I love questions like this!
As Muslim feminists we face criticism from two aspects:
- Criticism from muslims who think we’re “westernizing” Islam
- Criticism from non muslims who think Islam is misogynistic
The simple answer to both is that feminism doesn’t try to change Islam, rather Islam has always had feminism built into it. Actually, it’s quite debatable that Islam invented feminism.
The Quran was revealed 632 AD, with numerous verses labelling men and women as equals. In 632 AD, Muslim women were given rights (through the Quran, as well as through prophet Mohammad pbuh). Rights that western women only earned early 20th century.
Actually, while 16th century western men were deciding whether women have souls or not, 1st century Muslim women were already given the right to divorce, to work, to educate and be educated, to inheritance, to their own land and property, to half their husband’s wealth, to choose who to marry, to have their own opinions, and to be treated as equals to men (and on and on and on).
Some of the verses from the Quran (revealed in 632 AD) include:
- “And their Lord responded to them: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female - you are equal to one another.” [Quran 3:195]
- "As for those who lead a righteous life, male or female, while believing, they enter Paradise; without the slightest injustice.” [Quran 4:124]
- "Whoever works righteousness whether male or female, while he (or she) is a believer- We will surely cause him (or her) to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward (in the hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do" [Quran 16:97]
- "O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness"…"live with them on a footing of kindness and equity" [Quran 4:19]
Islam teaches that regardless of gender (or race), in the sight of God we are judged according to the good we do, and our level of faith. If God clearly mentions that men and women are equal to one another, why should anyone else act like men are superior? Superiority comes from culture, and that is the common misconception that people tie to religion.
Now a question I always get is why Muslim feminists feel the need to use the word “feminist” if Islam already has feminism built into it. The simple answer is that even Muslims don’t know Islam has feminism built into it (hence the reason for the criticism we get), and that using the title “Muslim” no longer makes a statement that as a Muslim, you are aware of women’s rights. Islam definitely has feminism built into it, but not all Muslims apply that. Which is why we feel the need to use a separate word (in this case, feminist) to make that statement.