Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah
EDIT: This is the last post for Abdal Hakim Murad Week (or 2 weeks). I had a few more posts planned but ran short on time. I will hopefully be revisiting those in a few weeks from now, as well as addressing the 300 or so Contentions that remain unfinished. I hope it was enjoyable, I definitely gained a lot spiritually and intellectually from it.
Depending on who you ask this section is the most important or the second most important section after the Secular ideologies section in the commentary since they are vital to the future of Islam. I have tried to comment to the best of my ability here, but I am afraid that I have misinterpreted and made errors on this sensitive subject matter and I fear in the process have made the same errors Muslim patriarchal cultures have made in the past. Nonetheless, like many other sections in the commentary, I will be reviewing and adding more Contentions to this section.
I have tried to properly contextualize the place of women in Islam with minimal cultural influences and critiquing the portrayal of women and men in Western society. If we simply stick to platitudes rather than actually understanding the complicated inter-relationship between men, women, God and society then we risk endangering our families. Abdal Hakim Murad shows us how to extract lessons from Islamic history and tradition to understand the place of women and men in Islam. In this way he empowers Muslim men and women to take control over the direction of our communities and families so that we do not fall prey to the dictates of a secular liberalist discourse. But we can take as much or as little as we wish from the conversation depending on the intention (niyya) we bring to it.
Women of Islam
31. Hagar, that ‘root out of a dry ground’, the most fertile woman in history.
-AHM may be referring to Hagar who has spiritually mothered millions of Muslims or because she was the mother of Ishmael and Abraham chose her because of her fertility over Sarah
32. Hagar is the matriarch of liberation because, unlike Sarah, she fends for herself.
-She is not protected by Abraham, but fends for herself and beseeches God and in that way is exemplary for Muslim women
58. The Tawaf is about Abraham, the Sa‘y is about Hagar. Only in Islam is a woman the initiator of a form of worship.
-Going in between Mt. Safa and Marwah on Hajj is in commemoration of Hajar, and in other religions, all the acts of worship are prescribed or related to men
54. The Mothers of the Believers: the most believable women in History.
-We believe in them, their words and explanations as an article of our faith but also that nothing needed to be done to make the early Muslims believe in the Mothers of the Believers and they did not question them or put them down because of their being women
24. To whom are the Mothers of Believers entrusted, after his death? Not to John, but to themselves.
-The Mothers of the Believers are not entrusted to John like Mary in Christian tradition was, but they are independent and sanctified by their relationship to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa alihi wasalam)
72. Misogynist? Hafsa held the future of the Book in her hands; A’isha held the Sunna.
-Hafsa, the daughter of Umar was reading the Qur’an from a text of it, while much of the Sunna was taken from Aisha and the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) legitimized taking one’s religion from ‘this fair lady’ (i.e. Aisha)
62. Women are native to Paradise: is this not the most underestimated disclosure of the Book?
-The houris are from Paradise and for some reason Muslims overlook this both in their spirituality and theology
60. Layla: the chador of God on earth.
-Layla is a metaphor for God that denotes the ‘feminine’, maternal, nurturing and merciful aspects of God that are veiled in the unknown and whose beauty dazzles the lover
-Layla means night which conceals us like a chador veils woman
-AHM says in one of his essays, ‘Naming phenomena with the gender-specific Arabic of revelations is not convention but a matter of principle, not simple biology but metaphysics’
21. Woman is between khawf and raja.
-The state of a woman is always between fear and hope, or in modern terms, anxiety and joy
81 The verse of women: ‘And they prefer others to themselves, though theirs be the greater need.’ (59:9)
-This verse is to describe the Ansar, but also appropriately describes women in their selflessness, self-sacrifice and compassion
9. Are women ambiguous? It is the muhkamat which are the Mother of the Book.
-The muhkamat and the muhtashabihat, the clear and ambiguous verses are being compared and AHM is saying, that no, women are not ambiguous just as the commands are not ambiguous
5. Religion without eros is the anticipation of eternal death.
-Better explained by ‘98. Celibacy is an anticipation of hell, for there is no eros there.
