The first time I listened to Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDx talk, “We should all be feminists,” I was so inspired by it that I made all my friends watch it and immediately declared myself to be feminist. This happened around the time that I was making my way through a translation of the Quran with the desire to strengthen my faith—which was working until I started to encounter some verses that seemed to put men above women in certain roles or situations.
The more I read the Quran, the more I was convinced that men and women could never be equal. Allah didn’t create us as perfect copies of each other and we certainly don’t share the same rights. To cap it off, there are certain names of Allah that are better suited to each gender. A woman, for example, has an intimate experience of Al-Khaliq, “The Creator” as she partakes somewhat closely in the process of creation due to pregnancy and childbirth while a man can relate more to attributes like Ar-Razzaq, “The Provider,” since men usually take up the role of the primary provider in the family.
After I finished the Quran, I reverted my statement and said I was no longer a feminist—mostly because the movement didn’t seem compatible with my religion. While I am absolutely certain that all men and women are equal in the sight of God and will be judged according to their deeds (not gender), there are too many instances in Islam where women are seen as clearly different than men, which makes feminism seem incompatible with the religion.
Women, for example, cannot lead prayers, if there is a man present. I still do not fully understand why this is. Women are also not allowed to travel without a mahram if the journey is of a considerable length. While I fully understand the safety precaution this rule is trying to enforce, it no doubt limits young ladies who can’t afford/find a mahram to bring whenever they need to travel for work/study. It is also much safer to travel these days than it was in the past and to be honest, this rule is difficult to understand and seems somewhat unfair to me, especially since it only applies to Muslim females.There are many more instances where it would seem the Muslim female is not in any way treated as equal to the male and while there are usually concrete, really good reasons why it is that way, a female might still feel cheated, especially in today’s world where technology has made life somewhat easier and we are being told that we are no different than men. I still do not fully understand the Divine wisdom behind many rulings which differentiate between men and women, but I trust that they are for our own benefit.
After giving it serious thought, I decided to come up with my own brand of feminism, where women are judged based on what they do and not their gender (the way Allah will on the Day of Judgement). This means that women should not be shortchanged in the workplace or at home. If they do the work, they have every right to earn whatever credit and reward is due to them and in sha Allah (God-willing), Allah will also reward them in Jannah.
What this means is that I am not just a feminist, I’m a “Muslim feminist.” I respect the boundaries of Islam while demanding that women especially get paid equal to their male counterpart and should also be privy to whatever benefits men enjoy, as long as it doesn’t conflict with their religion or beliefs.
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