Methodology

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.

In the absence of the Prophet, you are your best advisor.

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.

clearer perceptions

The most physiologically violent act inflicted by white supremacist patriarchy, like all oppressive systems, is curbing the ability to love freely. The woman of color’s identity is inseparable from her skin, and so her worldview is shaped by it; so that she is aware, grimly, that the shadowy invitation of likeness in her lover is not the inviting indication of a soulmate’s semblance, but the trauma of violence and the flight of resistance that has come to forge both the lover and beloved.

Disagreement vs. Disapproval

For some time now, I’ve noticed an interesting, and not in the least bit surprising, inclination among male critics of Islamic feminist thought, to appeal to more prominent figures of authority on Islamic feminism, such as Kecia Ali or Amina Wadud, and allege that these prominent scholars would “disapprove” of the views espoused by those of us who read their ideas, remark on them, question them, expand upon them, and incorporate them into our practice. Never mind that we might have personal or professional relationships with these scholars, that they might be our friends or advisers, random male critics know the scholar–and of what she might approve or disapprove–better than those of us who contribute to her efforts.

keciaalidisagrees
I asked Kecia, she said you were wrong.
It’s telling and amusing to see this happening with women who are alive. I’m accustomed, for example, to men alleging that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, would disapprove of me. But for men to insist I adopt a more dignified tone in the name of Kecia Ali, when I can turn around and ask her to find otherwise, is laughable. Amina Wadud, whom male critics have noted dresses traditionally, has never once conveyed to me that she disapproves of my tulip skirts. I can assure anyone she has more important things to think about. According to a few men who’ve contested the merits of Islamic feminism, however, Amina Wadud spends her days absolutely horrified at what Islamic feminists are wearing.

Dear readers, realize this means that there’s a strong possibility that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, would not disapprove of you either. These fallacious appeals to respectable authority figures can only survive in religious discourse built on certain incorrect premises: that we care, first of all, and that these opinions and imaginary disapproval are relevant somehow to the purity of our practice.

Apparently, male scholars “disagree” with each other, but female scholars “disapprove” of each other. Male critics can also “disagree” with other men, but must always “disapprove” of women. This is their way of not engaging honestly or intelligently with the substance of your arguments.

Functions of the Language Barrier as Protest in the Muslim Feminist Jihad

On April 23rd, 2012, Mona Eltahawy wrote an article titled, “Why Do They Hate Us?” to protest the treatment of women in the Middle East. The article, featured in Foreign Policy magazine, prompted a variety of responses, ranging from admiration for the author’s courage to criticism for her portrayal of Egyptian men. In online Islamic feminist circles, the most frequent and perceptive criticism was that Eltahawy had written the article in English, even though she is a native Arabic-speaker capable of effectively conveying her message in the language of the demographic she critiques. Eltahawy’s decision to protest in English served to partially remove the language barrier between Egyptian feminists and a potentially harmful English-speaking audience. This is significant because it suggests that the language barrier serves a protective purpose in protest. The language barrier does more than specify an audience: it precludes one.

Typically, the language barrier is a source of frustration when there is a desire for interaction across linguistic boundaries, which social media facilitates. However, the choice of language can be utilized advantageously in protest: it is a way to criticize misogyny in the Muslim community and circumvent inciting Islamophobia. When Muslim women critique Muslim men in English, some assume the women’s passions for equality are influenced by colonialism, and proceed to appropriate these critiques to embolden xenophobia. However, when Muslim women write in, for example, Arabic, Pashto, Bangla, Mandarin, Punjabi, and Farsi, not only are their critiques rendered inaccessible to an unintended audience, but that audience is barred from assuming ownership of those critiques. The language barrier deters the piracy of the marginalized voice.

There are ways in which, rather than stifling the effect of protest, the language barrier subtly enhances it by limiting agency to those whose struggles are central to its objective, and by enforcing these limits on social media platforms. In fact, language as a metaphorical shield even predates social media: during the British conquest of India, revolutionary writers, such as Kazi Nazrul Islam, whose rebellion against British colonialism won him the title of “Rebel Poet,” advocated gender equality and protested the bigotry of invaders by calling for independence in Bangla, an indigenous language; subsequently, the colonists were hindered from the immediate identification of a threat because they could not access or read his writing. Eventually, Kazi Nazrul Islam was jailed as the language barrier between Indians and the British began to erode. It was Nazrul Islam’s title as “Rebel Poet” that aroused British suspicions. It is no well-kept secret, furthermore, that when colonists arrived on Turtle Island, they not only sought to eliminate Native cultures but the children’s use of indigenous languages in schools. In the United States there are often workplace policies against the use of non-English languages among employees: in 2010, sixty-nine Filipina immigrants filed a lawsuit against the Delano Regional Medical Center in California for harassment and discrimination due to the hospital’s English-only policy. This is a strong indication that the language barrier has a potential to uproot establishments of power by leaving them out—a potential that those in power recognize.

