Searching for an Inclusive Islam

Eight years after "Muslim bad girl" Asra Nomani began her battle with her Morgantown, West Virginia mosque for women's equality, she wonders when her dream for an inclusive Islam will be realized. For Nomani, the struggle continues.


09/14/2012 11:01:38 AM

She is really interesting. I had the opportunity to know something about her life and fail to understand what Islam she talks about. She has been engaged in every thing Islam prohibits and shamelessly violates the teachings of the holy Quran. She lost her virginity to a white Christian class mate (premarital sex), became an unwed mother to a Pakistani who deserted her after knowing her past, became a Tantrika (Shirk) and now married to a non Muslim (prohibited by Allah in the holy Quran). These are her personal problems but how with this background can she represent Muslim women? If she doesn't believe in the Islamic sacred scriptures or the teachings of the prophet (pbuh), what are her sources of reference in matters of faith? Her own whims and base desires? She is called a Muslim because of an accident of her birth in a supposedly Muslim family. Beyond that she has nothing to do with Islam. The lady appears to be suffering from great inferiority complex and a self hate phenomenon. She has been advocating spying and profiling of American Muslims. She appears to need some psychitrist to help her.


06/13/2011 02:15:41 PM

@Mscole, I also agree that most of what Ms. Nomani says is true in the majority of orthodox masaajids (mosques) today and few are open and affirm through their actions to be welcoming to women. @Abu-aminah, after reading your comments, there were some false premises you used to boaster your arguments. One of them goes to the issue of God's free will. God gave us free will, and from what you said, does that mean that free will then becomes "do as I/we say" = the larger group's will" line in terms of how to understand and live Islam? Additionally, I find how you couch your arguments reveals a lot about how you see things. For example, personal feelings verses finding errors in assessment by scholars who promote culture as faith. Many Muslims believe what is cultural is religious, and often apply it as religion. So what someone says is the rule, rather than personal study of Quran to better understand God's message to you on a personal level--that has no value? Another is "re-engineering", is this different from finding a better way in which the religious teachings can be fulfilled by looking at the theme and see more can be understood rather than some arbitrary limitation(s) based on 7th century culture, science, or world vision? Where does "accepting as stated" mean? Literal acceptance of the ink on the page in Quran (two dimensional thinking), or by what some scholar of various times stated seeing Quran as a literal source, or to understand Quran through various dimensions of comprehension, mental, physical, metaphorical, metaphysical? Quran is often allegorical, so how do you deal with that breath of interpretation? Finally, "blind interpretations" based on feelings, wishes and opinions of human have caused more problems than good--so which one of the sects has it right??? I agree with you on some points, sir, but I think you miss the major point Ms. Nomani is speaking about--it is these strict and narrowly proscribed opinions of the orthodox that remains one of the reasons why our Muslim faith has been hijacked and Muslims do not speak out and do nothing about it. Finally, your use of "declare war" on faith, aren't you exaggerating quite a bit here? No one can declare war against God. It appears you equate challenging how God is being interpreted and taught is declaring war? Apparently I have misread much of Islamic history, particularly the nascent Muslim community, and each person had the right to challenge how an understanding of Islam, whether individual or as a community, was being applied to Muslims and others who lived in Medina. So is this declaring war on the Muslim faith?, or is it a true expression of how Muslims should respond to possible formulations of injustice and oppression? It appears, and if I am reading between the lines, you are saying Ms. Nomani is the cause of fitna or her thoughts are bid'ah attahassan (innovation of improvement)? I believe it is the latter and not the former and we can continue to learn that the fullness of Islam is not limited to human interpretations.


