One of this Ramadan’s indisputable delights for me has been discovering that Muslim feminist scholar Amina Wadud started keeping a blog on Religion Dispatches, which is one of my favourite online magazines on the subject of religion. Every morning, after fajr, I eagerly check my blog reader looking for the latest entry.
Even if you’re not in academia, you’ve almost certainly heard of Wadud, or about her. In addition to being the author of the very important Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam, she achieved worldwide fame (or notoriety, depending on your perspective) a few years ago for publicly leading a mixed Friday prayer in New York City. (Note: world still spinning on axis.) Despite the global uproar over this, it was neither the first time in history that this had ever occurred (though some claimed it was) nor was it the last time. This controversy has overshadowed Wadud's many contributions, in my opinion.
Qur’an and Woman is one of the key texts that helped me get beyond patriarchal interpretations of the scripture, something that was absolutely essential to my conversion. (Several other scholars also deserve props, but I should especially mention Asma Barlas and her book "Believing Women" in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an.) So I owe some of my Islam to Wadud.
Anyway, the blog: Wadud is planning to make hajj this year for the first time, and is keeping this blog for 100 days, from the beginning of Ramadan until Eid-ul-Adha (the end of hajj).
What I am loving about her blog is that it offers many glimpses into her personality and her spirituality. Yes, there is plenty that reflects her normal erudition, but it’s the mix of chatty informality and substantial scholarship that engages me. What makes it even more compelling is that she is sharing a lot of her insights as they are unfolding for her, and giving me a great deal to contemplate. I think her blog provides a wonderful window into not just the head and heart of one of the foremost Muslim scholars of our time, but also into the life of one Muslim, in all its fullness and complexity and texture. It's written so that both Muslims and non-Muslims can find things to appreciate and understand (not an easy task, as I am finding out with this site).
One interesting aspect of following this blog: having heard her speak in person, I constantly hear her distinctive, memorable voice in my head as I read each post. I can so easily imagine her saying out loud everything she is writing. This is intensifying the sense I have that we are having a conversation, even though we’re not. (Well, in my head we are.)
The blog rambles a bit in places, but I can assure you that it’s a fair bit of work to produce daily blog entries, especially of the length Wadud is posting, and with all the extra praying this month, there’s only so much time to edit things until they’re tight enough to squeak. Plus, she’s composing entries on an iPad, for reasons to do with her planned travels, but it strikes me as a suboptimal tool for creating material of this length. So I won’t nitpick, because I’m finding every entry is a gift of some sort. Also, as far as rambling is concerned, I live in a very shiny, transparent house myself.
A few of my favourite posts so far:
The Queen is Coming: Preparing for Ramadan
I love her notion of Ramadan as the queen, and hajj as the king.
The 99 Names: Allah is Not He Nor She
Just because language is gendered doesn’t mean God is. How I wish more people (especially Muslims) understood this! She explains this better than I've ever heard it explained.
A beautiful entry on one of my favourite subjects
I look forward to following this blog each day as her journey toward the Ka'aba (both literal and metaphorical) unfolds. My days are starting to feel incomplete without it. And please: Somebody collect and publish these blog entries!
(Want to know more about Wadud? Here's a good interview: "The Koran Cannot Be Usurped")