The Afterlife

Death is the mother of beauty–from the poem Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

I recently had a conversation with a friend, regarding the role that the afterlife plays in people’s perception and adherence to religion. For me, it wasn’t fear of death that motivated me to convert to Islam. My attraction to Islam was based on its purely monotheistic stance. It was more of an answer to the confusing idea of the trinity found within Christianity. For a time it was enough to think that I had found the true and primordial monotheistic  faith. However, years later as I began an honest and sincere critique of the Quran, armed with a new-found sense of courage, rife with doubts and questions, my faith wavered and I realized that Islam too, has inherent flaws. But I digress.

Despite my own reasons for converting to and staying within the confines of religion for so long, it is true, I suspect, that a fear of death does lead people down a similar path. The concept of justice also plays a role–the idea that those who were wronged on earth will be set right and those who were the wrongdoers will be punished. So it goes to reason, one must look at what constitutes a wrong and what will put a person into an afterlife which is a punishment, or in the Islamic, Judeo-Christian tradition: Hell.  Likewise, Islam promises a reward for those who are faithful and conform to Quranic edicts. Furthermore, unlike the Catholic view of the afterlife in which there is such a place as purgatory, or the Jewish idea of sheol,  in Islam there is a dichotomy of two extremes. There is the unfathomable pain and suffering one will experience in hell and the pleasure and wealth one will experience in heaven. I once read that the Quran speaks of hell in over 500 verses. Nowhere is this dichotomy more clearly spelled out than surah Waqiah (The Inevitable).

From the onset, the surah presents the opposite nature of the two realms of the afterlife and the inhabitants within. On God’s right hand, sits those who will be companions in Paradise. We’re told Paradise consists of people reclining on thrones made of jewels with young boys serving wine from a flowing stream.  These inhabitants will eat amongst beautiful and pure companions while eating abundantly from fruits and meats. 

One the opposite hand sit the inhabitants of hell. Hellfire is described in gruesome detail. I have to say, throughout the Quran,  the imagery depicting hell is quite powerful, terrifying and repulsive.

41. The Companions of the Left Hand,- what will be the Companions of the Left Hand?

 (They will be) in the midst of a Fierce Blast of Fire and in Boiling Water,

 And in the shades of Black Smoke:

 Nothing (will there be) to refresh, nor to please:

And later in verse 51

51. “Then will ye truly, O ye that go wrong, and treat (Truth) as Falsehood!- “Ye will surely taste of the Tree of Zaqqum.

 “Then will ye fill your insides therewith,

 “And drink Boiling Water on top of it:

 “Indeed ye shall drink like diseased camels raging with thirst!”

 Such will be their entertainment on the Day of Requital!

 It is We Who have created you: why will ye not witness the Truth?

Coincidentally (or not), the concept of jahannam, or the Arabic word for hell as described in the Quran, originated from the Jewish traditions. Long after the writing of the Talmud, in which sheol is described, Jewish rabbis, as a reaction to the destruction of the second temple and continued Roman oppression, began to devise an idea of paradise for the believers who have suffered here on earth. Likewise, the oppressors and sinners would find themselves in a place the writers called Gehinnom (note the linguistic similarity). Gehinnom is believed to be a valley near the city of Jerusalem. Some Rabbinical commentators postulate that the Hinnom valley was a place where perpetual fires were kept burning to consume garbage and cadavers. It makes sense, given this description, that the writers would see such a horrid place as being the ultimate eternal punishment for a sinful soul.

Belief in or fear of the after life is a great and powerful tool used by religion to gain and maintain its adherents. Death is perhaps, the biggest mystery of all, and  also the most terrifying. Indeed, not only do we fear death on a psychological level, it seems as if we also fear it on a biological level. All animals avoid death instinctively and complex physiological mechanisms are triggered by impending threats which serve to protect the organism–also known as the fight or flight response. It makes sense, that a  fear of hell and promises of ecstasy  play a convincing role  in persuading the believer to maintain and conform to religious doctrine. It’s comforting, if not naive to think that our good actions will be rewarded and those who are evil, the agents of injustice and suffering, will be punished. We often see injustice abound in this life so it’s nice to think it will all be set right in the next.

I’m as of now undecided on an afterlife. Of course, the kicker is, none of us can truly know until we’re dead. In the meantime, I’ve put aside a God who tells his creation,

 “Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment Lo! Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.” 

