Imagine a healthy human being that can function on a day to day basis easily. Then think about a person who is paralyzed on one side of his or her body. The Muslim community is suffering from paralysis and only half-functioning because sisters are systematically pushed away from legitimate participation in the body of Islam. Muslims are crippled and community members keep romanticizing the present situation of Muslim women around the world by relying on Quran and Sunnah while disregarding cultural practices that are antithetical to Islam. The discourse of Islam serves as a means for both the liberation and oppression of Muslims, and both men and women, are quick to state that Islam gives women rights and full-status in society, while keeping them on the peripheral of participation outside of the home. The question then arises how and when did the shift turn from liberation to oppression. We must look at the double-edged sword of culture that often accompanies the essence of Islam.
Muslims romanticize the status of Muslim women and never really address the negative implications that these women deal with on a day-to-day basis. Our communities are dangerously out-of-sync with the lived realities facing Muslim women and often these problems start with the following three things:
As I consider the toxic culture between men and women in some communities, I consider how that toxicity is a breeding ground for reproducing bad behavior among many things. Just like men, women have phases they will pass through by Allah’s leave. These phases are not absolute but continual—just like faith. Many cultural practices in the faith have regulated women to two phases---marriage and motherhood. Early on in many cultures, boys are told imagine and define who they want to become, while young girls are told that they are destined to become wives and mothers. Often, they are not encouraged to think beyond those two phases.
In addition to regulating women to wives and mothers, much of the discourse seeks to keep them in the home and out of the public life. Please note that “public” does not necessarily mean “being seen in public” as many would argue. It speaks to having access and a voice in decisions regarding the community beyond her doorstep. This is an important key to survival of women and children in a changing environment. Considering that in all societies women are left to rear children in the absence of a father—due to abandonment, war, death, divorce, and abuse being involved community members allows the community to grow and meet the needs of women and children.
Many authentic texts have been hijacked by cultural practices that have been altered to circumvent the participation of women. Islamic texts and their translators and divisive language serve as a powerful tool for shutting the door on women in Islam. It creates a cycle of deception and alienation. It also creates boundaries that cannot be crossed by Muslim women because access is housed with the very people who are the perpetrators of the sham. Divisive language also serves as a means for oppression. Language such as “good-sister” “bad sister” “non-hijabi,” “hijabi” and “niqaabi,”when used to quantify a woman's level of commitment can divide and conquer women on important issues regarding access to Islamic literacy, facilities and education.These terms are actually used to bring an air of negativity to a woman’s character if she steps too far outside the box when criticizing male-run mosques and other Islamic entities. These terms also give rise to stereotyping a woman’s Deen based on her appearance—how ironic since the hijab in some interpretations is meant to pull attention away from the physical so emphasis can be placed on the individual’s worship.
This commentary does not seek to add fuel to the fire, but ask readers to stop romanticizing Islam. It begs the reader to consider Islam and its participant’s problems as real and not imagined problems that women have dreamed up just to have something else to complain about. Any well written article has a conclusion—this one does not—other than returning to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAWS). This article suggests that readers re-examine these important texts with “equality for all” in mind and outside of cultural contexts that are antithetical to the basic principles of Islam. In returning to the books a medicine can be administered to start alleviating Islam’s paralysis.