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I have some new posts coming, but am obliged to take care of some things… about you. Since I’ve announced that I am collecting pieces for an annual publication (guidelines for submission here) to which I am excited to read your contributions, I’m connecting all of you to the publisher accounts so that you can sort of keep tabs on the type of working we’re seeking. Our publishing house, Kajol Crescent, will be issuing the digital and print volumes of the fatal feminist.
Currently, the Instagram showcases more material than the Twitter, but soon the latter will be used for announcements. In order to pay our writers and artists, we’re going to start fundraising for the magazine very soon, but in the meantime, you’re welcome to view some of the work through our publishing house accounts. And of course, I will continue to bring you Qur’anic interpretations here.
I’m attaching a gallery from our insta. Not all of the material is new, but it will be soon. Thank you, as always, for accompanying me in these exegetical endeavors. And don’t forget to submit!
My methodology for reading, understanding, and interpreting Qur’anic verses is not a unique one; however, it is inarguable that over the past centuries, the Qur’an has been subject to gross misinterpretations, particularly by individuals who read to indulge their debauchery rather than with the best meaning as the Qur’an advises. Thus, I’m compelled to describe some aspects of my approach and explain its differences.
One thing to note is whom the Qur’an addresses. There are several audiences, which I can describe in detail later, but the main addressees of the Qur’an are the Prophet and believers. Since Arabic distinguishes between the singular and plural ‘you’ it is easy to recognize, at this surface level, when we consider only these two audiences, when a verse is addressing the Prophet in particular rather than all believers. Sometimes, there is a transition within a verse, where the singular (Prophet) and plural (believers) shift. (10:61) This is important to note particularly because, while we are inclined to imitate the Prophet, the Qur’an itself makes a distinction between the Prophet and those believers who walk his path.
This brings us to the voice which delivers the message to the addressees. As I’ve mentioned before, the voice of the Qur’an is a feminine one. The Qur’an makes references to sex, but its references to gender and gender roles are tied to sex only loosely, and sex itself is transitory. In one commonly cited verse where the God(dess) declares that everything is created in pairs (36:37), a verse frequently employed by adherents of man-made patriarchal systems to establish rigid gender roles based on rigid gender identities, the Qur’an itself discusses the transitory nature of pairs, such as removing the light of day from the night in order to make darkness—an allusion to dawn and dusk—or the phases of the moon, another example of transformation. In fact, 22:61 describes the God(dess) as merging night into day and day into night. Imagine if our approach to gender had not stopped at a simple declaration of pairs but had considered the entirety of the Qur’anic description. Our understanding of gender might have likened it to phases of the moon or the transition of light to darkness rather than stark night and day, female and male.
My approach to the Qur’an can be likened to moon phases—the presence of the full moon should be evident in every waning, every waxing excerpt of the text. Each Qur’anic verse incorporates within it the entirety of the Qur’an; therefore, our understanding of each should encompass Qur’anic entirety.
A third item to note is the most obvious—the Arabic language has evolved. There are nuances in meaning between classical and modern Arabic. For example, walad (child) in classical Arabic carries no gender specifications. In modern Arabic, it refers specifically to a male child. There are several parts of the Qur’an where this information becomes pertinent. In general, considering the entirety of the Qur’an especially in verses mentioning children permits a deeper understanding. It is also important to note where the Qur’an subtly addresses and subverts the limitations of the Arabic (and any human) language especially pertaining to gender. In verses 53:19-23, the God(dess) refers to the deities worshipped by Meccans prior to the arrival of the Qur’an and demands, “So have you seen the Goddesses and their daughters? Is for you the male and for the Him/the Goddess, the female? This is an unfair division. They are nothing except names.” In these few verses, the hypocrisy of assigning gender is criticized (“an unfair division”), and the Oneness of the God(dess) is emphasized (“they are only names”) over the arbitrariness of gender.