 I certainly don’t believe in heaven or hell at least not in the traditional religious sense.

I’m at peace knowing that my life exists now, and therefore will always exist in space and time. While life is still mine, I’d like to make the most of it and surround myself with meaning and beauty. If I act morally I’d like to think it was for morality’s own sake, and for the sake of a better and functional society. If I treat others with kindness, I’ll do it for the simple pleasure and sincere respect for my fellow human beings. I’ll never tell another person “I love you for the sake of Allah’. Rather, I love you because you’re worthy of love.

I hope to  love well and love much along the way.

*Edit: Just minutes after publishing this post, I happened upon a poem by John Keats, written to his lover, Fanny Brawne. It seems appropriate so I will post it here.

 

“I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion–
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
And I could die for that.
I could die for you. 
My creed is love and
You are its only tenet.”

–John Keats

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “The Afterlife

  1. Beautiful poem. I never really focused on the afterlife. IMO it is ridiculous to do/not do things in order to get into heaven, instead of doing them/not doing them for the reason that they are right/wrong to do. What they call the golden rule is what many people live by who don’t even believe in the bible. Treat others like you want to be treated. What does it matter if you wear hijab, pray all prayers, eat with your right hand, step into the bathroom with your left, etc. etc. etc. (all the little things) if you don’t see your kids much, or don’t pay child support, or cheat on your taxes, etc.

    Anisah

  2. Lisa

    Stephanie, do I correctly suspect that the conversation initiating this post was with me?

    “I’m at peace knowing that my life exists now, and therefore will always exist in space and time. While life is still mine, I’d like to make the most of it and surround myself with meaning and beauty. If I act morally I’d like to think it was for morality’s own sake, and for the sake of a better and functional society. If I treat others with kindness, I’ll do it for the simple pleasure and sincere respect for my fellow human beings. I’ll never tell another person “I love you for the sake of Allah’. Rather, I love you because you’re worthy of love.”

    That? That says it all for me.

  3. Very fascinating facts, thanks for sharing.

  4. Lisa

    Uh, that last one was from me, just signed in to a different account 🙂

  5. Hi Steph!

    Enjoyed your posting very much. Couple of questions:

    1. What is this fetish amongst moslems about “left hand” and “right hand”? I have read koran a few times and seen these terms
    bandied about but have never come across an explanation even in the footnotes.

    2. I read an article by Ali Sina, an ex-moslem, who described seven stages of his conversion from a moslem to a christian. Here
    is the link to his article http://www.faithfreedom.org/articles/misc/from-belief-to-enlightenment-2/ . Did you go through a
    similar experience?
    Thanks!
    Harry

    • 1. Left hand is generally seen as being for bad things and right for good. There is evidence of this in the sunnah as well. I have no idea why other than Muhammad was most likely right handed and maybe a little OCD.
      2. Skimming over the article, it sems I went through some very similar emotions, although I don’t believe Ali Sina is a Christian and neither am I.

      • almostclever

        Harry,
        Left hand is used for things like using the bathroom, and washing oneself. Right hand is used for eating.
        In that sense, it is practical.

        In many parts of the world, people do not use toilet paper, they use water and their hand. People also eat with their hands, so it makes sense to break up the hands for separate jobs.

        • Sure, it makes sense from the perspective of using one hand for wiping yourself and the other for eating. I’d say, however, this idea of the right hand being better (even applies to the entire right side of the body) is taken much farther than that in the sunnah.

          “When any of you puts on his shoes, he should put on the right one first; and when he takes them off, he should begin with the left. Let the right shoe be the first to be put on and the last to be taken off.” (Al Bukhari and Muslim).

          Aisha reported: Messenger of Allah liked to use his right hand in all matters: in combing his hair and wearing his shoes.
          [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

          Umm `Atiyyah reported: The Prophet (PBUH) instructed us at the time of washing the dead body of his daughter Zainab (May Allah be pleased with her) to begin with her right side, and from the parts that are washed in Wudu’.
          [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

          Rasullah (SAW) used to enter the Masjid with his right foot and used to say this dua Bismillah Allahuma Salli Ala Mohammad. Rabbi Ighfir Lee Zunubee Waftah Lee Abwaba Rahmatika. (Muslim)

          This same idea finds it’s way into the Quran as the verses I posted above talk about the righteous and heavenly bound being on Allah’s right hand, and those deserving of hellfire being on his left hand. The concept is also found in surah al Haqqah : “Then as for him who will be given his Record in his right hand will say: `Take, read my Record!”’ (69:19)
          I’ve seen Muslims go so far as to chastise young children for using their left hand and claiming the devil eats with his left.

