Script: Introduction to Ramadhan – for Muslims and Non-Muslims | What the Patriarchy?!

This here is the script for my video on Ramadhan on What the Patriarchy. (Script is below the video.)

Hello, salaam, and Ramadhan Mubarak!

In this video, you’re going to learn about the basics of Ramadhan, what it is, why it matters, how do we celebrate it, how does fasting work, and so on.


So the month of Ramadhan has begun. It’s the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is lunar, it is the most sacred of all the months.

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Script: A Discussion of Kecia Ali’s Sexual Ethics & Islam – Intro and Ch. 1: Marriage, Money, Sex | What the Patriarchy?!

The following is a (rough!! very rough!) script of the video on Intro & Ch. 1 of Kecia Ali’s classic Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on the Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (2006 & 2016).

Link to the video: https://youtu.be/C7VPGdTw9Mw


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Script: A Discussion of Kecia Ali’s Sexual Ethics & Islam – Intro and Ch. 1: Marriage, Money, Sex | What the Patriarchy?!

The following is a (rough!! very rough!) script of the video on Intro & Ch. 1 of Kecia Ali’s classic Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on the Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (2006 & 2016).

Link to the video:


Hello, pa khair [welcome in Pashto, my native tongue], and assalamu alaikum wr wb! Welcome to hashtag what the patriarchy where we strive to uproot the patriarchy from Islam. Thank you for being here. This is Shehnaz!

So today, we’re going to be talking about another classic book on Islam. It’s called Sexual Ethics & Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence by THE Kecia Ali. And when I was taking notes on this book for this vlog, I literally wrote like 30 plus pages and I refuse for them to go to waste, so we’re going to do separate episodes on just a couple chapters at a time for this book. We’ll be talking about the 2016 edition of the book. It was first published in 2006.

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What Everyone Needs to Know about the Hijab/Veil in Islam | What the Patriarchy?! (Script)

Next episode of What the Patriarchy?! is now published!

In this video, we talk about all things hijab/veil (the head-covering). This include Muslim men and women’s and non-Muslims’ conversations about it; its origins; why some Muslim women wear it; the problem with the word “choice” in whether Muslims wear it by choice; the hijab/veil in the Qur’an and hadiths (and how the head-covering isn’t fardh in the Qur’an, actually); and more. If my talking speed is too fast for you, I’m so sorry! I promise I’m still trying. I recognize that makes it inaccessible for some. You can read the script here:

If you’d rather listen to only specific parts, here’s some tips (take or give some seconds):

– Beginning until 5:50, intro to the video, outline of the discussion, the ways that Muslim women, Muslim men, and non-Muslims talk about the hijab, and definition of hijab.
– until 7:11, why the hijab is worn.
– 7:11- 8:20, my critique of the whole “identity” and “solidarity” explanation of the hijab.
– 8:20 – on why the word “choice” is problematic and  why it’s an invalid question to ask if someone wear the hijab by “choice”; on social pressure; and is the hijab a human rights issue?
-13:50 –other people do it too! And the history and origin of the veil; relationship between status and covering; Muslim jurists on the awrah of the enslaved woman vs the free woman; some Muslim jurists didn’t even allow enslaved women to cover their hair during prayer!
– ~23-ish: the Qur’an on the hijab.
– ~29-ish: the whole point of this discussion on the hijab in the Qur’an (positionality, interpretive choices, no objective standards of modesty, what about male awrah, why weren’t women consulted during these interpretations, etc.)
– ~end of 31: the “context” of the qur’anic verses on hijab/covering
– ~35-ish: the bottom line
– ~37ish: other hadiths on covering; let’s make men cover and stay at home so that they’re not causing fitnah, etc. And why don’t men wear the hijab (head-covering)? Not like they’re forbidden from doing so.
– ~39: recap.

(Video and rough script below – may be off by some here and there.)

Bismillah irrahman irrahim. Hello, salaam, and welcome to What the Patriarchy, where we work to destroy the patriarchy – from its roots.

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New Episode on What the Patriarchy?! (Muslim) Women and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) (Script)

The latest video on the vlog is up! Link: https://youtu.be/GxKZMLQlkns. Script below.

Hello, and welcome to #WhatThePatriarchy, where we are working to uproot the patriarchy! Thank you for being here with me.

This is Shehnaz.

Today I want to talk about the Prophet Muhammad – the prophet of Islam, objectively one of the most important humans to have ever lived, certainly the most important man in Islam.

I want to start the discussion itself with the recognition of Muhammad’s status as a mercy on humanity. I accept that and I do deeply believe that. But for me, as for many other Muslims, this doesn’t mean every single thing that Muhammad did is an act of mercy.

So, in today’s episode, we’re going to emphasize that the Prophet Muhammad was a complex figure – like all of us – and our relationship with him as a Prophet of Islam, as a human, as a man aren’t simply just plain good or bad, or consistently one way or another, but that they can be complex too and they change from thing to thing, specific actions of his. So, loving him doesn’t mean accepting and modeling every. Single. Thing. That he did and said, because, among a bunch of other objective facts, he was constrained, like all of us, by specific contexts – cultural, social, personal, and so on.