from %22Why do they hate us%22 by Mona Eltahawy
from Eltahawy’s “Why do they hate us?” unforgivingly criticizing both Arab men and Western “experts” in English 

However, in these examples, the potential object of the speakers’ criticism is the system of power itself, and not the religious interpretations or cultures of those who speak the Othered language. There are several prominent Islamic feminists, such as Asra Nomani, as well as prominent Muslim male writers, such as Haroon Moghul, who’ve used their social media platforms to critique the Muslim communities’ application and practice of Islamic beliefs—in English.  A subject of criticism among Islamic feminists is Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa’s article in The Washington Post titled, “As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity”; the article does not—as the title suggests—discourage against cultural appropriation. Instead, it advises non-Muslim women “not [to] wear a headscarf in ‘solidarity’ with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with ‘honor.’ Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.” Although Nomani and Arafa discuss the re-interpretation of “hijab” to mean “headscarf” and argue that this is not the original command of the Qur’an, detailing their struggles against Muslims who’ve harassed women to wear the headscarf—and although these are all points made and supported by other Muslim feminists—the targeted audience of the article, (white) non-Muslim women, questionably repositions non-Muslim feminists into the role of the imposing white savior, from which so many Islamic feminists have fought to remove them.

In the case of Nomani and Arafa, the target audience is made clear even from as early as the title of the article, which blatantly addresses a non-Muslim audience. In most cases, however, it is only implied, and can be deciphered from where the publication appears and its main audience.

Subsequently, the question then arises of where Muslims who speak only English are situated in protesting the inequalities in Muslim communities. Muslims critiquing oppressive power structures in either English or non-English languages is protest, and effective. Muslims critiquing each other in their own languages is protest, and effective. Muslims critiquing each other in English, such as the scholar and Islamic feminist Amina Wadud, for Muslim audiences is protest, and effective. Amina Wadud still operates within a form of the language barrier; since she writes for a Muslim audience, she does not define words that recur in Islamic discourse. Culture is tied very much to language, and the language barrier encompasses a cultural one. However, articles in journals such as The Washington Post and The Guardian don’t cater to a Muslim readership or bare the burden of social responsibility, and become sensationalist. Mona Eltahawy, whose activism has been valuable, fell short with her Foreign Policy article.

Zeineddine violence of men
Nazira Zeineddine contesting that women are inherently evil by suggesting this is a projection of men, whose violence is demonstrable.

Articles written in English are still effective if published on a platform whose audience is aware of not only the injustices which the author protests, but of the injustices affecting the Muslim author herself. An author who critiques gender inequality in the Muslim community is just as subject to Islamophobia from her audience as she is to misogyny from her community. Since language hierarchies exist in most Muslim communities in the United States, with a preference for Arabic above all Others, it is important to find a place for diasphoric Muslims who speak languages other than English or Arabic. This may, after all, facilitate the development of a different facet of feminism, one that is freer from both a white savior complex and Arab exclusivity.

When, in Los Angeles in February of 2015, an all-women’s mosque opened as an alternative space to the oppressive, segregated mosques in the remainder of the country, it was identified at once by male scholars as problematic in prohibiting the attendance of men, even though mosques with barriers—literal barriers—bar (and discourage) female attendance. While disparaging women, scholars like Yasir Qadhi, struck by an opportunistic enlightenment, encouraged their audiences on Facebook to address the “root” of the problem: the unwelcome atmosphere in mainstream mosques. Women who attend the mosque, Qadhi argued, should be treated with a special respect for choosing to attend instead of shopping. He stated that it was natural that women would “counter-react” to feeling unwelcome and that some of those counter-reactions would be “illegitimate.” The implication that an all-women’s mosque was illegitimate would have come as a surprise to Muslims who primarily speak neither English nor Arabic, such as, for example Muslim women in China.