02/09/2011 07:58:00 PM

A lot of what Ms. Nomani says is true, particularly that the Islam as practiced today is not like it was in its earliest history. Women were not relegated to separate areas nor were their voices unheard. Women were granted autonomy in Islam and given equal (although separate) rights as those given to men and were also given the same commands as men in terms of what was required to be faith and righteous. What we see today is oppression that is derived from patriarchal societal norms gone wrong - horribly wrong in some cases. I certainly don't think that women should be forced into smaller, separate rooms or balcony areas in mosques, nor should they have to enter through a separate, usually isolated door, nor should new mosques focus on men's areas. Personally I refuse to enter any mosque that puts me in some back door such that no one even knows if I'm there or not (doesn't sound very protective of women to me). Where I disagree with her is in areas such as "religion and faith should adapt " and be shaped according to the interpretation of people. This is the root of the problem that exists in every faith tradition of today[ people have altered religion to suit their own needs and desires. What was once deemed a sin is now often accepted as being acceptable - adultery, premarital sex, out-of-wedlock birth, spousal abuse, greed, and homosexuality just to name a few. I also don't agree that women should lead prayers of a mixed congregation because that is not from Islam nor from the equality that was granted to women, besides why would any woman want a bunch of unrelated (or even related) men to repeatedly see her from behind. Yes, women asked questions, contributed to the discussions, corrected men and learned just as the men did and a woman (Aisha, one of the Prophet's wives) is credited with the most hadith (sayings of or recounting of actions of the Prophet) and her counsel was sought out most often following his death, but at no time did she lead discussions or lessons of mixed groups. Some of the same "faults" that people wish to find with Islam and the treatment of women can also be found in other faith traditions. For example, women aren't ordained as Catholic priests (and therefore could never be Pope) nor as rabbis in Orthodox Judaism (I don't think) yet in less traditional forms of these faiths women are afforded this opportunity. In all faith traditions, women are the cornerstones of those faiths yet are often relegated to supporting roles (women are usually thanked for the food preparation and decorations but rarely acknowledged for doing everything else that they did).


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09/14/2010 12:11:20 PM

Just read this and was rather surprised. I really don't think she should generalize ISLAM teachings that way. I'm a muslimah (female muslim) in Indonesia. I don't wear a hijab or veil, but never have I been asked to leave a mosque. Although, of course, they will ask anyone to dress properly, which was very sensible. maybe it's also because most muslims here follow the Sunny ways... fundamentally, I couldn't agree more with khadijah_evans and darcppdx, especially the ones about her generalizing all sects to be similar to salafi/Wahabbi, and that the practice of Islam CAN be coloured with culture and traditions. Hope she reads all the comments here. Last, but not least, my religion teacher used to remind me that Islam is not only about our relationship with Allah SWT, but also with all human beings. Don't see everyone as your enemy, especially when they hold the same belief. Always think positively towards others until the very last moment they prove to be the other way around. and even so, believe that they may have good reasons/backgrounds to be so...


07/22/2010 06:50:06 PM

QUOTE: "......In my mosque, it was a typical Salafi/Wahhabi ideology permeating......" I think this Sister's problem is not the lack of "inclusiveness," but the sect see belongs to. If she has a problem with Salafi/Wahhabi ideology then WHY does she continue to belong to that sect? Most of the things she talks of do NOT happen in my Sunni mosque. If they did, I would simply not be Sunni. My now knowing some of the things the Salafi/Wahhabi believes/practices (something I've wondered) I will definantly not become Salafi/Wahhabi. Maybe she should consider the same.

07/17/2010 04:14:31 PM

Understanding true monotheism is the belief that the message in the Quran and the Life of the Prophets is in direct communication with YOUR heart. Of course it is always beneficial to find others to help elucidate confusing issues, however your heart is the only true gauge of discernment. Those who practice their faith to please others so that they can be accepted are actually committing shirk. Worship or action for the benefit of others than Allah. The truth is always there for you to discover in the holy words and also for you to uncover withing the depths of your heart. When the Scriptures reach your heart then you and the message are One. That is the True goal. Salam ps it is not about literalism or metaphorical interpretation. it is something way more beautiful, if you can find it!


05/08/2010 09:04:58 AM

thank you.


01/21/2010 08:36:01 PM

I think Darcppdx put it perfectly and WOW is it REALLY that bad in AMERICA? I know I visit often and true I don't live there, but from what your describing it sound's beyond stiffled. I can't imagine this being in the America I know. But then again I am from New Orleans and we are VERY friendly people. I mean my son is 17 and he play's football all the time here. As far as equality if you read the right sources you would be suprised to find out how equal we are. The Quaran is the Quaran it's how you understand it. I understand Islam as a Peaceful Religion and I understand that women are a lot more equal then they may realise and that culture play's into it a lot. As well as education.