I’ll begin with his character or his personality traits, I’ll talk about his relationships with his own daughters and then also with women who were not his wives, I’ll address the question of loving him – sure, we have to believe in his prophethood as Muslims, but does that also mean loving him? And what does it mean to love him? So this video is going to complicate some stuff like the expectation that all Muslims are required to love the Prophet, and I’m gonna talk about what happens when you suggest otherwise. Some of the specific things we’ll talk about are his multiple marriages, his relationships with his wives and daughters AND with other women. I’ll discuss a couple of things that he did himself that he wouldn’t allow other men when his own daughters’ peace of mine was at stake as well as how he broke treaties and possibly didn’t apply specific quranic verses just to protect women!

So in terms of his character or personality, he cared about people regardless of how they treated him. There’s that very famous hadith of the woman dumping garbage on him, and when she doesn’t do it one day, he goes and checks on her to see if she’s okay and she’s like but I hate you why’re you here? And he’s like well you forgot to dump your trash on me today, so I got worried. And then there’s the other hadith where he stands up in respect for the deceased when a non-Muslim person’s funeral procession is taking place.

We also know he had a good sense of humor. I have a good friend who’s writing a dissertation on humor in the hadiths, including the Prophet’s humor, and when that’s published, I’ll let you know!

And he was deeply secure in his masculinity. And this is something that I don’t think most Muslim men get or appreciate – listen, Muhammad was incredibly secure in his masculinity. His relationships with his wives and other women speaks to that, the fact that he didn’t let the insecure men of his community dictate how his relationships with women were going to be, his wives challenged him, asked him difficult questions, and so on. And he didn’t shut them down – he didn’t say oh you can’t ask that question because tradition. Today, when we ask men difficult questions, they shut us down. Try searching for some of these on YouTube, something that women are likely to ask, like what do WE get in heaven? And watch how they react to women’s questions and dismissing a question as “modern” or “feminist” or “western.” These men get so angry and emotional they start shouting in response and go on irrelevant tangents attacking feminists, somehow, because we’ve apparently given Muslim women the confidence to dare to ask questions.

But the Prophet? Umm Salamah once asked him, how come the Qur’an never addresses women directly? Why is it talking to men only? (fun fact: I once did a conference presentation on this question, and much of the audience was angry (much of the audience was Muslim), and one person – a Muslim man – even asked me what the point of such a question is. I’m not gonna point out what kinds of privileges you have to have to think this question is irrelevant. But when Umm Salamah asked this question, the Prophet was totes chills! He does no silence her, he does not God, astaghfirullah!! You gotta repent right now!) And tradition – by which I mean hadiths – tell us that qur’anic verse 33:35 was revealed in recognition of Umm Salamah’s question. And personally, I don’t think this verse addresses her concern because I think she was asking something else, and I think the tradition has misunderstood her question. She didn’t mean that the Qur’an never mentions women – because it always had. I don’t think that the Qur’an, or God, misunderstood her question – that’s not possible. But I’m saying that our interpretation of this episode is incorrect. But I’ll talk about the Qur’an’s audience in a different episode. The point is that he was very secure in his masculinity, and in his Islam, so that when a woman challenged him or asked him a very difficult question, he didn’t silence her the way that we get silenced when we ask similar questions today.

Another time, when the Qur’anic verse 33:51 is revealed telling the Prophet that he can go to any of his wives whenever he feels like it and that he can change his mind about who he goes to when, Aisha has opinions about that too and she tells Muhammad: مَا أُرَى رَبَّكَ إِلاَّ يُسَارِعُ فِي هَوَاكَ‏. Roughly translating to, “Oh how God – YOUR God, your Rabb, hastens to fulfill your wishes and desires!” She says “your God.” I love it. (Source: https://sunnah.com/urn/44660

I know that Shia Muslims have a whole different opinion on this. Basically, Shias don’t see her as a legitimate or reliable source of Islam, they don’t think positively of her, but in the Sunni tradition, she is highly revered.

