A woman has the absolute right to voice her frustrations against a Prophet. Sit. Down.

I am not aware that I love the Prophet. Unless I am in Makkah or Madina, where I can feel him in the mountains and the marketplace, I feel no love for him. (“You do love him then,” you might say, to which I would respond, not nearly significantly enough as I am expected.) I don’t dislike him either. I feel nothing toward him except a passing curiosity, and the usual discernment that I level at male authoritative figures, admittedly softened just a degree. I am certain that had I lived during his time, I would have been a Muslim woman and not have had much interest in seeking out his company, and if I happened to cross him, would confront him unceremoniously about behaviors I found problematic because they directly affected me. Perhaps if I were in a mood and he were alone and unoccupied, I would ask about the geometries of the universe and of paradise. I would ask if he had any questions for me, because I’m fascinating.

If I happen to see him in paradise, I would not tell him that I was pressured my entire life to love him, that in Islamic school social inequities like polygamy were excused away with the words, “But women loved the Prophet” and the unspoken “so you should too.” This would surely embarrass him, and induce guilt for faults that are not his. It had always disgusted me, deep in my primal intestines, these ingratiating demands to love him just as his wives did. He, too, would be violently embarrassed to know his followers create this dynamic between him and women.

Women have a complicated relationship with the Prophet, and we have the right to those complications. We have the right not to love him, and we have the right to challenge those who do without question just “because he’s the Prophet” despite the injustices that the Qur’an itself cites against him. (Do you never challenge those you love? What kind of love is this? Are you capable of it?) It is what women did when he was alive—including his own wife Umm Salama, since the ummah is so insistent on comparing us to them—and it is what we will continue to do for all of eternity. The God/dess gifted us with a Prophet who spoke to men in order to regulate male behaviors. Just as the Qur’an referring to men is something to be humiliated with, not prideful of, because it is nearly always to teach them or correct them or reprimand them for their wrongdoings against women, so is it evident that the Prophet was a man because there was a need to be filled.

This is what men will never understand. They need the Prophet. They need the Prophet. No woman who has disagreed with the Prophet has ever oppressed his followers en masse, ever terrorized his family, ever killed his sons, ever warred for her seat at the caliphate, ever caused his daughter to miscarry. But you claim to love him and terrorize the earth anyway. This is your idea of love. You keep it shoved up the dimness of your existence.

Men think the Prophet occupied himself with them because they were men, but he did it in spite of it. He didn’t like you because you were exceptional human beings to which we should all aspire; he liked you because he was a Prophet and it is in his nature to be merciful and overlook the faults of others. It is no secret that he preferred the company of women. [1] So don’t for a second think too highly of yourself. He was your Prophet. It is not a compliment that you needed one so closely, that you needed him to tell you not to bury your daughters alive, not to rape enslaved women, not to accuse innocent women of adultery—he needed that reminder, too, by the way. Aisha had been furious with him for losing faith in her.

auntie amina wadud came under fire a while ago for classifying Prophet Ibrahim—whose dreams regarding the slaughter of Ismail the Qur’an never claimed—of being a “deadbeat dad.” She is a Muslim woman and has the right to that frustration against a male prophet. My disciple, Misha, has been perplexed that Sulaiman was ready to start a war with Queen Bellekeyce for no apparent reason and heartbroken over and over regarding the treatment of Lut toward his daughters. She has the right to that horror. “Do not strain your heart to redeem him,” I had told her. Do not strain your heart to redeem him. She cites me as saying, “Prophets are not always chosen because they are good people. Sometimes they are chosen as Prophets simply as a test.” And I did. The undeniable truth is we have no idea why they are chosen and we should not pretend to know. She continues, “When we force moral perfection on them, we lose the effects of learning from their crimes.” Yunus was punished by al-Rahman Herself when he deserted his people and his mission. Only the Prophetess Maryam, mother of Isa, is described by the Qur’an itself as having been purified above all others for her task. I have said it to Misha and I will say it again: the moral errors of other prophets are documented in the Qur’an because they are not secrets. Women have a special right to harbor anger through their love, and no man has any right to challenge that.

