“Why do Muslims pray that way? And why toward the Kaaba?”

I received these two questions in my inbox today and figured I would answer them here. This isn’t really that type of site (so the personal email was appropriate) but I’m sure both questions are common amongst non-Muslims (and Muslims alike).

Starting with the first–I’m kind of staggered when Christians ask this question, because it is in the same tradition. Our way of praying passes through the teachings of Prophet Jesus, who fell to his knees and pressed his face to the ground showing complete submission to God, and from the Prophets who came before him too. When we pray to God, we are engaging in an eternal dialogue—everlasting, perpetual—and we do so in the same movements as all the Prophets. In other words the way that Muslims pray is not unique to Islam. Here are excerpts from previous religious texts:

And Abraham fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, “My promise is still with you.”
–Genesis 17:3

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
–Genesis 17:17

“Neither,” he replied, “but as a commander of God’s army I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, in reference, and said unto him, “I am at your command. What saith my God unto his servant?”
–Joshua 5:14

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
–Exodus 34:8

God said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
–Numbers 16:20-22

And of course as stated previously Prophet Jesus repeatedly fell on his forehead to worship God, and demonstrated this to those he taught.

And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
–Matthew 17:6

And he (Jesus) went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, “O God, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
–Matthew 26:39

And so Prophet Muhammad taught the same way to pray, and we follow the teachings of all the Prophets of God.

On a relevant note on how to pray the required prayers and why the steps aren’t specified in the Qur’an, in my comment section Lat once asked why the hajj isn’t detailed in the Qur’an,

Thank you for highlighting a different aspect of Abraham’s stand and of patrirarchy.I like the way you said it.What I find about hajj missing in the Quranic verses is about Hagar and her plight.It makes me wonder even now if she played any critical role in the rites of pilgrimage.If she is so important why isn’t she mentioned in the Quran along with other women that the Quran recognizes as examples of good women? The Quran simply points out that every prophet/messenger were given rites of pilgrimage to do.Just find it odd and that men are often given priority during hajj even if it’s Hagar,a women’s experience,that counts the most,as told by her story.what’s your view?

and I provided my hypothesis:

Only a hypothesis, but I always figured it was because the practice lived long before Hager’s plight; because the story is not specific to her, and because the hajj is God’s command, and not Hager’s sunnah, there is an allusion and no explanation in the Qur’an. Just like the Qur’an tells us to pray, but not how.

Here’s an interesting excerpt (though I can’t locate the source):

Prostrate in prayer; it is the only time your heart is raised above your head.

A shot of the Kaaba engraved in gold script designed on the brim.

The second question inquired not only why we pray facing the qibla but suggested that to “pray toward a black box” and at the same time “denounce all idolatry” is absurd, and proposed whether this isn’t a pagan practice that Islam has adopted. While the simultaneous praying toward a black box and the denouncing of all idolatry would seem absurd on the peripheral level, this “contradiction” has never fazed me. In my perspective, in the perspective of Islam, religions are independent and reconfirming Revelations; in other words, since I believe that the Divine message has always been islam (deliberately lowercase), I likewise believe that remnants of paganism are not actually… remnants of paganism, but the restorations of pieces that have been lost or altered. Thus these commonalities are comprehensibly natural and not the least bit disconcerting.

“White atheists are the WORST!”: Discrepancies in Identifying Racism

I am writing this post despite the sense that the last three posts I wrote unrelated to Islam are about race and I am kind of eyeing how it throws off my usual variation here.

Before I introduce all the twitter drama, let me recount the incident to which it refers—infamously christened EG, or ElevatorGate.

Rebecca Watson, an atheist feminist and the well-known writer of Skepchick, delivered a lecture on hostility toward women in the atheist community. As she entered an elevator at a very late hour following the presentation a man asked her whether she’d come up to his room for coffee, an invitation Watson declined. Watson casually mentioned the incident in passing, denouncing that a man would advance right after she disclosed such behavior as a source of discomfort for her and advising guys to get a clue.

For this Watson was accused of hating men and received a number of death threats.

Then Richard Dawkins took it upon himself to criticize her—since she is a Western woman—for complaining about misogyny, because there are Muslim women in the world who are having their genitals cut dammit. Thus the old tactic of silencing a woman by telling her she should be grateful she isn’t being stoned to death was employed. Not only was Watson accused of misandry, but of cultural insensitivity and racism—for talking about how she didn’t go out with some schmuck. Insert gif that reads, “I turned down someone for coffee–therefore I hate Muslims” here.

