Why I don’t give a damn that you have a linguistic issue with ‘FEMinist’

mankind

manpower

manfully

headmaster

firemen policemen mailmen

man-eating

You got a problem with ‘feminist’ because the word inherently excludes you? Check your privilege and get the hell over it.

You can treat women equally as much as you like but as long as you’re saying shit like this the truth is that you don’t CONSIDER us equal. If you can’t associate yourself with femaleness or femininity even in a word that is historically significant and integral to the liberation of women because that makes you uncomfortable, you are a sexist seeking to employ the patriarchal practice of denying women credit where credit is due and disassociating yourself with femininity.

Rejecting Your Sense of Justice is Rejecting a Device of God

This post is brought to you by a bewildering conversation I had a while ago in which an XY tried to mansplain to me that his interpretation of a specific verse pertaining to women is not unjust because it is from God, and therefore [what is from God] cannot unjust. (Read: His interpretation is from God. That’s the blasphemous, sinful basis of his claim. Says Qur’an 3:78–79: and who say, “This is from God,” the while it is not from God: and thus do they tell a lie about God.)

After explaining where he had erred in his fallacious argument and how it had caused his misinterpretation of the verse, he naturally pulled one of these, and then declared my interpretation “interesting.”

What I found mind-blowing, and what I continuously find mind-blowing, is that men will argue that something is just and impartial “because it is from God” despite the fact that they really don’t believe it is just.

This is obvious, because on several occasions when I’ve debated over exegesis, they’ve attempted to ravel their losing argument into a pretty bow with something like “See? You used the Qur’an itself to liberate women! So we don’t need feminism.”

LOL so you knew your interpretation was oppressive this whole time, while you were trying to convince me it was “just” because the words are from God. I will decide what women need, and whether we need feminism, so please stfu. I don’t need a man to convince me that God’s words are just.

This mentality—in which men define what is just not by the reason that God has given them to employ, but through what they mistake as faith, while simultaneously confusing their own interpretations with the dictations of God—is blasphemous. We were created with reason specifically for this purpose.

Have We not given xir two eyes,
and a tongue and a pair of lips,
and shown xir the two highways (of good and evil)?
But xie would not try to ascend the steep uphill road.
(Qur’an 90:8)

Denying yourself the use of reason is to reject a device of God. We are commanded over and over not to proceed without knowledge or reason. Failing to employ our reason is a sin:

“The things that my Lord
hath indeed forbidden are:
shameful deeds,
whether open or secret; sins
and trespasses against truth or reason:..”
(Qur’an 7:33)

So when you truly feel that an interpretation is oppressive, and yet you continue to assert that it is not because you incorrectly believe that it’s a valid interpretation ordained by God, and then you sigh in relief when you realize it doesn’t say what you thought it said because surprise! you actually thought your interpretation was oppressive the whole time! it’s a dead giveaway that you’re (1) full of shit (2) attributing your own interpretation to God and (3) being entirely disingenuous about how oppressive an interpretation is / not employing reason in deciphering justice.

Say (O Prophet): “This is my way:
Resting upon conscious insight
accessible to reason,
I am calling (you all) unto God –
I and they who follow me.”
(Qur’an 12:108)

Behold, God enjoins justice,
and the doing of good and
generosity towards (one’s) fellow-humans,
and God forbids all that is shameful
and all that runs counter to reason,
as well as envy; (and) God exhorts you
(repeatedly) so that you might
bear (all this) in mind.
(Qur’an 16:90)

A sinner in Hell-fire will
say: “Had we but listened
or used our intelligence,
we should not (now) be among
the Companions of the Blazing Fire!”
(Qur’an 67:10)

Rant over.

Disregarded Verses: Women as Examples for Men

They are actually proclaimed in the Qur’an as examples for people, but to this day they are considered to have been meant for only women when believing men should also accept them as an ideal to strive toward. Shoshie, Jewish feminist, writes,
This shit happens a lot in Jewish commentaries. Women are erased. Exemptions for women turn into prohibitions. Restrictive laws for men fall out of practice but become more stringent for women. And it’s crap.

And we’ve seen here already that the same is true for translations and commentaries in the Qur’an. Women are deliberately ignored or erased, and there is a silent agreement in this global patriarchy that any mention of a woman in religious text is an example for women only, even when the text itself unarguably states that the example is for everyone.

And God cites an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said: “My Lord! Build for me a home with thee in the Garden, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from evildoing folk.” And Mary, daughter of Imran, whose body was chaste, therefor We breathed therein something of Our Spirit. And she put faith in the words of her Lord and the Scriptures, and was of the truly devout. (Qur’an 66:11–12)

Those who believe. Gender-neutral in both Arabic and English, and yet there is a consensus that these must be parables for only women.

