Intersectional feminism: a term that, while seasoned, is just now getting the time in the spotlight that it needs. While feminism advocates for women’s rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism goes even deeper than that. It’s the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities — like race, class, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity — all come together to affect the way they experience oppression and discrimination. The most prevalent example in today’s society is probably the phenomenon known as “White feminism” and how it sometimes leaves out women of other less privileged backgrounds, predominantly Black women.
I’ve always been frustrated with the way that Muslims use culture to make Islam look a certain way, when people who are interested in learning about Islam should truly be paying attention to the more religious aspects of Islam, and shouldn’t become confused with the cultural ones that people have created themselves over the years. While some may disagree with some religious ideals of Islam as well, it’s important for people to know that most of the negative things you hear about on the news that are associated with Islam are due to patriarchal legislation that stem from controversial cultural ties and not Islamic ideals. In fact, I would say that Allah’s messenger, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was an early intersectional feminist himself.
It’s important for people to know that most of the negative things you hear about on the news that are associated with Islam are due to patriarchal legislation that stem from controversial cultural ties and not Islamic ideals.
One of the most beloved quotes by Prophet Muhammad was when he was asked “Where do you find Paradise?” His reply? “Paradise lies at the feet of the mother.”
To some, this may be controversial, because sadly, we don’t all have a perfect relationship with our mothers, but the message remains meaningful. His wife, Khadijah, was the first woman to accept Islam, and it is from her that he learned most of his values.
Times were different in 7th century Arabia. Prophet Muhammad revealed ideals of gender equality that were considered revolutionarily feminist in the historical context of his time, regardless of what others may have thought. He spent much of his life protesting against female infanticide that was commonplace in that society, telling other fathers that having daughters was a blessing and that if their daughters spoke well of them on the Day of Judgement, their word alone would be enough to get them into Paradise. He also argued that all dowry that was given to a girl’s family before her marriage should go straight to her, not to be used by the family. He also promoted the right for ALL women to vote, gain inheritance regardless of their class status, get an education, and have a political role in society.
Prophet Muhammad spent much of his life protesting against female infanticide that was commonplace in that society, telling other fathers that having daughters was a blessing and that if their daughters spoke well of them on the Day of Judgement, their word alone would be enough to get them into Paradise.
Examples of the Prophet Muhammad engaging in intersectional feminism come into play when we discuss his actions against social oppression. Even though he was a Prophet, Muhammad taught us that nothing makes one Muslim better than another than his or her good deeds, which helped him gain the trust of people who were subject to sexism, racism, and class-based oppression. He knew he couldn’t just focus on men’s versus women’s rights; his society required a much deeper overhaul.
Muhammad knew what it felt like to be at the bottom; he was an orphan and was adopted later on. The first person to hold him when he was born was a Black Muslim woman by the name of Umm Ayman, and she continued to be part of his life for as long as he was alive. Umm Ayman’s influence might have impacted Prophet Muhammad’s decision to elect a formerly enslaved Black man named Bilal to perform the call to prayer, and later to adopt a former slave as his son. He assisted a Black man by the name of Zayd ibn Haritha to marry an affluent Arab woman, Zaynab bint Jahsh — something that wasn’t known to happen during his time. While others wanted different races to remain segregated and for people to marry only within their race and class, Prophet Muhammad used interracial marriage as one way to eradicate ignorance and bigotry.
Prophet Muhammad promoted the right for ALL women to vote, gain inheritance regardless of their class status, get an education, and have a political role in society.
All of this is just a brief summary of how Prophet Muhammad was not only a feminist for his time, but also an intersectional feminist who wanted to generate as much inclusivity as possible. And with that, I leave you with the Prophet’s final words: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab. Also, a White has no superiority over a Black, nor a Black has any superiority over White except by piety and good action.”