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.

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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.

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“In Your Worship, Be Free!” – Except, Don’t Be.

The article below was published first on MuslimGirl.Net and is titled “Why Are Muslim Guys Responding to the ‘Short Shorts’ Article?”

The title I’m using in this blog refers to the last line of the Hussain Makke article I’m critiquing below, since it completely contradicts his entire premise even though he’s giving the advice to the rest of us. I love it, though: In your worship, be free. It’s beautiful.

In Your Worship, Be Free - Except Don't Be.


A recent hype in the online Muslim community was this article called “Practicing Islam in Short Shorts.” By a Muslim girl. A number of people shared the post, and a few — from my circle of friends — pitied the author, prayed for her guidance, dismissed her experiences as “cultural, not Islamic!” I let it be known to some such commenters that such reactions are grounded in arrogance and ignorance because they disregard a Muslim’s experience with Islam; they have idealized Islam and the Muslim experience in such a way that any Muslim who doesn’t have the romanticized experience with Islam growing up was simply never exposed to “Islam” but to “culture.”

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The Problem with World Hijab Day

SMH!!Apparently, February 1st is “World Hijab Day.” I don’t support the campaign for many reasons, although I feel it incumbent upon me to say that I fully respect hijabi women and the hijab (and I wear the hijab myself, too, whenever I feel like it); I recognize the struggles that Muslim women–not just hijabis but non-hijabis too–face and these struggles, and Islamophobia more generally, definitely need to be recognized more widely; I do not support and do everything to condemn the discrimination against people because of what they wear (or what they believe or how they identify themselves in term of their sexual orientation, etc.). But this campaign isn’t helping with anything. Let me explain briefly below; I’d go into details, but a few really nice articles have already articulated that.

The following two articles (“Everyone’s Favourite Dress-Up Day” and “All Hijabbed Out”) explain how I feel about the whole “World Hijab Day” campaign, too. But to add to them:

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When God Isn’t Watching (a poem)

My latest poem. I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time now, and I finally got to sit down and do it. The idea was overwhelming, and it’s a huge relief to have gotten it off my chest at last.

Thank you for reading!

When God Isn’t Watching

When God isn’t watching
66918_10151462367907372_631275637_nAnd she lets herself be consumed by a pain I don’t understand
I stand there watching her,
Silently breaking into tiny, sacred flakes of cotton
The way God’s words will on the Day of Judgment
As she screams of sin
Of God’s wrath
Of hell
She confesses things I don’t understand as sins
She screams, plucking her heart out of her soul
Her spirit, her strength shriveling up
And she withers into submission to the Divine
I stand still, watching from afar
As I make sense of her pain
Pain caused by the wrath of a Being I don’t know how to love
By the guilt of transgression against an almighty God
By the love of a God embedded in her soul
And yet, yet, she breathes a sigh of joy into the world
A sigh that guides her out of nothingness
But into a universe that belongs to her
And she slowly molds herself back into the perfection she embodies
She again becomes all things sacred
The things she touches and feels and desires become sacred
The spaces she occupies become sacred
All aura around her beams with her noor, the noor of God
For indeed, heaven lies beneath her feet
Time and again, when God isn’t watching,
She becomes her own God,
Her own heaven and her own hell
I still watch from a distance, wondering
Wondering how she finds solace in a merciless God who
Chooses to remain oblivious to her pain
As she breaks over and over, mending herself over and over again
But alone
When God isn’t watching

~ Orbala
December 15, 2014

A Hadith on an “Effeminate” Man

Next time someone dares to tell you that Islam doesn’t recognize the existence of multiple genders and that it’s unnatural for people to behave in a way that everyone else in their gender group seems to behave in, at least in public.

A story related in Qushayri’s Risala (trans. Knysh, pg 154):

It is related on the authority of Abd al-Wahhab b. Abd al-Majid al-Thaqafi that he said: “Once I saw a funeral bier [pass by] that was carried by three men and one woman. So I took the place of the woman and we headed toward the cemetery. We prayed over it [the bier] and buried it. Then I asked the woman: ‘What relation was he to you?’ She answered: ‘He was my son.’ I asked: ‘Don’t you have any neighbors [to help you]?’ She answered: ‘I do have neighbors, but they despised him.’ I asked: ‘Who was he then?’ She answered: ‘He was effeminate.’ I felt pity for her, so I took her to my house and gave her some money, grain and clothing. I went to sleep that night and, in my dream, I saw a visitor, who shone like a full moon. He was dressed in a white garment. He began to thank me. I asked him: ‘Who are you?’ He answered: ‘I am that effeminate man, whom you buried today. My Lord has bestowed mercy on me because of people’s contempt for me.’ ”

Muslim feminists at the intersection of Islam and Feminism

Image 1 feminismI have been a feminist ever since I began to engage with patriarchy as a conscious human being. That was also the same time when I realized that I was not the only woman struggling for space to breathe in a misogynistic world that strives to suck out every spirit of being from women, from people of color, from “minorities.” This started in my late teenage years when I began noting gendered double standards in the way that the community I was being raised in dealt with issues of gender and sexuality. I grew tired of it to the point where I have been wanting to scream ever since. And it’s been over a decade. But the reasons are too multifaceted to be attributed to misogyny alone. And the only things that have kept me sane and given me reasons to be enthusiastic about this world and women’s and gendered minorities’ future are feminism and feminist initiatives.