          Interestingly, there are similar ideas especially involving the left eye and hand (being of evil) among European superstitions. So maybe these superstitions were already present in Arabia during Muhammad’s time. I really don’t know.

          • almostclever

            “Interestingly, there are similar ideas especially involving the left eye and hand (being of evil) among European superstitions. So maybe these superstitions were already present in Arabia during Muhammad’s time. I really don’t know.”

            I think so much of it, is what was already adopted by middle eastern cultures, and enmeshed into Islam. Islam came to Southeast Asia by way of Indian Muslims who were following the spice routes and trading with the locals. Before Islam, Malaysia and Indonesia was largely Hindu and animist/pagan. It is so interesting comparing the “Islam” of Southeast Asia and the “Islam” of the middle east. Much of Southeast Asian Islam, from wedding rituals to concepts of Mahr, can be traced back to Hinduism. Views about the forest, and superstitions in the culture surrounding “jinn,” are also traceable to animist/pagan beliefs from a jungle culture’s tribal past. All of this is now called “Islam” although middle easterners would call it “kuffir” or whatever other derogatory terms we can think of. Southeast Asians call it Islam.

            The concept of the evil eye and this whole “right hand is better” with the superstitions behind it, is a foreign concept for South East Asians. Does it mean they do not follow the Sunnah closely? Possibly, or it means they apply their own cultural beliefs to it’s interpretation or the “practice” of the sunnah.

            Middle Eastern cultures have this “my culture is better than yours” idea surrounding how Islam should be practiced, which is why sometimes you will see Malaysians, or Americans, or whoever; “Arabized” in their clothing and superstitions, because they believe the lie that the middle east and the way it practices Islam, is the right way to be Muslim.

            I hope Southeast Asians retain their cultural applications and beliefs surrounding Islam, it is beautiful and fascinating, and a religious way of embracing their cultural roots.

    • I believe it also says in the Bible it also says that God will gather the righteous on his right hand and the rest on his left.

  6. I thought wine was forbidden for Muslims. But they must like it if it’s available in heaven. Interesting.

    • Angelle…

      The wine is forbidden for muslims in this life, although it makes the one feel happy and excited, but the problem here that it causes the loss of one’s mind, so he can kill his children, or rape his daughter or mother or sister, even before noticing…

      God promised us to give us wine in the Afterlife, that excited us more in heaven but without its side effect, means without losing our brain..
      Ironically (I don’t know if this Word is correct in this position or not?), the un believers in this life they drink wine and they lose their mind, and in the Afterlife, when they are suffering in HELL and want wine so they can forget their horrible torment, it’s forbidden to them, so they always see and feel the pain that they are in…

      And, we Muslims who (in God’s will) will be in heaven, very happy, and very excited, God give us Wine, to feel even more excited and more happy !!!

      See how it works, follow God commandments and you will get more and more..

      Ignore them and you will suffer more and more…

      • Rasheed

        Abdallah

        Im a muslim who after some 17yrs is really wondering if Islam is the best thing for me. Going back to my roots which is in Africa I wonder why I spent so much time learning about arab culture considering they dont care to much for black people anyway. What do I know about my roots & in these difficult times have truly felt Allah has abandoned me. The thought of clocking in 5 times a day for prayers going to Jummah & fasting for a month in the hottest & coldest of months for someone who hardly gives a monkey it seems is just beyond me. You may wonder whats my point here, but as I have been questioning so many things in Islam, things that even from my shahadah have seemed like lots of contradictions.