That is Dawkins’s logic. Of course, Dawkins and his supporters, as racially sensitive and globally aware as they are, failed to notice that the only people making this claim were white. They also failed to notice how extremely offensive this comment was to the Muslim women (some of whom are also Western women) that these men supposedly care so much about, women who can save our damn selves and don’t need white knights like Richard Dawkins conveniently using our oppression to silence white women thank you very much.

Yesterday on twitter, as I was speaking to Ozy, one of my awesomeful friends, some douchebag decided to introduce himself to the conversation, and this happened: (he parades in at the 5th tweet)

“Primitive.” Your language isn’t suggestive of racism at all. (I take it though that he was referring to religiosity.) Opening with condescendingly informing me Islam and feminism are incompatible (thanks XY)* and that believing in God is like believing in mermaids is totally logic and not proselytizing. Geez, you’d think calling Dawkins a racist ass is equivalent to criticizing a religious leader.

Then, unable to resist, he unblocked me to tell me

in reference to my telling Ozy that I don’t need a man to lecture me about my feminism. And then he blocked me again. Because he is so in control. The best part is when he re-tweeted my tweet denouncing white atheists to his followers as an example of hypocrisy. Dude thought he struck gold. He must have pissed himself in excitement when I said that. In fact not only did he re-tweet it, he then linked it.

Awwwe, he wants to marry my tweeeeet!

The guy has class:

Oh the virgins. Yay. No Islamophobia here–move along!

Let me stop here to say that I acknowledge atheists, who are at an immense systematic disadvantage, have a lot to be pissed off about. I know I disparaged the strong reaction to my criticizing Dawkins and likened him to a religious leader, but religious leaders who mock other religions in an equally belittling manner as Dawkins aren’t met with nearly the same level of hatred as atheists who mock religions. Unlike the presumptions of this jackass, this is not about atheism. This is about racism and people not knowing what the hell that is—and not understanding the underpinnings that classify something as racist and thus perpetuate racism. And how these people are usually white. Another atheist had taken the time to ask me to clarify this allegation against Dawkins—and he had been of color; naturally the concern was understood.

It annoys me to no end when people can’t identify racism unless it’s overt. Dawkins doesn’t even know he’s racist because he’s “obscured” the essential message of inferiority behind the sentiment that Muslim women need to be saved from the heinous crimes of Muslim men, which has a thousand different oppressive implications–and this guy was doing the same racist thing. Then I blatantly state “white atheists are the WORST” and there’s outrage because that’s the only thing they can recognize as a generalization! Even when Dawkins’s and others’ wordy prejudice actively illustrates racism as a contextualized function rather than being a simple declarative. They don’t register it until it’s made frank for them and put in the simplest terms–which means they don’t understand racism at all. They just look for a formulaic sentence.

It reminds me of advice I read on tumblr. “One of the worst ways to stop someone from telling sexist jokes is to tell him the joke isn’t funny. He’ll assume that you’re humorless and that he needs to save the good stuff for the right audience. If you really want someone to stop telling sexist jokes, you need to tell him, ‘I don’t get it’ and then step back as he tries not to say, ‘It’s funny because women are stupid.’ ”

That’s just it. They can’t tell unless it’s in the simpest terms. Because they don’t really understand racism or sexism, don’t understand the dynamics of the systematic functions of oppression. They just know a formula of a sentence. They don’t understand racism is systematic, not a sentence, and therefore something like a sentence is racist when it contributes to that racist system.

I don’t know how long I’ll leave this up–it feels lowly like gossip, but I’ll keep it for at least a while to get the point across. Or edit it somehow to take out that stuff… somehow, since that’s the reference.

*–WILL EVERYBODY STOP TRYING TO SAVE ME PLEASE!

Longing.

How can a dreamer be satisfied in desirous dreams? It must be a terrible fault of mine.

Oh sweet angel conceive you, Hell! Spirit of light! They say to be damned to the Fire is to be denied closeness to God; if longing feels so satisfying, how can one ever suffer in Hell as she longs for Heaven? When pain itself is inflicted by the Creator, and created by the same, can it ever feel anything but endearing?

It cannot be the distance then; it must be the scourging Wrath. How disheartening and sorrowful to be denied love by Love. What a wretched creature must be sentenced to Hell! I pity it unknowing. And fearful that I know–I may see myself in the dreadful ashes.