So y’all, when Muhammad hears this from her, he doesn’t flit out! He doesn’t go how dare you, astaghfirullah, what do you mean that my God fulfills my wishes! Are you challenging GOD?! He doesn’t do any of that stuff that the patriarchy does to us today! But Muslim patriarchy has flipped out about this particular statement of Aisha’s. And how dare – oh how dare – Muslim men think that they’re protecting the Prophet s. that they’re defending him against women, like Aisha. These dudes are themselves so insecure, they themselves would brutally attack any woman in their life who challenges them like Aisha did Muhammad, that they will speak ill of Aisha – and again, I’m not talking about Shiis here, I’m not talking about polemics here, I’m talking about misogyny here! I’m talking about how they cannot handle a woman challenging a man because they’re not okay with women challenging them! So much that they end up attacking Aisha! These are Sunnis who’re doing this. To validate their own misogynist rage. Muslim male scholars – “scholars” always in quotes! – and teachers and preachers of Islam speaking poorly of Aisha and attacking her to show how wicked and manipulative WOMEN are is a total thing. There are KHUTBAHS out there on how wicked women are, how manipulative women are, and these are again Sunni male preachers who’ll say things like Aisha faked a headache once, and if Aisha the beloved of the Prophet, if one of the most important women highly revered by God could be this manipulative, then of course other women, ordinary women can also be like this! So beware! Totally a thing!   They dare to think that this misogyny has any sort of validity in Islam. Hold on, I gotta have mytea. Okay, so,  if Muhammad didn’t have an issue with it, who the hell do these misogynists think they are to criticize Aisha on behalf of Muhammad? But the truth is that they’re not doing it on behalf of Muhammad – they are doing it for themselves. They’re doing it on behalf of the patriarchy. They’re afraid of the possibility of more women like Aisha and Umm Salamah, brilliant and feisty, would be in their lives and challenge the patriarchy!  They’re afraid of what these women represent. And what do they represent? Critical thinking. Brilliance, smartness, resilience. A challenge to the patriarchy! As long as the Prophet’s own wives are thinking like this and making statements like this, and the Prophet didn’t call them out for it and didn’t shut them down, these men are afraid we ordinary women will do the same thing because we can say our mothers – the Prophet’s wives, the ummahat al mu’mineen – did this so we can too, and we’ll get inspiration and confidence to be like them. We ordinary women are the women in these men’s personal lives and as long as we exist and use the example of the Prophet’s wives, these men have a lot to lose if they don’t shut down the Prophet’s wives on behalf of the Prophet! You see? being in their lives, taking over the project of interpreting Islam more widely, of critiquing men’s choices using Islam. It’s literally as simple as men’s insecurities, their investment in patriarchy. That’s it!

So what do they do? They project onto Muhammad (s.) their own insecurities and male fragility, accusing the Prophet Muhammad of being this insecure sexist man that too many Muslim men themselves are. How on earth THAT is not a sin is beyond me. How the fact that they dare to portray Muhammad as a fragile, insecure man like themselves is not haram is beyond me.

So speaking of accusations against the Prophet Muhammad …

I have a dear friend, an Islamic feminist blogger, The Fatal Feminist, who wrote an article a couple of years ago – link in description – on the idea of loving the Prophet Muhammad.  She argues that Muslim women are allowed to have complicated relationships with the Prophet, that we don’t have to love him, that there are certain things that he did that we’re allowed to feel uncomfortable with – because there are consequences in his actions for us Muslim women.

And I agree with her. We should be allowed to disagree with the actions of prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad. I don’t understand how it is okay for the male scholarly community to speak so terribly, so unacceptably of women – and I’m talking women in the Qur’an like the Queen of Sheba (will return to this in a bit) – but then turn around and accuse us of not being Muslim or proper Muslim if we so much as criticize a thing that a prophet did, for very good reasons, actually! Did you know, for example, that the tafsir tradition literally can’t handle a woman being in power, like a queen like Sheba, so they decided that she wasn’t human, or a full human and must have been a jinn, because – and this is the insecurity of Muslim scholars talking – what kind of men would allow a woman to rule over them? Astaghfs! (You can read more about this in a book called The Perplexity of a Muslim Woman: Over Inheritance, Marriage, and Homosexuality, by Olfa Youssef. I’ve written a review of it on my blog that I’m gonna share the link to in the description.) My point is that Muslim patriarchy won’t let us criticize men because of whose actions, even if just one or two actions in the grander scheme of things, hurt women, but they have no problem attacking and literally dehumanizing women that the Qur’an itself in some cases, and certainly Islam, honors.

The Fatal Feminist in her article tells us, and I quote from her article now:

“auntie amina wadud came under fire a while ago for classifying Prophet Ibrahim—whose dreams regarding the slaughter of Ismail the Qur’an never claimed—of being a “deadbeat dad.” She is a Muslim woman and has the right to that frustration against a male prophet. My disciple, Misha, has been perplexed that Sulaiman was ready to start a war with Queen Bellekeyce for no apparent reason and heartbroken over and over regarding the treatment of Lut toward his daughters. She has the right to that horror. “Do not strain your heart to redeem him,” I had told her. Do not strain your heart to redeem him…. The undeniable truth is we have no idea why they are chosen and we should not pretend to know….Yunus was punished by al-Rahman Herself when he deserted his people and his mission. Only the Prophetess Maryam, mother of Isa, is described by the Qur’an itself as having been purified above all others for her task. I have said it to Misha and I will say it again: the moral errors of other prophets are documented in the Qur’an because they are not secrets. Women have a special right to harbor anger through their love, and no man has any right to challenge that.”

She ends her article with these beautiful words:

“May the woman who demands the Prophet’s accountability in his injustice against her find herself closer to heaven than the man who loves him at the dismissal of someone else’s suffering. Muslim women have the right not to love the Prophet. You have the right not to desire his company. You have the right to prefer other men over him.”

These words were healing when I first read them two years ago, and they’re even more healing today.

