Life of a Muslim Feminist

I hate labels but I call myself a Muslim Feminist

Sabina Khan-Ibara

Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and editor.  She regularly contributes to her blog, Ibrahim’s Tree which she created after the loss of her infant son in 2011 and I am the Poppy Flower, where she writes about little things that go on in her life. She created Muslimah Montage as a platform for women to share their stories and inspire others.

I hate labels. Not to say I didn’t spend most of my youth trying to fit in and finding a label that described all of me. I took on many labels- “Muslim”, “Muslim Woman”, “Muslimah”, “American”, Pashtun, “Pakhtun”, “Liberal”, “Politically Active”, “Democrat”, “Green”, “Nerd”, “Preppy”, “Geek”, “Cool”, “Hippie”, “Hipster”, and lately, “Crunchy”. There are probably many more that I forgot to mention. I didn’t always hate labels. My dislike began when I realized that I couldn’t fit myself neatly into just one label and really be me.

Recently, during an interview, I was asked if I viewed myself as a Feminist. Without hesitation, I replied, “Yes, of course.” Not only do I believe that women should be equal to men in every way- with the same right, treatment, and opportunity- I pretty much do what i can to support any movement that defines, establishes, and advocates equal political, economic, and social rights for women. But then I was asked if I was a Muslim Feminist. I had to pause.
 I am definitely a Muslim, believing that there is only one God and that Muhammad (PBUH) was the last and final Prophet. I also follow the five pillars of Islam to the best of my ability. So that makes me a  Muslim and a Feminist, but was I a Muslim Feminist? 
I recently read a hashtag #lifeofamuslimfeminist on Twitter (a great read with many thought provoking tweets by the way) and noticed there were people, namely women, who didn’t like the label “Muslim Feminist.”

Some think that if you are a Muslim you cannot be a Feminist because they think that “Muslim Feminist” is a contradictory phrase. This I cannot even begin to comprehend. To me, Islam advocates equal rights for all.
 Others argue that by stating that we are Muslims, there is no need to add “Feminist” to the label since Islam is innately feminist. I agree that Islam is in essence a “Feminist” religion. Just by looking at the women in Islam, in the Quran and the Hadith, one notices that the women mentioned are all strong women. They are tested, just as the men are, and rewarded just as the men are. Treated equally. Maryam, Asiya, Khadija, Fatima, Ayesha, etc. How can we forget that Islam gave rights to women while most of the rest of the world still considered them as property- the right to own property, the right to divorce, etc. Feminism within Islam is not a new phenomenon and that is what makes it interesting when some deny women rights using the very same religion of Islam.

I specifically look at Khadija (RA) when I think of a Muslim Feminist. She was a well known, prosperous businesswomen and the first Muslim woman. She was a widow who approached (via a messenger) Muhammad (PBUH) with a marriage proposal. He was working for her at the time. He was also much younger than her and never married before. He accepted. Throughout their marriage and even after her death, she was known for her unwavering strength and wisdom.

Until Muslims and Non-Muslims today can understand the life of Khadija (RA) I will not drop the word “Feminist” when describing who I am. When Islam and Muslims rid itself of the ugly misogynistic reputation and when Muslims really understand the high and equal position of a Muslim woman, I will reconsider.

I feel that as a Muslim and a Muslim woman, it is my duty to be a Muslim Feminist until the day, inshaAllah*, women are truly equal to men politically, economically, and socially. I owe it to my children, both son and daughter, and I owe it to myself to be part of the change. Using the Quran and Sunnah as my guide, I plan to continue supporting any movement that equal rights for women in all aspects of life- at home, within the family structure, at work, in politics, in public, in the Mosque, at speaking events, in literature, in the news, in polls, in art, in schools, and everywhere.

I can’t speak for all women. Every Muslim woman is different, and that is what makes us human and beautiful all at once- our differences. Because we are not monolith, not every one will agree with my post, but because we are all entitled to our own opinions, let it be known- I am a proud, Muslim Feminist.

I call myself a Muslim Feminist, but I shouldn’t have to.

This post originally appeared on Sabina’s Tumblr blog.

*InshaAllah means “God Willing” or “If God wills” in Arabic


The Birth of a Movement

There I was, casually browsing through my fashion & beauty dominated twitter timeline when out of the blue, a completely unrelated hashtag catches my eye:


Some of these tweets, it was almost as if they were written for or about me. I thought that I was alone in feeling like I don’t belong anywhere. Men try to oppress me because I’m a woman, Muslims try to oppress me because I don’t fit in with their views of what a Muslim ought to be, Indians & Pakistanis oppress me because I don’t look like a proper ‘desi’ girl and white people expect me to be anti-Muslim because I don’t fit the stereotypes. Naturally you begin to feel like oppression is your whole life and wonder how long you can keep trying to fight off narrow-minded bigots. Sure, fighting off one set of bigots isn’t so difficult, but to fight off four sets? Give me a break!

Anyway, some of the tweets that were appearing on my timeline reached out of my phone, gripped a hold of my heart and pulled me right in:

I could go on for days listing all of the tweets that touched me, but the main point for me is that from such humble beginnings this hashtag completely exploded. As it turns out, my husband just happened to be Twitter-friends with the woman who started it all off: Noorulann Shahid aka @yxxnghippie! The tag itself brought Muslim feminists out of the woodwork and gave us a platform to air the grievances and daily difficulties we face. It showed us all that even though it often feels like it, we are not alone in our fight for fairness and equality. It gave us hope that we can each make a difference.

The problem is, like all good hashtags, it was a flash in the pan. Ok, admittedly it was quite a long flash in the pan, being that it went viral for a couple of weeks but it was clear that Muslim feminists of all shapes, sizes, colours and genders needed a place to keep this momentum going. It’s our hope that this blog and twitter feed will allow us to do just that. Those that seek to oppress us will be expecting the heat to die down eventually, but we can’t allow that to happen under any circumstances.

This is the birth of a new movement. A movement where Muslims, Non-Muslims, Men & Women will all come together to campaign and crusade for fairness in an unfair world.

So I’ll round off this first post with a quote from Rebecca West:

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”