Female Reciters of the Qur’an: Un-gendering God’s Word and Questioning the Patriarchal Idea of “Aurah”

Ramadhan mubarak, everyone! 🙂 May this month be one of many of peace, blessings, and light for all, aameen!

Dr. Jerusha Lamptey, professor of Islam and Ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and author of Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism (2014), has just initiated a campaign urging Qur’an recitation websites to include female reciters of the Qur’an among their reciters’ list of hundreds or so. A petition for it can be accessed here.

If you’re on Twitter, please join the conversation and the call for female reciters to be granted their due recognition in popular platforms as well as in the broader religious realm; the hashtag being used is #AddAFemaleReciter.

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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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What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 1: intimidation, indecent photos, and threats of no-husband-for-you

The firs story in the series of being a (Pashtun) woman on the Internet. (Be sure to read this, folks – I’m afraid someone brilliant is going to come up and say, “But it’s not just Pashtun women who face these problems! Why are you targeting Pashtun men as harassers only?!” Because you didn’t read.)

The following person shall remain anonymous. Whatever I am sharing has been approved by her. It is told from her perspective.

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What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media

This is going to be a series, and I am not going to promise it’ll be as regular as I’d like it to be. I’ve asked several Pashtun females to share their online experiences with me for this series — whatever stories they’d like to share, however, detailed or un-detailed, whether they use their real name or fake names or remain anonymous, whether they choose to expose the men and women and others who harass them online. Many have responded, and I’m grateful. If you’re a Pashtun woman reading this and would like to share your thoughts, experiences, observations as well, please feel free to do so. You can email me at orbala1@gmail.com.

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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.”

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Doing Feminism: on self love and raising a feminist niece

Here’s how a conversation between me and 5-year-old Kashmala, my niece, went a few weeks ago.

Kashmala

Kashmala ❤

Kashmala, as we were face-timing: Let’s watch Youtube songs! Can you pleeeeeeeeeeeeease put on that song “Beautiful”? It’s my faaaaaaveeerite!

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The Privilege of Sexy Talk – and the expectation to remain faceless on Pashtun social media

nail polish

Get it?!

In November 2014, while at a panel on authority and Muslim women bloggers at the AAR Conference (dang, I never wrote about that on this blog, did I? Oops. k, no more promises then), I discovered something about myself: Whenever I am inspired and feel empowered, I want to write something provocative. Provocative in the religious and cultural, especially Pashtun cultural, senses. And the moment I realized this, I felt uncomfortable with this response to inspiration. It’s just too sexy for me, for my people (the Pashtuns), to the understanding of Islam that I grew up with (not that I still uphold all of those ideas I grew up with – just that they influence how I carry myself years after having rejected many of them), to many Muslims. Because one of the presentations on this panel I’d attended was on The Fatal Feminist’s blog entries on nail polish during menstruation, I wanted to write something sexually provocative the moment inspiration was gushing through all over me. And then I stopped my thoughts, went back to the beginning of the thread of thoughts that had brought me to this “very un-Pashtun” decision, and I realized what a privilege it actually must be for a woman, Muslim no less, to be able to talk about her body and something considered so intimate and private as menstruation without feeling guilty and without fearing any consequences. It’s a privilege I am denying myself currently but one that I want to enjoy eventually. And, no, it’s not simple like: “You are freeeee! Write on whatever you want!” Shut up, please.

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Freedom from the Forbidden (a poem)

The poem and note below were written January 5th 2010; I’m transferring them from the old blog.

One of my favorite Pashto songs, written by Ajmal Khattak and sung by Gulzar Alam, goes:

Raadak sho zrha isaarawale ye na sham
Khula maata kha da kho gandalay ye na sham

Rough translation:

My complaints and concerns overwhelm my heart; I can no longer keep it in!
My mouth is better off broken than sewn

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“Forbidden” – a poem

“Forbidden”

I have dug inside me,
A well – a deep, infinite well.
In it lives with me My God
The God of both women and men,
The God of the oppressed and the liberated,
The God of the cursed and the blessed

There with me, my feelings dwell,
Far from the fondness of human thought,
Unwelcome elsewhere
The feelings I’m forbidden to relish,
The secrets I’m forbidden to reveal,
The questions I’m forbidden to raise,
The mistakes I’m commanded to regret,
But I don’t. For I have no regrets.
Only mistakes to learn from.

There, I speak the unspeakable
I quarrel with My God,
And My God allows me this –24776_392097357371_2911969_n
And there, I think the forbidden
And My God hears me, too,
There, I demand answers,
And My God answers me, too,
My God hears the shattering of my voices
And pacifies my frustrated nerves
There, I heave sighs suppressed elsewhere,
And screams ignored elsewhere,
But I must scream,
For the forbiddance of speaking has boiled my brain,
And the ludicrousness of the ulama, the “learned,” vexes me,
And the labels of heresy and blasphemy grieve my soul
But I must tell my stories.

And I tell my God,
Why have you forbidden me these natural thoughts?
Why am I nothing but a dangerously seductive being, who
Incites sordid feelings in men?
You must forgive me, Dear God, for I mean no harm,
But you must permit me to ask –
Why do you objectify me when You created me Yourself?
They tell me You’re all-powerful;
But then why did you make me the reason men behave so despicably
When they see my face, or my hair,
Or my ankles,
Or my eyes?

And My God smiles at me
And tells me
“Don’t confuse My guidelines with the orders of men.”
Just as the well starts to flood, and I
Develop confidence and valor
And my spirit ascends the seventh heaven,
And my heart glows with peace
And my mind enfolds the universe

I have become a woman.
A woman at last.
And I’m going to tell my stories.

~ Orbala
March 1, 2010

“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.

from MuslimGirl.net

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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