Even through its literary beauty and eloquence, the Qur’an is essentially a book of morals, filled with examples and solid information. Nothing is without reason–diction, syntax, detail, everything serves a purpose to be examined. And the very reason the Qur’an is appropriate for all times and universally applicable is because it is contextual. If there is something in the Qur’an that is not appropriate to modern times, you have failed to understand it. If you are murdering every non-Muslim you see, you have failed to take the Qur’an in context, the very process through which it is universal. The Qur’an is the Last Book, meant to be relevant until the end of time. And within it, stories have specific characters in specific situations, and when we erase or completely ignore or misconstrue details we fail to understand the complete message. It becomes lost, consequently other verses appear disorderly, and everything drowns in noise. Properly interpreting the text with the standards dictated in the Qur’an as a whole picture becomes difficult.

For example, a reader would notice that in the Qur’an, when a woman is spoken of, she is related to a family member: ex. Mary, the daughter of Imran; furthermore, Mary is the only woman called by a name. The Queen of Sheba is referred to by her respectful titled–the Queen. To us, the latter is obvious that it signifies respect, because calling others by titles to respect them is something we still practice today. The former, of following the name of a woman with that of a relative, has for the most part died for our time and is even viewed as sexist, as the relative is nearly always male. However, when the Qur’an was revealed, this was a sign of deep respect: for someone to be related to a family or have a title was a mark of high reverence and adoration. A person was not called by his or her name without a title or family relation unless that person was close to the speaker, like a child or sibling or a spouse. That is why women in the Qur’an are not referred to by their names. The contexual message to be carried away here is the universal, timeless principle that women should be addressed respectfully by the standards of the given society and era.

The Qur’an also does not mention Jesus without son of Mary. Not even once, confirming that the respective title marks equal value in a matriarchal relation according to God.

Muhammad is referred to as the Prophet of God.

Concepts become concrete in the events the Qur’an describes, whether one takes a figurative or literal interpretation of these events. The characters and circumstances through which they struggle and the ramifications of the actions they take provide us with these guidelines. If certain characters who are meant to be role models for all believers of both sexes are incorrectly interpreted to be examples for solely women, it is a sign of oppression. And when translators, or a society high on its patriarchal self, erase details and ignore something as crucial as the women which God has selected to be examples for all of believers, regardless of sex–

that is a war against women, a strike of disrespectfulness, against the Word of God.

Language Supremacy, Power and Authority in Islam

Because the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic there’s consensus in the Islamic community that Arabs who speak Arabic from birth and are fluent in the language know the Qur’an best. Consequently, Arab religious leaders are viewed as more authentic compared to religious leaders of other ethnic groups.

And it trickles down. (Or up.) Arabic is not my first language. I could read it since I was about five years old, as is usual for Muslim children, but I didn’t start understanding and communicating in the Arabic until I took classes. But for everyone, when it comes to reading the Qur’an, which is in classical Arabic, it’s almost a different language from the modern Arabic we learn. Even those who have been speaking Arabic their whole lives and understand enough classical Arabic to get through most of the Qur’an don’t understand everything. Most importantly, being able to read doesn’t mean being able to understand the different layers of meaning even in the most simple of sentences. Each line in Qur’an has multiple layers of meaning, some say up to 7, with the shallowest being the first, and the deepest meaning–one that only God can understand–being the seventh. And yet, I’ve been told, “How is Islam a feminist religion? Don’t tell me about mistranslations because I know enough classical Arabic to understand the Qur’an.”

No, you don’t. I don’t. Sorry to break it to you, but no one alive does. You probably don’t even understand all Moby Dick either, despite the fact that you’ve been speaking English since the day you were born. Don’t act like nothing’s up for debate. Everyone’s interpretation is worth consideration.

We don’t need translators. We need interpreters. The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic for a reason–not because Arabic is holy or pure *rolls eyes*, but because it’s such a rich and flexible language and was the language of its audience of the time. In the Qur’an there are reasons–as there are in works of human literature–that specific words are used, reasons that sentences have certain grammatical structures, reasons for every metaphor and every image, and this is why it is crucial to preserve the original and read it and refer back to it first and foremost. If we don’t even fully understand literary works, how can we say we fully understand entire religious texts from centuries ago, especially one that sometimes uses vocabulary that does not make sense in any of its acceptable modern usages? The scopes of meaning are unimaginable.

In May, almostclever posted quotes from a book called The Vision of Islam–which I have just purchased. It arrived yesterday! I am reading through it, and it’s really deep and really beautiful, and quite refreshing. (Thanks, Sarah!) I’ve gotten through a good chunk of it, but I haven’t gotten to this excerpt yet. (I totally skipped the preface though so it might be in there.) Nevertheless, it eloquently addresses the depth of the Qur’an and the complications in its perception:

If everyone had understood exactly the same thing from the text, the religion would never have spread as widely as it has. The book had to address both the simple and the sophisticated, the shepherd and the philosopher, the scientist and the artist.