Allah (swt) is not criticizing Meccans for worshipping goddesses, as is the common patriarchal reading. Instead, it is blatantly and indisputably clear that the God(dess) is condemning the insincerity and pretense of feigning reverence toward femininity while burying one’s daughters alive. In fact, this hypocrisy is consistently stressed throughout the Qur’an. Verses 43:17-19 point out the hypocrisy between men expressing grief during the birth of daughters yet depicting the angels as female and worshipping them (“raised in ornaments”). In the same breadth, he debates murdering his female children (16:58-60).
Only after arguments are firmly substantiated with Qur’anic verses and sound in Qur’anic principles should we apply hadith. Hadith that contradict the Qur’an must be discarded. Consider the infamous verse 4:34, in which a man is instructed to advise against his wife’s suspected adulterous actions, then forsake her (in the bedroom) if she persists, and then bring her forth to court (daraba) if she refuses to listen. The Qur’an proceeds to instruct that if the matter cannot be dealt with fairly, the couple should appoint arbitrators (4:35), which confirms that the third and final action against yet unproven adulterous behavior is to cite the spouse to a court of law with 4 witnesses. While patriarchal readings have left open the subject of these proceedings to include petty “disobedience,” in the Qur’an the violation is the sin of adultery—and nothing short of. Imaan Az-Zahra arrived at this same conclusion by a different means than I did, by linking 4:34 with a preceding verse, 4:19, in which men cannot seek a way against their wives unless an open and lewd sin (adultery) has been committed. Therefore, in 4:34, in which a man suspects he has been wronged, he cannot seek action against his wife until she is brought to a court of law. Forsaking the wife in bed is level with addressing unproven adulterous actions. The dropping of the charges in 4:34 is consistent with court proceedings regarding adultery in which the woman denies the action, in which case her testimony is sufficient to overturn any sentence against her.
In this manner, the entirety of the Qur’an is considered in interpreting 4:34 (for example, this interpretation is supported by 58:1-4, “in which a woman cites her husband to the Prophet after her husband pronounces zihar on her,” as my beloved disciple Imaan Az-Zahra pointed out in conversation), as well as the verse’s surrounding context. Imaan is also expecting to write a post about the Prophet’s farewell sermon in regards to this verse, thus referring to hadith only as supplementary to the Qur’an.
Of course, I could (and just might) write 150 pages on how to read and interpret the Qur’an. This article is only a fragment of the methodology, and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll have the opportunity to survey other aspects.
We’re using quotations obviously because not everyone with a vagina is female. I am not the person to write this post, but I need to say it. I have no idea if someone has written this post already. But I hope so, because someone should—this post needs to exist. So I might elaborate/rant more on this later, but every time I’m cruising through a scientific article and I read mystified complaints and/or amused jabs about how “mysterious” and “complex” the female orgasm is, I feel sorry for people with vaginas/clitorises/g-spots who’d like to orgasm. I genuinely believe men collectively participate in this ongoing gag about how difficult it is to make a woman orgasm consciously with the objective that they don’t have to actually exert themselves in the efforts of learning. You literally. Just rub. It’s not that different. Really.
Again, though, I’m not the person to write this, so someone take this assignment from me, please? Thanks.
In the shower, I nicked myself, on accident. I prefer to wax, so I hadn’t shaved my legs in a long time, since waxing is considerably more convenient. But having decided on laser hair removal for the benefit of silky smooth legs, I was no longer permitted to wax between sessions. I’d decided to handle a razor, and I stared in shower-trance at the soft tiny fuzz gathered between the blades, which the cascading water was not forceful enough to disengage. I swiped the hair off with a finger in a single swift motion–horizontally, in the direction the blades ran, rather than vertically, which would have unlocked them.
Since the blades were sharp, there was no pain to warn me, but my mind bolted alive at once, conscious of hitting the wrong note somewhere, of peculiar activity, of moving in a way I shouldn’t have. I stopped and pulled away before the blades penetrated too deeply. It looked like a neat cat scratch, from a very tiny cat; for a few seconds, I thought I had not broken skin, but I knew this could not be true. I waited. Sure enough, minuscule droplets of blood formed along the edges.