-There is no will to live in hell and no sexuality’ and ‘11. Unless there is Paradise, eros is a trick.’ and also ‘71. No modesty, no sensuality. No sensuality, no knowledge of God.’
-This has not just to do with sexuality but with emotions and loneliness
54 Heaven/Earth cannot be a same-sex relationship.
-Heaven and Earth respectively reflect beauty and majesty, jamal and jalal, as the feminine represents jamal and the male represents jalal
-The majestic makes the beautiful fertile but if it were otherwise then there be only jamal or only jalal
-This is related to the Contention, ’76. Homosexualism insults women by equating sterility with fertility.’
-AHM says elsewhere that, ‘Homosexualism is against Darwin because it is natures technique of population control and eliminating hormone pollution’
59. The femininity of the crescent, the masculinity of the cross. (Max Ernst, Men shall know nothing of this.)
-AHM says in one of his essays, ‘One thinks here of Christian bridal mysticism, but in reverse. St Teresa of Avila appears to use sensual images to convey her union with Christ. But again, Christ, as God the Son, is male. In Islamic mysticism, the divine beloved is ‘female.’’
-‘O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah . And whoever does that – then those are the losers.’ (Qur’an, 63:9)
-‘It is not your wealth nor your sons, that will bring you nearer to Us in degree: but only those who believe and work righteousness – these are the ones for whom there is a multiplied Reward for their deeds, while secure they (reside) in the dwellings on high!’ (Qur’an 34:37)
99. Marriage: pay and display? Or the primacy of privacy?
-Is marriage about status anxiety and showing off beauty to others or to give privacy a priority
66. If Eve is not of Adam, marriage is mere cohabitation.
-If Eve is separate from Adam, not being made from the rib of Adam, then her living with him is arbitrary, it is not a coming together and there is no virtue in it over 2 men cohabiting
35. Careless talk costs wives.
-What men say can damage their marriages, and this has a great deal to do with the wisdom behind prohibitions of backbiting
5. Spouses are traditional in order to be saved by gratitude. Spouses are modern in order to be saved by themselves.
-Related to the Contention, ‘49. Each gender was created only that the other might give thanks.’
-The reference to being modern may refer to the high incidence of divorce and how people are prepared for divorce before they go into marriage and have an individualistic attitude where they put their own personal fulfillment and rights before the rights of the family
-AHM describes the origin of many of the family problems in the West, as ‘bowing at the idol of personal freedom we all shout for our rights and chafe under our duties’
-A relevant word is autolatry which is the worship of the self
97. True marriage happens when there is true perception of beauty. True perception of beauty happens when there is true religion.
-Beauty in terms of spiritual beauty, that is, the beauty of ihsan, ‘doing the beautiful acts’
29. Marriage is not to give you what you want, it is to make you what you know you should be.
-Marriage is an assistance in the spiritual journey and as the hadith says, ‘Half the religion’ so it is not supposed to be a comforting only, but also a means by which we are spiritually elevated and uplifted
64. A man who would marry a feminist is not worth obeying.
-He has very little self-respect, that even she would not respect him
82. Maidens! If he obeys his ego, you should be a feminist.
-If a man is following his ego and pride, then she should be a feminist and humble him
60. The wife’s vulnerability is not the husband’s strength.
-Better explained in the Contention, ‘18. His strength is worldly; hers is unworldly; thus in the world he thinks that he prevails.’
