I have been wanting to write this post for ages, but I have been putting it off and putting it off. The reason? Honestly I don’t feel qualified to write on the subject. I still don’t have a fully formed idea of how I feel about “feminism” as such, and I know I have a lot more learning to do on the subject from both a “Western” and Islamic point of view.
But just recently during an interview I was doing for another blog, I got asked the question “what would you say to those who say that Islam is degrading to women?”
As I got to talking, I realised that I do have a (though not yet fully informed) very strong opinion on today’s so called “women’s issues.”
I think this is also a very relevant issue for the sisters out there who have recently converted.
I know when I first converted I had a lot of qualms about certain issues surrounding women in Islam, and it was because I didn’t understand them.
And then one day I was reading a passage from Yasmin Mogahed’s Reclaim Your Heart, and it completely changed my outlook on Islam’s stance toward women.
It was about how Western feminism tends to take man as the “standard,” and therefore women want to have/do everything that men have/do in order to be up to the level of the “standard.”
Islam, however, recognises that men and women are equal (in value) in the sight of God, but they are intrinsically different in some ways in this world. Difference does not necessarily mean inferiority for one or the other, it just means different.
No one can argue with me the face that I do not have the same body parts, hormones, etc. as my husband. But also no one can tell me that he has more inherent worth than me just based on the fact that he is genetically a man.
Keep in mind that I am not talking about issues like equal pay, pro-choice/life, etc.. Obviously I 100% support the idea that men and women should be paid the same wages for the same work, and that women should have body autonomy (despite my own religious beliefs) and the right to wear what they please and walk to the grocery store without being heckled and harassed. Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism is a great book if you are interested more in social/political issues like that.
I am talking about the differences between men and woman in Islam, that I once mistook for inequality.
Things like women not being able to be imams for mixed congregations, or not being allowed to pray and fast during their monthly cycles, or being required to cover everything whilst men can supposedly run wild and free wearing whatever they like.
But there is a blessing in each of these differences when you really try to look at them through the lens of understanding.
No, I cannot attain the reward of being the imam to lead a Friday prayer. However, I can attain a reward that no man can: I can produce another human being from my body. And then after I go through all of the pain that that entails, their paradise is under my feet as their mother.
A man came to the Prophet and said: O Messenger of Allah! Who from amongst mankind warrants the best companionship from me? He replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: Then who? So he replied: “Your mother.” The man then asked: Then who? So the Prophet replied again: “Your mother.” The man then asked: Then who? So he replied: “Then your father.” (Sahih Bukhari 5971 and Sahih Muslim 7/2)
Different, but not inferior.
As for not praying or fasting when on your cycle—what a blessing! It is meant to be a relief, a mercy, a break. I used to be all up in arms about not being allowed to pray; how am I supposed to get into heaven when I can’t even pray half the time?! But I have come to realise, I am still getting a reward for following God’s command. If I did decide to pray on my cycle, I would acutually be disobedient! And let me tell you, I have really learned to enjoy the feeling of waking my husband up at dawn to pray and then snuggling up in the blankets to snooze again!
Plus, I can still make supplications and remembrance of God or listen to Qur’an being recited and gain all the rewards and benefits of those things; it is just the physical things that you are meant to take a break from.
The issue of modesty and hijab from men and women both is a whole topic in and of itself, and this post is already getting a bit long. So, if you want to hear my thoughts on that just drop me a comment and I will get to work on another post! Y’all know by now how much I love writing about the headscarf business.
Also, I realise that I have not even addressed the issue of Western feminism and women of colour, because I am sadly undereducated on the topic. I plan to begin reading up, but in the meantime I recommend checking out this blog series for more on that!