It is so easy to love the Prophet when you are a man. Your path is without obstacles yet you demand the deceptive peace of “love” from us? Do you think we are the same? Men like this don’t know of love that comes freely, of love that is strengthened through adversity. Do you expect us to never challenge your easy love? It is pitiful, the way you want to outline a relationship between women and the Prophet that you will never understand. What makes you think you can interfere in this? You are weak and have not been chosen for the capacity to understand this.

May the woman who demands the Prophet’s accountability in his injustice against her find herself closer to heaven than the man who loves him at the dismissal of someone else’s suffering.

Muslim women have the right not to love the Prophet. You have the right not to desire his company. You have the right to prefer other men over him.

[1] Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Treat your children equally regarding gifts. If I were to favor anyone, I would have favored women.” In another narration, the Prophet said, “If I were to prefer anyone, I would have preferred women over men.”
Source: Sunan al-Kubrā 11092

26 thoughts on “A woman has the absolute right to voice her frustrations against a Prophet. Sit. Down.

  1. Ali

    Salaam

    I’ve read a few of your posts, and you seem to be quite knowledgeable. What I don’t understand, though, is why you use feminine pronouns to refer to God. God has no gender, but the Qur’an exclusively uses the masculine pronoun to refer to Him. When you use the feminine pronoun, it seems as though you are ascribing a gender to God. Would appreciate some clarification there.

    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Wa salaam,

      As I have mentioned in previous posts (such as this one) the Qur’an has a particular relationship with language, the constraints of which it often subverts. The Qur’an does not use “Him” as a masculine pronoun, and I feel it is dangerous when we think of it this way as described in your comment. Rather, it uses “Him” as a gender-neutral pronoun, directly in opposition to conventions of the time. (The Qur’an explains its use of this pronoun in order to highlight the hypocrisy of those who used to worship goddesses yet bury their daughters alive. The post I linked explains this.) That is to say this gender neutrality takes all precedence over any humanly-assigned meaning to the word. The use of the word in the proper state of mind is more important than the meaningless word itself.

      We are speaking English right now, which, like Arabic, has masculine and feminine pronouns. My native language does not have masculine and feminine pronouns. It has one gender-neutral singular and a gender-neutral plural with which everyone is addressed. So when if I were to speak in it in reference to Allah, would I be assigning a different gender to Allah since I cannot say “Him” in my mother tongue? Of course not. As the Qur’an states, these are only names. This is to say that regardless of whether we find “parallels” in other languages with Arabic, it makes no sense to uphold them in those languages but not in languages evolved past pronouns. Why the selectivity?

      The Qur’an also does not use “the masculine pronoun to refer to him” exclusively. Other than the fact that it also uses the royal “We,” the names of Allah, including specifically Ar-Rahman as used in the post and rooted in the womb (mercy), describe conventionally feminine attributes. Several of the nominal characteristics of Allah are rooted in traditionally feminine aspects. It should alarm us when the feminine pronoun alarms us, because it means despite our lip service to gender neutrality in the use of “He” we do not actually think of it that way. We should be aware of the state of our minds and hearts over the performance of language, and I constantly use the feminine pronoun as an exercise in this.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sarah

    Nahida, thank you so much for this post. It let me breathe when I didn’t know that I was suffocating. This kind of relief restores my faith in Islam. I’m not sure if you have been seeing them, but a lot of women have had very positive reactions to this post, to the point of returning to a religion they left.

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    1. I have seen some of them and received private messages from women as well. The outraged reaction from men to this post only confirms its premise of how forceful men are in demanding superficial love.

      I told a friend that I don’t know how I feel about the Prophet, but I know there is an immense pressure to love him, and that is unacceptable.

      Muslim men essentially engage in religious and spiritual blackmail to enforce love, whether of the Prophet or of themselves. No love can survive in these conditions.