23. Love your beloved better to love the Beloved. Love the Beloved and you will better love your beloved.
-Loving your spouse will help you come closer to God, but loving God will help you love your spouse
25. Do not be proud if she fears you, for she may also fear a rat.
-But if she loves you, it will be more than the love of anyone or anything else, in a way that is unique to him
-AHM refers to the line between private desires and public spaces and that both husband and wife must put the rights of the family over the rights of the individual
22. Her home is her zawiya; but khidma must be only the first of her degrees.
-There are a Number of acts of worship in a zawiya, such as recitation of Qur’an, dhikr and teaching which are more important than service and this applies to women in the home, where their are many better acts of worship for her besides maintenance of the home
2. Women are either refuges or refugees.
-’Wives of the state’ is a phrase AHM uses in one of his essays
53. Putting religion before family is impossible.
-’kana fi mehnati ahlihi – The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was always helping in his home doing all sorts of menial jobs like brooming
46. Nestmaking is to be a mutual flattery.
-Creating warmth in the home requires love from both men and women, complimenting and praising each other and making the other feel special
-AHM may be referring to praising your spouse’s choice of taste in how the home is decorated and adorned
39. ‘Prayer was instituted to satisfy woman’s desire for asking.’ (British Muslim proverb.)
-For those who won’t understand it, this one is a joke
23. Life is vocation, not vacation.
-Its a calling, not necessarily something you enjoy all the time but something with a vision that is greater than the immediate issues we may face
49. Your career should be like prayer in congregation: if a space opens before you, step into it.
-We take it as a gift from God that arrives unannounced surprising us
1. Engage only in such leisure pursuits as may be offered to God
-As the Qur’an says, only in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest and so AHM may be referring to the ‘leisure’ and relaxation one gets from dhikr
8. Adulthood is the choice of finitude before the Infinite.
-We choose to act on the finite inlight of the Infinite
-Compare this to how AHM says in another Contention that, the Christian idea of Incarnation is the finite containing the Infinite
12. Taklif is the only ennoblement.
-The age of discernment or puberty in Islamic fiqh texts when a child becomes legally responsible for prayer and observance of the Shariah
-In most cultures for most of history teenage years never existed, transition was swiftly from childhood to adulthood and this gave youth honour and dignity, since they were respected as adults earlier on
59. If you would be young in eternity, emulate maturity while you are still young.
-Youth is a time of immense temptation and trials but if a youth is mature then Allah will grant Him a special mercy and shade him/her on the Day when there will be no shade but his
32. The young must learn to be forgiving; the old must relearn zeal.
-Muslim youth resent the apathy and complacency with the status quo
11. Childhood has been electrocuted.
-From television, video games, cell phones, MP3 players and computers childhood is now entrenched in technology and powered by electricity
46. Ask your grandparents of their grandparents, lest you become ‘forgotten and forgetting.’
-Learning about your ancestors as a family tradition will connect you to your past and in the future your children will also remember you and preserve Islam in the family
91. Be the heart of your family by having your family in your heart.
-The family member that is always thinking of their family is at the heart of family warmth
-AHM says that ‘houses become dormitories rather than homes when women work,’ so there is a lack of house warmth so children have little attachment to parents and home
82. ‘If European education is the death of maternity / Then death is its fruit for the human race.’ (Iqbal)
-The death of maternity is the death of the future
58. Women! If children are not your highest priority, then do not have children at all.
-AHM also says that an ‘increased income and work pleasure means an increase in fatigue and disputes, and often women suffer most because of overlapping function’
80. Do not juggle with babies.
-Women often say that they have to ‘juggle’ their careers and home life but this is insulting to the immense significance and meaning of bringing a child into the world
84. Only the very bad or the very good are polygamists.
-Some of the Prophets practiced polygamy and dealt justly with each wife but also there is an element of greed in the pre-Islamic practice of ‘collecting’ wives, so Islam limited it to 4, and the Qur’an mentions your families are a test for you
47. He shows the virtue of every virtuous marriage.
-The Prophets many marriage validated many different types of marriages and demonatrated how to deal with a whole gamet of marital issues and scenarios: with an older wife, with a younger wife, with spousal jealousy and with domestic arguments
-Compare this to Jesus’ bachelorhood and how Christians then came to only see virtue in celibacy
