Poetry against Fatwas

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi Arabian contestant on the widely viewed show “Million’s Poet,” is gaining worldwide attention for her poem that she delivered on the last episode. Her poem on the abuses of clerics earned her a place in the final five and a chance at 1.3 million dollars. Hilal, a poetry editor at Al-Hayat newspaper and a mother of four, has gone further than any woman in the competition and delivered her biting critique fully covered. While many are focusing on her clothing, I find her words more significant.

Her poem, written in the Nabati style native to the Arabian Peninsula’s nomadic tribes, attacks clerics who have issued fatwas that reflect an extremist attitude, which is not in line with the core values of the faith. Hilal’s poem focuses on fatwas like that of Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al Barrak, who issued a fatwa for the execution of anyone who says the mixing of sexes is acceptable within Islam. While fatwas are non-binding legal opinions, Hilal asserts in The National that this kind of fatwa reflects “subversive thinking, terrifying thinking, and everyone should stand against it. One should not kill or call for the killing of people only because they do not belong to their system of thought or to their religion.”  Continue reading

Islamic Feminism

The next Inside Islam radio show will air Thursday, April 8th and will focus on Islamic feminism.  While many might consider Islam and feminism to be contradictory, there is a clear global movement that began in the 1990’s in which Muslim women are using Islamic discourse to argue for their rights, gender equality, and social justice.

Islamic feminists seek to transform patriarchal readings of the faith that they argue go against the real message of the Qur’an where there is a clear emphasis on gender equality based on the concept of human beings.  According to Margot Badran, Islamic feminism calls for more gender-sensitive re-readings of verses that are not present in the male interpretations. Continue reading