Thanks everyone for your responses. I'm glad to see some of the women on this board taking this discussion seriously, and I also find the responses very interesting, in fact, a bit different than I expected. This post will be long, so I have summed up a few conclusions at the top here:
1. I noticed that a few women may have misinterpreted the word "patriarchy", or, at the very least, associated the word on very negative terms. Haydar has already posted a definition, but I'll restate it here:
Patriarchy, for the sake of this discussion is a social system in which men play the authoritative role over women, children and property. This happens in economic terms (in that the man is the breadwinner of the family), political terms and legal terms.
2. Men and women on this board alike seem to dislike the word "feminism", but everyone has different understandings of what the word means.
3. I believe that women are very conscious of their rights in Islam, and that Muslim women are a very mobilized group (as opposed to the oriental view that women are passive, sexualized beings). At the same time I do not believe that men see women's rights in Islam the same way women see their own rights. Many women may have passed off my questions as really typical, 'same-old' type topics we see ALL the time on Shiachat. Thats true. I just wanted the chance for women to be able to speak by themselves FOR themselves.
4. I also believe that men are confused about their own roles too. This is not just in the Muslim world, but in the West as well. Women have been writing gender discourse for centuries so we've had a ton of time to think about our issues, our position in relation to God, and our position in relation to men. At the same time, men have also been thinking about women's issues and made their own contributions to the field as well. But very rarely do men think about their own position in relation to women.
5. I'd really appreciate if more women answered the questions and we stay on topic
. I know they are time consuming so just answer the ones that interest you. I really did enjoy reading every single person's response here. I've taken a few days just to read and think about what you all have written, so thank you!
And now I'll respond to a few of the posts I found interesting.
3. How do you define what it means to be a Muslim woman. For the sake of this discussion lets say there is a new term called "Muslim Womanism" (sort of like the term "feminism"), what values and ideas would you attach to it? (ex, equality? motherhood?)
I dont think i've understood this question properly..but, i think if I gave my definition of a muslim women - id get in trouble, lol/
Well if you can say it in a respectful way, I'd really like to know what you think! You are a very distinguished character on shiachat, so your opinions are very valuable in this discussion.
4. Do you wear hijab? If not, why not? - If you used to wear the hijab, and decided to take it off, what led you to your decision?
No. Because its not seen as modest anymore. I took it off because i was getting more (muslim) male attention with it on.
Interesting. So what do you consider 'modest'? Is it a way of dressing?
What was it like to remove your hijab? Did you see it as 'liberating'? Do you think you've changed as a person after you took off your hijab?
5. Should women be involved in politics (if so to what extent)? How do you feel about male politicians deciding laws for women?
Not sure about this. I think women are sometimes a bit too emotional...
Well how about women's issues in law? Do you feel comfortable about men deciding what constitutes 'rape'? Sexual abuse? Abortion laws? Access to birth control? These are issues that men clearly do not have any foresight about.
10. What are your thoughts about mutah? Does (or did) your virginity hold any special importance to you?
Disgusting. Im ashamed to be a shia for this reason. Virginity is very important.
Outside the domain of Islam, do you believe women should save their virginity until marriage? Why is virginity important? Often it is associated with chastity and purity - do you agree?
3) You wanna know what it means to be a Muslim woman? Go read about the life of Fatimat ul- Zahra . She is, and always will be, every Muslim woman's role model. Also her daughter, Zainab, whom without her brave speeches along the way to yazids palace, Islam wouldn't exist today.
This was a lovely response. You can disagree with me here if you want. But often I find that in majlises, different lecturers will stress on different aspects of Bibi Fatima and Bibi Zaynab. Some will specifically talk about their roles as great mothers and housewives, and others will focus on their outspoken will and defenders of Islam. I see you have emphasized on the latter.
4) I do wear the hijab and there isn't anything in this world that can convince me to take it off.
When did you start wearing hijab? Why?
5) Yes they should and they are. I don't know much about other countries but in Iraq we have many women involved in politics. Also there is nothing in the Quran or any Hadith that says women shouldn't be involved in those matters.