If you read the comments on her post, you’ll see a very gendered patterns. When it was first published, it angered the hell out of patriarchy. It went viral, and it even got the attention of some sexist misogynist male imams who literally gave khutbahs on it! The sad thing is that Muslim women were grateful for it. The worst that I saw a Muslim woman saying was something like, this makes me uncomfortable. Which I appreciate! Feeling discomfort over the article is one thing – but dismissing it and attacking Nahida AND also all Muslim feminists is not ok. Because the article went viral, I’m sure there were women who hated it like the patriarchy did – but my point here is about the reaction to an argument that Muslim women are entitled to having certain complicated feelings about the Prophet Muhammad s.

You, see, too many Muslims unfairly try to FORCE people to love the Prophet Muhammad. You can’t do that. That’s just inherently impossible. You can’t force someone to love someone else! Too many Muslims wrongly believe that we have to agree with and endorse everything Muhammad did because even if we don’t understand his actions, there must have been wisdom in what he did because he was a prophet. This is ridiculous. It’s inaccurate. The irony of it is that the Qur’an itself, God Herself, criticizes Muhammad.  I know some people don’t think it’s criticism, so, fine, use softer language like “calling him out” or “reproaching him,” that works too. Does the qur’anic phrase ‘abasa wa tawalla mean nothing to you people? Look it up.

But, look. When Aisha was accused of adultery, how did Muhammad respond? Did he support her? Take her side? No, she was real sick and was sent to her parents’ house to be taken care of, and Muhammad went to the sahaba – male companions – and said, what do I do, y’all! Help! Some defended Aisha, and some didn’t.

And Aisha isn’t cool with this! See, according to the Sunni tradition, it was the Qur’an, God Herself who rescued Aisha here: the Qur’anic verses 11-20 of surat al-Noor, ch. 24, are believed to be about her. These verses, according to Sunnis, declared her innocence and introduced a punishment for her accusers. So the verse supporting her is revealed while Muhammad is visiting her at her parents’ house, and he says oh Aisha you’re innocent because God said so! And Aisha’s mother is like hey Aisha thank the Prophet for saving you! And you know what she says? No, I’m not gonna thank him I’m not gonna thank ANYONE but Allah – all of you heard this story, and none of you believed me! It’s God who saved me! So she didn’t approve of Muhammad’s way of handling this incident! (For Shias, by the way, these verse aren’t about Aisha but generally about slander and accusing chaste women of unacceptable things. Although some say that even IF the verses are about her, that doesn’t mean she’s a good, righteous person because yeah slander is wrong when committed against anyone, no matter who they are. They don’t like her for a bunch of reasons not essential to this discussion.)

Basically, imagine yourself in Aisha’s position – your spouse or partner suspects because of rumors going around that you may have cheated on them. How would you feel?

And one more thing on his polygamy because it’ll be relevant for a later point I’ll be making. Ok, get this. In all his marriage, he didn’t ask his wives’ permission if he could marry a new woman. None of his wives were okay with his marriages to other women. When he wanted to marry Umm Salamah, she specifically refused initially because, she said, he had other wives. And Muhammad tells her, I’ll pray to Allah to remove that jealousy from your heart. This is the thing. This kind of dismissal of women’s feelings about realities that affect them negatively is not okay. As a Muslim woman, I’m inherently affected by such language and the Prophet’s choices.

But the point here is about his complex character. then there’s the way that the Prophet Muhammad loved women as people, the way he protected them from harm, the way he fought the patriarchy of his time. Those are significant things. Fatima Mernissi suggests that he did whatever he could, that his role was complicated, and he had to try to win as many different sides as he could, try to bring different, competing viewpoints together. I mean, the fact that when he was married to Khadija, he was married to her ALONE is significant. Sure, we can speculate here and suggest that he probably couldn’t marry other women while married to Khadija because Khadija was his boss! But honestly, their relationship sounds way too healthy for this kind of fear and insecurity, for Muhammad to be afraid her or for her to be afraid of him. Clearly he wasn’t a greedy or exploitative person, and he wasn’t inherently polygamous.

Then you also have something like his relationship with his daughters and women he’s not married to. Sunnis believe that Muhammad had four daughters, all of them by Khadija; they were Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima. (Most) Shi’is believe that Muhammad had only one daughter – Fatima. Here, I’m going to ahead and accept the Sunni belief that the other daughters existed.

We know that he loved Fatima to death. The Shias and the Sunnis agree on this. Apparently, when he was leaving on some journey, Fatima would be the last person he would visit and say goodbye to, and when he’d return, she’d be the first person that he’d see. A father’s immense, unbreakable love for his daughter isn’t necessarily sufficient evidence for his being a good person. But I’m saying here that he’s complicated, right? So while he himself married multiple women, without any regards for how the women were feeling about it, but when ALI wants to marry other wives while being married Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, Muhammad is like how DARE YOU even think about it. What the heck! Muhammad even taught Fatima all about the nikaah contract and being able to stipulate in it that her husband wouldn’t be allowed to take other wives being married to her. But one can argue that, well, as a prophet, he trusted himself to be a good husband to multiple wives but didn’t think other men were capable of it. Okay, then outright explicitly don’t allow it to anyone else either; why just Ali? Similarly, IF we accept the false hadith that Muhammad married Aisha when she was a kid, get this, ok: apparently, some older men wanted to marry Fatima when she was young, and the Prophet found that disgusting and was like hell no.