This wasn’t an ordinary shower. I had just finished menstruating: it was farz gusl. In any other circumstance, regardless, drawing blood would have invalidated the state of ritual purity. If I were frantic enough, I would have stopped the water, leapt out of the shower, thrown on a towel–or maybe even clothes–applied bandages in dismay, made sure give it a few minutes until I was certain the bleeding had stopped entirely, and sulked over whether I had destroyed everything before proceeding to redo everything I had undone. I know this woman. I receive emails from her all the time. I love her and wish her well. She even birthed me. And I am always pained by her self-deprecation, her perfectionism of faith… her unjustified guilt.
I used to preform the same prayers over and over, convinced I had done them wrong.
But there, in the shower, watching tiny droplets of blood form, I did not turn off the water, dry myself, and begin again from the first step. I pressed the finger to my lip to stop the bleeding. I thought of God and smiled and kissed it. I performed ablution, gave everything a final rinse, and stepped out of the shower. And then I prayed.
To the woman writing to me, asking whether she should bleach her clothes, her sofa, her bedsheets, everything she ever touched, love, you already know. There is a reason you are writing to me and not a sheikh. You will not allow yourself to hear the truth you have already told yourself. The reasonableness, the practicality, the compassion that you know is Islam–your heart is leading you to where you know it is reflected, and you have the answer already.
Particular invisible systems of unpaid labor enable the appropriation of philosophies. I’m not referring to domestic labor or emotional labor (not quite) though these are also issues. I’m referring explicitly to the activity in which a person engages in order to research, piece together, and present an argument for their humanity, for which the payment is only basic humanization if that, despite the fact that this activity is highly profitable to not only the male academy but the philosophical legacy of colonialist oppressors.
Recently, a friend of mine expressed her frustration that a notably sexist academic program was espousing amina wadud’s translation of verse 4:34, without citing amina wadud. This was obvious because no male translators, particularly those whose translations are popularly reproduced, printed this interpretation. It was recognizably wadud’s work. The institution withheld credit from an Islamic feminist in order to uphold its reputation through the prestige of the interpretation, while benefiting from her exegesis, the same way men reproduce Islamic feminist arguments to defend verses they find uncomfortable while denying they need feminism because they have Islam. My friend related this phenomenon to a professor, and, when he prompted for an example, reminded him that Islamic feminist Riffat Hassan was the first to observe that Hawwa is not charged in the Qur’an for transgression on the forbidden tree, and the dual form is held responsible. He could thank Islamic feminists for the fact that this is now considered common sense, but for centuries male scholars had relied on the Biblical interpretation of this story to fill in the “gaps” they supposedly believe the Qur’an doesn’t have. As my friend stated, “It’s common sense to you because we had to do all of the hard work for it.”
Colonizers will often claim that their nations are the most philosophically advanced—they’ll cite the laws they’ve supposedly conceived purporting equality among sexes, among races, not cognizant of the fact that the very people they’ve oppressed are responsible for creating these understandings of humanity, equality, and justice. These abstractions are rooted in their practical applications—not the other way around. When faced with the inhumanity of systematic rape, of genocide, of slavery, naturally a group of victims develop deeply thorough, sound arguments for their humanity, which the institutions that oppress them then adopt as their own in theoretical forms. These arguments are showcased to the world—often to the countries from which the oppressed originate—as evidence of the superiority of white men. We forget that laws are more than impartial declarations of justice. They are the result of a tumultuous history. The recognition of a human right is the result of unappreciated labor.