Well male politicians are elected by both men and woman so if it really is majority rules then i don't understand why it's a problem.
6) If there are any improvements to be made It would be cultural and not religious. I don't quite understand this question. What difference would it make if a woman translated the Quran or a man. If you think something is unclear about a marja's ruling on things maybe you should contact them.
Perhaps. I suppose if you take the topic of hayz though, there may be the issue that male ayatollahs can't tell us what a period is or isnt since they clearly havent experienced it or seen it. In the Prophet's time, the rules for women were explained through Fatima
. Shouldn't it continue to be that way?
8) I honestly have never even heard of female circumcision being practiced outside of Africa and it's quite sickening. Thats also another thing that has nothing to do with islam.
There is a long winded thread on shiachat which basically says that female circumcision is allowed in Islam. There are certain rules that apply, but at the end of the day it is circumcision. It is not mustahab or anything, but it is allowed
10) My views on mutah are the same views of any Muslim woman. It's a blessing Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì bestowed upon us.
You know what? You've been asking me all these questions, why don't you define virginity for me. What makes a woman chaste and pure? Her hymen? If that's the way that you're going to look at things then any woman who was unfortunate to have a hymen that doesn't break right away should be tried and convicted as a adulteress. As for the woman who lost their virginity during a mutah marriage, what's the difference between her and a divorced woman? She did it the halal way so what part of that is unchaste?
I believe you certainly have a point here. I don't disagree. Historically speaking, virginity and chastity were first associated with one another via Christianity. Islam was not traditionally a proponent of this idea of associating the two things together.
One thing I would like to comment on from your original introduction, is your statement that you wish the conversation to be conducted between sisters without the interference of brothers. In general I agree it could be beneficial to have any number of serious discussions focusing in on the view point of sisters. However, since brothers are able to read this topic, if they view something which is wrong and no one else is standing up and correcting the wrong statement, then they have a duty Islamically to address the wrong being stated. In this case they would not be allowed Islamically to avoid interference in a sister’s only topic.
Inshallah I will try to answer some of your questions today and I will come back to answer others at a later time.
First of all, thank you so much for your long detailed response. You clearly put a lot of thought into your answers and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one that enjoyed reading your answers. I am looking forward to reading your answers to the rest of the questions.
Certainly, I think men's opinions are great contributions too, but frankly, they are overrepresented on this board. The idea though was so that we could get a real discussion flowing on how women view their own rights and place in Islam. My plan is to start another topic in the men's forum and ask them some gender specific questions as well (although probably not as many as this one calls for). We can have a discussion on circumcision for example, and the discussion will go on and on about how female circumcision is halal, but it will hardly talk about how women feel about the issue, and whether they'd willingly allow the practice.
2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how do you define 'feminism'? If not, why not?
No, I define myself as a creature of God and as a Muslim (one who submits to Gods will, which is in the ability of every creature to do so). As God loves all His creatures and provides for all of them, I must also strive for the rights of all the creatures to be implemented (as this is the just thing to do). Regardless of the creature’s gender, age, race/nationality, religion or species, I must fight for their rights equally without allowing any group to oppress the rights of another.
If the definition of a feminist is one who strives for the rights of women to be implemented, then I could be deemed a feminist (and striving for the rights of women) by others, if commitment to this cause would not exclude commitment to the fight for the rights of every other group within God’s creation. For example I would also have to be considered by others as a fighter for animal rights, male rights, children’s’ rights, adult’s rights, elderly rights, the racial and religious minorities rights and the rights of the religious and racial majority, and the list would continue until it encompasses the rights of every group in the creation.
To need to define every sector of the creation for whom I fight for, would not be practical. So it is better to be classified under a name which defines me as a striver for the rights of all. Furthermore, I would not define myself separately under the names of each different group because I believe that the whole of creation should be looked upon as a whole whenever possible, to avoid the creation of barriers between us.