65. Marry them both – but only if you wish God to judge you for your fairness.
-All our decisions will be evaluated and judged by Allah and polygamy is no light decision and a man should understand God will judge him based on how hetreats his wives and their children and relatives
-In that sense it is a gamble unless one is exceptionally just and loving and righteous, and even then the temperments of the women and their idiosyncrasies must be accounted for
53. We prefer bigamy to duplicity.
-Islam doesn’t leave the problem of multiple spouses neglected but makes an allowance for the possibility and says that multiple wives is better than deception or having children out of wedlock, since in polygamy there is the weight of responsibility
49. An unfortunate pir of Lahore
Had four different mothers-in-law.
They talked in rotation
In English and Asian
Until he ran out of the door.
27. Women are not difficult; but they are difficult to understand.
-Women are not stubborn, but they require careful study to understand, where ‘no’ means ‘know’ or a host of other double meanings
-Some people actually note down these things in a chart that they use to keep track of her or his personal idiosyncrasies and moods, for example, if she is sad take her for ice-cream or give her a massage. See here for an example
28. Men are not easy; but they are easy to understand.
-Men are clear in what they say but they can be very stubborn
55. Veils without turbans? Coronets without crowns?
-There is an apparent disconnect between the genders in regards to dress; if she is veiling herself as if prized and valued as royalty while the men are dressed as average people attending to a queen so AHM is suggesting men need to be at the same level as women and revive the turban
10. The wine is masculine, the milk is feminine.
-AHM makes this dichotomy elsewhere but most likely here he is referring to rivers of milk and wine in Jannah or he may be referring to milk as baraka or the nourishing qualities of women (i.e. breastmilk) and wine may refer to marifa or knowledge of God as in Sufi poems,
-otherwise wine may refer to the gradualism in its prohibition, that men require time in the spiritual journey while it is natural to women as natural as breast milk is
55. Islam is horizontally patriarchal and vertically matriarchal.
-culturally patriarchal but spiritually matriarchal since women are respected as paradisal beings under whose feet and also that women in the form of houris are already in paradise
22. Man is ‘ibara; woman is ishara.
-Man is a statement; woman is a sign and by this AHM may be referring to men being verbal and straight-forward while women convey themselves through hints and non-verbal communication
-AHM mentions that dressing as a Muslim doesn’t mean you dress up as a Nejdi bedouin or a Hyderabadi peasant since Muslims in the past dressed beautifully yet Islamically
76. Do not use your beard to open people’s ears.
-On Qiyama the soul will be audience to the body, ‘That Day, We will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.’ (Qur’an)
86. Pogonophilia without fitraphilia is a Jahilia.
-Love of beards without love of fitra is ignorance meaning there is nothing sacred about the beard without recalling Allah
85. Many wear the turban to prevent Allah from reading their minds.
-Wearing the turban to hide from Allah behind one’s pride and ego
75. He has not believed who has not felt the weight of the turban.
-To feel the weight of Islam upon one’s head and carry it willingly is a manifestation of one’s belief and pride in it
96. Sacred dress undresses the spirit.
-That is, it frees the spirit from the worldliness that saturates clothing and fashion trends
15. Choose your tie for its utility in cleaning your spectacles.
-We chose our clothing for its utility and not in deluding us, or using us
-AHM may also be referring to a belief among Muslims that the tie is a Christan symbol, so if we change our niyyah (intention) to use the tie to clean one’s eyeglasses then that makes one safe from the accusation of imitating the Christians, though the tie is not a Christian piece of clothing but worn by many and many religious scholars don’t see it as imitating the disbelievers but as a cultural item
-’Women’s modesty generally increases with their beauty.’ (Nietzsche)
46. The hijab: ‘a display of modesty’!
-The paradox of showing off modesty, which defeats the purpose of the hijab when we speak about it this way since modesty and humility go together
17. Hijab is not self-respect: it is Self-respect.
-It is not about her pride but it is about her respecting the tendencies of the nafs and controlling and nurturing them
8. In the fight against the Monoculture, the main sign is the hijab, and the main act is the Prayer.
-It may not be enough nor the best way to fight the monoculture so we could strengthen it with the turban and zuhd
35 Ikhlas: She should be mutahajjiba, not muhajjaba, and her opposite mubarraja,not mutabarrija.
-mutahajjiba means she took it upon herself, to cover herself up, muhajjaba is a woman that wears hijab or something that is covered up, mubarraja means exposed, and mutabarrija is a showy seductive woman.