      Like

    1. I was. I affectionately joke with him often. But I have no problem doubling down on it. As a friend said, the Prophet would be fascinated by all of us.

      In this case it is their jealousy toward my familiarity. This is why forced love is so ridiculous. It leaves you starving.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nahida <3
    I love this post so much it brings me so much joy that it exists on the internets. Thank you for writing this. Its' real, it's beautiful, it's honest. It's refreshing. May God reward you for this in all ways, aameen.

    I'm amazed at the response, especially from Muslim men. They're made you used "she" for al-Rahman (!!) and they think THAT constitutes kufr! Are these people for real?! They're also mad you value aunty amina (!!). Again, are they for real?! I also can't believe the privilege they're speaking from. To be in a position where certain emotional and gendered violences of people you claim to love and respect don't bother you. What must that be like? What must it be like to say, na, I got no issues with the Prophet's almost-belief that Aisha may have indeed been unfaithful to him? If my husband did that, I'd be like fucking get lost we're through. She had to have GOD intervene on her behalf, and that's not sufficient reason for people to go, hm, maybe the Prophet really should've responded better? Just wow.

    Also, it's completely, completely ridiculous to expect everyone to love something or someone. That just makes no sense to me. That's like saying I'm required to love my parents or my friends or my teachers or whoever else. I can't help it if I don't. No one can make me. I can't deny that, say, my friends are my friends; or my teachers are my teachers, parents my parents. But to say I must love them? No, relationships aren't simple like that, especially when they involve something as intimate and deep as real as complicated as faith.

    Another shocker for these folks: we're also not required to love God!

    I wonder how they'd respond if this post was about God. That we're not required to love God, that we're allowed to have complicated relationships with God. I highly doubt they'd overreact like they did with the Prophet s. Because their "love" for the Prophet s. isn't critical, isn't real.

    Also – my God, I can't stop – women on my timeline are raving about this post. They're talking about how deeply they feel this, how grateful they are that someone has articulated their feelings so well. (Some of them do say they do love the Prophet s. unconditionally, but they have at some point felt what's in this article.) You should know this. You should also know that the response is very, very gendered. Most women are feeling this, most men are attacking it. And the ones attacking are doing so for the wrong reason.

    I could go on. I love you for this, and I love you for this whole blog. I'm so glad and so grateful you write <3

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Nahidah, I applaud your honesty, bravery and wittiness all the way from the start. You’re an intelligent girl who knows what you’re writing and very clearly you definitely do. In fact I’ve always been impressed with your knowledge whenever you write.
    Some people can’t see that at all. And that is not your fault. In fact you’re too advanced for your age…..goes for Misha too. Orbala gave a good example above. It’s there in the Quran for all to read and in the hadeeths. But I know how people are. They are quick to judge, love putting people down. I’m sure you know where your strength lies. May Allah’s help and support be with you always .

    Like

  5. Nahida LOL
    There are people being all “how dare you not love someone who will intercede on your behalf” LOL as if the Prophet WILL intercede on anyone’s behalf (this is likely an un-Qur’anic idea and theologically problematic for sure). Do these people not realize that they’re expressing a conditional love for the Prophet? What if he’s not gonna intercede for you? Then what?

    How hard is it to believe you can’t force someone to love something/someone?

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  7. Nifa

    Nahida, don’t let the haters get you down. Lots of women understand what you’re talking about. We feel it. I don’t have the words to talk about it like you (you are gifted), but I do feel the same way. Men do have an easier path in religion, and we need to talk about the challenges we face, and why this is harder for us. Thank you for having the courage to write this. Lots of love and respect.

    Like

  8. bmadaninejad

    Nahida jaan, proud of amazing Muslim women leaders like yourself. Much love coming your way as you stand your ground. Say it loud, say it proud, we got your back.

