For as long as I can remember, I have proudly identified myself as a Muslim feminist. This statement of who I am never seemed weird or contradictory, in fact, the two together always made sense. However, to many people unfamiliar with Islam, the term Muslim feminist may seem paradoxical and certainly raises some eyebrows. It creates further confusion when I tell them I am raising my son to be a Muslim feminist.
The only reason I want to raise my son as a Muslim feminist, rather than any other feminist, is because I want his commitment to women’s rights, gender equality, and social justice to be drawn from our faith and from the example of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
History would suggest that Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was the first Muslim feminist and, through revelation, he championed women’s rights to safety, education, equal status, and other opportunities in both the private and public sphere.
The legacy of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) inspired generations of powerful and influential Muslim women throughout history and continues to motivate Muslim women today. Unfortunately though, over time, the rights granted by Islam 1400 years ago have been largely ignored and eroded by patriarchal cultural practices. These practices such as domestic and sexual violence, discrimination, unequal opportunity and the objectification of women are certainly not “Muslim problems,” as they are diseases from which no country is immune.
So what can my son do to address these issues?
Well, clearly not much at the moment. He still wears a nappy. But, as he gets older, I want him to learn from the countless Muslim feminists that have come before him and realize his part in the movement. As an initial step in his Muslim feminist upbringing, I want him to recognize that men are afforded a certain degree of privilege that women around the world simply do not enjoy. I want my son to see this imbalance and do something about it.
My wish list is rather extensive, but by raising my son as a Muslim feminist, I hope he values women as equals, speaks out against sexism, rejects cultural practices that disempower women, and that he sees the discrimination and objectification of women as intolerable. Above all else, I hope he is never a silent bystander to injustice.
Of course, there are countless women around the world, who are working to bring about social change. However, without men on board, how can we fix a broken system? While there certainly are men, both now and in the past, who have used their voices and actions to be part of the solution, there must be many more. I hope my son will be amongst these men, and that as a Muslim feminist, he will contribute to the change that so many want to see in the world.
Written by Saba Awan