        You say regarding alcohol that it makes one do evil things, like raping, killing children of ones wife etc. So my questions is what if a woman drinks? Is it only the male who has this tendency to want to kill his whole loving family? Before Islam I drank. But I drank not to get drunk just to enjoy the taste. I knew when I had enough. Binge drinking is pathetic full stop! However I know under the influence people can & do lose their inhibitions. My question is though, all over the world, people are killing their children, wifes, husbands & mothers etc, but this is not always down to alcohol is it? This is just not a valid argument. Drinking was allowed before the Prophet(pbuh) ruled otherwise, however in that arab community they were burying their daughters alive, worshiping 360 different idols for every day of the year, using black people as slaves & more. Where was wine mentioned as an influence. There was a sahaba (companion of the Prophet) who drunk even after the quranic revelations & the Prophet knew this also. The bible said do things in moderation & it never made sense to me why all the things that we can really enjoy in moderation are now haram(forbidden). Take smoking, its considered makruuh(disliked) yet look what smoking does? It kills, lung cancer and not to mention what it does to ‘passive-smokers’…. All this religion seems to promise is hell, I feel so suffocated. If I do good according to Islam, I should always think Allah is not going to accept it, I’m just stressed out all the time with my ‘sins’ I keep committing which is just the human spirit. Supressing the want to drink, listen to music and many other things is just to much. A typical muslim will just say ‘Well wait till the last day when Allah chucks you in the fire’, however I wonder that God can just be someone who relishes the opportunity to burn people who simply drank or had the occasional gamble and consider them on the same level, as rapists, murderers, peodophiles & the like. I guess this is the one thing stopping me from renouncing Islam whilst I await the God of the arabs & asians to answer the supplication of me a black man. A friend of mine said I am praying to the wrong god which introduces polytheism into the misx & shirk. I still believe in a supreme being/creator of all just not one who favors the arabs & middle eastern people and one who can answer a prayer or two rather than sending earthquakes and destroying people whilst still expecting us to ask for forgivness and pray 5 times a day….. sorry for the long post peeps, had to get that off my chest…

  7. Dear Stephanie,

    I feel sorry and sad for you, you quit very easy …

    Hell really exists, and scientist already measured its breath inside our universe…

    And guess what??

    It’s on the LEFT of our universe!!!

    Read it in Detail in: The Story of Creation (2) – Space Temperature, and the Mystery behind “La Supernovas” …

    on http://debatewithatheist.blogspot.com/

  8. I swear in God it’s on LEFT side, and I know you will not believe a muslim and I don’t think you read my post either, your brain is programmed to reject Faith or what could increase your faith, and you prefer “Kufr” more, really a sad thing…
    But, let’s try again..
    Dear Sister, Go to Harvard website http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/supernova//home.html
    Select
    How do we find supernovae?
    Read it, then Go to Next
    Data and Discovery…
    Look to the figures..

    And see how it looks to the left of the universe and this what emits the Black Matter in our universe..

    Left side, is the start of our universe, the big bang location, and our universe is expanding to the other direction, Right direction to the up, following God, read it in first part (the story of creation) I flipped the shape there, becuase i couldn’t flip the galaxies figure to the right, the text will mix..

    The Black Matter is Hell’s dark smoke..

    Try even once, read my post..

  9. Enjoyed this post! I believe heaven and hell are right here on this earth and reflect our inner being or feelings. It makes me very sad that perhaps there is no heaven where I will be reunited with those I love, but I wonder how exciting it is to be immortal even if it is in heaven.

  10. Thank you for such an inspirational and thought-provoking post. I always felt very strange about people saying “I love you for the sake of Allah”, it always felt like a subtle indirect way of putting people down.

  11. Abdallah

    Where are my 2 comments Stephanie to you and to angelle…
    When you become afraid from the word and you dont accept to post them, then know that you are on the wrong way !!

    I just figure that you never been a muslim, and such a well-know in Islam and in Arabic can’t leave Islam ever, but mostly you are one of the Christian Arab Coptic who fight Islam in the name of Islam, think you will be more smarter than ALLAH and decive more muslims by such way !!
    You dont know that you are only deceiving yourself no one more !!

    Poor lady !!

    • Abdallah! Please, calm yourself. I’ve been working and sleeping and believe it or not I don’t check this blog every five minutes to publish you or any one elses comments, especially in the middle of the night which is when you left that comment. I mean get over yourself. You will notice there are several other comments that were only published now as well.

      I believe in free speech and that applies to this comment section as well. My only guideline is that commenters refrain from attacking each other with blatantly offensive remarks or combativeness. I will say your tone is bordering on hysterical and threatening, although in your case your threats are on behalf of God.