In “Debates over Islamic Feminism and Empowerment in Contemporary China,” Masumi Matsumoto describes all-female madrasas and mosques in China:

“Nüxue, or female madrasas, have been mushrooming in China’s Muslim communities since the beginning of the 1990s. Arabic and Islam are taught there. The government permits them tacitly. Such schools have given Muslim women unexpected gender roles and have supported the growth of China’s Islamic feminism. The female madrasa offers alternative values which Party-controlled public schools cannot provide. Based on the tradition of female mosques and female ahong, nüxue is the result of intense negotiations between Muslims and non-Muslim Chinese society, between Muslim women and men, and between Muslims of different social classes. Islamic feminism in China is aimed at eliminating gender discrimination and traditional patriarchy. However, their notion of gender equality with Islamic characteristics contradicts with the more “masculine” gender equality supported by Western feminists and the CCP, which tend to emphasize materialism, nationalism, and militarism.”

MA Ke-lin (Department of Sociology,Northwest Normal University,Lanzhou 730070,Gansu,China);The influence of Islamic view on femineity over the northwestern Muslim women[J];Social Sciences in Ningxia;2007-03
excerpt from “The Influence of Islamic View on Femininity over the Northwestern Muslim Woman” by MA Ke-lin (Department of Sociology, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, Gansu, China) detailing women’s rights in Islam.
In China, the concept of female imams and religious leaders is not a foreign one. Islamophobia is as rampant in China as it is in the United States, but Chinese Muslim feminists have developed an Islamic feminism that is able to dodge accusations from critics of Western influence—they face, I am sure, different accusations, but this raises an incredible point: if (Western) Muslim feminists are too influenced by Western feminism to attain legitimacy in their own communities, how have Chinese Muslim feminists arrived at the same interpretations for centuries? Muslim men who are concerned about neocolonialism and Islamophobia may have an appropriate fear, though manifested in inappropriate measures, of Westernization (colonialism), but their arguments against Islamic feminism perpetuating neocolonialism are insufficient when Chinese Islamic feminists, who don’t communicate their interpretations primarily in English or any Western language, engage in the same practices, assign the same leadership roles to women, as the “Westernized” Islamic feminist.

From the language barrier erect between Muslim American feminists and Muslim Chinese feminists, we are able to discard the notion that equality is inherently and exclusively a colonialist value—it is, in fact, inherently not. There is a feminism that survives in non-English speaking communities that is worth preserving, because it serves the very people it is meant to serve rather than imposing domineering, incompatible concepts, by precluding colonialist audiences and allowing feminism to develop organically in the community.

This preclusion of colonialist audiences through language is already a subject of amusement on social media. In the beginning of 2016, an image was viral on major social media platforms—Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—which read In Bengali we don’t say ‘I love you.’ We say ‘Tui manush na goru,’ which means ‘My heart loses purpose without you,’ and I think that’s beautiful. Of course, tui manush na goru means Are you human or cow? tuimanushnagoruThe joke takes a stab at cultural appropriators, who employ languages foreign to them to maneuver through cultural experiences from which they are barred(i.e. the popular question “How do you say ‘I love you’ in your language?”). It is a subtle, and humorous, form of protest—which makes it powerful. Despite popular notions that Muslim cultures require colonialist influences to create a more just and equal society, Nazira Zeineddine, a pioneer of 20th century feminism, addressed a prominent contemporary scholar she criticized for using an interpretation of Islam to perpetuate misogyny, saying,

“You mentioned, my dear Sheikh, that the health and the morality of the Bedouin and the villagers earned them the right to be unveiled. It was a corrupt morality of city dwellers that blighted them with the veil. Excuse me, sir, I’m a village woman living in the city and I have observed both villagers and city dwellers. I have not seen your city sisters and brothers to be inherently less moral than my sisters and brothers from the villages […] Woe to us if we do not join with our men in breaking our chains to seize our freedoms that are gifts from God Almighty. They provide for the welfare, advancement, and happiness of all.” (Unveiling and Veiling, 290)

Zeineddine manages to make a compelling feminist argument within the parameters of Islamic philosophies. When referencing European authors or appealing to concepts popularly attributed to Western thought, Zeineddine strips herself of pretention by communicating her argument in Arabic. She discusses, specifically, the settings in her own country—the village, the city—to formulate her argument against male figures of authority. Because she communicates her point in Arabic, she speaks to the people whom she criticizes, rather than speaking behind them, the conversation is a more honest one.