-It is her choice to cover up, and she should not be covered up, that is she is not an object but a subject and covering herself up is not limited to her body but also to her actions
-The opposite of a woman who dons hijab from her own choice is someone who is exposed while the opposite of a woman who is treated like an object and covered up (as if by someone else) is a showy seductive woman who is also treated as an object by society
59. Female modesty is no excuse for sloth.
-Wearing the hijab doesn’t mean one has license to be lazy, or forget about how one looks, how clean her clothing is or how it smells or overall the manner with which she presents oneself, there still must be dignity and honour in it
66. Veiling the unavailable: noli me tangere.
-Noli me tangere are the words said to be uttered by Jesus to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection meaning ‘don’t touch, cling or hold onto me’
-The veil is a message to Christians and people of other faiths that she is a commited Muslim and to other men that she is not as ‘easy’ as the modernized, sexually ‘liberated’ woman
-This may have more to do with Christian ideas of clinging to Christ’s memory as a God though he has gone
71. The niqab exists to indicate the strength of the theophany.
-Like most gender-related topics the greater and more profound interpretation is that of the divine and spirituality, since God is veiled and this is related to the Contention, ‘60. Layla: the chador of God on earth.’
-Spiritual openings or theophanies are concealed much like the niqab is to conceal and this has to do with their sacred transformative power
43. Islam, by veiling her, reveals her; Edom, by unveiling her, erases her face.
-The veil reveals the honour of women in society, that is beyond beauty, while in Christianity by showing her makes her forgettable and reduces her to an item of beauty
-We often forget that the Kaaba is veiled as well and remains a mystery to us, and is only truly seen by the knowers of God, while the Vatican is on display for everybody as little more than materialism and decadence
97. Before your veil avails prevail.
-AHM may be suggesting that before the repulsive power of the veil alienates non-Muslims, she should make her attempt at daw’a or accomplish whatever she may intend
38. Miss Aisha Featherstone-Pugh
Has problems performing wudu.
When splashing with water,
I’m sure that she oughter,
Take off her veil and her gloves too.
8. The veil covers the man’s eyes, not the woman’s.
-She is not to be a blind follower but he is to be blinded
-Related to the Contention, ‘36. Censor the senses, but be not censorious of the sensory.’
64. Cranial nudity. Adverte oculos! The hijab is indeed an amulet, which wards off the evil eye.
-Adverte oculos means avert your eyes from the open nakedness of the head
-AHM is making hijab a taw’eez, not containing a literal or physical power but a spiritual metaphysical power
99. Hijab is to force him to wear bifocals.
-He sees not just what is immediate and close-up but also what is distant, so AHM may be suggesting that we see the akhira as well as the dunya in male interaction with the female gender
65. Stay home during the peek season.
-There are hadith that speak of the virtues of sticking to one’s home as the best place for one to be after the mosque so that one may not be tempted to look around
22. Marriage should be the retrieval of the first glance.
-We are permitted no more than the first glance, and it is a common human experience that the person of the opposite gender is the most beautiful in the first glance
-Abdal Hakim Murad is suggesting that love at first sight is really about the power of the first glance and the comprehension of the gaze, the beauty and mystery of the face
-Related to the Contention, ‘21. Woman is in the first glance, not the second.’
