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The Rapists of Sodom

were serial rapists, who drank heavily to fuel their crimes, attacked visitors in gangs, lusted after the power of angels, knew first hand of the God/dess but refused morality and cheated and lied and thieved. And raped. Raped. Over and over. In mobs.

Will religious leaders have you believe they were destroyed them for raping men instead of women? For an alleged sexual orientation? Are these “leaders” the depraved minds with whom you entrust your faith? The leaders who claim a beloved Prophet would offer his daughters to rapists?

I have incredible compassion for Prophet Lut. The circumstances through which his Prophethood was tried—interrogation and subjugation through rape—are described in the Qur’an itself as devices in a network of sins so horrendous they are unlike any crimes ever committed in the history of creation, and this is only among the sins the Qur’an dares to name. We also delivered Lut and he said to his people: “Do you commit lewdness such as no people in creation ever committed before you?” 7:80. It is for humanity through these ghastly trials that Lut is among those favored over the worlds (6:86).

Scholars miss the fact that the Qur’an alludes to other sins taking place in the city of Sodom that are so horrifying it is deemed best for humanity not to describe them, except to say that they were abominations. Instead, Muslims reduce the activity of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to “consensual” sex between men, rather than to establishing a hierarchy via rape. This is because the story of Lut’s attempted redemption of his people is single-handedly a critique of patriarchy so embarrassing for patriarchal scholars that they are meekly left to resort to diverting attention to their homophobia instead in order to justify their bigoted, colonized beliefs.

To accomplish this, the male ulema offer a mendacious interpretation of the story of Lut: in what can only be described as a desecration of the Qur’an, your leaders gloss over the fact that all sexes in Sodom and Gomorrah are punished for having created and actively participated in a network of rape. They tactically remove verses from the context of subjugation via rape by hyperfocusing on verses that make any allusion to sex such as 7:81: “Do you approach the men lustfully besides the women; no, you are a people transgressing beyond bounds.” Subsequently what male scholars illegalize is not rape (because why would anyone want to do that), but same-sex intercourse.

But we use the Qur’an to explain itself, and the meaning of this line is elaborated in 26:165-166, which repeats and clarifies, “Do you approach the men of the world”—note here the reference to travel and travelers, which is important in the domination and subjugation of outsiders—“and leave what the God/dess has created of your mates?”— the additional sin of adultery in this gender-neutral use of mates rather than women, referring specifically to the spouses these men married already rather than women as a sex—“No. You are a people transgressing.” It is all of these sins combined—rape, subjugation, humiliation, xenophobia, adultery, and sexism—that comprise the horrific crimes of Sodom.

The Qur’an is very strategic in its delivery when recounting religious history. Any young girl reciting the Qur’an in her early childhood has a disorientating awareness that events are not only out of order but merging into each other. The story of Lut is told in parts over five to six surahs, and it is most notably interwoven with the story of Ibrahim (29:31-32). This is partly because Lut is the nephew of Ibrahim, as all Prophets were closely or very distantly related to one another, and partly because these interwoven stories inform each other. A significant commonality is that both Ibrahim and Lut deeply desired the presence of their children and had a hand in transforming the traditionally sacrificial roles of children.

Ibrahim, who interprets his dream calling him to sacrifice his son as being a vision from the God/dess, for the very first time requests his son’s consent to the sacrifice. This event and what follows—the declination of the sacrifice by the God/dess—marks the end of child sacrifice as a religious ritual in the tradition which Islam recites. Meanwhile Lut, in Sodom, is faced with rapists who are ready to break his door for access to his guests. Lut, whose daughters are grown and married, routinely expresses a profound loneliness. “Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could take refuge in strong support!” (11:80) Lut cries mournfully, because though he has Divine support he is yearning for the comfort of his family and specifically his daughters. He sounds at every turn of his devastation very much like a father who misses his daughters, a father who misses his children who have moved away.

It is why, when the rapists crowd outside of his home, wild in their intoxication (11:72) and in the habit of rape (11:78) and having heard that he has visitors, Lut claims quickly from his own wistfulness that it is not outsiders who have come to visit him, but his own daughters. The townspeople will not rape their own.

“These are my daughters. They are purer for you,” (11:78) Lut pleads urgently to the rapists attempting to force their way into his home, because the townspeople consider their own to be purer—and superior—to travelers. He submits to their logic in a vain attempt to reason with them.