    Like

  9. bmadaninejad

    Nahida jaan, here is some more admiration and appreciation for your courage and brilliance. Keep on rocking that boat in the free world, la la la…

    Like

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  12. Amira

    Assalamu Alaikum, I appreciate the time and effort you put in this article. May Allah preserve you and make your opinions and ideas not get in the way of understanding the Deen but rather help you understand it even better.
    As a woman myself, I agree with a lot of points you have made. As a Muslim woman, I also have to disagree with a lot of your points.
    Firstly, I think the definition of love may be confused here. The love any believer has for the Prophet SAW is one based on appreciation and gratitude for what he has done for the Ummah. Why? Because he is the only man on earth that cried out of love for you and me before he even met us. At a time where you and I were nowhere near existing. So yes, I do love the Prophet SAW.
    “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [27:107]
    There is no female world. There is no male world. The word Aalamin as used in this verse says that the Prophet SAW was a mercy to EVERYONE, even the jinn. How he was a mercy is clear to anyone who studies the seerah and learns about his life with an open mind.
    Secondly, it is extremely unfortunate and simply wrong that oppression against women exists, just as it is illogical to respond to female oppression of any kind with “but women love the Prophet”. You and I both know that Islam is a religion that gave the woman the status and respect she deserves, in a place where a woman was nothing but a creature looked down by men. In a place and time where girls were buried alive, crying. In a time where rights did not belong in a woman’s hands. Islam through Muhammad SAW’s teachings eliminated and erased that mentality. Any injustice carried out against women is simply injustice, not Islamic, nor taught by the Prophet SAW. He used to answer the questions women had and that was not an issue because WOMEN ARE PART OF THE UMMAH just as men are. In no accounts does it say he only talked to men. No one should confuse Hayaa (modesty) with belittling the existence of women in the Ummah.
    Thirdly, in Islam it is well-known that Maryam AS, mother of Isa AS was not a prophetess.
    Fourth, I have to disagree that gender has any role in the way we view the mistakes of past prophets mentioned in the Quran. The prophets were the best of people, and yes the obstacles they faced in their lives were tests, but more importantly, they were lessons that the rest of us here could learn from. It is of no doubt that the stories of all the prophets mentioned in the Quran are ones from which we can derive so many lessons and so much wisdom from! We learn from the story of Ibrahim AS the importance of patience. From Suleiman AS we learn how to stay steadfast on the deen and maintain a firm Iman. From Lut AS we learn to stay away from filth and evil and enjoin in pure and good deeds. If this doesn’t seem obvious to anyone, definitely read the stories again.
    Lastly, there is nothing complicated about the love a woman has for the Prophet SAW because the amount of love he had for us (as well as the love Allah SWT has for us) was no different for a man or woman. “None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind.” This is a clear cut Hadith in Sahih Bukhari.
    Sister, it may be hard to understand at first, but you need to know that the Prophet SAW had love and compassion for you before you even knew what those feelings are. He was our teacher, and without his teaching we would not know Islam like we do today. He was not a self-proclaimed prophet, Allah chose him. Anyone who has an issue with why that is the case is a not questioning the Muhammad SAW, rather Allah’s wisdom and judgement.

    Sister, it is possible for a man to have difficulty with this, too! Umar RA did not initially feel as though he loved the Prophet SAW more than himself. He told the Prophet: “O Allah’s Apostle! You are dearer to me than everything except my own self.” The Prophet said, “No, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, (you will not have complete faith) till I am dearer to you than your own self.” Then ‘Umar said to him, “However, now, by Allah, you are dearer to me than my own self.” The Prophet said, “Now, O ‘Umar, (now you are a believer).”

    Our Iman will not be complete if we do not have that love for the Messenger of Allah in our hearts! Having incomplete Iman is something scary to even think about!

    Dear sister, I am not going to convince you or anyone to love the Prophet, rather that is everyone’s own journey to embark on and can be attained by learning about him, his teachings of Islam, and his dealings with men AND women. I apologize if I came off as hostile or aggressive in my wording, I just felt that it was important that I share my input on this because no one can speak for all women on this. Don’t take this to heart!

    JAK may Allah bless you all :)

    Liked by 1 person

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