30. We have become too weak even to close our eyes.
-The image is suggestive of experiments in mind-control where the eye-lids are forcibly held open and made to watch traumatizing videos and images at length
-Possibly related to the Contention that speaks, ‘71. Do not trust those who readily close their eyes.’ where we direct our gaze in the wrong areas, we ignore modernity and the problems of the Muslim community but do not lower our gaze around the opposite gender
37. It is impossible to love a woman without loving womankind.
-It is difficult to ignore the sign of God, of beauty, birth and compassion, in the creation of woman
38. Sexual fidelity is not only to one’s spouse.
-It is to God since ultimately we answer to him
31. Only the saint should take women at face value.
-Again the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, where spirituality is really the true story, that only the awliya have firasa to see
6. The materialist argument against women: public performance equals fulfilment.
-She is made an object and must show society that she is fulfilling her personal rights and potential in the way that liberalism recognizes, the displaying of her beauty
49. Maidens! Choose him that uses his ears more than his eyes.
-Listening skills are crucial to proper communication, but a man who uses his eyes more will have his gaze wonder, while the ‘gaze’ of his ears is always on her
84 ‘Sexual display is pure conformism.’ (Germaine Greer.)
-There is nothing else which conforms more to the desires of men than sexual display
55. She that uses her body to exploit is a suicide bomber.
-It is as much an exploitation of her body as a suicide bomber exploits his/her own body
-Its an implosion and explosion of her ego and pride in the same way a suicide bombers actions is an explosion of his/her ego and anger
89. Futuwwa: the knight must be freed from the daze.
-The daze may refer to men having difficulty in lowering the gaze
69. There is no secular masculinity.
-Masculinity disconnected with religion has no chivalry and the honouring of women, and it is the ‘sexual revolution’ which has made men capitalize on the sexual freedom of women, eliminating motivation for earning the respect of women
-This is related to the next Contention, ‘15. Tyler Durden: without functional women, no functional men.’
7. She is the gift to him that precedes the Fall.
-Woman is a gift God gave to Adam before he and her sinned, and in that sense she is a reminder of Jannah
92. Foucault: the West’s frustration is that its discourse on sex does not lead to a conclusion.
-Sexuality will always be changing in the West, unlike traditional cultures that established traditions such as marriage to mothers or polygamy, the Wests Sexuality will always be changing
-Related to the Contention, ‘The American for erotic is erratic.’
49. Each gender was created only that the other might give thanks.
-The other gender is there for us to make shukr and to assist us in our worship
98. Men are from Ash‘ar, women are from Maturid.
-The Ashari belief that God creates the individual’s power (qudra), will, and the actual act, while the Maturidis view that God was the creator of man’s acts, although man possessed his own capacity and will to act”
-AHM is making a humorous jab at the nature of men and women, that men feel in control while women don’t, or perhaps that women see God more clearly than men do, or that
61. How to rebridge the sexes? To reach the point of reconciliation? Only the logos can achieve this, and a logos that is ungendered.
-Only an ungendered God, can bring men and women together
-Related to the Contention, ‘71. ‘Gender is not destiny.’ (Simone de Beauvoir) ‘God is destiny.’ (Hadith)’
2. Feminism has one virtue: it shows that the West is still capable of certainty.
-Feminism is the one aspect of the West that is certain though notions of sexuality continue to change
13. Feminism? First empower femininity.
-Liberalism, the monoculture and secularism are unsure as to what it means to be a woman and the value of the feminine, except for what Christianity taught about the inherent sinful nature of woman
78. Not every male superiority is female inferiority.
-Sometimes women allow men to feel they are dominant out of compassion which it self is a strength
-Related to the next Contention
31. Male and female cannot be equal, for they are mutually superior.
-Their strengths are different and in those respects are better than each other
29. Only in the din al-fitra are women adequately acknowledged.
-In the religion that recognizes that people are born with a primordial disposition to believe in God does it give women the same recognition as men in their spiritual, and therefore total, potential
48. Maidens! Where is the hierarchy when the turab produces the tara’ib, which produce the atrab?
-What is the hierarchy in the dust producing the backbone of a person from which actions which produces houris result
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.