a community of lovers
Reflections on Unveiling the Divine: Honouring the Sacred Feminine
There’s a poem written by Key Ballah which for me captures some of what was happening during the Sacred Feminine gathering. It reads as follows:
I swear to God
it was beautiful.
she loved herself.
I asked her how?
When Saimma and Fatimah asked for reflections I knew I had to respond. Though, with what was less certain. It’s difficult to encapsulate in a brief summary its import. But I can try.
For me, it was deeply personal. The gathering itself was like something that had been borne out of an idea, its inception a seedling planted as a result of personal and collective unrest, even pain. Was it about becoming, actualising, giving voice, opening space, and honouring and loving the feminine? Yes, certainly it was.
I think as a human community we have blind-spots. We fail to connect the dots and foresee the harm that we unwittingly cause. More specifically, within the Muslim community we have romantic notions about veiling the feminine, protecting it from exposure and misuse. It seems benign. Harmless.
We don’t realise that when we fail to use feminine symbols, or absent discourse around the value derived from feminine input, and close off public spaces to women, we are in fact limiting participation, closeting and cutting off what might be vital for us to prosper as a community.
I could expand and take this one step further and say it’s not just absenting the feminine that is the problem; we do the same when we absent those on the fringes, the LGBTQ community for example. I recall reading an article recently by a well-known scholar who was recommending lifetime abstinence from intimacy for those who might be attracted to people of the same sex. “It’s not difficult, I’ve practiced abstinence,” he said. For me, this demonstrates real myopia and lack of insight. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon.
I was made privy to some UK specific research recently about access to public spaces. Just over 20% is available or permitted for women. I imagine even less for LGBTQ communities. Isn’t this an affront? The Mihrab (niche) in every mosque, which orients its worshipers towards the direction of the Kabah, is rooted in its symbolism as being the station of Mariam (Mary, mother of Jesus). Yet for women everywhere mosques are still largely experienced as quite hostile. It feels like tokenism. Is the feminine only loved when spoken of in the transcendent? As a distant figurative idea? When shariah councils are headed primarily by men, with no representation of women or those on the fringes, they inevitably spearhead abuses and exclusion. There are myriads of real-life examples of the pitfalls and subsequent harms caused, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes consciously. We need just look around us.
Being veiled could be benign, but when it silences voices, restricts movement, and in effect permits the continued and unrelenting sacrifice of the feminine, its value and vitality, then I suggest we have to continue to unveil.
~ Adila Ahmed
We’re working on plans for next year’s gathering – get in touch if you would like to be involved. In the meantime, don’t forget to book your tickets for our Urs celebrations – Manchester, Bradford & London!