On the postmodern anachronisms and mental gymnastics of Muslim Feminists
Above: A Muslim Feminist leads a mixed congregation in prayer. To Muslims, a scene like this is so ‘WTF?!’
I sat down with Muslim Feminist Mirriam Seddiq, an Afghan-American criminal defense attorney who runs her own law firm.
She’s also a blogger and hosts her own podcast.
We talked about sexy times (explicitly) and women’s rights in Islam, how to dialogue and disagree agreeably, and the Muslims’ role in the ongoing free speech debates (in the West.)
I mention many of the concepts discussed in this article.
Despite us being polar opposites in our beliefs about Islam, and gender, she was a gracious host and we had a lovely, two-hour long conversation.
We also found a lot of common ground.
I’m embedding it here for your enjoyment and because it adds nuance to my arguments.
Please rate and review Not Guilty No Way on iTunes.
As ideologies go, Feminism is so remote from Islam that the very phrase “Islamic Feminism” is oxymoronic.
Feminism seeks absolute equality in the political, economic, personal, and social spheres.
Islam prescribes specific rights and responsibilities for each gender. In fact, it explicitly states that men and women are NOT equal.
Feminism is man-made. Islam is Divine.
We Muslims have a hard-coded skepticism of ideas or ideologies that look or sound un-Islamic.
For Muslims, the virtue of any idea depends on its agreement with Islamic teachings.
For Feminism to gain acceptance among Muslims, it must be validated by Islam.
Enter — Muslim Feminists and ‘Islamic Feminism.’
They try to legitimize Feminism by:
- Interpreting Quran and Hadith using Feminist hermeneutics
- Reading/back-projecting Feminism into Quran and Hadith
- Redefining Feminism to widen the umbrella of inclusiveness
The first results in strange interpretations that are rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims.
The second is intellectually dishonest with both Feminism and Islam.
The third makes a mockery of language and the meanings of words.
In this article I focus on #2 and #3, and refute the most common arguments using examples.
By the time you finish reading, you will understand that:
- Reading postmodern ideas (Feminism) into Islamic scripture is anachronistic
- Identifying as a Muslim Feminist or Islamic Feminist requires mental gymnastics
- Identifying as a Muslim Feminist is like identifying as a Muslim Hindu
An example of Muslim Feminists reading anachronisms into our tradition
The pledge of Hilf Al-Fudul
Islamic historians recorded a pledge among the Pagan Arabs of Mecca called “Hilf al-Fudul.”
It was collectively agreed that those participating in the pledge would fight against oppression and injustice.
Several important tribes were involved. One of them was Prophet Mohammed’s ﷺ own, Banu Hashim.
He ﷺ reportedly said,
“I witnessed a treaty at the home of Abdullah bin Jad’aan. If I am asked to attend such meeting now, I would answer.”
Some Muslim Feminists use this event and the Prophet’s ﷺ endorsement as proof that Muslims can adopt Feminism as an ideology and identity.
Their justification is that Hilf Al-Fudul required cooperation on shared virtues.
So, by analogy, since Feminism fights for women’s rights and Muslims want to fulfill women’s rights, it’s ok to call yourself a Muslim Feminist.
This kind of interpretation is intellectually dishonest.
Without digging deep, a number of methodological problems exist with historical arguments like this.
- Actions of the Prophet ﷺ prior to Prophethood are not a source of Shari’ah according to scholars of Law and Jurisprudence.
- Hypothetical statements are not equivalent to willful intent, or even action.
- Narrations in books of history are often not rigorously authenticated.
- Narrations in hadith compilations other than the two canonical works(Al-Bukhari and Muslim) require greater scrutiny before they can be used as evidence for a particular opinion.
Furthermore, the Muslim Feminists coming up with such analyses are laymen.
Laymen, by definition, don’t have the wherewithal to interpret the Quran and Sunnah for themselves.
Laymen, by God’s command, are obligated to refer to Islamic scholars in matters of religion.
Is the analogy valid?
Let’s ignore the methodological problems with their appeal to history for a moment.
Is the analogy valid?
Does this event mean it’s ok for Muslims to identify as Feminists and internalize Feminist ideology?
The answer is no.
If we want to be strict with the analogy, the tribes would have:
- appended “Al-Fudooliy” to their names
- adopted a common identity based on “fudooliyyah” — ideas, language, culture
- dyed their hair red, blue or purple, gotten tattoos and piercings, and worn studded leather clothing
- run around saying “check your privilege!” to other Meccans
Is that what Hilf Al-Fudul entailed? Of course not.
The only requirement was cooperation on virtues that were inherent to Islam.
To drive the point home, Hilf Al-Fudul did not require its participants to adopt a new identity based on shared ideology.
This is the opposite of what Muslim Feminists are doing.
