I have read more on Islamic feminism in the past several months than I knew even existed a year ago.
Though I am thrilled to have found all these writers / articles, I have to admit I debated writing about this topic.
I know there is a lot of emotion and perceptions about the word feminism. I’ve heard it described as everything from a basic human right to the demise of Western society. Everyone has an image of what this word means to him or her – good or bad.
Personally, I have always championed feminism though my view of it has certainly evolved with life experience. Trust me, I have seen the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly of feminism in the typical Western notion of the word.
In then end, I thought I would take the perspective of how I see this in the context of Islam, coming from a new revert who is a working woman in the western world.
For me Islam in its ideal is the perfect balance of the individual and the community, which is reflected in the balance of personal choice and responsibility to those around you. I view ‘feminism’ to be about women having the same opportunity as men for choice and subsequent responsibility – even if the choices and responsibilities are different….or not.
I am sure we could debate for hours the line between choice and responsibility, the differences between women and men, and the differences among women and among men. However, I would rather bring this back to what are for me the fundamentals — “There is no compulsion in religion” is just as true for women as it is for men. And just like each man is held accountable to Allah for his actions in this life, so is each woman. What can be more equal than that?
Some of the issues I had with Christianity were the historical depiction and treatment of women as chattel and the description of Eve as being responsible for original sin for which Christ needed to die in order to save us. These are just two examples of the way I personally felt Christianity diminished women. And to be honest, a year ago I probably viewed women in Islam as being oppressed or marginalized due to my own preconceived notions as shaped by the media. (And certainly in some cases Muslimahs are oppressed and abused. However, honor killings, mutilation, forced marriage and similar actions are un-Islamic, and huge and important topics for another time.)
When I read the Qur’an and biographies of the Prophet (SAW), I was astounded. Women were liberated centuries before the term even existed from what I could read: daughters were to be as treasured as sons, women were given the right to property, women had the choice to marry and to divorce, women were equal in responsibility to worship and to do good deeds, women fought in key battles for Islam, the Prophet’s wives were strong and opinionated and loved by the Prophet (SAW) because of these attributes, and there was no ‘original sin’. To me, these are examples of feminism in action and I am sure the sisters and brothers reading this can provide even more examples.
While I may view this as feminism, I guess it does not really matter to me what name is used to describe it. What all of this boils down to is that what I have learned and experienced in following Islam empowers me as a woman.
More importantly, Islam makes me a better human being through my personal accountability to Allah (SWT), my responsibility to the Ummah, and the open encouragement to pursue knowledge about my faith through my whole life.