, “If you hate America so much, go back to where you came from!” with the intention of forcing an admission that the place in question is worse. But what they neglect, as expected, is to apply that segregative logic evenly: I might not have minded returning to where I came from, if you hadn’t destroyed it. Why, after all, is it worse? Why are these countries, like China, that were once so far advanced that after venturing into the world chose isolation upon recognizing other civilizations had nothing to offer; like India, whose citizens in the awareness of their cultural fluidity alone withstood intrusive violence until the British strategically fostered in them a destructive self-hatred; like the Islamic Empire, whose discoveries serve as the foundation of contemporary scientific and mathematical advances, much worse? Why do white Americans have the right to interact with civilizations, to change them, to traumatize them, and expect that their peoples will not influence the makings of the United States?

Subsequently, it becomes obvious why, “If your country is so great why don’t you go back!” is a suggestion of self-serving hypocrisy; much like the colonialist mentality that forces Palestinians to pay Europe debt to the state of Israel rather than expect Europe to pay for its crimes, the retort attempts to right wrongs to the convenience of the oppressor so that a third innocent party is the one who must pay in place of the West. Certainly, if entire nations had not been destroyed by Western colonialism, the United States would not have an “immigration problem.” It might have, in fact, never existed. The quietly understood benefits to the oppressor reduces justice to pure simplicity, leaving ongoing symptoms of historical crimes unconsidered. The reality is that once the West has destroyed a civilization, it cannot expect to cut off ties with the people of that civilization by simply demanding they “go home.” You cannot murder, rape, torture, commit grievous harms on someone, and then expect your morality to be extractable from their existence by a simple parting of ways.

Rather, is the nature of these things to haunt the souls of those inflicting them. As it should be. America’s appalling history has a right to incorporation into the American identity. This is who you, who we, are now. That identity in its nature demands acknowledgment, and in an effort to cleanse ourselves, should be undone. The reason, of course, that white Americans are so distraught by the presence of immigrants in this nation is that we, of immigrant families, are constant reminders of the West’s despicable involvement in foreign nations. We are told to “go home”–because out of sight, out of mind. You do not need to think about the crimes you committed against the original country of an immigrant when you are not looking her in the face.

Reluctance toward any true justice is demonstrated not only in these defensive retorts. What is also evident is the failure to recognize those who have been wronged by Western visions of nation-building as people who now have a right, by having been involved as victims in these crimes, to be fully participating citizens of the West. Consider, for example, the common response to any suggestion of retributions paid to members of the black community (i.e. most black American citizens) whose families were enslaved. If the black community were repaid for forced labor, an estimated total of $777 billion would be repaid to black families for the labor “provided” by slaves. Setting aside the fact that the U.S. does not have that money, economists make the argument that these retributions, if paid, would devastate the economy. But let’s ask the question, whose economy does really this devastate? Are black citizens not participating members of the U.S. economy? After all, this is not money that is being exported to foreign nations. In other words, it is not currency that is lost to foreign economies, but dollars that will continue to remain in the US and fuel the US economy. Would black citizens not buy cars, houses, etc. with those wages that they earned? Would they not significantly stimulate the economy rather than devastate it? The response of white Americans that retributions to black families would be economically destructive is an indication they do not consider black citizens as citizens, who have not only the right to the wages earned by their families but the ability to contribute to the economy with those wages. What happens instead is that “retribution” is reframed as “redistribution” to emphasize the effect on white families rather than black ones.

Opponents of retributions will also attempt to employ the slippery slope fallacy. “If we pay back descendants of black slaves,” they will say, “who’s next? Native Americans? Women?” And to what, exactly, are you objecting? What else should be expected? If you rob five houses, and you are made to return the belongings of one of them, are you going to cry, “What next! You want me to return everything I stole?” Clearly we do. It is only the most reasonable expectation. And is that not justice?

Although in theory it may well be impossible to return everything stolen, unless the crimes are undone over thousands of years, this same practice of the application of practicality does not seem to deter those, who make the claim that retributions are impractical, from applying the mercy of practicality to only themselves: if it so impossible to undo the damage that we should not begin to attempt it, why should the impossibility of black citizens or indigenous peoples to continue to live in institutionalized oppressions be tolerated? Is this not equally impossible? Are they not equally human?

