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

Severing a population from its allies and support network is abuse.

There are Muslim men who say things like “only Muslims should be able to comment on sexual assault in the Muslim community” WHILE NOT BEING WOMEN. You’re seriously not registering that you’re asking people of an outside demographic to stop, while being part of an outside demographic? You don’t get to choose our allies for us. Sure, I’d probably tell Ashton and McKenzie to shut it but that’s because I get to choose my allies to save your ass out of a courtesy to you that I don’t owe, and you don’t get to choose them for me.

When Muslims are anti-LBGT, the non-Muslim LGBT community gets to say things unless LGBT Muslims silence them. Straight, cisgender Muslims don’t get to make that decision.

When Muslims are anti-black, black non-Muslims can object and it’s only for BLACK MUSLIMS to tell them to stop. Non-black Muslims don’t get a say in who is or isn’t able to check our anti-blackness.

When Muslims are sexist or gender essentialist ONLY MUSLIM WOMEN AND NB MUSLIMS decide that non-Muslims can’t comment. Muslim men do not. You are looking for a way to dodge accountability so that you don’t have to hear about it. It’s the new respectability politics.

Severing a population from its allies and support network is abuse. It is also (again) a gross misunderstanding of intersectionality, by privileging one identity (in this case the Muslimness of victims) over another (the femaleness of victims), which is the only mindset that can birth such an obnoxious maxim as “only Muslims can comment on sexual assault” while not being a woman. Here’s a newsflash brown men: your little world of oppression is neither all-encompassing nor the only one that exists.

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.

Article: “It’s Time to Stop Acting like Women are the Reason Islamophobia Exists”

In what world is it okay to implicate Muslim women in white supremacy? How does a Muslim man muster up the immodesty to tell a Muslim woman outraged about sexual assault that she’s an agent for white supremacy? That she should watch her words because white men are listening? What, exactly, is she meant to do about that, other than offer herself as some sort of sacrificial lamb for the “greater” cause of fighting racism?

Salaam everyone. I know that it’s been a while. I’m directing you all to an article I recently produced with two other amazing Islamic feminists. It’s posted here on AltMuslim, and also crossposted at Muslimah Media Watch.

I’ll write to you soon. xx

Where to Find Me (And What Writing to Submit)

Dear readers,

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.

To follow us on Instagram, and on Twitter, you can follow both at the handle @KajolCrescent.

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!

With love,
Nahida