So, less than a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post where I showed that the Qur’an never prohibits Muslim women from marrying the People of the Book. I was surprised by it was so widely shared–over 2,000 shares on FB, not all of which I have access to. The “shares” I do have access to, I was interested in following to see how people were engaging with it and with those who shared it. I followed its reception out of interest but mainly to see if there was any pattern in the response was, and if there were any differences in how Muslim men or Muslim women were engaging with it. It turns out, the engagement with it has been indeed gendered: the rejection came almost exclusively from Muslim men, whereas Muslim women either “meh”‘d it or were receptive towards it. Only men (and I repeat: ONLY men) messaged me to tell me to tell me they did not like it, did not agree with it, and were troubled by it in other ways. Of course, I’m certain a lot of women did not like it and did not agree with it, but what I’m struck by is that the “rebuttals” came exclusively from men, while it received most support among Muslim women.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that Muslim men responded the way they did. Discussing this response with friends, we decided it’d be good to write about it more openly because of these uncomfortable realizations – that we always knew about, but I didn’t want to believe.
I’ve written a lotta things that have offended Muslim men. And other things, relevant to not just Muslim but non-Muslim men too, that have offended men of all religious and a-religious backgrounds. Because, it turns out, men are extremely emotional, and their ego is prettttty fragile.
But this surprised me, even though I know it should not have. It also disappointed me greatly. I’ve never been more disappointed in Muslim men. The offense they took by the post revealed things to me about them that I hadn’t wanted to believe previously, despite studying patriarchy for years.
When I shared these observations on my Facebook–with screenshots–a good guy friend of mine said, “We are just too emotional to debate in a logical and rational manner.” I totally agreed with him, as would anyone who understands why and how patriarchy thrives on the myth that women are “emotional” while men “logical.”
Here are some thoughts on this whole ordeal.
First, most (did any?) didn’t even read the article, only the title. I know because there were certain shocking things in the article that they *definitely* would have opinions on but did not share those opinions. Because they didn’t read it. I also know they didn’t read the actual content because they kept repeating their claims, all of which I had addressed in the post itself. They responded, emotionally, merely to the title, which was the main point of the article: the Qur’an does NOT prohibit women’s marriage to the People of the Book. So the article was shared widely sometimes with the “rebuttal,” “uhhhh, read 2:221, for your info!” And it’s like … I had discussed that in the article.
Second, because it is true that the Qur’an does not prohibit women’s marriage to the People of the Book, they really could not prove me wrong. So the men angered by the fact I had just introduced them to performed logical gymnastics in an attempt to object to it, only to contradict themselves, reinforcing my argument. They played with different Qur’anic verses and their own misguided patriarchal gender ideals to “prove” me wrong. They contradicted themselves, and too often also each other, and when they realized they had no argument, they resorted to, “But would you REALLY wanna know that a non-Muslim man is sleeping with your Muslim daughter?” (The idea of sex with non-Muslim men came up in many of the discussions I saw.) There was at least one female who made this comment about sex with non-Muslims as well.
Third, these angry men’s reasons were contradictory, like this: one emotional male facebooked me to say that while Muslim women can’t marry anyone because “their faith is history” if they do, Muslim men “can marry anyone” because their “beliefs” are passed down to the kids. See screnshots below.
I didn’t screenshot the part where I tell him he’s wrong and that if he wants to continue this “debate,” I charge men $50/hour.
Another emotional male corroborated the above opinion that men can marry whoever they want because, in his words literally, “so we can screw the shirk [polytheism] out of them.” Right – because that’s why Muslim men marry non-Muslim women. And that’s why you’re allowed to marry polytheists? Truly, help me understand why marriage to “mushriks” is explicitly prohibited in the Qur’an, if you can just “screw the shirk out of them.” See screenshot below.
Now, while these emotional males insist on this (and they’re not alone, trust me – if you’re on Facebook, feel free to follow the conversation by typing the title of my blog post in the Facebook Search bar and whoever posts are public, you can see the comments), others claimed that the religion will die–DIE, I tell you–if Muslim women married outside the faith. Unfortunately, either I can’t find the screenshots where this claim was made or I didn’t screenshot it at all. So you’ll just have to trust my words here ❤
So this leads me to my question question to the Muslim men who were outraged by the fact that the Qur’an does not prohibit women’s marriage to the People of the Book: which one is it, my dear brothers in Islam? In the former case (a man can marry whoever he wants because religion and religious identity are passed down from father to child), my role is too insignificant to matter; in the latter (the religion will just plain die if Muslim women didn’t marry Muslim men), it’s too significant. Which one is it, then, because according to the former, Muslim women can and should then marry whoever they want, whereas in the latter case, if our children won’t be Muslim unless we marry Muslims, then Muslim men’s identity is irrelevant in childrearing so they should be allowed to marry more than just the People of the Book (i.e., why the prohibition to marry mushrikeen, then?).
