“Zuleikha let everything be the name of Joseph,
from celery seed to aloes wood. She loved him
so much she concealed his name in many phrases,
the inner meanings known only to her.
When she said, The wax is softening near the fire, she meant, My love is wanting me.
If she said, Look, the moon is up,
or The willow has new leaves, or The coriander seeds have caught fire, or The king is in a good mood today,
or Isn’t that lucky, or The furniture needs dusting, or The water carrier is here, or This bread needs more salt,
or The clouds seem to be moving against the wind,
or My head hurts, or My headache’s better,
anything she praises it’s Joseph’s touch she means.
Any complaint, it’s his being away.
When she’s hungry, it’s for him. Thirsty, his name
is a sherbet. Cold, he’s a fur. This is what
the Friend can do when one is in such love.
The miracle Jesus did by being the name of God,
Zuleikha felt in the name Joseph.
When one is united to the core of another,
to speak of that is to breathe the name Hu,
empty of self and filled with love.”—
She’s such a minor player in the Qur’an, but I love her so much! And I love the role that she plays in tradition with regard to worldly longing for another person as it relates to the spiritual desire for God.
“Everyone is trying to save the Muslim woman; Western society must save her from Islam and Islamic society must save her from Western influence. No one – NO ONE – assumes that the Muslim woman can make up her own mind about what is best for her.”—Nadia El Awady (via egyptiansoapbox)
“Like Cinderella we were taught that we are helpless unless a prince comes to save us. Like Sleeping Beauty, we were told that our life doesn’t fully begin, until Prince Charming kisses us. But here’s the thing: no prince can complete you. And no knight can save you. Only God can.”—Yasmin Mogahed (via zaatardiva)
“Most important for the later literary development of the theme [equating and subsequent identification of the woman with the soul (nafs)], however, was a woman known to us from the Old Testament, Zulaikha (Sulaika) by name, the wife of Potiphar, who concentrated all her efforts on seducing Joseph (Yusuf). Countless poets have turned to her as a nafs symbol, and it goes without saying that this nafs is purified by boundless love and its resultant fathomless sorrow and is finally reunited with Yusuf. At the end of the road, the indefatigably seeking, unspeakably suffering, loving woman finds the incomparable beauty she so ardently sought manifested in Yusuf. Seen in this light, the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha is the story of the soul yearning passionately for the source of all beauty, for God. And many a seeker (both male and female) has identified with Zulaikha.”—
It seems to me that if we are concerned about women, including Muslim women, maybe we can work at home to make US and European policies more humane. If we want to be active in the affairs of distant places, maybe we should do so in the spirit of support for those within the communities whose goals are to make women’s (and men’s) lives better. Whatever we do, we should begin with respect and think in terms of alliances, coalitions, and solidarity, rather than salvation, or pity. Above all, we need to resist the power of the limited and limiting black and white images of Muslim women that circulate in our midst.
This needs to go viral because I have rarely read someone jot down their stance so coherently, so persuasively on how they reconcile Islam with feminism. Better yet, how they firmly believe that Islam goes hand in hand with feminism. I knew I loved how Fatemeh Fakhraie wrote for a good reason. She makes me proud and content for being a Muslim feminist. Here are some compelling postulates stated by her:
People, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, often tell me that I can’t be both a Muslim and a feminist. At a recent book reading in Oregon, for example, a male audience member asked me, “How does that even work?” These questions demonstrate some of the rigid misconceptions individuals have about Islam and feminism; many people think that they’re mutually exclusive categories. In fact, as a Muslim feminist, I have found them to have more in common than people realise, especially when it comes to social justice.
Ethos – the fundamental spirit that guides my faith– is more important to me than edicts, or strict dogma, and so when religious questions arise, I defer to big-picture themes. One of Islam’s major themes is that of equity and justice. The Qur’an details equitable divorce proceedings, fair treatment of orphans and just conduct when it comes to prisoners of war — situations that differ in details and circumstances in our modern times, but which are often fraught with unfairness and injustice. When I read the holy book, the themes of justice and dignity for humanity stand out to me.
These themes are the same ideals I take from feminism. Some assume that feminism is concerned only with the protection and advancement of women. But as a bi-racial Muslim woman, I can’t ignore the ways that different socially constructed categories, such as gender and race, interact and interrelate. My feminism is concerned with the dignity and rights of every person. Regardless of gender, race, religion, ability, or anything else, we all deserve to have control over our own destinies, earn equal compensation for our work and have the same chances at happiness and success.
There’s a wealth of scholarship on Islam and feminism. Margot Badran, an author and academic, has published extensively on Muslim women and Islamic feminism. In an article for Egypt’s Al-Ahram Online, she wrote, “Islamic feminism, which derives its understanding and mandate from the Qur’an, seeks rights and justice for women, and for men, in the totality of their existence…. Islamic feminism advocates women’s rights, gender equality, and social justice using Islamic discourse as its paramount discourse, though not necessarily its only one.”
“You wanted strength, so you went to the gym. You put weight on the bar and you lifted. When you wanted more strength, you added more weight. And yet when you seek strength of heart, mind and soul, you think it comes without lifting.”—Yasmin Mogahed (via azaadi)
“Habibun laysa ya’diluhu habib
wa-la siwahu fi qalbi nasib
habibunghaba ‘an basari wa-shakhsi
wa-lakin ‘an fu’adi ma yaghib
A beloved whom no beloved can equal
and for other than whom there is no share of my heart
is a beloved who is absent from my vision and my person
but who is present to my heart”—Rabi’a al-Badawiya (not to be confused with Rabia Al-‘Adawiya)