      Regarding your comment section about me being a Copt, well, I just don’t know how to reply to such a ludicrous claim. It seems that you are revealing your own cultural and religious biases against a certain group of people. Are you Egyptian? I am not. Neither am I Christian and I have never been babtized in a Christian church. It is difficult for some Muslims to believe that anyone could possibley reject their “perfect” religion based on it’s own merits and easier to suggest we are “fake” or never “really a Muslim”. Please see the definition of the no true scotsman fallacy.

      In the past I have found that certain opinions I read on the internet can upset me and have a negative impact on my real life. I have at times found myself getting unnecessarily upset at people or things that have absolutely no bearing on my life, or at least they shouldn’t. In such case, I usually take a break from the internet and focus on my own life and well being. Perhaps you should do the same for the sake of your own sanity.

      The internet is full of dissenting opinions. You can embrace it or let it drive you crazy.

      • Dear Stephanie,

        Thanks for posting my comments again, and show us your democracy..
        Please don’t be angry,You saw my comments were on your time: 13 March, 12:50 AM & 12:59 AM..
        And when I saw that comments of Achelos, 7:33 AM and Becky on 9:12 AM, 13th of March, which came after my comments and were published and mine were NOT…
        I thought that you deleted them, then I send you my 3rd comment to wake you up on 10:03 AM !!

        I am not threatening you, I swear in GOD !! But all infidels scare from mentioning the HELL, that’s all, it’s natural behavior, don’t worry…

        I agree with you, you need to rest from people, especially from someone who reminds you and open your eyes telling you: watch it, you are on the wrong way, and you are fighting God’s way and expect HELL fire at the end of the road, it really makes a severe Headache…

        I will leave your site now, as God says to prophet Muhammad (PBUH):”أفانت تكره الناس حتى يكونوا مؤمنين ”
        You know Arabic of course, similarly as writing Arabic dua’a in Latin letters: “Rabbi Ighfir Lee Zunubee Waftah Lee Abwaba Rahmatika. (Muslim)”

        But, I want you to publish this last comment and I will leave you forever and I will delete your site bookmark and leave you in Peace (just in this life, nobody knows his destiny in the Afterlife (HELL or HEAVEN)..

        Just one last reminder, also about HELL Fire..

        When people goes into HELL, they ask GOD to give the people who deceived them double punishment, he replies to them: “both of you will have double but you don’t know !!”

        The double of punishment comes from the following formula:

        1- If you deceive someone from not following Islam, you will carry his punishment and you must stay in Hell the same days that he stays inside..

        2- And the one who followed you that you prevented him from following Islam, he must stick to you till you finish your punishment..

        So Stephanie,
        If 1000 visit your site, and they deceived by your words, since you can speak and understand Arabic, and you convinced them NOT to follow ISLAM, then you and all the 1000 will go to HELL for sure..

        Imagine that your punishment is ONE day only in Hell that’s ALL !! Then, all of you will stay 1 day in Hell..

        But on the next day, when you want to go out, the HELL guardians will say to you: NOOO, !! Where !! You have to carry the other sins who you deceived and have the same punishment of those 1000, they stayed in Hell because of you, so you have to stay 1000 days more !!!

        Now for those who followed you, wanted to go out, also Hell’s guardians will say to them: NOOO !! Where !!
        You stick to her, since you refused to follow God’s messenger, then Follow her.

        And they will stay because of you 1000 days more waiting for you to finish your penalty…

        Now, after 1001 days in Hell, you want to Go out, the same story, the 1000 men and women stayed 1000 days in Hell because of you, so you will stay there for how much??? It becomes complex…

        Where’s my calculator, ah OK: 1000 x 1000 = 1 million days..

        And they will stay waiting for you to finish your penalty also 1 million day each, and its go on, and on and on …

        I am sure you have now enough headache now , Please publish it and I swear in God this is my last comment on your site..

        Goodbye,

        • Abdallah I published Achelois and Becky’s comments at the same time as yours, the time shown is when the author submitted them, not when they were published, so that is not true.

          Thank you for proving my points about hellfire as an incentive to stay in religion.

          I simply don’t believe it. Even as I read, it seems more and more ludicrous. So, no headache here. Only a sense of peace that I am free of it now.

          Goodbye.

  12. “I’ll never tell another person “I love you for the sake of Allah’. Rather, I love you because you’re worthy of love.”