My heart quakes; I want to rupture. Why must I be trapped in human form? Forced only to desire dissipation into the universe and never find fulfillment! Floating particles would be calmed, assured they are encompassed. And the stars, cold, pristine in their distance and their mineral perfection, will never know the melancholy desolation of a human heart!

We must have been other creatures; centaurs robbed of our legs or mermaids of our tails, yearning still to race the wind and conquer the sea with no ability granted to compensate our desires–only build ships in vain–how else could such innate cravings be explained? How cruel that were our shoulder blades extended they would become vestigial wings, like faeries! Leave me with a soul that craves flight and a body inches short of wings!

There is often something glossy and unreachable, a strange suction of depth, when I look into my eyes, as though I will be engulfed in my own gaze; it frightens me. What immodest passion is this? Brazen earnestness and soft loss–what might I destroy? Lest I erupt overtake me in penetrating waves of truth until I have collapsed in weariness, denied, then enclose me in Divine Mercy! And remind me to be compassionate toward this human form, which is only representative of the shortcomings of my soul, and would wither without love–surely that is a sin.

Protecting our RELIGIOUS RIGHT to an Abortion

from the “religious” Right.

As you all must have heard by now, Michigan state representative Lisa Brown was censored and barred from speaking during a debate on an abortion bill because she had the audacity to utter the word “vagina”—at which point all the Republican men in the room gasped and clutched their pearls in horror, despite the fact that they’re legislatively raping yours with unnecessary highly intrusive transvaginal probes.

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

Oh spare me, you cunt. (What the hell is “mixed company”? Is this the 1800s?) I’m not a delicate fucking flower. I thought women were supposed to be the ones who talk too much? God, men canNOT shut up about things that don’t concern them.

Brown was not the only woman silenced, and it was obviously not her utterance of the female genitalia that sentenced her to an infringement on her first amendment rights. As the Detroit News reports, “Byrum, D-Onondaga, caused a disturbance on the House floor Wednesday when she wasn’t allowed to introduce an amendment to the abortion regulations bill banning men from getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man’s life.” Conservative men are deliberately silencing any woman who opposes them, for the same reasons they are against women’s suffrage—preserving their blasphemous privilege. They don’t want you to debate the issue; these pricks, who are in favor of small government, want to tell you what to do with your body, and what they want to do with it is to penetrate as deeply as possible regardless of how loudly and clearly you scream for them to stop. But don’t you dare try to suggest the same policing and intrusion of autonomy for them and demand proof of life-threatening conditions for a vasectomy! They will push their hands over your mouth.

While Lisa Brown’s words, “I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours? And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” are currently what is receiving the most attention, I’d like to direct it back to her primary point:

“Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed to preserve the life of the mother, are not only permissible, but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother.”

Indeed, Judaism—as well as Islam—has legalized abortion in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger, and in cases of rape. In Islam abortions are also allowed in the first 120 days of the pregnancy, before a soul is Given to the fetus. Additionally, much like the attitudes of the Aztec toward women who died in childsbirth as warriors who have died in battle (and those who survived honored as victorious warriors), Medieval Judaism viewed the fetus, had it been implanted by a rapist, as a pursuer that seeks to destroy the woman’s life as an enemy against her on a battlefield.

But despite the fact that in early periods of its existence even the Roman Catholic Church allowed abortion in specific cases, even something as obviously permissible as birth control has come into question. Because birth control, you see, interferes with God’s plan for woman, which in Christianity evidently was to suffer in delivery forever because Eve took the apple. Any innovation to impinge on this pain or to ameliorate it—such as birth control—is blasphemy. Adam’s punishment, however, which was to toil physically and tend the Earth, has had no such issue obstructing it from alleviation off the shoulders of man through advancements in labor.

But advancements in birth? Hell no.

Aside from this hypocrisy, how much longer are the same people who most often cry about forcing religious organizations to cover something that is against their beliefs–the “religious” Right–going to infringe on your religious freedom?

P.S. VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA

not your fucking incubator

UPDATE:

From the Detroit News (via Feministe commenters), “Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, gaveled Brown out of order for saying “no means no” — because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape, House GOP spokesman Ari Adler said. “It has nothing to do with the word vagina,” Adler said.”

And, as I typed there: This always pisses me off–when S.E. Cupp was photoshopped into that HORRIFIC PICTURE by Hustler, conservatives had no problem calling it DIGITAL RAPE.