Reconsidering what types of labor I am willing to perform has been a liberating activity. A man emailed me a while ago politely expressing disagreement with one of my posts here and asking whether we might discuss our differences in interpretation. Let me be clear of two things. First, I do prefer the extension of an invitation to the barrage of uninvited tired points men liberally impose with the expectation that I would have both the time and interest to comb through them. Second, with that said, it is highly unlikely that I will ever accept such an invitation: I am not benefiting from such a discussion. At all. Let’s face it—when his position is a traditional one, I’ve heard the talking points before. Why are men under the impression that if we disagree with a very popular interpretation, we must not be familiar with arguments in its favor? It is presumptuous for a man to believe I haven’t read the same scholars he has read. I wouldn’t benefit from a discussion like this—what’s going to happen, what’s always happened—is that the other party walks away with more to think about. And they’re thrilled about the intellectual exercise, which has never been an intellectual exercise for me but a battle for my rights. I never respond to men who email me, and that’s especially true now. I’m not performing that labor. It’s an unworthy endeavor, and if you’re looking for it, you’d best have blown my mind in the first sentence with your interpretative creativity.
I’m thinking about returning next month for a number of reasons. I won’t bore you with any of them. The posts will be infrequent. Some things… have come up. One of my friends pointed out to me that I’m the type of person to vanish, and not the type to say goodbye. It’s occurred to me how painfully true this is. When I’m done with an activity, an interest, a person, I simply vanish. I stop meeting them, stop calling, stop texting, stop emailing. I disappear. If I care enough to say goodbye, it means I’m not actually finished. But when I’m done… I’m gone. It’s radio silence.
So, I don’t want it to be this way (I promise!), but when I am done with the fatal feminist, you might not know until the months have passed. You knew I was coming back, because I said goodbye.
In the meantime I’m making changes to some old entries so they reflect up-to-date exegeses. I apologize to anyone with an RSS reader. You may want to unsubscribe temporarily. ;)
The past 5 years have been lively and wonderful, but I am nothing if not a woman of transformations. So with transformation ready at heart, I announce that I will no longer update the fatal feminist for the foreseeable future… or at all. It remains uncertain whether it’s closed permanently, but it is closed indefinitely. I may not return for several years, or I may not return.
Fragments of myself have gone unexplored for the past few years. I have, for example, a considerable interest in sci fi and fantasy that I’ve somewhat, though not entirely, neglected. There’s a fascination with music and parallel universes and foreign policy that I’ve grown dissatisfied for placing on hold. I’ve been focused on my religiosity and am ready to address my spirituality again. I’ve reached a point where I feel cleansed, as though I’ve just ventured through a tumultuous novel.
Over the 5 years that I’ve written here I’ve made and met lifelong friends, who live oceans away, whom I would have never known if it weren’t for writing at the fatal feminist, a possibility that grieves me. I would like to thank them now for emailing me and subsequently informing me that we would be great friends. Zeina and Khadeeja, specifically, you’re both glorious.
It’s not that I won’t write elsewhere. If I happen to produce a longer, detailed article, which, I occasionally will, I’ll find a website to post it. I’m not opposed to this, or to guest posts.
I’m going to write regularly on a different blog. This new one will be deeply personal and not political (except, of course, where those areas overlap). Those who know me understand I’m a very private person. I’m reluctant to share the location of what’s basically a journal, but if you email me personally, I might disclose the URL. We would have already had to have spoken several times for me to be comfortable with this. The new blog is closed to comments, because I won’t facilitate public discussions of the personal sphere, but as always, if you want to discuss an entry, you can email me privately. And again, I may return after many years—this website and I have unfinished business. =)
In lieu of my departure, I’ve checked all the links on the sidebar of this website, discarding those that are defunct. The links will keep you company in my maybe-permanent-certainly-indefinite absence. They are excellent resources for the mind, and therefore often also for the heart, because that’s how it works. (Subvert the dichotomy.) If you click a link and it leads you to a private website or one that isn’t there, it’s because I’m very good friends with the author, and have kept her work with nostalgia in the vain hopes that she’ll return.
Ramadan Kareem in advance, and in advance Eid Mubarak. That sounds more familiar than it should, doesn’t it? It’s the last time, inshaAllah. I wish you all the best. Please take care.