Let me clarify here that I am a Muslim, and I identify specifically as an Islamic feminist. I’m a Muslim Islamic feminist. It is important that I emphasize my religion here because western feminism has traditionally tended to discredit other forms of feminism, particularly feminists of faith, feminists of color, feminists who are otherwise not privileged due to their socioeconomic status. My struggles as a feminist working towards gender equality and justice are similar to the struggles of other feminists, but my struggles also differ in that I have another current working against me alongside patriarchy: Islamophobia in the West.

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Pashtun Personality of the Week: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Non-Violent Soldier of Islam

Pasting directly from the old blog.
Continuing our series on Pashtun Leaders.
What better day than August 14th to write about the prominent Pashtun leader and thinker, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – popularly known as Baacha Khan (or Badshah Khan)!
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan (1890 – 1988)
Bacha Khan
Bacha Khan, father of Ghani Khan and Wali Khan, was born in 1890 in Utmanzai (Charsadda) in Peshawar. The fourth child, he was sent to a local mosque for religious education. After the completion of his Qur’an lessons, he  was sent to the Municipal Board High School in Peshawar, where he later joined the Edwardes Memorial Mission High School. When his elder brother was sent to Bombay for medical school, Bacha Khan remained with his family servant, who later influenced Bacha Khan’s decision to join the British Indian army. However, as he was in the process of applying, he witnessed a British Raj officer mistreating a countryman and also realized that the Guide officers, an elite corp of Pashtun soldiers for the British Raj, were treated like second-class citizens; this highly offended him and made him change his mind about joining the army.

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Hijab-policing on the internet: images about how to wear the hijab “correctly”

I’ve come across so many funny images/messages on the hijab that I figured I should start compiling them and share them on the blog. I hope you enjoy them at least as much as I do!

DISCLAIMER: I am not against the hijab and I am not against any hijabis. In fact, I fully support the hijab as well as those who wear it. But I am against the objectification of the hijabi, as can be seen in too many of the images below; I’m against the sexualization of the woman (the human!) through the hijab; I’m against the many assumptions that are made about the Muslim female who does not cover her head, whether per her own volition or someone/something else’s–the hijab doesn’t define anyone; a person’s character does. Beliefs say nothing about us, and they mean nothing; it is our behavior, our personality, our character–everything that is “us” besides the piece of cloth that is on our head. After all, do most Muslims not agree that the hijab is more than just the head-covering? If that’s really true, then why the following images? Why the judgments against anyone who doesn’t wear the hijab? Why the comparison of the non-hijabi female to a lolly pop (wow – just wow) and that of the hijabi to a “pearl” (again, wow!)? Or the chicken metaphor (see below). And, dude! Men (or women) telling us “how” to wear the hijab or what’s hijab and what’s not? What the hellz? Who put YOU in charge, my dear “outwardly pious” brother (or sister) in Islam? And, by the way, to those patriarchal folks fighting for “men’s rights,” know that you’re actually insulting men by telling women to cover their head so as not to test men’s “sexual urges” & stop insulting women by objectifying them through the hijab. The human male is NOT a rapist or molester by default or by nature; he grows up as one, and our ideas that “women whose hair is covered are better and more self-respecting than those whose hair is not covered; the one with the head-covering on doesn’t want to be raped and doesn’t want negative attention, but the one without it OBVIOUSLY does” are crucial to their (men’s) growing up as rapists or potential rapists/molesters. These messages don’t help anyone but rapists.


It is tragic to realize that we live in a society that teaches women how NOT to get raped instead of teaching men NOT to rape. For more on this, see my post “The Hijab as a Solution to Rape?”

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A List of Haraam Things in Islam

haraam list

Errthing’s haraam, bruh.

P.S. Please be advised in advance that this is a satire. It’s intended to poke fun at some Muslims’ habit to make everything haraam. This is not a list of actual haraam things as Islam, the religion of God, deems them haraam. (Note, for example, that objectively haraam things like murder, adultery, etc. are not listed there. Does that clarify my point?)

I’ve compiled a list of all things I can remember that I’ve heard one Muslim or another (or saying is haraam. As with all other religions, if you put two Muslims in a room and ask them their views on Thing X, they’re both going to give you two different opinions. The following list is about that. I find it hilarious and amusing that in the comments, some people don’t get the point of this list at all and are taking certain things off the list to explain to me WHY they are haraam. Um, no, thanks.

Also, this isn’t poking fun at Islam; it’s poking fun at certain Muslims’ certain habit and obsession to declare everything haraam, especially the things we love most. I do not apologize for offending anyone with this.

So the following are lists of some of the things that are forbidden/ unacceptable/ punishable/ sinful according to at least one form of Islam (and there are as many forms of Islam as there are Muslims, who number about a billion). Some months ago, someone arrived on my blog looking for “list of things that are haraam in Islam,” which I thought was an excellent idea for a blog post. Millions thanks to that person! God reward you for such creative thinking!

Feel free to add more things. These lists are not comprehensive and never will be.

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