But I suppose this isn’t LEGISLATIVE RAPE?

Legislation referenced will force women to actually undergo unnecessary penetration with a medical device.

The hypocritical inconsistencies are stunning.

They also had no problem saying that Herman Cain was enduring a “high tech lynching.” I would hope no white person on the Left would say something so disastrously appropriative, but if they did, can you imagine how outraged conservatives would be? “EVERYTHING is racist nowadays, just like EVERYTHING is rape.”

The Catholic Church Says Mother Theresa Should Have Been More Busy Speaking Out Against Abortion Instead of Ensuring Actual, Living Children Survive

Charity, it’s so overrated. Washington Post, via Feministe

A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said Thursday that it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social-justice concerns and not enough on condemning abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

How dare women disagree with bishops and other self-appointed gatekeepers! IN PUBLIC.

I can’t believe they have the AUDACITY to actually work to engender and espouse all the inherent goodness in religion like charity and hard work in very difficult conditions instead of being submissive to men and stuff! UNACCEPTABLE. Nuns should stop helping the sick, poor, orphaned, and dying so much and instead focus more on how women shouldn’t have rights. Let’s humiliate them more than we do our child molesters.

Lilith / Eve, a Question of Translation

Has it been over a week since I’d last written?

Hi. It’s me. Are you still there? =P

I haven’t much time, unfortunately. But here’s an entry of what’s been on my mind, though hastily written. If you remember from this post, the creation of Hawwa (translated as Eve) and Adam in Islam differs from the one in Christian religious tradition, in that (1) Hawwa is not said in the Qur’an to have formed from Adam’s rib, (2) nor is woman said to have been created second after man (3) or even Adam disclosed to have been (for certain) the male variant in the couple. God addresses Adam, whose name is interchangeably synonymous with humankind, and tells Adam to live with Hawwa (spouse) in Paradise, but the sex of each respective figure is not revealed. Hawwa and Adam exist simultaneously, androgynous until they eat from the tree, with neither having been created from the other though both are made of the same earth (thus of equal purity), and it is both of them together who are tricked into disobeying God’s command. But Hawwa is often translated as Eve, though this story does not sound like Eve’s.

It sounds like Lilith’s.

If you don’t know the story of Lilith (except for this slight resemblance, it doesn’t exist in Islam by name or detail): she is rumored in Judaism and Christianity to have been Adam’s first wife, created not from his rib after he had already been formed, unlike their Eve, but as an original, from (impure) earth. However, “Adam and Lilith could find no happiness together, not even understanding. When Adam wished to lie with her, Lilith demurred: ‘Why should I lie beneath you,’ she asked, ‘when I am your equal, since both of us were created from dust?’ When Lilith saw that Adam was determined to overpower her, she uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air, and flew away to the Red Sea, a place of ill repute, full of lascivious demons.” (Patai, 1964)

The resemblance to Satan, who refused to bow to Adam, citing his fashion of creation as reason, is chillingly striking. But here it is Adam who commanded submission, not God. And it is through invoking the name of God that Lilith makes her escape to the Red Sea, uniting with demons, one of whom she becomes.

God then creates Eve from Adam’s rib, who naturally does not quarrel with him. In Talmudic tradition, Lilith commands ghostly she-demons that prevent childbirths in human women by causing miscarriages and barrenness: a class of succubae that leave men weak in nocturnal ejaculations. The story of Lilith is the story of a woman who is—quite literally—demonized. And for what? She would not submit to a patriarchal order established by men. Significantly, in these versions of the story, she returns as the serpent to tempt Eve, “corrupting” the “good woman” who does as she is told. Though she returns to God full-circle, Lilith is the first feminist recognized and defined by patriarchy—a seductress who disobeys men and kills infants as she leaves women barren. She is not only a woman, but a woman so beautiful and monstrous that even nature itself condemns her in this barrenness, an unnatural woman: “As Montgomery aptly put it over half a century ago, ‘the Liliths were the most developed products of the morbid imagination—of the barren or neurotic woman, the mother in the time of maternity, the sleepless child.’” (Patai, 1964)

But Hawwa is a Lilith who was never asked to submit to Adam. Hawwa is a Lilith who thus never felt any need to “abandon” him or to depart. Hawwa is a content Eve, fully and rightfully herself with all the powers to her own autonomy. With the heavy baggage that Lilith carries, even predating Abrahamic tradition, is it entirely understandable that Hawwa has been translated as Eve. She is Lilith’s beginning and Eve’s end. The truth is that Islam’s Hawwa, never asked to submit to Adam, is neither a Lilith nor an Eve. It is possible that both women erupted from the story of the First Woman with the gradual differences accumulated over the retelling of a story for centuries.