Common responses to suggestions that the West, or that specifically America, should seek moral reconciliation for its atrocities involve appeals, both real and theoretical, to historical crimes committed by non-Western civilizations. It is claimed by Westerners that theoretically, if non-Western civilizations had been as powerful, these civilizations would have “done the same.” Except, in a lot of cases, they actually were, and they actually didn’t. Since this isn’t the main point, however, it will not be explained. What will be explained is that in any civil society, one cannot, for example, steal from someone and then, when called to justice, claim that the victim would have done the same. That is not the reality with which we must work. It is an attempt only to derail the proceedings and obstruct the sentence. Likewise, the truth that non-Western civilizations have wronged each other should be of no concern to the West when seeking moral reconciliation. When having done wrong and attempting to undo the consequences so that we may be at peace with ourselves, why are the wrongs of others of any relevance?

Genuinely seeking reconciliation means a distinct uninterest in the historical crimes of others when they do not involve the West. The crimes of nations that the West has wronged and whether these nations are answering for them would be seen instead as “none of your business.” It is, rather, the business of those respective nations and their victims. But, as pattern demonstrates, the oppressor is disabled by his own atrocities from coming to this realization. The involvement of himself in the “immigration crisis” is one, like his involvements in any issue, that can not be acknowledged. When it is claimed, for example, that Palestinians lived in the region that should have been known as Palestine prior to the establishment of the terrorist state of Israel, many siding with the occupiers reply, “but what about before that?” or declare that it is uncertain whether Palestine or Israel existed first. But who existed first at the beginning of time is not relevant. Again, it is the unrecognized involvement of the West that was (and still is, with the “aid” afforded to Israel that should be used to repay black families) what erected this structure of institutional injustice. It is true that, as there are over any pieces of land, there were undoubtedly quarrels over Palestinian land among its own citizens, before the intervention of the British, but smaller wars between peoples of the same geographical culture are distinctly different from a powerful, persecuting third party that enforces the manifestation of its perspective on Palestinian boundaries.

And the perspective of Western oppressors have been enforced not only in drawing those boundaries, but in the convenient defining of Palestine as a territory and not a country, and therefore of its occupation as not occupation or apartheid. What makes a country, and who decides? If every nation in the world decided not to recognize authenticity of the British passport, will the associated country cease to function as a country? Should the lack of a military be any indication of whether a people make a country, when (1) that military is not allowed to exist and (2) the residents still clearly function coherently as a nation and identify one another as culturally, geographically, linguistically, and familiarly akin to themselves?

Necessary to the creation of a just world is a true, unselfish attempt to reconcile with the wrongs of the past and its prevailing symptoms. It is imperative, for this reason, that the interests of those who are disadvantaged are heard, valued, and operated upon above the reluctance of those who fear confronting their guilt. Those who are victims of the problem are demonstrably better equipped to draw a solution, having experienced the full extent of the enormities. That is the true objective party.

Posted in feminism, social justice | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Prophet Maryam and Her Successor, the Prophet Muhammad

Although I’ve already written about Maryam as our Prophetess, I’d like to expand on her significance by comparing the cosmological role of our Prophet Muhammad to that of our Prophetess Maryam. There are several interesting parallels between Maryam and Muhammad; the first and most obvious is not only that both recieved word from the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) of their Prophethoods, but that the reactions of these two Prophets to that word are strikingly similiar. When Muhammad is greeted by the Angel, he is terrified until he comes to recognize the entity; the Prophet had, at first, run frantically down the moutain. Likewise, when the Angel approaches Maryam, she cries,

“Indeed, I seek refuge
in the Most Merciful
from you, so leave me
if you fear God!”

until her visitor responds,

“I am only a messenger
of God to bring you news
of a child.” (19:18)

But what is more intriguing is the dialogue that takes place. Maryam proceeds to ask,

“How can I birth a child
when I am a virgin?” (19:20)

while Muhammad, when commanded to “Read!” at the revelation of Surah Iqra, responds, bewildered, “But I cannot read.”