Then there are Muhammad’s other daughters. Okay, listen, y’all, Zainab was married to a MUSHRIK (a polytheist) and Muhammad never did anything about it! She marries her cousin Abu al-‘As before Islam, before Muhammad gets a revelation, and stays married to him for two decades. y’all, her husband isn’t even some regular mushrik – he’s literally actively fighting against Muhammad and the whole Muslim community; he literally fought in Badr against the Muslims! And he’s repeatedly captured by the Muslim, and Zainab keeps paying his ransom and getting him back. This one time, Zainab tells her father that she’s protecting her husband, and y’all, you know what the Prophet does? He introduces a law that says that whenever, at ANY time, when someone seeks protection with you, no matter who they are even if your enemy, you must absolutely grant them that protection and not turn them in. How this is not an immense, powerful gesture of the Prophet’s love, I don’t know.

And, no, he didn’t convert to Islam until like the very end, almost at the time of her death. In the two decades that they’re married, Muhammad NEVER declares Zainab’s marriage invalid and never tells her to divorce him. The sources disagree on what went down, like oh supposedly Muhammad tells Zainab hey you can’t sleep with him until he accepts Islam, but this isn’t true because at the time of her death, Zainab was pregnant. She had a tragic death – two men attacked her and she bled and miscarried and died. I’ll be talking about this in detail in a separate episode on the topic of interfaith marriage in Islam, so please don’t make me give away more interesting facts here, BUT my point here is that Muhammad literally breaks what appears to be a clear meaning of “don’t marry the mushriks and the kuffaar!” in the Qur’an for his daughter! His two other daughters, Umm Kulthum and Ruqayyah, were also married to mushriks – the sons of Abu Lahab, y’all – but those marriages ended because Abu Lahab, NOT Muhammad, didn’t want his sons to stay married to Muhammad’s daughters.

So that’s an example of Muhammad going against, it looks like, two qur’anic verses that all Muslim male scholars insist mean that Muslim women are absolutely forbidden to marry all non-Muslims. And the funniest thing is that they find all kinds of excuses for why Zainab must’ve married Abu al-‘As, and some literally interpret her story as “aww poor Zainab, can you imagine how patient she must’ve been to have to stay married to an enemy of her father’s? Poor, poor thing!” NO! She loved her husband!!! She wasn’t forced to be married to him or to stay with him!  She chose to stay married to him, and she chose not to force him to convert to Islam!

And then a final example I’ll give here has to do with the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in the year 628. You see, this treaty took place between Muhammad and the mushriks of Mecca as a way to relieve some of the tension between the two groups. It was to last for ten years, and among its conditions was that anyone who leaves the Muslim community to go to the Mushriks was to say with the Mushriks and anyone who leaves the Mushriks to come to the Muslims WAS to be returned to the Mushriks. Well, lo and behold, women were apparently leaving their Mushrik Meccan communities and coming to Muhammad’s community. These women would come and tell Muhammad that look, I’m a Muslim now and I don’t feel safe going back to my community; my brothers or my husband or other men are coming after me. So Muhammad allows the women to go ahead and stay in his community, and the men coming after these women are like hey you can’t do that because we have an agreement – you need to return these women to us. But Muhammad is willing to break the terms of the contract to protect these women. There’s a whole qur’anic verse – 60:10, in al-Mumtahina– that endorses his decision or may even be the source of his decision.

Just like he protected Fatima from polygyny, just like he protected Zainab from divorcing a mushrik man she loved and was happy with, he protects Umm Kulthum and these other women seeking protection with him from their communities after having converted to Islam.

And since we’re talking about complexity –  another example of his actions and their impact: So let’s assume that Muhamamd did marry Aisha when she was a child, for example. This isn’t true; evidence suggests this hadith is totally false (the hadith was actually forged after the year 795 CE, 179 in the Hijri calendar – more on Aisha’s age at the time of marriage another time). But IF Muhammad married her when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9—and too many Muslims believe that he did—this action of his has a direct impact on Muslim women today. Child marriage is still a thing that happens, universally to be sure, including in the U.S. (Fun fact: child marriage isn’t illegal in the U.S.) And no, it doesn’t exist because Muhammad did it, but too many people will use that example to say well if Muhammad did it, so can we. Twisted definitions of the sunnah will validate such harmful practices, so it doesn’t help that the hadiths tell us he did. But again, he didn’t do it.

So, ALL of this to say, Muhammad was a complicated figure, and we’re allowed to have complicated feelings about all the things that he did – the good and the bad, the ugly and beautiful, the kind and the unkind, the confusing and clear.

You’re allowed to criticize his choices and disagree with his choices and not wish them for yourself or someone else. Because his choices and decisions have a direct impact on your life.