01/21/2010 08:15:27 PM

I am an American Muslim and I live in Saudi Arabia and believe me I am NOT walking behind my husband and that is not something I see here. So I think who ever told you this is something you should do has misled you. I have an American friend here and she has a Bookstore with Islamic Book's and they are translated from Arabic to English. You should check your sources. I heard this is what women do 19yrs ago before I married a Saudi from Makkah and came to live in Jeddah and this is not true.


01/21/2010 08:15:25 PM

I am an American Muslim and I live in Saudi Arabia and believe me I am NOT walking behind my husband and that is not something I see here. So I think who ever told you this is something you should do has misled you. I have an American friend here and she has a Bookstore with Islamic Book's and they are translated from Arabic to English. You should check your sources. I heard this is what women do 19yrs ago before I married a Saudi from Makkah and came to live in Jeddah and this is not true.


10/14/2009 08:01:40 AM

I am from small town USA. One of the main gripes of people (woman) Why do Muslim woman have to walk behind their husband and the prayer set up is just another one of those (behind the man ) scenarios. There are so many misconceptions and ideas about True Islam and Western society and small town USA are confused and so am I. why must I be behind or seperate. I Work, I cook, I keep house, I am a good person and I feel as if I should be an equal partner in prayer and all other spiritual outlets in my home instaed of being shoved back a few centuries. American Muslim


09/29/2009 05:36:50 PM

I have comments relevant to this discussion on my blog "If I were a muslim"


09/27/2009 12:48:18 AM

My opinion on ASRA Noorani is what any sensible practicing Muslim would have To have a child with no father in the picture is shocking and Unislamic in all ways and manners Then to demand to go thru the men,s entrances is asking for more trouble WE WOMEN HAVE BEEN GIVEN MUCH RESPECT AND DIGNITY BY OUR RELIGION OF ISLAM AND WE WILL LOSE IT IF WE DEFY THE LAWS OF ALLAH AND THE THE TEACHINGS OF OUR PROPHET MUHAMMAD[ PBUH ] THEN to compare our mosques and society with what was in the olden times is too much to expect thanks and May ALLAH Guide us all on the Right Path.....AMEEN


08/01/2009 01:46:49 PM

I have read Ms. Asra book and her recent article in Marie Clare about her finding love and her feelings about Muslim man in general. First and foremost, I am a female whom strangers often surprise to find that I am a Muslim. Privately, I strive to live by the tenets of Islam everyday. Islam is very clear on how we should conduct our lives, and we should strive to live by those values to the best that we can. We should also acknowledge that any kind less than ideal situation in Islam is not because of the religion itself, rather, the culture and/or people that shape the community behavior. The Islamic teachings and values are timeless and it has time tested over a thousand years. If we cannot live by any of the values; then, it is our weakness as a human, not the weakness of the religion. I wish Ms. Asra can pen the beauty of Islam as a religion rather than being critical the religious practice that is colored by culture and tradition.


07/08/2009 05:09:55 PM

Asra's comments match many Iraqi Muslims' comments as well to some degree. The openness between Muslims has disappeared in many countries due to religious fundalmentalism that often ignores the fundamentals to achieve the leaders' goals, or political gamesmenship, like Saddam and the Iranian president, who pervert the Muslim faith to maintain/ed their own power. Christianity and Judaism struggles with this as well since fundamentalists often do what their liberal counterparts do which is to ignore or explain away scripture to support their viewpoint, or use it as a proof text to prove their "rightness" just like the Pharisees. How is it that the Prophet's Christian wife was not forced to convert? And why were Jewish people given the same respect as Muslims if the Prophet or God intended them to be infidels because of their lack of acceptance of the Muslim understanding of God? It is always easier to make yourself look good if you paint others as evil. Ironically that is one of the biggest complaints of Muslims agst Pres. Bush and the US /West in general. The sad thing is all people involved have gotten so good at painting the other as infidels, etc. that we may have forgotten how to paint someone in a positive light! May God help all of our hard hearts, closed minds, deaf hears, poisonous tongues and blind eyes!


07/08/2009 01:51:24 PM

Asra Nomani is my hero!!


