The world has been blessed with yet another Ramadhan so that, hopefully, we may all look inside ourselves and ask ourselves what needs improvement in our own selves as well as in the things around us. May this month be a source of inspiration, light, and justice for us all, aameen! May we all have a feminist Ramadhan – i.e., one in which we recognize and stand up against injustices in all forms but especially against the marginalized members of our community, whoever they are and whatever their beliefs and practices. May our abstinence and discipline give us the strength to stand with those who need our support to be able to continue living and fighting in not just Ramadhan but all other months of the year as well, simply for being who they are. Aameen.
Much of the below is inspired by The Fatal Feminist’s (TFF’s) experience at her mosque a couple of days ago where her imaam announced that “anyone” who wants to may recite the adhaan – and when she tried, through her mother who asked through the imam’s wife, the imam’s answer was that TFF should see him about this and that once he explains to her why women cannot recite the adhaan, she will understand! When her mother gave her the expected news that the imaam says she can’t recite the adhan because she’s a woman, TFF started to cry – out of anger, out of hurt, out of injustice. Understand that any and all sorts of exclusion (for those who want to be included “even” in things like being able to recite the adhaan), the injustice is personal and emotional and hurtful. And people should not be getting away with continuing it just because our “demands” are ridiculous, untraditional, too feminist, or whatever else. If there are people among us who feel treated unjustly, you and I don’t get to say, “no, no, that’s not injustice; you don’t understand.” It doesn’t matter what you and I think – because you and I aren’t the target of that injustice; what matters is that they feel it’s unjust, and something clearly needs to be done about it.
(UPDATE on the above incident: The imam’s words more along the lines of: “Yes, she can recite the adhan, but tell her to come to me so I can explain to her why women shouldn’t recite the adhaan, and she will understand.” In other words, it is Islamically/legally permissible for her to recite the adhaan, BUT since the community is too patriarchal and sexist and doesn’t know or recognize that, and because the imaam will lose all respect and authority in the community, she should not recite the adhaan. Talk about carrying on unjust practices and ideas simply because it’s the norm. Once upon a time, slavery was a norm, too. As was the killing of sons during the time of Fir’aun and the killing of female children right before the advent of Islam … and in some parts of the world still today. God willing, with enough voices against the sexism in our communities today, one day it’ll be acceptable for women to lead mixed-gender prayers, recite the adhaan in public, not pray behind barriers if they are not comfortable doing so, and so on.)
I’m too lazy slash not entirely able to write a formal blog post about why/how the way I think many of us approach this month lacks a certain element of justice and humanity that I truly believe was/is intended to be one of the many marks of the month, so I’ll just summarize my Facebook status message regarding it instead. But briefly, I want to remind most importantly myself (and interested readers as well) that many of us would agree that this is to be a month of discipline (hence all the restraint from certain human activities and needs natural to most of us (or all of us, in the case of foods and drinks), a month of inspiration to be better humans and better Muslims (one would think that with no Satan around, no Muslim would be committing any sin or crime, small or major), and so on. So just a reminder that as we reflect on our Muslimness, for those of us who do, let us make sure that that includes also a reflection on the way we deal with injustice in our communities as well as in our personal lives. If you know anyone who’s even remotely likely to be marginalized in your community, listen to what they say about their experience as whoever they are (women–especially feminist women–LGBTIQ, converts, those who do not belong to the majority ethnic group in your community, etc.), and ask them how you can support them; stand with them, and consider your support an attempt at getting closer to God especially in the month dearest to God.
Understand that especially women and converts have it really hard this month. (FYI, on converts, read Ramadan can be lonely for converts and For some converts, Ramadan is the loneliest time of year; as for women, whether born Muslim or converts, it is primarily their exclusion from mosque activities, lack of access to imaams or even to the mosque in some cases, the horrible women’s areas in mosques, the community’s response to the women’s demands and concerns when the latter give negative feedback, and so on). So when they speak up about the negative experiences they have in the mosques they attend for worship and gatherings so as to feel like a part of the community, reach out to them. Don’t dismiss their voices and tell them that they’re overreacting, seeking negativity in everything, etc. It’s important that everyone feel respected, and when they don’t — especially if what they’re experiencing is something they consider injustice — it is our responsibility as Muslims *always but especially in Ramadhan* to acknowledge their concerns as legitimate and ensure that justice is sought for them. Generally, it’s very difficult being a woman, a Muslim woman, and that too a feminist Muslim woman most days in this patriarchal world – but in Ramadhan, it becomes exceptionally more difficult. The month everyone admits at least feels like the most beautiful month of the year, where most of us have the natural tendency to attain more closeness to God, to become better individuals and Muslims can also be the worst, most ugliest for many Muslim women, converts, LGBTIQ Muslims, and other groups seldom respected and treated as equals in their communities. Going to the mosque outside of Ramadhan is usually a daunting task, but, again, especially in Ramadhan, going to mosques is simply painful. I want to reiterate that we understand that this month of reflection should be reflections on not just how we can best reach God for our own personal spiritual uplifting as individuals, but also as community members, such as by noting the different forms of injustices around us.
So as we fast (for those of us who do / can fast), or do whatever else it is that we do to fulfill our purpose, let’s remind ourselves to be conscious of our surroundings, to look out for each other, to stand up for justice to the best of our ability. Though all months of the year should welcome and embrace everyone as a full human being, with the full capacity to enjoy sacred spaces like everyone else, no one group treated as more or less human than any other group, it’s appalling that even in Ramadhan, we continue to exclude certain voices in our pursuit of divine grace. Instead of ensuring that everyone has or should have equal opportunities, we’re still obsessed with the idea that women don’t really belong in certain spheres. Because.
Apologies for possibly the usual incoherence. But I’m unsettled by the thought that this is going to be a month of heartbreak, of dismissal, of exclusion for so, so many Muslims for whom we as a community, as (faith and other leaders), as self-righteous Muslims make it difficult to appreciate being Muslim, to appreciate Ramadhan, to feel like a part of a community during a month that most of us agree is a month where nothing but a desire to get closer to God is in the air. Exactly how do we expect God to accept our efforts when we consistently play a role in marginalizing the already-marginalized without listening to their concerns? Justice isn’t only for those who are in a position of privilege because their beliefs and practices are the accepted norm, because history worked out in such a way that that group won and became the majority (though even within them lie some major differences and disagreements, so so much for “the norm”).
P.S. The idea of a “feminist Ramadhan” comes from a friend of mine (let’s call her C.O.) when she commented on my Facebook status regarding the above topic and proposed that there be a hashtag – #feministRamadan. What a lovely idea!