In other words, if it’s all about children, identity, etc., why can’t Muslim men marry polytheist then?
Fourth, one way to know your position is in the wrong – or at best weak – is that you’ve to struggle to explain why that position exists. The best you got for me is the usual “ijma'” (consensus – whose exactly, no one’s sure) but then you fail to explain what ijma’ is (because shocker alert: there’s no ijma’ on what ijma’ is! Ironic, ya?)
Fifth, exactly how consistent are you in your claim that ijma’ is a source of law? It looks to me – and I’m just a woman, so I’m likely very wrong, of course – that you are so invested in restricting women’s rights, maintaining gender hierarchy, that when a position can’t be supported by the Quran (which you agree is & must be the ultimate source of Islamic knowledge & law), you turn to whatever you can to maintain that position – even if you’ve to be inconsistent, contradict yourself, make no sense, go against your conscience &/or common sense. If a prohibition is not in the Qur’an, why look elsewhere? Are things not supposed to be by default allowed unless explicitly made haraam? Or is silence always a prohibition? Because if so, you’re putting yourself in a very, very difficult position. (The whole “exception for men” argument also makes no sense. Read the post for details on why.) I’m especially suspicious of the response that “wait, why can’t silence be read as prohibition here?” because we’re not consistent abt the claim that silence is prohibition. Why suddenly question it in a case that extends a male privilege to women too? Reading silence as prohibition makes no sense, while reading it as consent does make sense (e.g. in hadiths telling (male) guardians their daughters’ silence = consent! Which is nonsense but reading silence as consent is “islamically” rooted!) but also because do we seriously expect God to list all the things halaal for us? That’s, um, silly. The haraam list is and should be far shorter.
Let’s be real here: there’s ijma’ in the historical Islamic tradition, in all the schools, that men are allowed to sleep with their female slaves … and also that child marriage is totally permissible (barring nuance when it comes to whether the child was previously married, and whether the husband can sleep with the female child once the nikaah has been performed).
Do you see why I do not trust your whole ijma’ argument here? Now, you might be tempted to respond with the claim that the above cases of child marriage and sex slavery are mere “permissions” whereas the case of women’s interfaith marriage is a prohibition. And I’d respond that that makes no difference about the irrelevance or irrelevance of ijma’. Either maintaining the ijma’ positions is required for all times in all cases or it is not. If it’s not, you have to give me a good, solid explanation for why. Not only this, but also, the point to emphasize here is that the ijma’ position on sex slavery and child marriage should tell you something, which is that the scholars’/schools’ opinions are very, very historically and socially contingent. More on this later because I have *so much* more to add to this ijma’ discussion, but it’s outside the scope of this blog post!
Also, a dude whose comment I did not allow to be published (on said article) declared me an “attention whore” for writing that article. Attention whore, thasss me . Just one of the totally irrelevant, senseless, and personal comments made by the Muslim men who were offended and upset by the reality that a right they believed was available only to them (men alone) is Qur’anically available to women too. The sheer selfishness, egotism continues to blow my mind.
why Muslim men responded with anger and hurt to the interfaith marriage article
So why? Why this anger over who a Muslim woman marries? Let’s not fool ourselves and others by pretending it’s because Muslim men genuinely care about Islam and the proper practice of Islam. Because that doesn’t explain why it was only men who felt offended enough to challenge the facts they were faced with – Muslim women, too, care about Islam and its role in Muslims’ lives. Besides, too many of the men who don’t support women’s marriage to people of book drink alcohol, have extramarital or pre-marital sex, lie, cheat, rape, commit gheebah, etc.–all of which are haraam according to the same interpretation of Islam that claims women can’t marry people of book.
Which has me asking genuinely. Why does Islam suddenly become so relevant only when it comes to your having to dictate to women how to be properly Muslim?