    Great! I always hated reading that phrase on blogs. 🙂

    Also I finished a book last week and apparently Orthodox Jews have an oral tradition that also tells them how to put on their shoes (in the proper order). I think some of that right hand for cleanliness stuff does come before Islam since it’s mentioned also in Jewish sources. Maybe it predates the Jews as well. I can understand if you clean with your left and eat with your right especially in cultures that literally eat with their hands (I think they do in Saudi Arabia some?), but making people feel guilty or shamed for using their left hand especially if they are left handed, I don’t agree with.

  13. It’s funny how Hell changes its location as science evolves. First Hell was thought to be on earth perhaps from erupting volcanoes and magma. Then scientists discovered heated layers under the earth’s surface so religious folks said ‘You see, Hell does exist under the earth”. Then scientists speculated there is alot of heat coming from the Bermuda Triangle and religious folks jumped on the bandwagon and said “There is the proof right there”. Now Hell has relocated again, keeping up with the scientific times of course, to the left of the universe. Why couldn’t God just put the latitude and longitude of Hell in the Quran to take out all the guesswork? He is the creator of it after all.

  14. almostclever

    I wonder how people decide what the left side of the universe is? considering it is basically infinite.. Or are we the center of the universe, and everything to our left, is left? The universe is not a box. The only science that says “the left side of the universe” is junk science, Abdallah

  15. Ameira

    When I read the verses in the Quran about hellfire I always took it as to fear the Sin itself that would lead you there not to fear God. For example, What would stop a person from commiting adultery if there were no consequences? In life there would be consequnces as in the afterlife unless that person repented. The difference is the spouse does not have to forgive but God can forgive. The Quran repeatedly mentions God as most merciful most gracious and tells believers to repent for their sins, if not then there are consequences. Just my humble opinion.

  16. * * * * *Ameira said: “For example, What would stop a person from commiting adultery if there were no consequences?” * * * *

    Ameira, sorry but that just doesn’t cut it. There are millions of people who do the right thing because it is right, and many of them don’t believe in God or in heaven/hell. If what you say is true, most atheists would be committing adultery, murder, and many other things. The atheists I know are very honest and good people, without any threat of hellfire like you threaten to spank a child if they do something they shouldn’t, and without heaven dangled before them like you dangle candy in front of a child to get them to do something. Are we children that need that? I know I’m not, even though Islam treats women like they are children. Do you need the threat of hell in order to stay faithful to your partner? Or even small things, like cheating in class or at your taxes. Millions of people don’t need that.

    Anisah

    • Anonymous

      Anisah I did not mean to imply that atheists were immoral and would commit adultery. What I meant was just like there are consequences in life with the example of adultery (divorce, losing family, hurting your spouse) there are consequences in the afterlife for those who believe in afterlife as well. For an atheist of course consequences in afterlife play no part in their decisions, it’s based purely on their moral. For a person of faith, moral and religion plays a part in their decisions. There is always a cause and effect and it should be no different for Gods laws.

  17. michele

    Anisa said : “I know I’m not, even though Islam treats women like they are children. Do you need the threat of hell in order to stay faithful to your partner?

    A simplistic and stereotypical statement and also not true. There are millions of strong, proud Muslim women, dating back to the Prophet’s (pbuh) time.
    If you are not in need of faith and religion, that’s your decision, why do so many of you Islam bashers find it necessary justify your decisions by disproving Islam?

    • The fact that there are “millions of strong, proud Muslim women…” isn’t in dispute. Strong, proud women exist at all times, everywhere. Do they exist because of Islam of in spite of it? One could definitley make the argument that women in Islam are treated as second class citizens and that men are given a commanding and patriarchal position over women in Islam. There is a debate to be had there and one is free to come to their own conclusions just as one is free to raise the questions.

      Quieting those who dissent from your point of view doesn’t strengthen your point of view. It only makes it appear as if you have something to be insecure about. The real question isn’t why those of us have left Islam feel the need to verbalize our discontent at a system we feel is false, a system that controlled our lives and encompass our thoughts still. The real question is why are you so offended?

  18. michele, to me Islam does treat women like children. That is an opinion, but some of the reasons why are facts:

    1. A woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s in Islam.
    2. A husband can hit his wife (yes, lightly (eye roll), and after talking to her and leaving her bed, but still it’s abuse!)
    3. Women get half the inheritance of a man. Yes I know the “reason” why, but it doesn’t show equality.

