Can Muslim Women Marry Non-Muslims?: A Qur’anic Response

Pre-post: This is for those who believe that Muslim men are allowed to marry People of the Book while women are prohibited; because that means that the whole “shirk” of the People of the Book becomes relevant only when we’re talking about women but not when we’re talking about men (I address this below). If you believe it’s prohibited for BOTH genders, this isn’t for you. 

According to most (Sunni) Muslims, and to the historical Islamic tradition, Muslim men are allowed to marry Christians and Jews, and according to all Muslim sects and schools, Muslim women are prohibited from marrying any non-Muslim. The Qur’an has a few verses that prohibit marriage to the mushrikeen (polytheists, generally), and since there’s little disagreement on this and since this prohibition applies to both genders, I’m not concerned with it. I’m interested in the claim that it’s “haram” for women to marry Christians and Jews.

Muslims popularly believe—and Muslim scholars/teachers of Islam falsely promote the claim—that the Qur’an explicitly prohibits women’s marriage to People of the Book. So I’ve been doing some research on this, and it turns out that the Qur’an actually does not prohibit women’s marriage to People of the Book at all.  It merely allows men explicitly to marry them. So here’s some interesting stuff that I think people should know, especially Muslim women who are shamed and guilted for marrying People of the Book.

Continue reading

how not to respond when women point out an #allmale panel

 jb-nonsense6Muslim male “celebrity shaikhs” are exhausting to deal with. And a huge fail, too. They always complain that we don’t express our concerns “the right way” (about which, please see below), but then they block you and delete your comments and accuse you of “abusing” them or the comments section when you speak up.

The latest case of blatant patriarchy (that I know of) in the Muslim American community is this image to the right. Accessible also through this link.

Apparently, over 30 “Muslim American scholars” gathered at some “impromptu” event, and the person who shared this picture, someone taken a little more seriously than he should be in my very professional and humble opinion, with immense pride, so pleased with himself like he was doing us all a favor or something.

And they met to talk about “major issues.” I’m so curious to know what these “major issues” must have been that could be discussed only by men – and I’m curious to know what their definition of “major issues” even is. Obviously, all-male panels aren’t among them. Even though, as documented here, all-male Muslim panels are a disturbingly common reality.

If you were a Muslim woman and didn’t have any faith in your own community, you’d think this was all intentional or something. But we can all just go back to our back seats of invisibility and, at best, marginality and relax and calm down and chill and all because it turns out, this was “just an impromptu” event. #sighofrelief.

Continue reading

Book Review: “Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition”

Needless to say, I recommend the book very, very highly. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

Pre-Post: Please click here for more details on the book.

Men in Charge?: Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition
Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Mulki Al-Sharmani, and Jana Rumminger (eds.)
Oneworld Publications, 2014. ix, 286 pages.
Published in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (details below)

At a time when men’s assumption of leadership roles through all-male events and publications is a popular phenomenon, Men in Charge?, a byproduct of a project by the women-led organization Musawah, could not have been published at a more opportune moment. Comprising a Foreword by Zainah Anwar, Musawah’s director, an Introduction by the editors, and ten chapters from academics and activists of varied backgrounds, the book historicizes and problematizes the Islamic notion of qiwāmah (authority) and wilāyah (guardianship), among other legal patriarchal precepts. It successfully argues that the Islamic legal tradition with regards to gender roles rests on the false notion of men’s superiority to women. Men in Charge? carries immeasurable value for scholars and students of Islam, religion, and women’s and gender studies, activists working towards gender-egalitarianism, and (Muslim) feminists seeking empowerment within a religious framework; it also speaks to reform leaders and lawmakers in Muslim states, who might better understand the fundamental assumptions upon which family laws operate and their disconnect from the reality that women and families face. The book’s major success lies in covering several important layers of the myth of men’s authority: from the theoretical gaps in the notions of qiwāmah, wilāyah, istikhlāf, to a practical examination of the impact of these legal principles, and proposals for new and creative approaches for feminists to apply in their vision of a gender-egalitarian Islam. Continue reading

Call for Contributors: Women-Identified Sexualities and Islam

Anyone who works on or studies gender-/sexuality-related topics with a focus on Islam might be interested in contributing to the following edited volume. Please consider sending submissions and/or share with friends.

