Let me preface by saying this piece is in no way an attempt to disrespect the female scholars, activists, leaders, poets, scientists, and warriors who profess Muslim faith. I’m inspired by these women, both contemporary and throughout antiquity: Queen Soraya, Sultan Razia, Sediqeh Dowlatabadi, Shukria Barakzai, Shirin Ebadi, Abida Mahmood, Siba Maraachli, Hissa Hilal, Bibi Khatoon Astarabadi, Yakin Erturk, Sakena Yacoobi,Nana Asma’u, and the Yemenian Malikas. Masha’Allat. Nonetheless as much as I am humbled by your struggle and legacies, my inextricable love and concern for my gender trumps religious tolerance.
Respectfully to all my Islamic sistren, I rebuke the concept of a Muslim Feminist. The idea is as oxymoronic as a God-fearing atheist, violent wiccan, Christian existentialist, or materialistic Buddhist. One set of principles negates its counterpart, rendering it apostasy or deception. This is not to imply I don’t fully encourage Muslim women in third world countries to organize, protest, reform, and begin progressing out of the epoch of 7th century Bedouin shepherds, but they are disingenuous and misleading in attempting to do so under the guise of Islamic values. The doctrines as outlined unequivocally in the Quran, Sunnah, and Hadiths oppose the inherent parity of men and women, so just stop — for my sanity’s sake.
I like Muslim feminists, and I root for them — despite knowing their formulated apologist arguments verbatim. Their creative and artistic attempts to paint a square into a circle bear an uncanny resemblance to nice liberal Christians’ attempts to use the same Bible to condemn the depravity that it so saliently encourages, such as slavery and murdering homosexuals. These women who champion true Islam as the panacea to societal ills in the Middle East make a desperate appeal to the world — with a straight face — that their divinity system is egalitarian and gender friendly. They predicate women to have identical rights as men, which sounds grand in theory, but there’s only one problem; according to the Quran, they don’t. Being from the School of Empiricism, I enter into religious debates with a predilection for opening texts and evaluating sacred scriptures in their rawest indigenous form. Though the Oriental rug design on the cover is pretty, I refuse to take someone’s word that the passages are benign, or be lectured on cultural relativism. The Surahs I reference (below) are direct commands from Allah through his Apostle, the Prophet Muhammad. These are not general guidelines. They are unambiguous patriarchal instructions — masqueraded as theological messages — immutably canonized for eternity in the book of this alpha male deity with no room for revision or updates:
A woman who commits adultery shall be flogged with 100 lashes (Surah 24:2)
A woman who exhibits lewdness shall be put on house arrest until she dies (Surah 4:15)
A husband is allowed to beat his wife if he fears her not submissive (Surah 4:34)
A woman must remain quiet in her home, immobilized in the domestic sphere of work (Surah 33:33)
A woman’s testimony in court is only worth half that of a man (Surah 2:282)
A girl only receives half the inheritance money as her male siblings (Surah 4:11)
A wife must be complacent if her husband decides to take three additional wives (Surah 4:3)
A husband can substitute his wives at any time as long as he can afford dowries (Surah 4:20)
A man may take female sex slaves without paying dowries (Surah 4:24)
A wife is like a piece of land and must be available for plowing & sowing (sex) at all times (Sura 2:223)
Tragically, we haven’t even yet entered into the realm of the Hadith writers. They were not the business. This is why I’m thoroughly insulted by Muslim women appropriating my beloved “F word,” as if their prophet’s vision even remotely parallels with that of Matilda Joslyn Gage, Angela Davis, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinam, Emma Goldman, and bell hooks. Muslim feminists cling to their misogynistic apostle, seemingly clueless that the dirty bathwater they fervently splash out the tub are one in the same with the preciously clutched baby. They prioritize Muhammad’s outdated utterances over genuine concern for the safety and protection of a nation of women, even if it means a continuum of the 1,300-year long history of egregious human rights violations. They go to extreme lengths to conceal the personal life of their messianic figure, who at 55 years of age, took young Aisha and her dolls into his bed when she was 9 years old, considered stoning his young wife when she was abandoned in the scorching desert out of fear that — within the course of an hour — she had committed adultery (with a Tusken Raider?) This is the same exalted prophet who beheaded 700 Jews and took their women and children as slaves. How can a leader of such mayhem and destruction have this vast psychological control over the minds of my intelligent Islamic sisters? If he had given women stringent orders never to get behind the wheel of a car, would Saudi Arabian women have participated in Rear-view Mirror Day? Doubtful. These women, living in the margins of existence, continue to scrape frantically for tiny bits of freedom hidden between Quranic cracks. They should just be thankful Muhammad hadn’t entered the automobile era and drove a camel, not a Hyundai.
