As with so many discussions on the state of Islam, the question of whether Islam is a feminist religion really boils down to the age-old clash between culture and religion. Anecdotal evidence from the past suggests Islam is a feminist religion, with women taking on roles based on what they felt was required to fulfil themselves or provide for their families. What we see a fair amount of these days, however, is a religion hijacked by cultures that fear any change in the name of equality and the loss of “traditional” values.
Recently, a well-known and relatively popular politician from a predominantly Muslim country suggested that feminism has degraded the role of the mother. This is problematic on so many levels. The way I see it, the feminist movement advocates for equality and agency across the board. As such, the suggestion that one can’t be a feminist as well as a dedicated mother is ludicrous! On the flipside, the suggestion that a woman who chooses not to take on the lofty responsibility of motherhood, for whatever reason, is any less of a woman is just as toxic. Stripping a woman of her agency in either of these manners is absurd and reeks of ulterior motives sprouting from cultural constraints rather than religious.
This concept that Islam is not a feminist religion is simply a result of a cultural narrative trying to overshadow what has actually been ordained. It stems from a frivolous fear of change, and a fear of a shake-up in the status quo.
In some cases, this idea of gendered roles that stemmed from the feminism-is-destroying-the- role-of-motherhood school of thought is about maintaining the dominance of one group over another. Perhaps not always in a nefariously forthright way, but inherently for sure. Simply by labeling one group inferior, using misinformation and science to justify it to within an inch of its life, and you’ll be able to maintain dominance.
Islam has always offered women the option to choose their path. We have been afforded agency in Islam. No doubt, every individual has responsibilities, boundaries, and obligations. But to mistake boundaries and obligations with a lack of agency is irresponsible, and quite frankly, incorrect. At the end of the day, this concept that Islam is not a feminist religion is simply a result of a cultural narrative trying to overshadow what has actually been ordained. It stems from a frivolous fear of change, and a fear of a shake-up in the status quo.