So I’ve been having some trouble with the idea of Islamic feminism lately. I know I posted about it on my old blog and said that I thought there is no contradiction between the two, but I’m starting to have some doubts. I think it all depends on how you define feminism – if it means men and women doing the same things and being treated the same, then no, Islam cannot be seen as a religion that gives women the same roles and responsibilities as men. But if you define feminism as men and women being valued equally, regardless of the roles or responsibilities, then yes, one could argue that Islam sees men and women equally. Because the Qur’an does state that in terms of piety, men and women are judged and valued equally.
But things like polygamy, men inheriting twice as much as women, and two female witnesses equalling one male one are all things I’m still having trouble with. On the one hand, I hear Muslims telling me to accept these things and stop seeing them from a “Western perspective” or as oppressive to women. On the other hand, I hear Westerners saying that there is no way a religion that allows polygamy and unequal inheritance can ever be reconciled with feminism.
I do appreciate the fact that feminism is largely determined by Western ideas of gender and gender equality, and I am definitely aware of the fact that Western feminism was extremely racist and thus difficult to apply to non-white women. At the same time, I know many Muslim women who are also uncomfortable with the idea that the Qur’an gives men more rights than women.
Even if we argue, like Muhammad Abduh did, that polygamy no longer serves any function today and so should be banned, we cannot ignore the fact that it is in the Qur’an. And to be very honest, I’m having a little trouble with that.
Just to clarify – this is in no way making me doubt God or the Qur’an. I’m just trying to understand why polygamy is in the Qur’an, how we should deal with that today, and how it relates to my being a feminist. I guess my question is, do I have to choose between being a Muslim and being a feminist? I know for sure I would choose the former. But is the choice necessary to begin with?
Does anyone have any advice they could share (in a nice way)? Did anyone else go through this process?