Feminism is a paradigm shifting so intense it rattles the entire patriarchal framework of history and heavens; even the Gods feel the rumble, abdicating their thrones in terror. Holy books and messiahs are unceremoniously dismissed when their archaic admissions are rendered disadvantageous to 3.3 billion human beings. Feminism is not bearing the responsibility for the sins of man and his caliphate. It does not subside in stagnant satisfaction simply because Tehranian women can leave their homes in Hijab, instead of the stylish amalgam of Abayat, Niqab, or Burqa. Feminism is relinquishing Jehovah for Oshun, Leviticus for Audre Lorde, Allah for Allat, foster care for abortion, and beauty cult for academia. I denounce the idea that feminism can be attached to belief in a male deity fanatically obsessed with keeping women chaste (when they weren’t in Muhammad’s bed), using prophets to micro-manage our sex lives. There must be something in this vast universe more important on Allah’s agenda than focusing on a 300-mile radius of wasteland to ensure the hormones he gave to the weaker sex don’t get the best of her. Though the bestial “courtesy” known as virginity checks in Egypt may not be inherent to Islam, it unmistakably follows in the motif of the preoccupation with our vaginas, and keeping them undefiled — and we definitely don’t want to be mistaken for Pre-Islamic Arabian tramps.
The West is so utterly mislead by Muslim Feminists that when we come across Youtube videos – where men nonchalantly watch young girls scream for their lives as they’re buried alive in dirt for crimes of chastity — we believe this chivalrous behavior is a) culturally unrelated to the actual religion, b) a misinterpretation of the religion, or if all else fails c) a religious passage that should be taken metaphorically (e.g., Jihad is a struggle within self). Thanks to “The Canterbury Tales,” I know what a metaphor is, in fact Shakespeare taught me what a simile is, too. When Romeo compares Juliet to the light of the morning sun, or when Chaucer compares virgin women to wheat bread, it is considered poetic license. However Sura 24:2 cannot be mistaken for mere artistic expression:
“The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them with a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.”
For this reason when I see footage of perceived adulteresses having their fragile skulls unapologetically pelted with rocks by their husbands, brothers, and sons, I don’t view that as extremism; I view that as being a good Muslim. The Quran is not so esoteric that readers need secret decoder rings or Rosetta Stone to decipher the message and the “It’s a mistranslation!” explanation is redundant, counter-productive, and ineffective. Why would Allah — a benevolent, omniscient, and prescient deity — have left all these passages up for various interpretation at the detriment of women?
Women’s Rights activists in the Muslim world, such as the late Annemarie Schimmel, often espouse the unsubstantiated contention that Islam gave women previously non-existent liberties such as “Divorce & Property Rights.” The Pre-Islamic Arabia myths are my biggest pet peeve because I’ve studied the works of Greek and Roman travelers like Herodotus and Strabo, who voyaged to Pre-Islamic Arabia, and nothing is mentioned of this barbarism. In fact, they provide more evidence to contradict the idea of Jahiliyyah (“age of ignorance”). You can’t convince me the father of sensationalist history was more interested in documenting frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and other aromatic gum resin than chronicling mass cannibalism. Alas, everything Muslims know about this prior period came directly from the newly self-appointed prophet who zealously labored to eviscerate the satanic culture of Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat, stole its Ka’aba, and turned a previously insignificant god into a pre-eminent father god. Bias would be an understatement; Muhammad’s stratagem was the embodiment of Machiavellianism.
Even if hypothetically divorce rights were a novel concept under Muhammad, the autonomy to leave your man is an inalienable right — scraps on the table if you will — and absolutely nothing to brag about in the 21st century. It would be like an African American today romanticizing the Jim Crow era because he was allowed to ride on the bus for the first time. Granted, it was definitely a step up from hiking it on the sidewalk, but since the Montgomery Bus Boycott a half-century ago, it gets better, you can now even sit at the front. It’s a little phenomenon called continued progress; so ladies, step out of the time capsule and call me to brag when Pakistan can keep a female prime minister alive – R.I.P Benazir Bhutto. Low divorce rates in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be directly linked to this archaic doctrine (which in accordance with the Quran can only be consummated if a husband agrees to the divorce request; otherwise a wife needs to present a cogent argument to family member arbitrators and/or religious scholars), and women so desperate to escape their abusive relationships turn to self-immolation. Indeed burning one’s skin off does seem preferable to simply using your Muhammad sanctioned “right” to file for annulment (so much for khala’at zawjaha).
That misogyny, inequities, and violence toward women are universally documented throughout historical and contemporary culture is undisputable; however, as liberal progressive countries begin to enact laws and insert constitutional amendments to protect women, any such law in the Muslim world would be deemed an interference with Allah’s code of conduct. This is why Muslim Feminists in third world countries encounter such ideological impediments; consequently, Islam has taken primitive and anachronistic ideas on gender roles and enshrined them as unalterable, leaving no room for future revisions. The Quran may or may not precipitate these maladies, but it most definitely excuses them. Before the advent of God’s calligraphy pen, female victims could always maintain a small sliver of hope that if they screamed loud enough it would weigh on the consciousness of their attacker. Tragically, Surah al-Nisa put God on the side of carnage, giving perpetuators a feeling of sainthood in exchange for sadism, ultimately exterminating any light contained within that small sliver of hope.
Women have been cultivated since the dawn of time; civilization will always be about taming the men. Doreen Valiente, the English wiccan, once proverbially spoke, “As it harm none, do what ye will.” Women are the backbone of society, and without a healthy her, nations are invertebrates. Collapsing under the weight of all the ills, she alone provides the universal remedy. If you are unable to believe in stones, without throwing them at us, your religion is rendered unsustainable, and it should die.