From the Horse’s Mouth
In Feminist Edges of the Quran Dr. Aysha Hidayatullah wrote:
It is my position that feminist interpretations may very well be inappropriate to the Qur’an and subvert the exegetical tradition — not because feminism is necessarily or categorically mistaken, immoral, foreign or sullied in some other way — but because in placing feminist demands on the Qur’an, we have projected a historically specific (and at the same time theoretically unclear) sense of ‘gender justice’ onto the text without fully considering how our demands might, in fact, be anachronistic and incommensurate with Qur’anic statements… (pp 150)
Dr. Hidayatullah, a Feminist herself, shows that our scripture cannot be reconciled with a Feminist paradigm, and that Islamic Feminists have not been able to provide solutions to this ‘problem.’
Mainstream Muslims, however, do have the solution — simmer down with this Feminist BS and just be a Muslim.
Our religious scripture contradicts the core tenets of Feminism.
Muslim Feminists tap-dance around this by reading into the scripture and re-defining what it means to be a Feminist.
Are Islamic teachings on gender compatible with Feminism?
If you’re a Muslim Feminist, ask any non-Muslim Feminist if the following Islamic legal and moral obligations are compatible with Feminism:
- The obligation to wear hijab while in the presence of marriageable males
- The obligation to fulfill her husband’s sexual needs
- The obligation to submit to her husband and obey him
- The prohibition on women travelling on long journeys without a male chaperone
- The Muslim ruler’s mandate to compel women to wear the niqab in public
I can think of many more examples. Listing them all is not the point.
Feminists will tell you what most of we Muslims have been telling you — “You are all dumbasses.”
Muslim feminists are deviants in Islam and Feminism
This puts the Muslim Feminist in an awkward position. She is a deviant from the perspective of both Islam and Feminism.
The closer to Feminism she is, the more religiously deviant she is as a Muslim.
The closer to Islam she is, the more ideologically deviant she is as a Feminist.
There’s just no getting around it unless you redefine the meaning of the words ‘Feminism’ and ‘Feminist.’
“Sure, I can perform your double-bypass surgery. I’m a Self-Defined Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon”
Some Muslims do it by claiming to be “Self-defined Feminists.” Epic fail.
If someone is a “self-defined X,” that means they are not X.
Is a self-defined physicist a real physicist?
Would you allow yourself to be operated on by a self-defined surgeon?
“You’re ignoring third wave, intersec-”
Others do it by appealing to ‘intersectionality,’ which has its origins in postmodernism.
First, by accepting this premise they accept the validity of all other beliefs and ideologies, a fortiori.
Muslims believe that the only religion and way of life acceptable to God is Islam.
A Muslim Feminist can’t believe in the singular validity of Islam and intersectional Feminism at the same time. (Law of Noncontradiction)
Second, we don’t let Ahmadis or other syncretic sects define ‘Islam.’ Similarly, fringe minorities don’t get to define Feminism.
We’ll stick to the mainstream definition, thank you.
“It’s just a name. Focus on the real issues”
Backed into a logical corner, the Muslim Feminist will contend that her opponent is arguing semantics.
“It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. Focus on the real issues.”
We Muslims believe that the means never justify the ends.
A well known Islamic maxim states: “What is based on falsehood is necessarily false.”
Muslim Feminists making the above argument ignore that:
- Their identity is based on a false premise (Feminism)
- This identity is not necessary to achieve their ends
Further, if Muslim Feminists’ intent is the welfare of Muslim women, it’s false to assume Feminism will get them there.
Feminism is a failed ideology. Just look at its results in the West.
Feminists actively oppose gender equality.
For the past 50 years, female happiness in the U.S. has been declining both absolutely and relative to men.
This phenomenon is called a ‘paradox’ because even though they are the most ‘free’ and ‘equal’ they’ve ever been, women are miserable.
Zara Faris, of the Muslim Debate Initiative, eloquently summarizes most of these problems here:
Despite the fact that 85% of Americans believe in ‘gender equality,’ only 18% identify as Feminists.
In the U.K. two-thirds believe in gender equality but only 7% identify as Feminists.
Not only do they not identify as Feminists, they speak out against it.
Here’s journalist and social commentator Lauren Southern on why she’s not a Feminist:
#womenagainstfeminism has been gaining momentum for some time. Muslim Feminists are SO late to the party.
Modern feminism turns adult women into helpless children. And feminists call this “empowerment”. #womenagainstfeminism
— WomenAgainstFeminism (@WomAgainstFem) February 5, 2016
It’s my body, my choice…unless that choice is to have my 6th baby, then feminists tend to get touchy….LOL ? #WomenAgainstFeminism
— Gab/WifeWithAPurpose (@apurposefulwife) May 24, 2016
Hey Dr.Robotnick (Dr.Eggman) was a feminist #Womenagainstfeminism #feminismiscancer pic.twitter.com/JcoEix2oWW
— BaeAnita ( ˘ ³˘)? (@Bayanita89) May 20, 2016
Do these non-Muslim women know something Muslim Feminists don’t?
The appeal to patriarchy: Feminist damsels in distress
When Feminists can’t defend their beliefs on their own they cry for help from the patriarchy. Ever the damsels in distress when convenient.
Ever the damsels in distress when convenient.
This is also true of Muslim Feminists.
The most recent manifestation is their fascination with Islamic scholar Dr. Mohammed Akram Nadwi.
