Polygyny: For the Benefit of Women

Image: Colin Christopher

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day in the US and, in recognition of that holiday, the next in our series of Inside Islam radio programs will feature Jean’s conversation with the co-editors of Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi. (See the end of this post for information on how to listen and participate in the show.)

One of the authors in this collection of real-life stories about love, relationships, and dating, Asiila Imani, deals with the often difficult topic of plural marriages. We have written here about polygamy in Islam previously, but this is the first time we have heard from a proponent or participant in polygyny directly. Imani converted to Islam over 30 years ago and has followed the Jafari madhab for the last twenty. She is a strong proponent of polygyny and views it as an extended family that is most beneficial for women. The following is excerpted from Love InshAllah.

Ali became my spiritual advisor. He sent me books on the Prophet and the Prophet’s family and encouraged and helped my Arabic and Qur’anic studies. I read everything he sent me, which solidified my beliefs once again. I began to wear the khimar and identified myself with the Shi’a school of thought. Ali’s letters and phone calls came whenever I felt myself slipping back into doubt, and my faith in him grew alongside my faith in God.

We conversed about my son and about my plans to become a midwife; he told me about the communal business he ran with the brothers of his jamah, and their desire to live self-sufficiently.

Within the year, talk turned to marriage, both a hopeful prospect and a dreadful thought. Was I ready to do this again? Ali believed that both of my previous marriages had failed because he was my match. God meant for us to be together, he said. Our paths certainly had crossed many times, and we seemed to fit together perfectly, but for one thing––Ali was already married.

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Pakistani Supreme Court Leads the Way

Dawood Ahmed is a lawyer from London. He is a graduate of Oxford University and is currently a doctoral candidate in law at the University of Chicago

Pakistani hijras, or transgendered men, at a function near the army garrison city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan Photo: Declan Walsh

Amidst the commonplace pattern of negative news cycles related to Pakistan, a rather landmark human rights development there passed by largely unnoticed. On April 25, the Pakistani Supreme Court ordered the government to recognize a third gender on government issued ID cards for transgenders (commonly known as hijras in South Asia) instead of the rather inappropriate and demeaning ‘male’ or ‘female.’ To put into context how ground-breaking the change is, consider this: very few countries in the world recognize a third gender in similar circumstances.

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Islamic Sex Manual Banned

Members in the Obedient Wives Club

This past week, Malaysia banned an Islamic sex manual put out by the controversial group Obedient Wives Club, whose statements have caused a stir. The Obedient Wives Club maintains that wives meet only 10% of their husbands’ needs and thus this manual instructs Muslim women to be subservient and obedient to their husbands sexually. Furthermore, they maintain that it is the wife’s job to prevent her husband from being adulterous by acting like a prostitute. Finally, they encourage polygamy. Although the manual does not contain any pictures, it is very descriptive. Moreover, the manual suggests that it is acceptable for polygamous men to have sex with all their wives at the same time. Continue reading

Tehran: Capital of Nose Jobs

Yes, Tehran is the world capital of nose jobs. While western news concentrates a disproportionate amount of time on the occasional ridiculous statement from President Ahmadinejad and Iranian nuclear ambitions, other stories seem to be flying under the radar. In no way am I suggesting that homophobia, anti-Semitism, or regional security threats are unimportant, but there are myriad other issues that provide more insight into the lives of average Iranians.

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Sexual Extremes Lead to Confusion

Women in Saudi Arabian Mall

In the past two decades, a large number of wealthy and highly educated (mostly) males from Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, etc.) have attended top universities here in the U.S. Many of them leave a land where women are barred from driving, a special police force monitors dress behavior in malls, and literalist wahaabi Islam continues to flourish. When they arrive on university campuses here, many of these young men are overwhelmed by the high visibility and frequency of sex and drugs.
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The Truth About Islam and Female Circumcision

The author is an undergraduate student at UW-Madison.

With Islamophobia growing in the Western world, many Muslims feel it is our duty to “sugar coat” or change the message of Islam in order to make the religion seem acceptable to Western culture. Many of us will take something controversial and try to convince those around us that Islam meant “something else” and that the real message is compatible with American culture. Unfortunately, as so many people begin to make these excuses, some Muslims begin to feel they are true and the original message put forth by the Qur’an is now changed to fit a culture that is not always compatible with the Islamic way of life. One of these topics is that of female circumcision.

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Gender Separation in Mosques: Unequal Segregation or Mindful Modesty?

Mixed-Gender Eid al-Adha Prayer Led by Imam Pamela Taylor Photo by Glenn Koetzner

Over the past few years, this nation’s capital has become a hub for what some see as a  progressive movement among Muslim Americans. Reform efforts recently resulted in a mixed-gender Eid al-Adha prayer led by Imam Pamela Taylor. While a number of leaders and organizations have accelerated the progressive Muslim movement in metropolitan Washington, DC, one local area woman has been particularly influential.

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Female Imam Leads Eid Prayer

“By segregating [men and women during prayer], you sexualize the area in ways that it wouldn’t be sexualized if the area was mixed.”

Those are the words of Pamela Taylor, a European-American female imam who embraced Islam twenty-five years ago. This past Tuesday, Taylor led a mixed congregation of 50 men, women, and children observing the Eid Al-Adha prayer. There was nothing particularly exceptional about the content of the annual prayer, or khootbah (sermon), that followed, but a female Imam leading men and women praying side-by-side is anything but typical.

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Jihad for Love Radio Show Today

It isn’t easy to be gay and Muslim. In the same week that Iowa ruled on gay marriage and Vermont voted on it, The New York Times is reporting that gays are risking murder in Iraq by coming out. The headline reports:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word ‘pervert’ in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies.

The article went on to say that the speculation is that these young men were killed by family members. Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders will be following the story in our live show today at 3 pm central called Jihad for Love.

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A Jihad for Love

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

The documentary film A Jihad for Love follows the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims living in places around the world, including Egypt, Iran, India, Turkey, Canada, and France. The film follows these individuals in underground subcultures for homosexual communities in Muslim countries and as immigrants to the West where their lifestyles are more acceptable in public. The main storyline of the film centers on a homosexual Imam from South Africa, Muhsin Hendricks, who was once partnered with a woman in an arranged marriage, is now divorced and is still close with his three children. He says at one point that the marriage was out of guilt for having feelings towards men and pressure to conform with religious norms in the Muslim community in Capetown.

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