Every exegete in history before me has interpreted 11:78, 15:71 to mean that Lut is offering his daughters to the rapists rather than suggesting to Sodom that it is his daughters who are his guests, not angels. But Lut’s daughters are never present in the text. They do not live with him and the Qur’an offers only ghostly references to them. What is happening is clear: far from offering his visibly absent daughters to rapists, Lut is attempting instead to convince the crowd that his guests behind the doors are his own daughters, not foreigners. His daughters do not reside with him; they belong to different houses. It is easy then that he passes them off/refers to them as visitors. “So fear the God/dess, and do not shame me in front of my guests!” he cries. In front of his daughters, whose shame in the eyes of the townspeople is worthy of considering. “Is there not among you a single right-minded man?” (11:78)

The rapists dismiss this notion. They would not be there if Lut were with his daughters. “We have no use of your daughters; you know what we want,” (11:79) they snarl back to him, and their disbelief that his daughters were visiting him adds to the misery of the situation. It is then that Lut resolves to sigh, “Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could betake myself to support,” (11:80) because he is, in fact, alone, without his daughters, the sole protector of his guests on this “distressful day” (11:77). His wife, quite evidently, is of no help.

Lut’s yearning for familial support is why, when the angel messengers reveal themselves to him, they order him to take his daughters and leave the city (11:81). His wife is to be left behind with the rest of the rapists, who are treated with showers of “brimstone, hard as clay, layer after layer” (11:82, 54:35). Lut’s people are not the only ones who have been destroyed for irreversible damage upon the earth. Prophet Shu’ayb warns, “And, oh, my people! Let not my dissent cause you to sin, lest you suffer the fate of the people of Noah or of Hud or of Salih, nor are the people of Lut far off from you!” (11:89) And yet it is only in this example of Lut that jurists attempt in vain to show homosexuality is a sin.

Yet the Qur’an describes over and over again the full extent of these crimes as patriarchal violations of the utmost malevolence. “Do you indeed approach men, and cut off the highway? And practice evil even in your councils?” (29:29) the verses read in outraged devastation, for the people of Sodom twisted an expression of love into a device of suppression, an act of inexcusable violence.

Analogous to soldiers weaponizing rape in war in order to subdue and interrogate the enemy as tools of sexual domination and humiliation, the crimes of Sodom were of married heterosexual men aggressively using their power over vulnerable populations—namely, those who were in a state of travelling, of temporarily being without homes and susceptible in this transitional state.

This is all of course misogyny: another, very violent example of woman-hating against which the Qur’an rails. Visitors, like prisoners in our contemporary colonizing systems, were raped to strip them of their masculinity, because that is how patriarchy works. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the wars in which xenophobes rape to subjugate the populations whose nations they’ve invaded… that is Sodom.

Your scholars will not admit this to you. They will imply to you instead without knowing, that Lut committed this very crime when he offered his daughters to rapists, slandering the purer actions of the Prophet against him. They will have you believe it was honorable of him. They will twist acts of love into violent weapons of war to justify their hatred. Nor are the people of Lut far off from you indeed.

Passing Torches

Occasionally I’m contacted by girls in their mid-teens (as young as 14) who’ve made poignant observations in the critiques and exegeses I produce, who add to them, who challenge them, who push them past boundaries I would have not known existed. I noticed a difference when I turned 25. I had always been the most inventive, and suddenly I was not–not compared to the 19-year-old sitting next to me at a party. And it is the most exhilarating experience. I will never understand older people who think younger generations are “pushing it too far.” Those observations, critiques, perspectives and the arguments constructed from them are invaluable to the universal pursuit of truth.

The aforementioned 19-year-old (who has since grown a couple of years older) had remarked that my decolonized perspective on Islam had changed her own, lending her viewpoints of which she’d never heard. She will do more good for the world than I ever will, and I hope she knows this. I am so proud of her and flattered to be part of her legacy.

Recognition

It’s inadequate that the most common identifier of an abused child is the child physically lashing out. This does not describe most. A child who has been abused is anxious for reassurance, agonizes in providing detailed explanations for their behavior, apologizes too many times. When I want to have a conversation with a child about what she has done and her impulse is to spiral into “I’m so sorry I’ll leave you alone I’ll never bother you again I’ll undo everything I’m so sorry I’ll fix it now and go away,” I am a filter away from asking who hits her.

Expect children to assert themselves.

I quite enjoy children who talk back to me. Presenting a line of reasoning to a child or, as with my 15-year-old disciple, Misha (who will tell you she is an adult) considering her arguments about what I’ve written is an invaluable experience. I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want perfectly obedient children. It sounds so unbearably dull.

