I am in no way a Muslim, yet living in India has allowed me to see beyond the media misogynistic stereotype I had been confronted with by some media. There are over thirty cultures in Islam, that offer various roles to women. Muslim feminists remind us that Muhammad gave women rights in the patriarchal society of the time and that the quran has very few rules preferring a progressive social revelation. There are around a hundred verses of laws in its 7000 verses, giving more verses to how a society should form its standards.
I have read so many cases – (even of women who were mistreated by men who misquoted religion to justify abuse) – who found peace and liberation in Islam. So here is a feminist Muslim perspective.
“And of everything We created a pair “(51:49) says Allah. Many hundreds of times the Book says Heavens and Earth then ma baynahuma the rest of creation. They were one before creation, like the original single soul, “Heavens and the Earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and We made every living thing of water?”
For when Allah “wrote” creation we experienced duality. Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet said, “The first thing God created was the Pen. Then He (God) said, ‘Write what will be until the Day of Resurrection.’”
Since only Allah who is truly one:
“spiritual and corporeal, Tablet and Pen, effusion and intellect, motion and rest, existence and non-existence, soul and spirit, generation and corruption, this world and the next world, cause and effect, origin and return, or seizure and extension … And know, my brother, that all existent things are of two kinds, no less and no more: the universal and the particular, nothing else.”
A similar pattern is found I the creation of mankind. The creation of the universe was greater than the creation of man , but mankind is its summit. However, the word used for man here is isnane or all man – mankind – not just man or woman. We are all one soul.
“Fear your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from her
(it) He created her spouse, and from the two of them scattered
forth many men and women.” (4:1)
Notice the use of feminine pronouns “from her” and “her spouse.” Just like Adam who was made a single primordial became the man and wife. In Arabic it is unclear who came first. Woman was also part of the one soul. Similar to Jewish and Christian mysticism, Islamic cosmology teaches us that everything that exists in the universe also exist’s a form in a mysterious way within the human soul:
“My heavens and My earth embrace Me not, but the heart of My
gentle and meek servant with faith does encompass Me”
– hadith qudsi
In Allah’s writing the universe into creation we see a parallel as explained by Fatima Jane Casewitt:
“Pen and Tablet correlate to intellect and soul in every human being (aql and nafs). The word Pen in Arabic, qalam, is masculine in gender and the word loha, Tablet, is feminine in gender. Aql is grammatically masculine in gender and nafs is feminine in gender. The human soul is one and therefore is a reflection of the unity and oneness of God.” (Islamic Cosmological Concepts of Femininity and the Modern Feminist Movement by Fatima Jane Casewitt in The Betrayal of Tradition: Essays on the Spiritual Crisis of Modernity 2005 World Wisdom, Inc. Edited by Harry Oldmeadow)
Earth is also a feminine word,watered by the heavens that obey Allah. The spaces between heaven and earth, according to Salman, companion of the prophet, are analogous to the loving mercy created by Allah at the time of creation.
We though have lost our emotional spiritual link to creation.
“History books tell us that the real agitation for women’s rights in the modern world began in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in England. The new industrial society put new demands on women without offering them the compensation that they obviously deserved. Moreover, it was normal that women would want to participate in the functioning of this evolving society and benefit from the unprecedented material prosperity. At the same time, urbanization and industrialization were causing a rapid erosion of family life and values. The family, the basis of a stable society, was being stripped of many of its traditional roles. Schools and child labor were taking over the upbringing of children. Religious faith had been on a steady decline since the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, and hit rock bottom with the widespread acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The role of woman was changing very quickly, mainly in the urban centers. Small, peaceful towns grew into noisy, dirty cities as people migrated into them from the countryside. On the land in Europe social stability based on the Christian tradition had at least been maintained to a certain extent and had permitted men and women to lead lives which, although physically strenuous and often filled with suffering, led to salvation at the moment of death. The migration off the land into the cities disrupted all of this. Physical struggles in the mushrooming urban areas were not usually less strenuous and the stability of the family unit was at stake. Thus, the raison d’être of the roles of both men and women came into question.”
“Modern feminists disregard the function of the human being as at once slave and vice-regent (khalifa) upon Earth. They also ignore the complementary relationships that exist between God and His servants, God and the Universe, and Heaven and Earth. These relationships are repeated at every level of creation and between man and woman, the divine purpose being harmony in the family unit and maximum social equilibrium. In essence, the feminist movement seeks justice in this lower world (ad-dunya) and ignores the common destiny of all of us: death, the meeting with God, and eternity.”
Islamic Cosmological Concepts of Femininity and the Modern Feminist Movement by Fatima Jane Casewitt in The Betrayal of Tradition: Essays on the Spiritual Crisis of Modernity 2005 World Wisdom, Inc. Edited by Harry Oldmeadow