Now and again, I receive a comment that really should be a post in itself. Such as this one, for example:
“Oh, and xcwn- can you please explain as clearly as possible why I, as an adult, heterosexual Muslim male, should have the slightest problem with an institution (slave concubinage) that allows me to have as much sex as I can pay for, without incurring any sin? Hey- if it was good enough for everybody from the Sahaba to Tom Jefferson who am I to complain?”
This comment, courtesy of “Anonymous//”, was in response to this recent post about Eid al-Adha, in which I pointed out (among other things) that in the stories we were told about Abraham, whether or not Hajar consented to sex or childbearing was simply ignored—both in the stories themselves, as well as in the conservative Muslim communities I used to have dealings with. Even the question of whether Abraham consulted with or informed the mother of the boy he was all set to sacrifice was never raised. The post also observed that in the communities I was involved with, the patriarchal dominance portrayed in such stories was seen as an ideal that we should live up to. Women were supposed to be self-sacrificing to the point of self-abnegation.
This comment by “Anonymous//” illustrates the moral bankruptcy of certain conservative approaches to Islam, that I have seen from neo-traditionalists in particular (though some Salafis also have much the same views). According to them, if the Qur’an/the hadith/the views of Muslim jurists allows something, then God allows it. Therefore, it is forever allowable. It does not matter how many states’ laws or UN resolutions outlaw something, or whether the majority of Muslims decide that something is unacceptable, or even if human experience or medical advances indicate that something is harmful, it is still permissible, and no one has the right to forbid it because God has allowed it.
Many conservative Muslims (certainly, in North America) balk at following this sort of argument to its logical conclusion. So, if they are asked some obvious questions, such as do they really believe that slavery is justified, then they try to dodge it in various ways, such as by arguing that slavery practiced “according to Islam” is nothing like the plantation slavery of the American South, and that anyway, this is a red herring because slavery has been abolished. Not intellectually honest answers, but at least on some level they realize that slavery is unjust, even if they won’t admit it.
And, they do similar things with questions about marriage of underage girls, forced marriage of minors, wife abuse, marital rape, hudud punishments, and so forth. Because (among other things) they realize that these are real problems, in the real world, and defending certain things can and does lead to real consequences for some people—most usually, for children, for women and for the poor. And because at least the more astute among them also realize that the question of slavery in particular is not infrequently racialized. After all, when humans are treated like commodities, then descent and skin color and physical features are characteristics that add to or detract from a slave’s purported market value.
But then there are those neo-traditionalists (and Salafis) who disdain such apologetics. And refuse to see why there is a problem.
After all, why is there a problem for the privileged and powerful—those who get to indulge their sadistic fantasies and feel good about it into the bargain?
There are few sadistic fantasies or desires that a free Muslim man with the economic means can’t indulge in today’s world, should he wish to do so. Whether it is to marry a child (and divorce her in the morning, and then marry another…), witness a beheading, take part in a stoning, torture a political prisoner in jail for “spreading corruption of the earth”… all this and more is available to such a man in some corner of the world right now. And the textual justifications for such acts are not hard to find. One would have to be pretty oblivious to miss them, in fact.
Such interpretations of Islam in effect render God, the prophets and the scholars pimps and procurers for the free elite male privileged (and torturers and oppressors of everyone else).
This is purchasing logical coherence at the price of one’s humanity.
And this is just a part of what those of us who are recovering from neo-traditionalism are in the process of recovering from.