Dr. Akram is an Indian-born Muslim scholar who is based out of Oxford, where he runs an Islamic seminary.
Finally! They now have access to a scholar sympathetic to the plight of the Muslim Feminist who they can pretend to follow in a marriage of convenience.
That Dr. Akram never actually says it’s OK to be a Feminist is a minor inconvenience.
Still, he does have a soft spot for women’s issues and in the following video explains why Muslim women who don’t know any better might seek recourse in Feminism.
His opinions on women’s’ obligations and responsibilities are as mainstream as they get.They are certainly not compatible with any interpretation of Feminism.
They are certainly not compatible with any interpretation of Feminism.
In reality, Feminist deference to Islamic scholarship is lip service.Scholars that openly disagree with Feminists in any significant way will be mocked and ridiculed.
Scholars that openly disagree with Feminists in any significant way will be mocked and ridiculed.
Recently another Islamic scholar, Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad, dared to question the feminist narrative in mainstream media and popular culture:
Murad was clear that Feminism and Islam are incompatible.
“Those who are desperately trying to find 2nd wave Feminism in the pages of the Quran and Hadith…they’ll be disappointed sooner or later, because it’s just not there.” — Abdul Hakim Murad (at 11:15)
His efforts were met with backlash and vitriol from Muslim Feminists when the above video made the rounds on the internet.
Reductio Ad Absurdum
The Muslim Hindu
Disclaimer: My intent here is not to mock Hindus or Hinduism. I’m merely making an analogy.
How would you react if I told you that I am a Muslim Hindu?
I strongly believe in Animal Welfare.
Since Hinduism encourages reverence of animals, I’ve decided that I can best draw awareness to Muslims’ over-consumption of meat and our mistreatment of animals, by identifying as a Hindu.
I don’t condone their polytheism.
I only agree with those Hindu teachings that are compatible with Islam.
Most Muslims would feel visceral distaste while reading the above. It is part of their innate disposition.
They ought to feel the same way if “Muslim Feminist” or “Islamic Feminist” is mentioned. It is my belief that many do.
As I said at the beginning of this article, Islam inoculates most of us from such heresy.
Feminism as religion
In On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in Society Thomas Carlyle wrote,
It is well said, in every sense, that a man’s religion is the chief fact with regard to him…
By religion I do not mean here the church-creed which he professes, the articles of faith which he will sign and, in words or otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases not this at all…
But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it even to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion…
This definition corresponds well with one of the meanings of the Arabic word for god/deity (ilah or ma`bud.)
Muslim Feminists insist on it despite all evidence to the contrary. It is more than just a means to an end.
The extent to which Feminism has become their religion (by being internalized as described above) will vary.
Some are ignorant, some are misguided and some are heretics.
You now understand that Muslim Feminists:
- Read their anachronistic ideas into Islamic teachings
- Cannot validate their claims of “Islamic Feminism” through scripture or logic
- Are teetering on the edge of polytheism
Women’s rights =/= Feminism
To paraphrase something written by Abdullah Al-Andalusi (also of the Muslim Debate Initiative):
Believing in Jesus Christ doesn’t make me a Christian.
Believing in social welfare doesn’t make me a Socialist.
Believing in women’s rights doesn’t make me a Feminist.
Labels are only needed when beliefs and actions stem from ideology.
The only solution for humanity’s problems is the wholesale implementation of Islam.
Muslim women who adopt Feminism to realize their God-granted rights are cutting off their nose to spite their face.
They were pushed too far, and in their desperation, they turned to an idea they didn’t fully understand.— Alfred Pennyworth
well done. even if i disagree with both religions.
Thanks, John. Appreciate you taking the time to comment.
Your nuanced (and knowledgeable) analysis debunking cross-compatibility certainly beats my simplistic approach in asserting their mutual exclusivity. That being said, I will stand by the following assertion: Islamic Feminism is just another form of shit test, a very subtle approach to claiming the grass is greener on the other side while refocusing your lens to see the greens on this side the same way they (muslim feminists) see the other side. Do not fall for it. Women will be women. It is up to you as Muslim men to stand guard and retain Islam’s integrity.
This is coming from a a non-Muslim.
“Islamic Feminism is just another shit test.”
Fantastic insight. Agreed.
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Thea. I appreciate you!
Came here via Muslimah Against Feminism. Not disappointed. Great article.
Glad you liked it. Thanks a lot for dropping by and leaving a comment. Muslimah Against Feminism is a boss.
What I noticed about feminists is that they claim to celebrate femininity and the freedom of women but they do so by requiring us to be gender less. It seems to me they are pushing us all to be one type of person.
Yes, pretty much. Differences between genders are not celebrated. Femininity is not celebrated. There’s a difference between allowing women to pursue their goals without arbitrary restrictions and entertaining female hubris. Also, as a woman, try disagreeing with a Feminist’s idea of what women should be, and you’ll find out very quickly the “sisterhood” is a cult of ideas.
“The obligation to fulfill her husband’s sexual needs” may need qualifying statements. I’m just saying
Its funny that the examples of people you use who are anti-feminist are also anti-Islam.