Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I noticed a debate ensue on Muslim Twitter, and have read every one of your comments regarding the type of women who have expressed the importance of her financial rights in a marriage. I am disappointed for myself, for my sisters, who read your words feeling more helpless and stigmatised, more oppressed in how you embolden some brothers who have no interest in working towards providing for us. Who promised us financial support that we never received. Some of these are the same men who believe in the importance of the role of women in looking after children and being home-makers. Yet they also believe in the importance of both partners in a marriage splitting their income to survive the financial strains a capitalistic model demands from us. You argue that women should be merciful to the fact that Islamophobia, racism, and classism contributes to a system that works to keep Muslim men economically subservient, which I am sympathetic to and highly aware of. However, your language is dangerous and divisive. From what I have seen, women are stating the trouble they find committing to a man who refuses to even acknowledge the right let alone try and strive for it, as it is a law for him from Allah.
To the brothers who may be gossiping about women who have spoken publicly about the horrific realities of being a Muslim woman in financially abusive marriages, and attacking her personally for it, I am not sure how you can justify over-generalising these very authentic, unique, and triggering experiences. Please know, how much your words count, they carry weight, for those who have not found solace, justice, or understanding in the same way you require it from them when you are attacked systemically by the state.
I cannot speak for all Muslim women and their experiences, as many have done so on behalf of Muslim men, but based on my own and many other experiences narrated to me by Muslim women, the Qawwam men claim to hold on to only seems to make an appearance when discussing the rights a man has over his wife online. When it comes to upholding her very equally imperative rights, some Muslim men and women, from what I have seen online, surface their bias and inherent misogyny by taking our words, and weaponising and distorting them, in this case claiming we are asking for handbags, holidays and luxuries, to demonise us. This is a tactic of emotional abuse, it is called gaslighting, yes, emotional abuse can happen on a macro level, it is not something that is just confined to the corners of our homes, and every time we summon the confidence to air our contentions, our troubles, our fears, and anxieties, on platforms designed for us to express this on, we are shouted over and down at until we are silenced.
One Muslim man in particular who has over 15,000 followers on Twitter, and works with many mainstream news channels has massively exploited and abused his interchangeable power amongst different spaces and communities, by using the platform to air the dirty laundry of the Muslim community. To silence, humiliate, name and shame, overgeneralise, and oppress the voices of Muslim women in speaking our truth. Falling prey to the very system and language of a systemic capitalistic Islamophobia that he claims is the reason for economic limitations, which contradicts his very point, and this I have to call out. It was a very immature, and petty move. He claims to ride out for the greater systemic struggle, do that, but do not claim to do that and humiliate and degrade the people who are victim to the oppressive systems you critique in the same breathe.
We have allowed shaytan to drive a wedge between us, as Muslim men and women, we have fallen into the trap, if I or any other sister of mine expresses her concerns, she is slapped with a label, ‘feminist’, ‘liberal’ which is used to defame her. I reiterate how this language is dangerous and divisive because you aim to discount her points by assassinating her belief system and personality publicly to do so. We are your sisters, that means we are family, why are you persistent in dragging your family? And it has proven to be a successful online model, it works. And this is all for sport, as I don’t believe any of us can come to a mature conclusion through wars on Twitter. To some of you, it may be that this is all banter, off the cuff commentary and entertainment. However, the ramifications for Muslim women in oppressive marriages is frightening.
Your point about the systemic oppression of Muslim men from global oppressive systems, THIS is what you should have used your platform to highlight. Instead of feeding into the narrative designed to humiliate Muslim women. To the men and women who endorse, retweet, like, and backbite in group chats, we see you too, you contribute to our oppression. Big pat on the back for that, those ‘sisters’ wives’, ‘daughters’ you reference in defending why it is wrong to send for Muslim women, they are all included in that bracket too, we are no different to them. I am saddened that I even have to remind you and myself of this.
I do not feel you intend to harm Muslim women, but you do, through your lack of self-awareness, arrogance, and level of justice even if it means against yourself and ego. I feel for my brothers, you work hard, and have many burdens on your shoulders, inherited from past generational trauma, from expectations, from the culture of toxic masculinity in the Muslim community, and the hefty responsibility of having to look after your families. Believe me, we acknowledge this, we know. But our ability to state what we deem to be unacceptable individually does not and should not discount or come into contention with the challenges Muslim men face. I would never claim that those who cannot provide financially are not deserving of marriage, I aim to highlight how it comes down to a mans character, if he is willing to accept the laws of Allah SWT and if he is willing to work towards it, with full intention, even if he cannot achieve this.
Making the problem about class is dangerous, as it provides a platform for men who reject the laws of Allah based on the economic system they are living in. When the guidance and laws of Islam have been designed to be universal standing the test of time, withstanding every generation, and economic system. I do not believe that the working class is equal to a homogenous group that can be defined as living in poverty, or from an ongoingly low income which is what you imply. This is insulting, not the notion of being poor, but rather that they are defined as ongoingly so. My father came from a poverty-stricken background but worked hard to give us a life different from the one he had. I do not forget where I am from, nor would I ever reject a man based on his economic background, I would welcome him if he possessed noble characteristics, one of those being a hard-working individual with the ability to acknowledge the rights he can and cannot uphold for his wife, refusing to use it against her if he cannot.
This is not about how much money a man has in his bank account, this is about being able to at the very least acknowledge the rights of Muslim women and have the right intentions, and not have to demonise women in the process. If a millionaire living off his parents’ money came for my hand in marriage, with no work ethic, graft, ability to understand his responsibilities, I would respond to him in the same way. Recognising that he is unable to fulfill his obligations. Making this about money distracts from the actual point.
Allah’s laws do not change, but each couple individually can work together in creating a harmonious resolution at home, recognising each others needs.
To the brothers who understand the plight of Muslim women, and acknowledge the truth in it, I ask you to use your male privilege to show solidarity, not behind the scenes but openly.
Both Muslim men and women are struggling in different ways, but we are ALL struggling, and a new transformative model needs to take the place of our current one, to survive and thrive in these corrupt systems. We must support, and nourish one another, we should have respect toward one another so much so, we leave the safe spaces that were designed for us to air our troubles and not use our platforms that are consumed by non-Muslims and Islamophobes alike to humiliate, degrade, and shame each other. We will achieve nothing but more discord, more trials, and more disrespect from the societies we inhabit.
As Muslim men, we expect you to be our allies, and protectors, whether we are related or not.
If we speak our truth, listen, reflect, and understand it is coming from a place of genuine pain, and oppression.
And Allah is with the oppressed. Hear our voices. We mean no harm.
By Nuriddeen Knight