The reason we should try to define ourselves as being part of one big group, is that God wants the whole of creation to work together in co-operation to achieve the greatest happiness for all, and all our actions should be aimed at achieving this goal.
In order to achieve this goal, defining difference between groups of creatures is necessary only for obtaining the understanding of what each individuals role should be for the greatest benefit of the collective (different creatures will have different strengths and weaknesses, and therefore will provide greater benefit working in the areas of their strengths).
But when deciding which group we as an individual should work to obtain the greatest benefits for, we should always make our priority the group as a whole (prioritize obtaining the rights of all of creation). If we prioritize achieving benefits and what we deem as ‘rights’ for just one or a few groups, we may overlook the rights of other groups and oppress them. So we need to consider the rights of all groups in the group as a whole, and try to apply equilibrium by following God’s laws.
One of the biggest diseases faced by the human is the disease of prioritizing the self at the expense of others. We have to understand that we are created to co-exist in a system that will only function efficiently if there is harmony between every creature. We have to understand that for our self to achieve our greatest benefit, the whole has to achieve the greatest benefit. This is because, if every creature wanted for others the good that they want for their self, then logically no creature would harm another.
Feminism combined with the ignorance of the rights of other groups, is another expression of the disease of the self. It is about prioritizing one’s self or one’s own group, in order to try to obtain the greatest benefits for this group. It is no different to racism, nationalism (believing ones nationality is superior), believing one’s religious group to be more important than others and believing adults are superior to children, etc. The desire to obtain benefits for one’s own group above others always comes back to the selfishness of wanting to obtain the greatest benefit for one’s self. And this is harmful if obtaining self benefits, is at the expense of the rights of others.
However, being selfish is not necessarily a bad thing. It is necessary to want the greatest benefit for your self, it is a basic instinct God has placed inside all of us. God has placed inside us the desire to obtain the greatest benefit for our self and to avoid harm as much as possible. He has done this so that we will for strive to find the truth of what will really provide the greatest benefit for our self and for us to apply this in our life. If we study reality and discover what the truth really is, we will see that God is Just so He made achieving the greatest benefit for each individual creature directly tied to achieving the greatest benefit for all of the rest of creation. He did this so that there would be the maximum chance for all to receive the greatest benefit. And once we understand that our greatest benefit is achieved by obtaining the greatest benefit for all, then we will fight for justice for all and not just for imagined ‘benefits’ for our self and our own groups, at the expense of oppressing the rights of others.
Bad selfishness, is wanting the greatest benefit for one’s self but not truly understanding what that is, and thereby oppressing others to obtain their rights (in the belief that you are gaining more benefit for your self), when truly you are harming the whole of creation (and thereby truly harming your own self).
The only way to make your self and the rest of creation happy, is to know what truly are your own rights and what are the rights of the rest of the creation, and then by working to have these rights implemented in every situation we face in everyday life. You can only find out what the true harms and benefits are by finding out what are the true laws that the Just Creator has provided for us. Truly only the One who is Just and has knowledge of all things, can be the only true expert on what laws will provide the greatest benefit for all of His own creation. And that is why we must submit to His laws, for the happiness of our self and all creation, in this life and in the next.
I think your take is very interesting but I have a few followup inquiries for you:
1. Do you think equality for every being is really what Islam promotes? Equality is not necessarily synonymous with justice. This world can be just, but it does not mean that everyone has to be equal in order for it to be just. Animals, for example, are clearly not equal to the status of human beings. God created us with intellect that animals do not have.
2. Are you implying being a feminist in the most general and orthodox sense of the term is selfish?
Your view on equality seems a bit idealistic to me. While anyone might believe in equality of all kinds, as in the examples you mentioned, there are only certain causes we can take up. We cannot simultaneously mobilize against every injustice at the same time: this is not very productive or realistic. Furthermore, just because one is a feminist does not necessarily mean they are ignorant of other issues. Most hardcore feminists are vegetarians as well. That said, are there certain causes you would prioritize over the rights/needs of women?