I’ll tell you why you (o’ my beloved Muslim brothers) were uncomfortable and even clearly disturbed by that post of mine. It’s because it threatens you. Consciously or subconsciously. As my friends–who include Muslim men, too, by the way–put it, Muslim men are afraid of losing their power over Muslim women via marriage, so they feel it incumbent on them to restrict our marital choices. You see as your women– “these women are OUR women!” like your property or something, so that we cannot do anything that in any way threatens you.
Another friend made this excellent point that these Muslim men really don’t care if we marry them or not (in fact, y’all will go out of your way to avoid marrying us): they just don’t want us pursuing other options. This is so heartbreaking. Why, though? Why can’t we pursue other options? Why are our marital choices somehow about you when they are so, so certainly not? How does someone else’s marriage affect you as men? It clearly doesn’t affect the Muslim women who marry Muslim men? Why can’t you just yourself be a good Muslim according to how you define being a good Muslim and leave alone people whose choices you disagree with, even if you don’t think they’re Islamically acceptable?
My friend, S.A., also expressed it brilliantly with more truths:
“Not allowing women to marry outside of faith/community, not letting divorcees or widows to remarry etc are all tactics to control women and lineage. What if God forbid women find out that men outside of their faith do actually treat women well? What if they have children who find another faith more attractive (or no faith at all)? The obsession to procreate and have as many people in one’s faith as humanly possible is another reason [that men reacted so irrationally to the article and are threatened]. Of course it makes men angry!”
how your response to the article was polytheistic
In more simpler words, your outrage had nothing to do with Islam or God or the Qur’an. It’s all about your own feelings. Your own insecurities. Your own fears. Your desire to keep your totally unearned, undeserved privileges. Your imagined need to stay in power. Basically, you pretend that women’s marriage to the People of the Book is about the reduction of shirk when, ironically, your own intentions of keeping the prohibition are entirely polytheistic because they’re about your feelings and desires rather than what God does or does not allow.
All that the Muslim men opposed to the facts I was presenting them had to do was show me where I was wrong. But they couldn’t so obviously that meant I didn’t know what I was talking about instead. The more Muslim men continue to send me emotional, angry messages and comments that I don’t know Islam just for having written that article (and for speaking and thinking, generally), the more I’m convinced this is entirely about their selfishness, their refusal to think and see past through a totally undeserved privilege – that a woman’s right to marry *literally just the same groups of people that these Muslim men are allowed to marry* threatens the hierarchy that who woulda thunk was so crucial to their existence. It’s as if these men are thinking, “why even be MUSLIM anymore if a right I thought was only mine is available to women too now, shit.” Too bad so sad, ai ❤
But your shirk and your shirky, emotional reactions to facts is the last thing I care about. I’m writing this blog post not because I care what y’all think but to explain to you that your reaction to the post shows that you don’t care about truth but about your personal whims that you have always (as male custodians of the Islamic tradition) and continue to read into the Qur’an. And yet, we women are accused of reading “feminism” into the Qur’an, as though projecting patriarchal ideals onto the Qur’an is fair and divine and makes sense while gender equality isn’t.
why the outrage was disappointing–and eye-opening
Why do I find your response to the article disappointing? Because it so clearly showed that these men are so invested in preserving their privileges that they’ll make up lies against God and be as illogical as necessary to insist that they are rightly owed this privilege.
Because this is so deeply about privilege, I have to add that one of the worst things about privilege is that it keeps you unaware: something doesn’t negatively affect you personally, why bother learning about the its harm for others whom it does affect? This leaves you unaware–willfully and deliberately–of the impact that your claims have on the lived realities of Muslim women.
I dream of a time when this anger of yours will be directed towards something legitimate, more real. Why can’t y’all respond this desperately, this angrily (because some anger is totally valid) towards real issues that have terrible, violent effects on those around you–like rape, domestic violence, violence against gendered/sexual minorities (like trans), violence against racial minorities (especially against African Americans), and so much horror that too many people have to deal with daily?
women’s rights aren’t debatable in 2017. They never were, but people managed to make them so – but never again.
I no longer waist my time entertaining patriarchal comments and “rebuttals” and “challenges” especially from men. If you want to “debate” me on women’s rights, I charge men $50/hour, and once that’s been processed, we can “debate”; or know that women’s rights are absolutely, categorically not debatable for me. There’s no “dialogue” to be had on this. If your rights as men are not open to debate or question, neither are mine.
Bye now. And think about everything I’ve said here. Ask yourself, earnestly, why you are offended, angered, or at least upset by the idea that Muslim women are indeed not prohibited in the Qur’an from marrying People of the Book.