[…]

For Westerners, the Quran is an extremely difficult text to appreciate, especially in translation. Even for those who have spent enough years studying the Arabic language to read the original, the Quran may appear as disorderly, inaccurate and illogical. However, there is enough evidence provided by Islamic civilization itself, and by the great philosophers, theologians, and poets who have commented on the text, to be sure that the problem lies on the side of the reader, not the book….

The nature of the Quranic worldview presents a fundamental barrier to understanding the book. It is true that the Quran’s view of things has a deep kinship with both the Jewish and Christian worldviews, but most people in the modern world have little understanding of those worldviews either. Simply attending synagogue, church or mosque does not mean that one sees things any differently from contemporary atheists. Our culture’s dominant ways of thinking are taught to us not in our places of worship, but in our media and educational institutions. We may like to think that our education is scientific and unbiased, but this is a highly biased judgement……….As a rule, it seems, when people with no grounding in the Islamic worldview pick up a translation of the Quran, they have their prejudices confirmed, whatever these may be.

I spend a lot of time on this blog examining the legalities of the religion, which come hand in hand with clearing up misconceptions, the biggest purpose of this blog being to demonstrate that Islam is, contrary to popular belief, a feminist religion. What’s often disregarded is that there is an unexplainable quality–several qualities; of depth, of compassion, of unity–to the Qur’an itself, successfully forgotten through the violence of a very loud patriarchy.

Muslims need to read the Qur’an. More importantly, Muslim women need to read the Qur’an. Because this is what global patriarchy fears: that we will recover the forgotten emphasis on verses of equality and compassion by recovering an interpretation closer to that which existed during the time of the Prophet.

This is urgent. And so when I hear an imam telling people that they shouldn’t think they know more than they do, I am highly suspicious. This particular imam was quoted without any context on a blog I like reading, so it was difficult to tell to what he was referring. Here is the exact quote:

If a man reads 20 books on medicine, can he become a doctor? Can he open a clinic? Can he make surgery for someone else? No.

If a woman reads 30 books and magazines on engineering, can she go and get the job of an engineer? Can she build a bridge for the state? No.

So why are so many Muslims reading 20 or 30 books/magazines/websites about Islam and think they can make fatawa like they are a Shaykh? There is more to being a Shaykh than just reading some hadiths and using them in a scholarly argument.

I think the imam is referring to the haraam police: you know, Muslims who go around telling other Muslims that they are committing sins and are going to hell. I haven’t been caught on this blog by the haraam police. Maybe I scare them off. Surprisingly enough, no one has commented that THIS IS HARAAM SISTER! It’s happened in real life (music, makeup, fun [Muslims aren’t allowed to have fun] etc.) but not on this blog, most likely because there are solid explanations and sound arguments that are laid out for anyone in the midst of a heart attack prompted by so much “haraam” to see, all on a convenient little tab, unlike in real life.

Unless I sense good faith (“Isn’t this haraam?”) as opposed to bad faith (“What kind of Muslim are you?!”) I tend not to bother with the haraam police. Not to sound arrogant (too late) I feel it’s not worth it. I’m more than inclined to laugh it off. If there’s one good thing about the haraam police, they’re always amusing when they’re under the impression that I have time for their judgmental pettiness and hysterical outrage or that they’ll stop me in my tracks with their awe-inspiring insight or something, as though I’ve never heard a traditional sermon.

As you’ve probably figured by now, I am not a fan of the haraam police. But I have a problem with this quote. A huge problem. And that is [There is more to being a Shaykh than just reading some hadiths and using them in a scholarly argument] you are not that fucking special.

Islam is against priesthood. Islam is SO against priesthood that for a couple to be married, they don’t even need an imam to perform the ceremony–they just need a pious person to marry them together. The second half of the quote is true in that you can’t just make fatwas without years and years of intense studying. It is not true in implying that sheiks are somehow above us, incapable of error because they’ve studied so much. Especially since they mess up a lot. They’ve historically messed up so much that today men think they’re entitled to 72 virgins if they suicide bomb. You’re so great–why is there a barrier in your mosque?

But what’s most astounding about that quote, is that it tells us not to argue. Unacceptable.

Lively debate was the center of the Islamic community when the Prophet was alive. Women, especially, argued frequently against the imam and the Prophet would say, often, “She’s right.”

I have told people (non-Muslims) to stfu because they don’t know what they’re talking about when they say things about Islam. This is because on these occasions it is true (I wouldn’t tell people to stfu unless they were clearly assuming bad faith) and I’m speaking as a member of an underprivileged group. It’s totally different when an imam does it, someone in a position of power, to his congregation. Telling his congregation, who are probably of good faith, not to argue with him. When the primary purpose of religious leaders is to teach their congregations, interact with their congregations, not belittle them or tell them to shut up and mindlessly listen. And again, telling them not to debate? That is unIslamic.

Again, I don’t know what the context was. Maybe he meant those who judge and control others using religion because it makes them feel empowered, not everyone who is seeking out meaning and making their own interpretations known and up for debate. But what I gather from this is that authority is not to be challenged, which is patriarchal bullshit.