A Muslimah writes
I am a Muslim woman and attend one of the most liberal universities in the West. Coming to college caused me doubt to Islam in many ways and, like many of us at American universities, I often found myself confused and frustrated in the liberal space I was in.
Upon entering this school, I was first introduced to what it meant to be a “conservative” or “liberal” Muslim. I was also first introduced to feminism in the context of Western liberal Muslim spaces. For the first time, I was engaging in debates on whether or not females should be delivering the khutbahs and leading prayers. For the first time, I had to choose whether or not to attend a Jummah prayer dedicated to LGBTQ+ students or be ostracized by majority of the MSA for choosing not to attend. For the first time, I was asked by fellow MSA peers what I would do if my future child came out as gay, just to test my waters and call me a homophobe if I told them something they did not want to hear.
The hardest and most recent experience was when I was coined as an “internally oppressed” Muslim woman because I chose to pray behind men when my MSA implemented gender adjacent jummah prayers. Some had argued that I was internally oppressed by men’s inability to control their temptations and that, by implementing space for women to pray in the back, I had caused the MSA to regress.
As someone who considers herself an advocate for occupied and silenced populations, I identify “internally oppressed” people to be those who are unknowingly living under oppression by a state power and are in support of it. Thus, to be coined such a strong statement made me wonder if I was a hypocrite.
Although my decision to pray behind the men felt right, I started to doubt myself and asked myself if I was indeed being subjugated; why do women have to pray in the back? Was I advocating for justice for the oppressed while not realizing that I failed to stand up for “justice” in other ways such as by advocating for feminism? Why wasn’t I introduced to “Islamic feminism” earlier in my life, when I practiced Islam in a way that many liberal Muslim feminists would deem problematic and against their values? Were my conservative opinions a result of my ignorance and my “unwokeness”? And why were other Muslim conservatives not stepping up and saying anything? Why were we, the conservatives, being marginalized and letting ourselves get lost in our own deen?
We fail to remember that it is the white Europeans who used feminism to justify colonization of Muslims. They told us that our tradition was backwards, and that we needed western feminism to save us from oppression. Now, Muslims have employed the same mindset to our own Muslim spaces by coining traditional Muslims as oppressed (or as oppressors); however, what they do not realize is that they are repeating history and are now the ones being colonial.
Don’t get me wrong – the rise of feminism was meant to tackle real misogyny and abuse in our communities. These problems need to be addressed, but solving them must be kept within the bounds of Islamic tradition, which ultimately stem from revelation and divine guidance.
And there’s nothing wrong with questioning Islam– it is with doubt that forces one to seek answers and strengthen one’s faith. If you find yourself conflicted, take a piece of paper and write down all your questions – and don’t be afraid of seeming blasphemous in the process. From that, reach out to a trustworthy imam, sheikh, or scholar in your area to help answer those questions and have them supplemented with Islamic scholarly approaches using the Qur’an and sunnah. Your questions will not be new and have likely been discussed for the past 1400 years. You will find yourself glad that you took the initiative to deal with these doubts, instead of having them linger and pulling you away from the deen.
I have two more years at this university, and by gaining Islamic knowledge and taking the steps to address my doubts, I can proudly say that I am ready to embark on new paths and not be afraid to stand true to the haqq.
I will be unapologetic in the voice I bring into my future endeavors and my MSA, which I considered leaving several times because it was doing more harm than good to me as a Muslim.
I will be unapologetic in bringing up the Islamic tradition, a term often coined as problematic because “we live in a different society than the Prophet Muhammad (saws)”. Faith is meant to fluctuate and the journey as a Muslim will always be arduous – we just have to make sure we take the steps to attain the truth and apply it.