Okay, so recap: we discussed the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was a very secure man, nothing like what Muslim male scholars portray him as; we questioned the false claim that we’re required to love the Prophet Muhammad s. and decided that it’s totes okay to have complicated feelings about him as a Muslim woman especially because his choices and actions have a direct impact on our lives; we discussed specific examples from his life like his multiple marriages, his marriage to Aisha, and his relationships with his wives as well as other women; we talked about the fact that he willingly broke treaties and rules and even went against – potentially – a very clear meaning of the Qur’anic verse on marriage to mushriks in order to support women’s decisions, which I read as a sign of his commitment to protecting women and the marginalized; and my personal favorite thing to talk about these days – the marriage of his daughter Zainab to a mushrik man.

Okay, I need to stop here. We’ll continue this conversation another time. Thank you so much for watching, and I’ll see you next episode!

Salaam!

New Episode on What the Patriarchy?!: Creating God in the Image of An Abusive Man (Script)

Alhamdulillah I had some energy and lots of inspiration to produce the next video for your favorite YouTube channel, What the Patriarchy?!

You can view it here: https://youtu.be/-3fv2jAZtt8. It’s ~21 minutes long.

I’m pasting here the script to the video. I don’t think I departed much from it, so! ❤

Hello and assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu! Welcome to #WhatThePatriarchy, where we are working on destroying the patriarchy from its roots. Thank you for being here with me. This is Shehnaz.

I’m so sorry I’ve been away for so long – so many other commitments, alhamdulillah, and also a lack of energy to produce more of these. Partly because the patriarchy is so exhausting, y’all! But we gotta do this, we gotta do this work because the patriarchy needs to die asap. I would like to give credit to the folks who gave me the energy and inspiration to create this episode and to get back on track – folks who’ve been emailing me the last few months asking wonderful questions, sharing their struggles, thank you for writing. (This also includes the academics who reached out to me, all women and non-binary folks, I have to add, after the whole fiasco on an academic Islam listserv where some mansplainers tried to  criticize my videos without even watching them after some wonderful male allies of mine shared links to these videos with them. The patriarchy, I tell you.)

In this episode, we will discuss how the patriarchy creates, constructs, imagines, portrays God in the image of an abusive man. That’s not God – that’s patriarchy. I wanna highlight here the importance of having complicated relationships with God – and reflections on such relationships as an act of jihad.

Here’s the thing. In the last few days, I’ve received several emails from Muslim women who are hurting, who are struggling with their faith, and when they look for resources to help them, they see the fact of patriarchy only. And this patriarchy yells at them, makes them feel terrible, attacks them, dismisses them. And then they accidently or randomly come across something on Islamic feminism and they tell me about the impact of this new world on their faith and their relationship with Allah and Islam. I’m not the only Muslim feminist blogger who gets such emails – ask anyone and they’ll tell you that get such emails too.

And what I’m realizing slowly is that they ALWAYS say that Islamic feminism saved them, that it saved them theologically and spiritually, it saved their relationship with Islam. It brought them back to Islam.

And that’s MY story too!

I have NEVER met anyone – women, my intended audience for this vlog – saying that patriarchal or mainstream Islam saved them. That never happens. In fact, that actually hurts them. Many people leave Islam as a result of the mainstream Islam that’s all around us, the Islam that’s sexist, bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, and lacks of compassion.

And when I say here that Islamic feminism saves these people, Islamic feminism is a fluid term – it doesn’t have to be one specific interpretation of Islam. It’s just not sexist, not violent – emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. – it’s compassionate, it’s egalitarian, it’s welcoming, it’s validating. And it’s accepting of people’s journey. It’s a kind of Islam that recognizes and values that people are on a journey, that Muslims are on a journey, and this journey is not the same for everyone, for obvious reasons, partly because of how different our experiences are both on this journey and generally as citizens of our world. We may not even have the same destination – but generally, that destination can be God,

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from Muslim women telling me that they are or were on the verge of leaving Islam but discovered that the Islam they grew up with is not the only Islam out there. That the God they were taught about is not the God of the Qur’an, of Islam, or the only kind of God that they have to believe in. That this God is Compassionate and loving, is Beautiful and loves Beauty, doesn’t punish people for the smallest things like showing a strand of their hair. Almost all of my life, except the past year or so, I was told that if a man sees my hair, even a strand of my hair, I will be punished for that, and I don’t wanna traumatize you with the specific detailed description of what the punishment is. There are Muslims who believe that if a man sees your hair or any parts of your body other than your face while a man is fasting, his fast breaks and YOU are responsible for it, you’re accountable to God for it. What the hell, patriarchy?! What kind of a God does that to people?!

And this is where Muslim teachers and preachers of Islam need to be very careful because they’re abusing their responsibility as teachers of the religion. You’re pushing people away from, not bring them towards, God. You’re accountable to God for that.

But here’s the thing: this isn’t from God. This isn’t God. This is the patriarchy imagining and portraying God in the image of MEN, and very particular kind of men – the angry, cold, evil, sexist, unforgiving, abusive men. Have you ever paused to reflect on what your idea of God is and how similar, if not identical, that idea is to an abusive man? Is this God out to just punish you at all times and seldom reward you and have any compassion towards you? Does this God criticize you for the smallest thing you do, do you find yourself begging for this God’s forgiveness because you made the smallest, harmless mistake? Or is this God more forgiving, merciful, understanding – like the most common phrase in the Qur’an teaches us, the basmalah, bismillahirrahman irrahim?