Deadline for abstracts: March 15, 2016
Deadline for complete papers (7500+ words): May 1st 2016
Tentative Title: Women-Identified (lesbian and trans) Sexualities and Islam
Editor: Huma Ahmed-Ghosh (ghosh@mail.sdsu.edu – please contact Dr. Ahmed-Ghosh with questions)

The following call is verbatim from Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh. The accompanying image is from Google.

Call for Contributors—please consider and let your friends and colleagues know!

There has been very little published work on the above topics in Asia/larger Asia/Asian diaspora. Possible topics and methods include, but are not limited to religion, Quran, Hadith, Sharia, lived experiences of Muslim women, ethnic and regional diversities, oral histories,  feminist theory, research, fiction, and poetry. Authors may use a pseudonym if they prefer. Please send your proposed contribution (abstracts) to Huma Ahmed-Ghosh at ghosh@mail.sdsu.edu by March 15, 2016. Papers will be evaluated for originality and writing style, as well as how all the contributions fit together. Potential authors will be invited to submit full articles in the range of  7,500 + words by May 1, 2016.We hope you will consider writing about your scholarship and experiences, so that these important topics receive the attention they deserve. Publisher has been finalized.

I am hoping that this volume will complement two books edited by me that will be in print (SUNY Press) on October 1, 2015 titled Asian Muslim Women: Globalization and Local Realities; and Contesting Feminism: Gender and Islam in Asia.

 

Islamic feminism and the fear of inciting Islamophobia

This conversation needs to take place more widely, especially in feminist Muslim circles as well as in those fighting racism, Islamophobia, and other bigotry in the West: We need a way–a platform–to discuss problems internal to Muslims and Muslim/Islamic history that are rooted in patriarchy and that support and maintain patriarchy in way that would not be interpreted as perpetuating and/or endorsing Islamophobia. I, as a Muslim woman very critical of many practices and beliefs endemic to the Muslim communities I’m a part of, should have the freedom and the space to constructively criticize some of our traditions, even those espoused by the past scholars of Islam who are a part of the “canon” that forms Islamic scholarship and the Islamic tradition. And I should have this freedom and space to do so without worrying that Islamophobes will usurp my experiences, my ideas, my criticism and misuse them for their frightening agenda to hurt and malign Muslims and Islam. The Muslim community (in the West) needs to stop attempting to stifle internal criticism just because “what will the Islamophobes say? Let’s keep the bigger picture in mind here. For the sake of Islam and to avoid the further mistreatment of Muslims, let’s not focus on the negatives of our community and tradition and instead just embrace the goal of fighting Islamophobia.” Why? Because the problems I as a Muslim woman, as a Muslim feminist, face in my community because of patriarchal ideas attributed to “the Islamic tradition” are not important enough? Because women’s problems aren’t important enough to be tackled? This sort of spiritual shaming is an excuse to stifle critical thought–or just to stifle women’s criticism of their communities for not treating them with respect.

Continue reading

Muslim women scholars of Islam, the question of qualifications, and romanticized images of the “Islamic tradition”

The following was inspired by the #NoAllMalePanels conversation that took place on Twitter. Speaking of which, if you’re a Muslim man and agree that there should be no more all-male panels, your support is useless without your signature on the pledge. Sign here. But understand that the #NoAllMalePanels wasn’t limited to acknowledging the authority of women scholars of Islam: it was about acknowledging and appreciating women’s knowledge in all fields. Many people made the discussion about academics versus traditionalist scholars, but that was just one part of the campaign.