07/07/2009 02:55:43 PM

Ms. Asra Nomani should invent a new religion, as she appears to have her own preferences as to how she wants her religion to be. ISLAM is a religion of complete submission. She has problem with that, she can go ahead and define her own new religion. Because if she thinks time has changed and so should the religion of Islam, she is in the wrong tent all together. She wants to change the religion of Islam, because she thinks, God didn't know the times will changea nd He didnt leave enough room for change in Islam? She's attributing people's preferences to religion in the first place. Most importantly she is attacking the very basics of religion, like asking for Women-Lead prayers? She should seriously leave Islam alone and invent her own. Because Muslims believe that God made this religion perfect. It's not orthodox, it doesn't need to change. People wanting change, should go ahead and invent their own. Sickening!


07/07/2009 01:22:30 PM

What I would like to say of this article is that I as an African American woman who is also a Muslim experience a another level of injustice within the Mosque, and others that I have spoken with will confer the following: WE ARE IGNORED BY THE WOMEN! So when I hear her complaints, our African American muslimas aren't even welcomed by the women, so to discuss any other issues like changing to suit the times, that is irrelevant when the basic principles of the religion have been violated, like peace, acceptance, and love for all! Not speaking to me or necessarily doing something to me is not my idea of peace. Ignoring someone creates tension, and tension is not peace. When I read the Quran, I don't see instructions on what you do to other people, but for me to follow, how I am suppose to serve my creator and behave to receive blessings; and it's a peaceful message at that. It amazes me how people could want to address injustices while overlooking injustices. The foreign Muslims act as if the religion is theirs and they are oblivious to others. Well I am thankful that the religion is not how they behave and perhaps the griefs they suffer is due to their behavior to others. I know that when I do other than what I am suppose to be doing, things don't turn out right for me, just a thought. As far as changing to suit the times, I agree in this aspect, being, one shouldn't do things to make people feel uncomfortable or make yourself unapproachable. This concept is for all times. How can you help others or give dawah if people can't even speak to you. We do need to create situations for our generations that will not compromise our beliefs because our surroundings is a strong influence, and we are alive, full of life, and love, and joy, and Muslims can laugh and have fun, but that doesn't mean we have to fall into what is available; we can be creative. For example, many muslims have enough money to finance a swimming situation where all children and adults can be taught to swim. There is not enough interest put into certain things. Everybody is in a power struggle and "missing the boat". Oh and don't forget, all are not even properly welcomed. When my family and I attend Islamic events, we always end up having a discussion on how these people just act as if they have to tolerate us. We go out as any other muslim family, excited, ready to partake, not needing anything from anyone other than communing with other believers, and we just feel excluded. We see it , we feel it, we confer with others, and we all agree that May Allah have mercy on their souls, because they will need it. They think they have problems now with terrorism being shadowed on them, that is nothing compared to the simply question to answer, " why weren't you able to just welcome and accept all those who came among you as believers?" What, huh, yes that simple. Yes her issues are real also, and many times I have felt that perhaps the women behave how they do because they are oppressed inside, well we really need to examine how we treat each other first, before trying to change to suit the times. It is always the time to love and accept others. Thank you.


07/02/2009 03:57:07 PM

The question here is does Ms. Nomani feel that the Koran is the word of God. There's a difference between interpreting a confusing passage or point and reinterpreting simply because one does not agree with it. Education of the text amongst it's adherents is the most important issue here. Reading the Koran and understanding exactly when a chapter was revealed and to whom a generic term ( the Jewish, the Christians) or situation referred to when it appears is important. To me these are the largest problems affecting the community. I do find fault in anyone who chooses to change any religion based purely on their personal feelings. The faiths are based on a belief that God has decreed such rules. When you can prove that humans have added to what God has brought then this should be tossed. However when humans reengineer things to fit their current ever changing opinions then it is no longer a theological point but a human created philosophy. So long as this philosophy affects no others in a negative fashion no problem but whatever happened to accepting the religion as stated or simply admitting that you don't believe in it. This is true of every religion on this planet hence the denominations, sects, separations and divisions across the globe. Blind interpretations based on the feelings, wishes and opinions of humans have caused more problems than good. The issues she brings up may have some validity but in her actions she has declared war on the faith and not the problems being practiced within it by what she deems misinformed adherents. Through this article though she has only simply said that times has changed and so should religion. So in effect does she believe in God and that the Islamic faith represents God's will or should God conform with ours.


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