Somehow, when I think about the relationship that the Prophet s. had with Allah, I don’t see an angry, vicious, evil God; I find a loving God who is also very funny and chill! That’s the God of Islam.

But I also wanna be careful here and, well, as academic, I’m not supposed to oversimplify things like this. But, then again, I’m not imagining academics here as my audience – it’s Muslims struggling with the kind of Islam that many of us grow up with that I’m speaking to here. Either way, I want to take a brief moment to acknowledge that the Qur’anic idea of God is not a simple loving God. Like the Jewish Bible, like the New Testament, like scriptures in other religions, the Qur’anic God IS complicated. And if for no other reason, THIS is why we are absolutely allowed to have complicated relationships with God, because God’s persona is complicated too. We’re not robots – our experiences with religion have everything to do with how we imagine and understand and relate with God.  

So back to the tragedy of patriarchal visions of God. They makes you want to escape yourself and your past and GOD. I seldom come across men talking about Islam and God as compassionate and understanding and validating – and practical. They get angry, they shout, they get defensive, they gaslight you, they lie to you, they make up things, they cite only other similarly spiritually violent men to convince you of their point – all signs of abusive men.

In other words, these dudes project onto Allah their own personalities, so that God becomes JUST. LIKE. THEM. Just the mere fact that they even dare to imagine God as a MAN is a problem to begin with. This while they insist God has no gender. Okay, if God has no gender, and we’re allowed to use a gendered pronoun for God, can we also use “She” for God then? They panic when you do this. That’s the first sign right there that God as they portray Her DOES in fact have a gender, and that gender is not-woman.

How on earth have we, as an ummah, allowed for this to continue for this long?

Okay, so now that we’ve established that the God that these scary-ass teachers of Islam portray is actually not God but a scary-ass misogynist human, we have to ask, what is at stake for these preachers of Islam in these kinds of teachings? What do they stand to gain from the current view of God and what do they lose from an alternative, more kinder view of God? Everything! I mean, can you imagine how much power these men enjoy if they can convince people, their audiences, that their opinions are actually God’s laws? They would lose so much if they didn’t intimidate and scare us into thinking this way about God! They’d lose the infinite amount of male privilege and supremacy they enjoy. These folks thrive on scaring us into submission – not to God, in fact, as should be clear now, but into themselves. It’s like as Amina Wadud tells us, patriarchy is shirk. We don’t end up doing what God says to do – we do what these men tell us to do. A lot of them won’t have a job if you were to think critically about what they teach you in the name of this cruel God that they have invented!

But it’s also possible that these projections aren’t intentional or deliberate or even conscious. They may very well be subconscious too. You see, I teach a first-year course on Abrahamic religions, and we read a lot of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures there – they also learn about the Baha’i Faith but not in as much detail as the other three; not the point here. And I always have a couple of Muslim students in these classes. The Muslims, too, but mostly the non-Muslims, generally speaking, express surprise about the way that God is portrayed in the Qur’an. So they’re usually surprised that God forgives Eve and Adam when they disobey God; or that before the flood of Nuh or really any other destructions, God gives the people plenty of warnings. (Side note here: I don’t want to justify these destructions – I think when looked at from the perspectives of the innocent people who were destroyed in these events, like animals and plans and women and children, everything changes.) But my point here is that these non-Muslim students of mine are coming to the Qur’an with certain biases, many of which we unpack and discuss throughout the semester, and are therefore then surprised when they don’t find the kind of God in the Qur’an that they were expecting to find. They don’t grow up with Muslim scholars and preachers teaching them about Islam and God, so in their case, it’s the islamophobia around them that’s introducing such images of God in their heads. And they’re not always conscious of these images. But some of my Muslim students are absolutely shocked that the image of God that they grew up with is not supported in the Qur’an either. And this is why I insist that these portrayals of God that so many of us grow up with are literally inventions! Of the patriarchy. They’re made up because they help keep the patriarchy going.

In these Muslims’ case, it’s Muslim patriarchy that’s responsible for the lies they internalize. I don’t wanna give patriarchal Islam a benefit of the doubt here, but I wonder if some of the good teachers of Islam who have internalized these images of God have ever actually reflected on the impact of their teachings about God to Muslims who are sincerely searching for God.

I’ll end with this note: we’re all on a journey. You’re on a journey. Even the misogynist Muslim teachers of Islam are on a journey. Recognize this and ask yourself where you want to go and where you are. Who do you want to meet along the way? Who do you want to avoid along the way? Why might that be? The Compassionate God you’re searching for IS there. But there’s also going to be a lot of obstacles on the way to this destination, to God, and those obstacles include the patriarchal visions of Islam that you’re bombarded with on a daily basis.

And as you begin to think about this journey of yours, remember what I said in the first episode on this channel: this is your jihad. Discovering the God of Islam is your jihad. Working on your relationship with this God is your jihad. And there’s no limit on how long it should take you to get to that destination. Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to take your time. You have no reason to rush – if anything happens to you during this journey, remember what Allah tells us: it’s as if you died in the path of Allah.

