Labor.

Particular invisible systems of unpaid labor enable the appropriation of philosophies. I’m not referring to domestic labor or emotional labor (not quite) though these are also issues. I’m referring explicitly to the activity in which a person engages in order to research, piece together, and present an argument for their humanity, for which the payment is only basic humanization if that, despite the fact that this activity is highly profitable to not only the male academy but the philosophical legacy of colonialist oppressors.

Recently, a friend of mine expressed her frustration that a notably sexist academic program was espousing amina wadud’s translation of verse 4:34, without citing amina wadud. This was obvious because no male translators, particularly those whose translations are popularly reproduced, printed this interpretation. It was recognizably wadud’s work. The institution withheld credit from an Islamic feminist in order to uphold its reputation through the prestige of the interpretation, while benefiting from her exegesis, the same way men reproduce Islamic feminist arguments to defend verses they find uncomfortable while denying they need feminism because they have Islam. My friend related this phenomenon to a professor, and, when he prompted for an example, reminded him that Islamic feminist Riffat Hassan was the first to observe that Hawwa is not charged in the Qur’an for transgression on the forbidden tree, and the dual form is held responsible. He could thank Islamic feminists for the fact that this is now considered common sense, but for centuries male scholars had relied on the Biblical interpretation of this story to fill in the “gaps” they supposedly believe the Qur’an doesn’t have. As my friend stated, “It’s common sense to you because we had to do all of the hard work for it.”

Colonizers will often claim that their nations are the most philosophically advanced—they’ll cite the laws they’ve supposedly conceived purporting equality among sexes, among races, not cognizant of the fact that the very people they’ve oppressed are responsible for creating these understandings of humanity, equality, and justice. These abstractions are rooted in their practical applications—not the other way around. When faced with the inhumanity of systematic rape, of genocide, of slavery, naturally a group of victims develop deeply thorough, sound arguments for their humanity, which the institutions that oppress them then adopt as their own in theoretical forms. These arguments are showcased to the world—often to the countries from which the oppressed originate—as evidence of the superiority of white men. We forget that laws are more than impartial declarations of justice. They are the result of a tumultuous history. The recognition of a human right is the result of unappreciated labor.

Reconsidering what types of labor I am willing to perform has been a liberating activity. A man emailed me a while ago politely expressing disagreement with one of my posts here and asking whether we might discuss our differences in interpretation. Let me be clear of two things. First, I do prefer the extension of an invitation to the barrage of uninvited tired points men liberally impose with the expectation that I would have both the time and interest to comb through them. Second, with that said, it is highly unlikely that I will ever accept such an invitation: I am not benefiting from such a discussion. At all. Let’s face it—when his position is a traditional one, I’ve heard the talking points before. Why are men under the impression that if we disagree with a very popular interpretation, we must not be familiar with arguments in its favor? It is presumptuous for a man to believe I haven’t read the same scholars he has read. I wouldn’t benefit from a discussion like this—what’s going to happen, what’s always happened—is that the other party walks away with more to think about. And they’re thrilled about the intellectual exercise, which has never been an intellectual exercise for me but a battle for my rights. I never respond to men who email me, and that’s especially true now. I’m not performing that labor. It’s an unworthy endeavor, and if you’re looking for it, you’d best have blown my mind in the first sentence with your interpretative creativity.

I’m thinking about returning next month for a number of reasons. I won’t bore you with any of them. The posts will be infrequent. Some things… have come up. One of my friends pointed out to me that I’m the type of person to vanish, and not the type to say goodbye. It’s occurred to me how painfully true this is. When I’m done with an activity, an interest, a person, I simply vanish. I stop meeting them, stop calling, stop texting, stop emailing. I disappear. If I care enough to say goodbye, it means I’m not actually finished. But when I’m done… I’m gone. It’s radio silence.

So, I don’t want it to be this way (I promise!), but when I am done with the fatal feminist, you might not know until the months have passed. You knew I was coming back, because I said goodbye.

In the meantime I’m making changes to some old entries so they reflect up-to-date exegeses. I apologize to anyone with an RSS reader. You may want to unsubscribe temporarily. ;)

Hiatus.

