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


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.


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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How Not to Respond When You Hear an Imam is Sexually Abusing People

Just to clarify: the title of this post is referring not to survivers of sexual abuse but to those who hear about sexual abuse. The following are some things *not* to say when you learn that a Qur’an teacher, an imam, or other religious community leader is sexually abusing people.

The post below is specifically in response to the recent sexual abuse by the Chicago imam, who — let’s all thank the Creator — now has been charged with sexually abusing an employee! May those whom he harmed, in any and every way, find love and strength to cope with the repercussions of the crimes this man has committed against them. And may those because of whom this man is now being punished be rewarded for their pursuit of justice despite the consequences.  May all such criminals be brought to justice soon, aameen!

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Yasir Qadhi’s Statement on the Women’s Mosque Is Condescending to Women.


I can’t believe this needs to be said out loud.

This is a response to Yasir Qadhi’s statement on his Facebook page where he shows fake support for the women’s mosque. The saddest part is that he probably meant well; he was probably expecting a pat on the back, a nice, humble thank-you from Muslim women because he’s basically saying that “Hey, Muslim men! If y’all stop disrespecting women in the mosques, maybe they won’t go around taking matters into their hands and counter-reacting with an actual mosque of their own! So start respecting them and their space in mosques so this whole women’s mosque move can go away!” And don’t get me wrong: It’s telling that I am tempted to acknowledge what he probably thought was support for Muslim women (because Muslim men leaders rarely speak on the disrespect and humiliation that women face in mosques). But I refuse to say, “Awww, thank you so much for finally saying openly that women are treated beyond poorly in mosques!” because our leaders should be saying that anyway. Not simply in response to a women-only mosque!

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Snake in the Grass

That condescending paux support of the women’s mosque expressed by Yasir Qadhi who prolly expected a pat on the back for how far he’s come with his views on women in the last some years.

the fatal feminist

It seems the women’s-only mosque in LA has brought out quite a bit of male panic—and brought out the white knights alike. Most of you have undoubtedly seen what Yasir Qadhi, Abu Eesa’s BFF, has had to say about it:

When our sisters are deprived from the right to come to the mosques, or given sub-standard accommodations and treated disrespectfully, it is only natural that some of them will take matters into their own hands and counter-react.

Some of that counter-reaction will be legitimate, and some illegitimate.

Oh please, Yasir. Do let us know that some of our “counter-reactions” are illegitimate. I presume that you, of course, are the one who gets to decide which “counter-reactions” (because that’s all this mosque is–just a bunch of women throwing a tantrum) are illegitimate? Unsurprisingly enough, Yasir Qadhi and his like don’t seem to believe that rape jokes are illegitimate.

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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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Responses to the Sexual Abuse Post – Part 2: Sexually Abused by a Qur’an Teacher at Home

2. Below, I share a response from someone who read that sexual abuse by a Qur’an teacher post of mine and allowed me to share their experience as well. I shared another individual’s story in another blog post before this – it can be read here.

Educate yourself, and listen to those who open up to you.

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Thoughts on the 2014 CAIR Banquet in San Diego

Amusingly patriarchal things happened before, during, and after the CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) banquet in San Diego this past November. Generally speaking–and very, very generally speaking–I can only say that the Muslim community and Muslim leaders have a distressing amount of progress to make in terms of acknowledging women’s voices and concerns. And leadership!

You see, The Fatal Feminist (Nahida) and I decided that since we were already in San Diego anyway, we might as well attend the CAIR banquet that was taking place one of the days we were there. I’ll talk about the AAR experience in another blog post—that was AMAZING! Because hamdallah for Islamic feminism.

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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.’ ”