If you find this vlog beneficial – and I’m so glad that you do – I encourage you to read more on Islamic feminism and write to the feminists whose works I discuss in these episodes. I’m only primarily repeating what other scholars have found and said.  

That’s all, beloveds! Thank you for watching, and I’ll see you in the next episode, inshaAllah. Coming up next is an episode on why it’s totally legitimate and okay for Muslims, but especially Muslim women, to have a complicated relationship with the Prophet Muhammad s. Stay tuned.

Salaam!

A Discussion of Fatima Mernissi’s The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam

Salaam, all!
I’ve just published my latest video on YouTube.

In this episode, we discuss Fatima Mernissi’s book The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women’s Rights In Islam.I address some of her main points and then in detail discuss some of the specific topics she covers, such as female leadership (turns out, that hadith on nations not succeeding if they let a woman lead is false!), Qur’anic verse 4:34, female inheritance, slavery, the hijab, Abu Hurayrah and why Aisha (r.) didn’t trust him, the Battle of the Camel, and a lot more!

I’m pasting the script below in case anyone needs it. Note that captions are available. I recognize I’m still speaking fast (sighs!) – a reminder that until I fix this habit of mine, you can change the speed of my speech by clicking the setting icon on the video, then “playback speed,” and instead of the default “Normal,” you can change it to a lower one so it’s slower.

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Video – Ramy, the Muslim Community, & Double Standards: rewarding men, punishing women | #WhatThePatriarchy?

As some of you know, I’ve started vlogging lately! It’s been a complete joy, and I’m thrilled about this new adventure of mine!

Here’s my latest one. I’ll probably post a script of this in a couple days as well, but captions are available (they’re originally automatic and I’ve corrected them). If I still speak too fast for you to follow, I apologize! I was trying very hard to speak more slowly in this one. But you can adjust the speed for yourself by clicking “settings” on the video, then playback speed, and change it as you need, as it’s automatically set to Normal.

The rest of the videos are available here.

In this video, I discuss sexist double standards and hypocrisies in our Muslim community, which celebrates actor Ramy of “Ramy” and thinks of him as some kind of a role model for the youth – despite the role he plays in “Ramy” – while in the same breath attacking Muslim women for doing basic things like, you know, existing and having opinions. I say rewarding men like Ramy is also related to rewarding known abusers and sexual predators like Nouman Ali Khan and Tariq Ramadan.

EDIT: In my sacred rage about the whole thing, I totes forgot to add a very important thing: the mosque named here ended up NOT inviting him because parents weren’t accepting it (legitimately so). To me, whether or not the event took place isn’t very relevant; the bigger issue is that any mosque in the universe can think this is acceptable in the first place!

Book Review – Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia, by Shenila Khoja-Moolji

The following review is a (very) long and detailed version of a much shorter one that was just published in Reading Religion, a publication of the AAR. You can find the link to it below. (Short version: this is a fantastic book and would be of interest & relevance to everyone.)

Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia, University of California Press (2018), by Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Forging the ideal educated girlThe current Western discourse around Malala’s fight for education specifically and Muslim women’s perceived inability to go to school calls for a critique of the way education and Muslim women and girls are imagined, as well as of the promise that education is the solution to all sorts of problems. This is precisely what Shenila Khoja-Moolji’s Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia accomplishes. Through an analysis of a variety of texts, linguistic and visual—didactic novels, political speeches, government documents, periodicals, advertisements, television shows, and first-person narratives—as well as through a focus group, the author examines the discourse surrounding women’s and girls’ education, the rationales given for their education, the ideal location for obtaining education, and the ideal curriculum. She finds competing notions of the ideal educated, and the failed, female subject. The book excellently shows that class, nationalism, religion, and patriarchy shape the conversation on girls’ and women’s education. Khoja-Moolji shows the changing nature of the debate, and the fluctuating ideas of the ideal woman, as illustrated in various media, including women’s magazines, periodicals, novels, and television shows. The book relies on both archival research and focused conversations with a community in southern Pakistan about education. These focus group interviews reinforce the arguments she makes throughout the book, particularly those pertaining to class, religion, and the patriarchal family. Khoja-Moolji’s focus is on the debate of women’s education internal to Muslim societies—in colonial British India and postcolonial Pakistan—in three moments of South Asian history: the turn of the twentieth century, the first decades after the creation of Pakistan, and the turn of the twenty-first century. The book is an essential reading not just for academics interested in questions of gender, South Asia, and gender and South Asia, but also and perhaps more importantly for development and education NGOs—and for anyone who believes that Nicholas Kristoff and others like him do noble work.

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Muslims and Islam in the Republic of Georgia (Batoumi and Khulo)

I haven’t blogged in a long while, and I miss it. I am hoping to regain the energy to blog actively again because, God, how I miss it. While I work on producing more actual content, here’s some stuff on my travels last summer. This one specifically on the Republic of Georgia. I’ll talk about Berlin and Prague another time, inshaAllah. Memorable times there, too.

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