Thanks to a major life decision I’ve just made, TFF is going to be on hiatus for 3 months. When I return I’ll be a brand new lady. But you won’t care. Unless I bring you presents maybe? I promise I’ll bring presents. I’ll play the piano for you. I’ll read you a poem in Arabic, the language of poems. I’ll tell you a story about dust and the sea. I’ll leave the wind on your answering machine. I’ll write you love letters in the form of blog posts.

Expect my return in late August. Ramadan Kareem in advance, and in advance Eid Mubarak. Email correspondences will not be delayed any more than they are usually delayed, so please feel free to contact me. Those who have tried already are aware that unless you are detailing an alarming, distressing circumstance or otherwise emailing me to tell me you are suicidal (in which case I will respond immediately) responses will be delayed for weeks and sometimes months. I apologize for this in advance, and assure you it’s because I am an introverted and reserved person, and not because I have better things to do than speak to you, because you are the best of all things.

Known friends, however, can expect prompt replies. I might possibly be deactivating my Facebook (unsure), so use my email/phone number/the billion other ways to contact someone if that happens. Of course.

I’ll still be around this general area, so I will see reader comments. And I assure you, TFF will comparatively improve when I return. Because of the brand new lady thing and all.

Until then I will miss you and I mean it. I love hearing from you… even when I don’t respond the next day. Or the next month. I’m with you in spirit.

Always,
Nahida

The “Reference” Section

I have added one! (I officially have too many tabs. I hope it isn’t overwhelming.)

Occasionally I am asked what my sources are, and most of the time I remember, and sometimes I don’t. This is because the way I write posts isn’t really calculated–I tend to not know what I’m about to write until I begin. I just do lots and lots of reading and it sort of all just spills out, like gutting a fish. (I think. I have never gut a fish.) By the time I’ve finished reading various books everything feels like something I’ve always known or just common knowledge. But! Now you can see what I’ve been reading! It’s incomplete but I will be adding the rest. Currently it is listed in alphabetical order, but I’m debating between this arrangement and “in order of what I like the best.” No matter what you do or don’t read on that list, pick up Asma Barlas’s Believing Women in Islam because when I read it it was EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER THOUGHT, SERIOUSLY and were this section “in order of what I like best” she would be first on the list, every time. Every Islamic feminist should have that book. Every feminist should have that book! (I will impose on the mainstream! Why not?) And every Muslim should have it. Every Muslim man. Shove it at him as a gift and force him to read it. In fact MAKE IT A PREREQUISITE FOR MARRIAGE.

I’m serious. Put that in your contract too.

P.S. If there is a post and you want to know the source of that specific post, you can still askify me in the comments.

A Temporary Farewell

I don’t know how long I will be gone—it can be anytime between two weeks to two months. Considering I keep doing this lately, I’m going to estimate the latter and just accept that I need to take that time.

–During which, the site will remain public for your perusal. I received a few very beautiful messages regarding its status as private the last time, and I haven’t been able to respond to them yet but intend to do so soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my writing, and for writing to me. I just—well I just can’t imagine anyone would ever feel any assurance from my writing, and I feel so moved, and I figured the least I could is provide an explanation for my absence this time.

So here is a little note. Mostly, I just have a few things I need to finish. The good news is that I will still be writing for you whenever I feel the urge—you just won’t see it here until I return. (That takes off the anxiety I feel to continue updating frequently when I’m too occupied.) So when I do come back—inshaAllah, I’ll have a couple of things ready.

I will still be tweeting and checking my messages of course. While I’m gone, I’ll leave you some links to amazing, insightful posts. At some point most of these were tweeted, but I really really love them. So, in case you missed them:

Jadey writes about women capitalizing on local inventions and why it’s so important and effective as opposed to traditional colonialist charity.

Chally writes about how men weaponize laughter. (Okay seriously, just go read everything Chally Kacelnik has ever written.)

Here’s a stunning retelling of The Ramayana by Clarisse Thorn, from the perspective of Sita. The storytelling does have religious significance for some, so approach respectfully and remain aware of your parameters.

An article on the dynamics of conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And female imams in China, where this true tradition remains largely undisturbed by patriarchal infringements.

I will see you soon, and will miss you.