Zeineddine 225
“You are afraid of women’s knowledge. You’re afraid to remove the covering from her heart just as you are afraid to remove the veil from her eyes. It seems that you want her heart and eyes to remain blind so that she will be a dumb instrument in the hands of someone like you.” Zeineddine to al-Ghalayini (Unveiling and Veiling, 225).

Ghalayini, Zeineddine’s most frequent subject of critique, published a refutation entitled Views on the Book “Attributed to Miss Nazira Zeineddine” in which he alleged that Unveiling and Veiling had been written not by a woman named Nazira Zeineddine but by a group of men, while simultaneously accusing Zeineddine of treason by connecting her to the French and foreign enemies of Islam who seek to embarrass the religion—subsequently admitting, of course, that his own interpretations were embarrassing to the religion.

When such critiques are written in Arabic or indigenous languages, it provides a larger space for examination and reexamination. It provides a larger space to examine and reexamine freely, but removing external pressures—which is the reason I suspect that al-Ghalayini and men like him reach desperately for the confines of those pressures even when criticism is communicated in their own languages.

Raise the wage for Jesus.

I have a lot of hair. Piles and piles of hair. It’s gorgeous when I can muster up the energy between work and class and guest lectures and conferences and writing and playing piano and dancing in my bedroom and non-alcoholic pina coladas to take care of it. And there’s so much of it; I’m convinced that I must have the strongest most elegant neck in the world to be able to still lift up my head. My neck must be the envy of gazelles to haul hair this heavy. If I stood on a boat I would surely sink it. It’s exhausting to take care of so much hair. I like to pass the responsibility to someone else. In this case, it’s my hairdresser, Jesus.

Jesus lives around Brentwood, over an hour’s drive from where he works in Palo Alto. I don’t actually know how much Jesus makes, but it could not possibly be enough. When Jesus washed my hair I was amazed at the strength in his hands. He actually asked me if he was scrubbing too hard and I was like, “Oh my God. Harder.” It was as though until this point every strand of my hair had been on fire at the roots, a raging flame fueled by the angry thoughts of patriarchal injustice, smothered with Jesus’s magical tension-releasing hands.

No, my hair has never literally been on fire. Although, I do have enough of it to fuel a fire for centuries. If the sun ever goes out, ask for my hair. I also have enough to bury objects in it, but please don’t tell the TSA.

Not only is it expensive to be a woman, it’s so incredibly dull, in the sense that one must sit for an hour or more in one place just to get her hair done, particularly if she possesses extraordinary amounts of it. As a woman I associate getting ready with necessary discomfort. Waxing legs is painful. Dressing hair is mind-numbing. Sometimes, if either goes on long enough, it’s either painfully mind-numbing or mind-numbingly painful. I’m sure someone will make the claim that these measures don’t need to be taken—but they do. Women don’t do these things because they’re luxuries; we do them to survive.

When I saw Jesus, for the first time a necessary measure was a pleasurable experience. The long round-brush strokes against my head were like a massage. Even the part that is typically the most annoying—which is the hairdresser trying to clip the remaining hair out of the way, because this usually requires at least two attempts due to the thickness and massive amounts—was satisfying, as Jesus would tug, twist, and place like it were meant to be a spa treatment. Jesus tugging at my hair was the best thing that’d happened to me all week. Certainly, Jesus was named after Prophet Isa, who could perform miracles. I’m assuming, of course; maybe he was named after his great grandfather. Either way, someone please give this man a million dollars.

By the way, as a result my hair looked the best it’s ever looked. I looked like a million dollars. I actually never use that phrase, but it was convenient to use in this context, because of the literary connections.

California recently raised the minimum wage to $15/hr, which frankly isn’t enough to live in the Bay. It especially won’t be enough in 2022, which is when the raise actually goes into effect. We should raise the wage for Jesus, who should receive an annual income of exactly one million dollars.

To be clear, I’m not saying the minimum wage should be raised to a living wage because Jesus is awesome (it’s likely he does make a little bit more than that); we should raise the wage because an hour of someone’s time should be valued enough to recognize that they need to be able to live. We should raise the wage for Jesus, my hairdresser, and for the Prophet Isa, who would be opposed to paying people close to nothing for their services—spectacular, or ordinary.

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.