I used to distinguish between worldly and nonphysical love—or rather, I used to abide by the logic of this distinction, but the idea of limited love did not reconcile with the truth I felt in my soul. While I do believe there is value in even superficially distinguishing between outerworldly and worldly love in order to help us understand ourselves as nonphysical beings, I think in the formation of human (specifically male) apprehension this only ever translates to the creation of hierarchies between “types” of love, that then prevent us from accessing it. Love soul to soul enflowers transmogrified expressions when embodied in a physically manifested heart. (Ethereal love is not “transcending” the physical.) And when translations of love exist there should be a critique of how that expression of love is manifest in social and legal realms.
That’s the premise through which exegetical conclusions are drawn; every examination of the Qur’an collapses the supposed theoretical “love” with demonstrable worldly love, because there is a deep unremovable connection between in that they should be absolutely indistinguishable. It is why men’s love of the Prophet is an “easy love,” because they were not as subject to his masculine oversights. The worldly manifestation of the Prophet (his embodied soul) did not challenge their love. It must be nice. And furthermore the worldly, oppressive manifestation of their (en)forced love toward him does not communicate that they love him with a nonphysical heart, because expressions of love cannot be severed from the divine love at which they are sourced. And that nature of that love (in all its qualities) cannot be forceful. For we are human beings made of free will, not angels, and no man can take from us what the God/dess has gifted.
Separation between physical and ethereal love, the common approach, is suspicious because in addition to being unIslamic it has deep connections to sexism via associations of the soul to men and associations of the body to women (which is philosophically Greek in origin). And from that foundation it has always been used to dismiss the concerns of women, who at the face of injustice are expected to remain silent/patient and wait for Judgment Day because this world “doesn’t matter.” The separation of physical from ethereal love is directly opposed to Islam because in Islam, belief cannot be separated from practice. If a Muslim holds a religious belief, but does not practice that belief, then it does not qualify as belief. If Muslims believe that men are spiritually equal to women, then our practice has to reflect that spiritual equality. In other words, there is no such thing as “spiritual equals”—you must be equals in all dimensions. The legal and social worlds must reflect the spiritual. It is why our destination in the hereafter is judged by our actions in this world.
One reading of Q4:1 is that the verse presents “mutual rights” as an incentive to reverence the God/dess; another reading suggests that the God/dess is reverenced independent of incentive and that the verse of “mutual rights” functions only to introduce the theme of roles in the subsequent verses. The reading I propose here, that the awareness and implementation of “mutual rights” is more than a reason to reverence the God/dess but a way to reverence Her, operates on two variables: (1) the recognition of the verb “to demand [mutual rights]” as an action, or a practice, as opposed to the mere existence of “mutual rights” such as, for example, the mere existence of “Signs” and (2) the Islamic philosophy that every action described in the Qur’an as originating from the God/dess is an act of worship and consequently an act of belief.
This reading is consistent with the indicative language of the Qur’an that fastens practice with belief; for example, “the God/dess will show you Her Signs, and you will recognize them.” (Q27:93) Here, it is the recognition of these Signs, and not the mere existence of them, that engage Muslims to believe. But to recognize is an action and a practice of the corresponding belief, which illustrates the Qur’anic theme of collapsing belief with practice: if the mutuality of rights, like the recognition of Signs, is not practiced, then the religion is not believed. A Muslim who does not recognize the Signs of the God/dess shirks the definition; the demand (not the existence) of “mutual rights” is equally fundamental to belief. It is not sufficient, therefore, to merely acknowledge “mutual”—not “different”—rights if these rights are not implemented into Islamic practice.
Subsequently, the mutual nature of the equality described in verse 4:1 of the Qur’an refers to all circumstances (not only spiritual), as its practical application is not in any way confined to the financial, legal, domestic, social, martial, or marital areas, among others, specified in the Qur’an.
Islam collapses the spiritual realm with the social and legal realm. There cannot be a difference. Any perceived difference was invented of out a twisted message originally intended to warn men not to become attached to material objects, which they extended to earthly injustices. If our actions in this world determine our destination in the hereafter, then it is absolutely logically fallacious to make the argument that there should be any kind of separation. We need to challenge manifestations of love in the social/legal realm as not being reflective of nonphysical love, because again, the two cannot be divorced. A Muslim man cannot argue that men and women are spiritual equals but refuse to pray behind a female imam.
The most fascinating hypocrisy comes from men under the ludicrous impression that women don’t have the right to question/challenge the Prophet when that’s what we’ve always done. Men like this consistently claim that men and women are different in our roles, except when confronted with recognizing the humanity of women and allowing us to have complicated relationships with the Prophet and that women have social obstacles toward our love of the Prophet that need to be addressed. And then to those men all genders are suddenly… the same? Equally not in a position to question?
Men should never question anything. They’re demonstrably terrible at it. Remember that time a woman disagreed with the Prophet and he complimented her insight? Remember that time a man disagreed with the Prophet and so the man decided to kill the Prophet’s grandson?
Remember when the disagreements of men following the death of the Prophet literally split the Ummah in half?