The Prophet was indeed illiterate, and in this exchange his illiteracy plays the same role as Maryam’s virginity. This response, “I cannot read,” is paralleled with Maryam’s, “How can I birth a child when no mortal has touched me?”

Since Islam does not elevate the Maryam’s virginity to the extent that it is certainly elevated in other faiths accepting her as a religious figure, the Islamic approach to Maryam’s virginity is the same as its approach to Muhammad’s illiteracy. In other words, these two states are considered neither particularly virtuous nor are they frowned upon. They are merely the conditions in which these historical figures existed before greeted by the Divine. I am not entirely comfortable in drawing the theory that Muhammad’s illiteracy and Maryam’s virginity are symbolic of spiritual receptiveness to the Word of God, that the absence (of literacy and sexual experience) of each of these “worldy pretenses” made each Prophet the most receptive vessel, unobstructed by human finitude, for the Word of God to be Delivered–for Maryam, God’s Word in childbirth, and through Muhammad, God’s Word in the Qur’an–but it is nonetheless one to be considered.

A second parallel is the cleansing of both Prophets before the creation of the universe and all that exists. A hadith reads, “There is none born among the offspring of humankind that Satan does not touch; a child, therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Maryam and her child.” (Sahih Bukhari) This is an indication that both Maryam and her son are free of sin, like Muhammad who is distinguished by his isma, protection from moral depravity: “Did We not expand your bosom?” (Qur’an 94:1) so that the Messenger of the Qur’an could convey the message without error. Our Prophet’s heart is cleansed during his ascendance through the Heavens, and several hadiths, in which this described concept has been meditated upon by mystics, read that the Prophet existed before the very creation of the first human being, and several hadiths read that “the first thing God created [when Adam was still between water and clay] was my [the Prophet's] Light.” As the Prophet is distinguished as exceptional compared to all humankind, so is the declaration made for Maryam at her birth,

“When she [the mother of Maryam] had delivered,
she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered
of a female child!”—and God knew best
what she delivered—
And no wise is the male
like the female.

I have named her Maryam (Mary), and I commend her
and her offspring to
Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” (3:36)

Just as the Qur’an is protected from defect through the protection of the purity of Muhammad from moral depravity, so is Prophet Isa’s protection from Satan invoked in the same protection of his mother.

What are then, the cosmological and mystical implications of both these figures? It is no accident that the Prophetess and the Prophet have inspired the same passionate praise and meditative repose among those who follow them and submit to God. One of the most fundamental attributes of the Prophet is his Light, believed to be a direct reflection of the Light of God, the noor of Muhammad is so close to God that Muhammad is Loved if God is Loved. Likewise Maryam, who occupies the realm of the Womb, is tied closely, almost inextricably, to the realm of the Divine, as made clear in 4:1. Prophet Isa, son of Maryam, is secondary to his mother, as the Qur’an reads he declares,

“I am a servant of God;
God has given me a Book and made me
a Prophet,
and blessed me and enjoined upon me
prayer and charity
and made me dutiful
to my mother
who bore me
.” (19:30-32)

There are two things to take away from this: (1) Prophet Isa was made dutiful to his mother, which has interestingly never been interpreted as a Divine Ordination of matriarchy (though Isma’il’s dutifulness to God has been conveniently misread as dutifulness to Ibrahim as a patriarch), and (2) although it is true the conception was Immaculate, it is emphasized over and over in the Qur’an that Isa is the son of Maryam: she, alone, birthed him, harnessing the Divine powers manifested in the realm of the womb and acting singularly (without a man) to perform a miracle, a sign of the Prophets.

And Maryam is most certainly a Prophet. Whether she can be called a Messenger, having carried and delivered the Word of God in the form of a human being, just as Muhammad delivered the word of God as the Qur’an, is a decision I personally haven’t made and will leave up to you, dear readers. One thing is certain: Maryam, and Asiya, and Eve, and the numerous women who inarguably qualify as Prophets demonstrate with their capacities that the distinction between a Prophet and a Messenger is hazy and not so distinct, and more uncertain than widely defined.

I propose that there is an entire league of female Prophets who transcend patriarchal categorizations of Divine Interaction.

Posted in feminism, Feminism, herstory, interpretation, Islam, misconceptions, Quran | 3 Comments