    I’m sorry to hijack your blog comments

    Anisah

      • 4. women must be obedient to their husbands
        5. women cannot travel alone without a male relative
        6 women must have permission from a male relative to leave the house
        7. men are given a higher position in marriage, as in they are considered the leaders of the union.
        8. men have the right to have legal sex with multiple partners despite the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd wives protestations
        9. divorce is much harder to initiate for women while men must only prounounce talaq 3 times
        10 women are generally not allowed to hold leadership positions in religious institutions other than in a female only settings

        These are the claims of orthodox Islam. One can argue the legitimacy of these positions and whether or not they are truly Islamic. However, denying that they exist or silencing the voices that bring it into the open doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t strengthen Islam and it doesn’t help women who may be suffering under such restrictions.

  19. Stephanie, I knew there were a lot more I didn’t have time to think of right then. I just got riled up lol. When I was Muslim, I didn’t ask my husband’s permission to leave the house. When I lived in Jordan, different country and different language, I would let my husband know where I was going, so he nor his family wouldn’t worry. We both forgot women have to have sex with their husbands. Yes, there are exceptions (she’s sick), but does it include “I’m not in the mood?” If not, that condones marital rape right there. It is a misogynistic religion. I just glossed over things for many years to myself, then the gloss came off permanently. Plus my first Muslim husband was a decent guy, otherwise I would have probably left a long time before I did.

    • Oh yeah, how could we forget that a muslim woman can’t refuse her husband lest the angels curse her through the night.

      I really never followed the “rules”, nor did my husband insist that I do/did. Like you I just put it out of mind. However, one cannot ignore that all of these things exist in Islam which is why so many people argue that it is a misogyistic, patriarchal system. I have little doubt most religions have this type of patriarchy written into their scripture. How could they not. Religion was written by man and man has historically been very good at oppressing women. Writing patriarchy directly into religion makes it all the more difficult to fight, since women themselves will continue to suppport it in the name of their god.

  20. michele

    For me there is a clear distinction between what is written in the Quran and the man made “practice of Fiqh and shariah”. These rules, interpretatios have been by men, for men. Clearly there is a growing (and a past if you can find it) scholarship that does not interpret Islam in the Patriarchal way that you describe above. Therefor if you want to say “some Muslims” treat women like children, I would agree. Wondering why you are so insistent in not recognizing those scholars who put forth a much more reasonable and consistent (with the Prophets behavior) meaning of the ayah concerning dhraba?
    Also, why the emphasis on Islam, surely many of you are aware that Christian and Jewish traditions have much harsher laws and verses concerning the (non) status of women?

    • We’ve had the “dharaba” discussion many times. I don’t really feel the need to go over it again, especially since the post is about the afterlife, fear of hellfire, and the effects of the fear of death on a person’s decision to conform to religious belief.

      Many Muslims disregard the hadith because, well, they’re just so disturbing. However, it is a bit inconsistent to reject hadith and then extol the virtues and behavior of Muhammad because the latter also come from the hadith. Although, I’d say that you have to cherry pick to make him out to be the best of humankind and a role model for all times as Muslims do. There’s alot in there that don’t exactly make him out to be saintly.

      I don’t claim the superiority of Christianity or Judaism (or any other religion) over Islam. Frankly, I don’t know enough about them to make knowledgable arguments either way. If you read my comment above, or any previous comments or posts, I’m not a follower of any organized religion and am of the opinion that most are bad for women and all contain truths and falsehoods. None are from God.

      If you’d like to make your point about how Islam is superior to Christianity and Judaism then, by all means, you are free to start your own blog and publish your opinions out into cyberspace for all the world to see, comment on, agree or disagree. But just as you may criticize Christianity and Judaism, others may criticize Islam. It’s a bit hypocritical to object to one, but not the other.

  21. michele

    I wasn’t criticizing Christianity and/or Judaism, just commenting that if you want to take organized religion to task on it’s treatment of women, why the focus on Islam with no recognition of what came before it? I am not objecting to an honest discussion on these issues, usually more productive when those who are having the discussion are coming from an honest place, not seeking to destroy or denigrate.
    As to the comments on Dharaba, they were in response to another post. Also the hadith are a recollection of the Prophet by men which were written down long after his death, so while you can glean something about his characteristics and traits that pervades most collections, the cultural and social bias that is inherent in the re-telling has to be recognized when studying them.

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