One of the major and more recurring points in the discussion, coming from the opponents of the conversation, was that “This isn’t about gender! Stop making this about gender! No one ever / we don’t invite women to talk about Islam because there aren’t any qualified women to speak on Islam. The women you’re talking about who you claim are ‘scholars of Islam’ are actually not scholars. They are academics! Know the difference, okay, you feminists?” To deny that gender has anything to do with this is to deny that there are serious structural obstacles to women’s religious authority (I’ll talk about this below), but for now, let’s acknowledge that we rarely/never hear anyone questioning the men’s qualifications. We simply assume they must be scholars if they have a beard of an acceptable length, wear a head-gear of some sort, preferably wear Arab clothing. When it comes to the qualification of the men “scholars,” we remember to focus on their knowledge, not the details of where/how/by whom they were educated about Islam. Zakir Naik anyone? Or some 95% of the other men “scholars” of our time.  It helps them immensely that they merely say what the community wants to hear, that they only satisfy the community’s patriarchal expectations of what Islam is like. But when it comes to a woman who speaks about Islam, her knowledge becomes completely irrelevant, and we have a whole bunch of other important questions to ask. Like is her hair covered, did she study at a secular institution, is she a feminist, etc. You can read more about this problem here. And here’s something on the gendering of knowledge and authority (so when you say something like, “no, no, she’s just not knowledgeable. It’s not about her gender at all. Stop making this about women, you feminists!” maybe you can look a little more closely and see that gender is actually a huge factor in the denial and dismissal of women’s religious/interpretive authority in our communities). Also, “not enough qualified women scholars of Islam” my foot. Check out this positively overwhelming list of scholarship on Islam, most of which is by Muslim women – and it’s not even comprehensive! And, while I’m at it with this whole self-promotion thing, I might as well also share a link to something I wrote once on female authority, the role of justice and ethics in Islamic feminist hermeneutics, and my response to the idea that “Muslim women/feminists would be able to exercise some authority in the Muslim community if only they’d just …” (insert appropriate patriarchal statement).

Okay, so.

Continue reading

The Islamic Reform Symposium in Exeter: authority, Muslim feminists, and woman-led prayers

In June, I attended an Islamic reform conference in Exeter, UK. It was a beautiful experience, and I’m saddened that the symposium at which I spoke was the last of the 3-year project – because it would’ve been great to try at it again, hah!

Continue reading

The Link Between Authority and Knowledge – or: how knowledge is gendered

Nobody believes me when I say authority has everything to do with gender (well, okay, some people do believe me, especially the Muslim feminists – God bless you all!). I’ll write on this–i.e., on how knowledge is gendered, on how the production of knowledge is gendered because of who creates it–in more detail some other time, though I attempted to sketch out the problem with gendering authority in a guest post for The Fatal Feminist’s blog under the title Muslim Women and the Politics of Authority. Or: How to Determine a Woman’s Right to Speak on Islam. But for now just know this: We gender knowledge, we gender the main sources of our knowledge by interpreting them in a very narrowly gendered way (if you ask me, I insist that the sources of Islam aren’t the Qur’an/Sunnah but actually the consensus of the male ‘Ulama), and then we tell especially the feminists: “No, no, you got it all wrong. You don’t know your stuff. Your KNOWLEDGE of Islam is wrong,” denying that our (traditional, agreed-upon) “knowledge” of Islam is gendered to begin with, with women’s attempts to contribute it almost completely dismissed and seldom appreciated and accepted as “real” knowledge; the only time they’re accepted as “real,” “authentic” knowledge is when the women’s contribution/addition reiterates the same patriarchal nonsense the men teach and insist upon. Plenty of examples, but one of my favorites is as follows – watch what happens when a woman tries to interpret the Qur’an – hint: “it’s an interpretation that’s not its [the Qur’an’s] interpretation”! Or the position of a woman is “one of ignorance”! Ugh, patriarchy gives me a headache.
Continue reading

Ramadhan Mubarak, Everyone! Aka: May we all have a feminist Ramadhan!

Dear readers,

Ramadhan MubarakThe 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.

Continue reading

No More Male-Only Panels, Meetings, Edited Volumes, etc., Muslims!!

all male panel4

Guess what’s wrong with this photo.

On May 2-3, 2015, a “diverse group of contemporary Muslim educators” held a meeting at Cambridge Muslim College to discuss a contemporary curriculum for the Islamic Sciences and the future of the madrasa, the Islamic institution of learning. According to the individual who shared information and photos about this event on Facebook (and it’s been circulated widely now), “The goal of the meeting was to reflect on the curriculum of the traditional madrasa in light of the diverse contemporary educational experiences of the participants.” According to the event’s website, “The participants each gave presentations on how the teaching of the Islamic sciences could be improved to respond to modern challenges.”

Continue reading