The concept of “don’t talk back” is also an insulting and bizarre one and, I might argue, kind of western. I won’t deny of course that some non-western cultures expect a degree of obedience, but my own mother, who always listened to reason, has never said anything so ludicrous as “don’t talk back to me”—whether in English or not.

The first time I’d heard of that phrase, in those words, was on television, and then from the parents of white friends, even though in both scenarios the child was saying something perfectly logical or otherwise clever or interesting. As a child then myself, I’d found the retort incredulous and confusing. If I’m being spoken to, why wouldn’t I respond?

If I ever do have children, I should be lucky if they were so observant and expressive. This is not of course to say that I dislike quiet, compliant children: children are people, and this post ultimately is not about what I do or don’t enjoy. It’s to say, rather, that children asserting themselves is a crucial component to being people.

I’m inclined to be argumentative myself (really, you didn’t know?), and when I’m close to someone, I enjoy debates that actually challenge me. At work as well, I typically find it thrilling to gather evidence for a case. And of course, to counter the arguments of a child. These are important to me, because I like to argue, and strangers and men are terrible at it.

Polygamy is haraam.

I don’t really care about the outrage I’m going to spark, but before I spark it, I want to briefly mention that my understanding of haraam does not contrast starkly with halaal. In the thoughts of most Muslims, “haraam” translates to “forbidden.” Most of you know already that I subscribe to moral absolutes, i.e. I believe in the existence of universal morality. I want to emphasize that this is an entirely different question. It is erroneous to apply this structure to the dynamic of halaal/haraam, which describes the permissibility of a believer’s act specifically in relation to Allah, because while “halaal” does mean “lawful” or “permissible”—“haraam” describes the sacredness of an act.

In other words, the more sinful an act, the more sacred it becomes. Murder? Forbidden to us because human life is sacred, and thus so is the magnitude of severing a soul from its body, a sacred act reserved solely for the angels. Adultery? Forbidden to us because the love in a marriage is sacred, and thus so is the magnitude of destroying trust in its foundation. The realm of haraam encompasses that which is to remain respectfully unapproached. Arriving at this understanding was crucial to my development as a Muslim. An act being “forbidden” is uninspiring—I don’t really care. But if you tell me I can’t do something because it’s sacred, because it was not made for me to do, I …cannot describe how much I understand this in the depth of my heart.

Haraam actions are not forbidden primarily because they are harmful; rather, they are forbidden because they are sacred and the harm is a byproduct. This is of crucial importance: an object, animal, concept, act, that is haraam is meant to be met with a dreaded respect, not disgust. This is the wrong attitude to assign to the perspective of the Divine. Rather, the primary approach for us is that the act is awestriking because it is not fashioned for human beings. Haraam signifies a respectful distance from the act. (I will likely describe the meaning of halaal/haraam in a different post.)

In the Qur’an, polygamy is emphasized as not being fashioned for the human heart (“Allah has not made you with two hearts” —33:4) which is rendered incapable by Divine creation of exercising equality among multiple spouses. In fact, polygamy is made haraam on the point of justice and the incapacity of the human heart in more than just this one [33:4] instance:

And you are unable
to deal justly
among women,
even if you desire.
Do not incline [to favor one]
and exclude [the others].
And if you reconcile
and fear the God/dess
then indeed
the God/dess is ever
Forgiving and Merciful.
—4:129

4:129, like every verse of the Qur’an (including the “two hearts” verse), encompasses both broad and specific applications. It discourages polygamy, stating men could not treat women equally in marriage even if they were careful. This is because men are not Allah, and their gaze and judgment is neither Divine gaze nor Divine judgment, rendering yet another example of the meaning of haraam as an act that is uhuman or with supernatural qualities, or frankly, not one’s station. Broadly the verse employs the word for “women” instead of “wives” thereby curbing men’s unfair advantages in every institution by warning them they are incapable of being just.

Because the Qur’an was delivered to human beings, it speaks to us like us. It inhibits us with different degrees of no, whether polite or direct or incensed, but these are ultimately proclamations of inhibition—ultimately, the text is saying no.

Compare the structure of 4:129, discouraging men from marrying multiple women, with the one forbidding the consumption of alcohol (2:219): “In them [wine and gambling] is great sin and benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” Most male exegetes read this verse as rendering alcohol haraam, yet do not extend their logic of implicit inhibition to polygamy even though every verse regarding polygamy follows the same structural reason as the “harm outweighing the benefit” in alcohol. You all know I do not contest alcohol is implicitly forbidden in this verse, but by that very logic, so are male exegetes hypocrites when they do not extend the polite inhibition to polygamy just because it’s polite.