Lilith, not entirely human, makes strange and sudden appearances in Muslim theology long after she should have died, though never by that name. When I was young(er) my mother told me a story taking place during the time of Solomon (who had control over humans and jinn [other spirits])* in which two women fought over the possession of a child. To resolve the issue, the child was brought to King Solomon, who—with the intention of determining the true mother—commanded the child be cut in half. One of the women agreed; the other screamed in agony and exclaimed that she would give up the child so long as it lived. Solomon determined that this was the true mother.

As a girl the story had left me perplexed. Who was this other woman, and what did she want with the child, if she would only kill it? My mother wondered the same, but had no answers.

And then I read,

“While Lilith and Naamah thus have become unmistakably evil spirits, at least one other time in history they assumed human form—when, in order to try Solomon’s wisdom, they assumed the form of two prostitutes and went to Solomon asking for his judgment in their quarrel over the surviving child.” (Patai, 1964)

and felt my heart stop. The woman was Lilith!

In Islam she couldn’t have been the original Lilith, I don’t believe, but it makes sense that she was a jinn, not a human woman. There is also the charge that the Queen of Sheba was none other than Lilith, which is far-fetched, and doesn’t fit the Islamic tradition of the story. The Queen of Sheba is definitely a human woman, who ruled powerfully—and rightfully, without marrying Prophet Solomon (in the Qur’an), proof that women are entitled to such extraordinary positions.

All I can safely conclude is that Hawwa (or Lilith or Eve) was so torn apart over centuries of patriarchal retellings that she became multiple women with multiple stories, and slandered to have consorted with the devil, all until the introduction of the creation of a second woman out of Adam’s rib as an exemplar of the patriarchally preferred model of womanhood to replace her, or to convince human women that disobedience is demonic. Seeing that the purpose of the Qur’an was to restore truth to the revelations that were corrupted by men, it is likely that previously Eve was lessened and Lilith slandered, but these were naturally patriarchal fabrications. Hawwa was not made from Adam’s rib, and Lilith did not consort with the devil. Submission to Adam was demanded from neither.

Because woman will not submit to man,

I would not have bowed to Adam, either. Nor to Eve. (They were both the same.) How could I when I submit only to God? For Satan it was pride; for me, love. (Or, if it is not, then make it so.) And if this Divine Love is a sin, my Lord, then damn me to Hell! And let me burn with love so ardent that the Fire itself dies in shame!

And Eve says, “Never submit to anyone but God. I didn’t.” And Lilith says, “They will slander me. And they will slander you. But remember.”

*Classes of evil jinn (those who follow Satan) are called demons, but not all jinn are evil.

Patai, Raphael. “Lilith.” The Journal of American Folklore 77.306 (1964): 295-314. Print.

Mary, Mary

In one of my classes yesterday, we were discussing the Virgin Mary, particularly when she appeared as Virgen de Guadalupe, and I was reminded of how uneasy and erased I feel whenever Mary is defined as a Catholic saint. Of course, in the context of this specific lesson, she was a Catholic saint, and in the context of most of the literature I will ever read, she is a Catholic saint;–and from a non-religious, purely historical perspective, in which religions are perceived as off-shoots of each other rather than independent but reconfirming Revelations, I guess the Catholics did have her first. I am more than happy to tolerate all of these for the purposes of literary and historical accuracy–but even in the absence of heavy context, or in passing casual conversation when the context is either modern or universal, she’s defined as such and her importance in all other religious spheres is ignored.

It makes me wonder how Christians expect me to be outraged on their behalf (and according to them, on my own) when Mary is depicted disrespectfully, if they aren’t willing to acknowledge that I love her as religiously–except when they need my help. No religion but Christianity is today allowed to influence Christmas, or any other aspect of American culture, through the introduction of new dimensions, traditions, or alterations to the original to encompass all those who practice (“Happy Holidays”?! NO WAY). But when they feel attacked, suddenly they turn to me, “But she’s yours too, isn’t she? You’re Muslim! They’re worried about offending you! Let us use your identity to save her!”

How convenient.