Women’s Freedom in Islam

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Muslim women perform evening prayers in the compound of Hazratbal shrine
Muslim women perform evening prayers in the compound of Kashmir’s Hazratbal shrine, which houses what is believed to be a relic from the beard of Prophet Mohammed. (Courtesy: Reuters)

“I swear, if I hear ‘Islam grants more freedom to women than the West’ one more time… Seriously, stop it, it’s embarrassing! They act as if we can’t plainly see how women are treated in countries governed by Sharia law compared to how western women live. Muslims really need to stop gaslighting us if they want people to take the faith seriously.” I too object the claim by Muslims, which actually sounds silly!

The aspiration of the Muslim is not “freedom”, it is submission. I mean, really, it’s in the name, itself – which means submission, or surrender, and not peace, as many in our society like to claim (though the words are related).

If it is worldly freedom that I’m looking for, then I am delusional if I think I will find it in submission. Our freedom is an after-worldly one. Not a worldly one. One of the soul; not necessarily the body.

The West is a very “free” society. Hedonistic, in fact.

So, I totally agree with you that Muslims need to be more honest and stop pretending. And, we need to stop competing with Western values in everything. Because even though there are definitely overlapping values, there are many differences, as well. This issue is not exclusive to “women’s freedom.” It applies to whatever aspects of Islam happen to contradict society’s values – of which there are a number.

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“Muslims really need to stop gaslighting us if they want people to take the faith seriously.” Very eloquently put.

As for “countries governed by Sharia law,” I’m not sure the accuracy of that statement, since I don’t know of countries actually governed by the Shariah. There are a couple of countries with strange, surface, pick-and-choose applications, which are not very consistent with the letter of the Law and even less so with its spirit. And, most Muslim countries don’t even pretend to be all that Islamic in their governance.

Aside from that one point, your objection has a lot of insight and honesty. Thank you.

I think too many of us Muslims have strayed so far from our tradition. So we try represent Islam while being intellectually bankrupt and spiritually bankrupt.

If we knew what we were talking about, we would represent Islam much more accurately. Not everyone would agree, and that’s expected; but at least they’d have an accurate representation to make an informed decision.

Instead we’re left with so many ignorant Muslims equipped with no tools to invite to Islam except for strawman arguments. Those who are intelligent and intellectually honest will find such an “Islam” inconsistent and unsatisfying.

Personally, I’m a big fan of honesty and transparency. When I am inviting to Islam, my responsibility is to represent it in the best way – that obviously includes accuracy. That doesn’t mean it will necessarily appeal to people’s desires or be consistent with all their current values. If Islam was exactly consistent with non-Muslims’ current values, then what exactly would I even be inviting them to? They might as well stay exactly where they are if Islam was the same as what they already have.

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I studied other worldviews and ways of life, and I believe with all my being the truth of Islam and its beauty. For that very reason, I don’t need to pretend to anyone that Islam is something it isn’t.

But if my own Islam is based on a cracked foundation, then I will be forced to run around saying things to non-Muslims like, “We’re no different from you.” Of course we’re different. We share in our humanity (and I have immense love and care for humanity), but we have some different worldviews, belief systems, and values. That is the truth, and that is exactly how it should be.

Those who accept Islam are welcome. And those who do not, that is their choice. No need for us to pretend and change Islam to fit a particular society’s values.

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