The different weights by which the Qur’an forbids an act, but ultimately still forbids it as sacred or haraam, is another subject for its own post. The most widely cited verse regarding polygamy is 4:3.

[4:2] Give the orphans their properties
and do not substitute your defective property
with their superior property.
And do not consume their properties into your own.
That is a great sin.
[4:3] And if you fear that you will not
deal justly with orphans,
then marry amongst yourselves suitable women,
twos or threes or fours.
But if you fear
that you will not exercise justice,
then marry only one, or the responsibility possessing your right hands.
That is more appropriate
that you do not incline to oppress.
—4:2-3

I’ve included 4:2 to lend context to 4:3, which is the marginalization of women and girls. It is specifically familial and financial marginalization. 4:3 describes at least three circumstances in which the women upon its revelation found themselves: the first circumstance is as orphaned girls with property, which men are commanded not to consume into their own. The second circumstance is as marginalized women who are suitable, defined by the verse itself as women from whom these men cannot take property because the women were left with neither property nor guardianship, whom men marry to themselves amongst themselves. The third is “the responsibility possessing your right hand”—i.e. women who are under some guardianship, encompassing but not limited to slaves and captives the institutions of which marriage sought to eliminate, and thus entitled to protections by virtue so that men are less inclined to infringe on unfamiliar rights.

Male exegetes are often confused by “twos or threes or fours” but this is a natural reference to multitudes because the “you” address in this verse is not just the plural “you”—it is contextually the societal you. The “you” of the multitudes. These pairs of “twos or threes or fours” emphasize that societal address of the plural subject, just as the societal description of angels’ wings is offered in 35:1, which praises Allah “Who made the angel messengers having wings, twos or threes or fours” and “increases in creation what S/he wills.” The description is for the society of angels, a different type of contextual plural, and the numbers reference an infinite multitude of weddings, not of wives. Marry them to each other, amongst yourselves. The verb “marry” is not individually reflexive—it is societally reflexive.

It follows then the final circumstance 4:3 describes employs “wahid” to mean not just one but only—as in “one and only”—this circumstance: the circumstance in which a man has guardianship over a newly financially and familially marginalized woman. Any woman in this circumstance is the “only one” (as directly from the verse) he is allowed to marry. He cannot deal justly with orphans who have property, or with women toward whom he has no guardianship, so he can marry only women from whom he is expected to take responsibility. The recognition of “wahid” as operating as “only one circumstance” in 4:3 further supports “twos or threes or fours” as societally reflexive plurals. This happens again such as in verse 34:46, “seek truth in pairs and individually.”

The inclusion of “aw” (or) in “only one, or the responsibility possessing your right hands” operates as introducing the definition of the aforementioned noun. Take for example: “We saw the dancers, or women weaving through the air.” The latter part of the sentence following “or” defines dancer. In fact, in very previous paragraph, I was forced to repeat with in “He cannot deal justly with orphans who have property, or with women toward whom he has no guardianship,” to avoid grammatically defining orphans as “women toward whom he as no guardianship”: the latter is describing a different circumstance, not defining the first. In 4:3, the latter defines the former; otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to say a woman in just one circumstance, and then this other circumstance.

This is all very clear to me: the verse moves from orphans from whom men are not to take property; to women suitable by circumstance of familial and financial marginalization for men (societal plural) to marry; to women for whom men are responsible—women possessing the men’s right hands—and whose rights are familiar to their male guardians. Therefore the entirety of the verse remains intact in terms of context and its concern with addressing marginalized women especially in times of war. The verses emphasize justice toward women, and the feminine voice and interest is always centered to regulate male behavior.

This is the most immediate reading and easy to see. No one could read polygamy into these verses unless they really, really wanted to read polygamy into these verses, particularly since polygamy is described as humanly impossible in the remainder of the Qur’an. However, according to malestream scholars, polygamy was and is allowed in the following conditions: (1) when polygamy is used to relieve a substantial number of people living in poverty if the man who does so is able, in some sort of extravagant fantasy, to treat each wife equally and (2) some scholars are gracious enough to say woman is not forced into or to stay in marriage. When the Prophet’s daughter came to him and told him her husband wanted a second wife, the Prophet asked him not to marry again, because it would displease the Prophet’s daughter. This provides that a man cannot marry again if his wife won’t allow it.

