Posts Tagged seeking knowledge

“Seeking knowledge”: a cure for patriarchal abuses?

In my experience, yet another important way that the blame for some men’s failures to fulfill their “responsibility” to provide for and protect women is often shifted onto women is through the imperative that all adult, sane Muslims “seek knowledge.”

That is, when a Muslim woman ends up being poorly treated or abused by a Muslim man who is supposed to be providing for and protecting her—whether this be her husband, her father, or any other close male relative—or by a Muslim man in a position of power or authority, such as an imam, shaykh, or community leader, then the main person at fault is supposedly… her.

If you don’t “seek knowledge from cradle to grave,” Sister, then of course you won’t know what Islam Really Teaches…. Yes, this is a madrasah for boys, true. But there are so many opportunities for sisters to learn all about their Islamic duties and rights. For instance, you should ask your husband to teach you….

Because, if she had only done her Islamic duty and sought knowledge, then she would have known that the way this man was behaving is haraam, or that his interpretation of Islam is wrong. She would then have been able to protect herself from ill-treatment or abuse by her knowledge. But, because she was somehow remiss in seeking knowledge, and therefore did not know what True Islam (TM) teaches, she ended up in this tragic situation.

From time to time, I get comments to this effect: How sad that I and my convert friends were treated so badly. But then, this is because we didn’t know what True Islam is.

I recognize this rhetorical move quite well, because I used to do it. As far as I was concerned, any kind of abuse done by Muslims—even if they were justifying their actions with the Qur’an, the hadith, Islamic law, the ruling of a recognized scholar, ijma’—couldn’t possibly be anything to do with True Islam. There must have been some sort of misinterpretation somewhere. Or, the abusers were just cynically using Islam as a justification, but they didn’t really, honestly believe that their behavior is Islamic. And so on. This rhetorical move is a faith-saving device, essentially. Motivated by the concern with husn al-dhun (“thinking well”—of God, of his Prophet, of the scholars, of other believers…), as well as a wish to avoid having to deal with some really difficult issues.

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