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Is Feminism Compatible with Islam? (Series)

Being a Feminist, I Chose to Convert to Islam

Part One

Qawwam means “protector,” not “dictator.”  I learned that a true Muslim husband should treat his wife as a beloved companion, not his inferior or his servant. 

The example of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the most enlightening; I was extremely impressed when I read about the way he (PBUH) interacted with his wives with kindness, love, empathy, and mutual respect.

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“The best of you is the best to his wives,” the Prophet (PBUH) said to his believers. Given such advice from the best human and ultimate role model, how could any believing man be an oppressor?

“Muslims,” I concluded after embracing Islam, “don’t need feminism.”  In fact, I believed it was un-Islamic to call oneself a “feminist” since it was a Western construct that was only a necessity in a society that was not governed according to the rules of the All Knowing Creator of the Universe. 

I began to feel sorry for my non-Muslim female friends who did not recognize true liberation.  I pitied the Muslim women who still clung to feminism when their deen clearly offered the perfect solution.

Being a Feminist, I Chose to Convert to Islam - About Islam

But, where are the Muslim men?

Nearly two decades have passed since I made my shahada (declaration).  Throughout eighteen years of living as a Muslim woman, I have heard countless stories from my sisters in faith.  Sadly, many Muslim women do not experience the dignity, rights, and status that Islam is supposed to grant them.

I’ve heard stories being whispered over the phone by sisters who are afraid of being overheard by their controlling husbands.  I’ve heard experiences second-hand, through sisters who have counseled and consoled others through abuse, abandonment, and divorce.

I’ve read innumerable accounts in female-only Facebook groups where desperate Muslimas around the world are turning to other women for help escaping physically or emotionally abusive marriages.

Where are the Muslim men who are striving to be the “best” to their wives?!  They seem to be few and far between.  Somehow many Muslim men have convinced themselves that they are superior to women and entitled to selfish or even oppressive ways.

Megan Wyatt is a relationship coach who has counseled hundreds of Muslim women all over the world through her work at Wives of Jannah .  She recently wrote about the common thread that she sees in her conversations with her sisters in Islam:

“I am tired of receiving emails from wives who are treated like servants in their own marriages and family units, from both the husband and the in-laws,” wrote Megan. 

“I have no idea who came up with this idea that a woman’s place is to shut up, clean up, and put up — but it’s NOT from Islam.  I get messages from women ALL THE TIME with the same story, same struggles, and same level of despair.”

Clearly, the mistreatment of Muslim women is widespread and deeply problematic.  As someone who loves Islam and tries to be an ambassador of my faith, I truly wish I could say that most Muslim women report having fulfilling and happy marriages where they feel valued and protected. 

I would love to report to non-Muslims that the majority of Muslim women feel safe and comfortable in the streets, stores, schools, and masajid of their Muslim-majority homelands.

I wish I could point to any nation on earth where Islam is being implemented properly– at least in regard to gender relations.  But I can’t, and I don’t. So now — even if I don’t agree with it — I understand why “feminism” is persisting as a possible solution, a lifestyle, and even as a battle cry amongst some Muslim women, many of whom are devout and practicing believers.

First published: March 2018

Pages: 1 2
About Laura El Alam
For the past decade, Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to numerous Islamic publications. Her articles have been published in SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, About Islam, and Muslim Matters. Her Facebook Page,  The Common Sense Convert, offers advice, support, and education for Muslim women, particularly new converts.