Polygamy isn’t, however, is derived from the Qur’anic text, as I have shown. Men will pull verses to pieces for excuses: some have even suggested that polygamy is not only allowed but necessary in populations in which women outnumber men. The Qur’an simply says nothing about qualifying polygamy in societies where there are more women than men. It does, however, emphasize that men cannot deal justly with women because men are not God, despite whatever ideas they might have. In fact, verses 33:50-52 reluctantly permit the Prophet to marry women who ask to marry him and emphasize that “this is not for other believers” which further illustrates the meaning of haraam as sacred, and confirms that polygamy is in fact haraam.

This is clear, and would make nearly all polygamous marriages today Islamically unlawful. I realize there are women who are second wives in polygamous marriages who become very frustrated when no one believes that they’re happy or satisfied. I’m not making judgments on your happiness by finding it unlawful. When women aren’t abused, it’s none of my business. Rather, the source of permissibility for polygamy is not from the Qur’an. 4:3 states that orphans are to be given the entirety of their rightful properties, that men within a society are to marry financially and familially marginalized women in that society, and that men who cannot deal justly in either circumstance should only marry women in the (only one) circumstance in which they are responsible for these women.

Rebels v.s. Revolutionaries

Patriarchy will always perceive the actions of two groups of people as “rebellious”–women, and teenagers. Take note that although “rebellious” is denotatively defined as resisting authority, the connotation is that women and teenagers are disobedient and insubordinate for the mere the sake of resisting authority, and not for the grander revolutionary cause of upholding the inherent value in their beliefs. Unlike rebellious men, who seek to overthrow an unjust system, the rebellious woman is perceived as one who seeks to destabilize the morals of society and needs to be “put back in place”–much like the rebellious child, whose opinions are “just a phase” and will come to end upon the adulthood realization that authority figures were correct all along.

I’m aware from your emails that some of you are teenagers. I was 19 when I started writing here. I’m now 24. When I was a teenager, I was a pedantic, quietly imaginative, overreaching kind of child. I was the kind of child adults enjoyed and other children disliked; I was a know-it-all or–worse?–a goody-two-shoes. Perhaps it is some kind of cosmic joke that I am fonder of children now. I didn’t like teenagers when I was one of them. But that was such an injustice! I hope you see that more clearly than I did. Teenagers are in fact quite wonderful. It’s a shame I disliked them—it’s a shame I disliked them while I was one of them, having accepted the myth that teenage problems don’t matter (“You won’t care about them when you’re older,”) that the only use for my intelligence was to prove my worth to adults, that I was immature if I refused to seek adult approval. I am amazed by teenagers routinely when I really shouldn’t be stunned–by Sarah Volz, who grew financially viable algae biofuels under her bed; by Paul Hyman, who invented a camera to aid firefighters seeing through smoke; by Adebola Duro-Aina who invented a urine-powered generator to address Nigeria’s energy problem. (And yes, it works.) The brilliance of teenagers is obvious, not astounding. After all, Louis Braille invented braille when he was 15.

Not that anyone should expect you to be a genius, or expect otherwise for that matter–that complaint about the pre-frontal cortex employed to discredit you every time gets pretty old doesn’t it?–no one should really expect anything at all for anyone. My point is that I was 19 when I began writing here, and despite the common side-smirk accusation about my beliefs and interpretations of Islam being transitory, they were not, in fact, a “phase.” They were the core of who I was, emerging from myself. I hypothesized that after I became an adult–I think I have yet to accomplish this–it would be accepted that I’m not “rebelling” for the sake of rebelling, that I’m just being who I actually am, living my life the way I saw it fit to be lived, but of course in anticipating this I had neglected to account for the fact that I’m a woman. Which means my “rebellion” will never be taken seriously. It is rebellion and not revolution. The Great Male Revolutionary may be revered, but the kindred spirit in a womanly form, eternally disparaged, is the true lone ranger.

Don’t let anyone claim your beliefs, your identity, anything about you is merely transitional. And if it is, don’t let anyone attribute it to your age. After all, transitional things are lovely, and their temporariness makes them no less valuable. Patriarchy will have you believe only men are allowed to change their minds whilst maintaining validity on any decision, on any assumed identity, as though this very human tendency to change is a privilege afforded to only those whose genders–and age–have been wrongfully associated with strength of character. I’d tell you it gets better as you get older–but why should it? You needn’t grow out of a certain age for people to begin respecting your perspectives. And you, 19-year-old reading this in your late teens on-the-brink-of-20–don’t you dare forget what it was like. I was 19 five years ago, and I still haven’t. Just because it stops mattering to you one day once you’ve passed a convenient threshold doesn’t mean it isn’t still important. The rule is suspended in the timelessness of morality. All it means when you think you “know better” now is that you’ve become oppressive as soon as you were given the opportunity to forget.

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