Khutba “A Call to Radical and Angry Women of Faith” by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Sacred+Circle+home+page+image+oneI am grateful to the Interfaith Group of Feminist Theologians and Women of Faith for remembering my spiritual affiliation and giving me the opportunity to lead this service in this fully of blessings month of Ramadan and share with you a reflection in the form of a sermon or khutba. Perhaps you know that in orthodox Islam, tradition, without any theological basis, still forbids women to speak or lead rituals. So, this is a joyful occasion for me and I want to start with my usual invocation:

I thank God for this day. I praise Allah for the paths I had to walk that led me to its light and the present day. I ask the protection of the Divine that lives in the essence of everything. and I invite my female ancestors to walk with me in this journey.

A Call to Radical and Angry Women of Faith

My dear sisters, I want to invite you this evening to reflect on what it means to be a radical woman of faith, in a context of extreme upsurge of violence against women and minoritized groups we live in. What does mean being a radical woman? As we know, radical women are feared even by their activist and feminists peers. For the mainstream of society, a radical woman is a little crazy, a little witch, a little ugly, and especially, a very angry woman.

Well, they are right about anger. To be radical is to be as outraged enough to, fearlessly and tirelessly, claim and work for the total end of all kinds of oppression. You heard it right, the total end of all kinds of oppression. For women of faith, like us, who believe in social justice as the prior duty and principle of living in the creation, the current status of abuse, violence and exploitation to which a part of humankind is subjected must provoke us to rage, anger and outrage.

Aren`t you upset? Because I am. Religious patriarchy has historically exercised and endorsed, until today, violence against women and those group defined as “minority.” This religious patriarchy, composed for priests, imams, lamas and rabbis legitimize multiple forms of exclusion of women, sexism, control of our bodies, misogyny and rape culture.

This week we mourn the death of about 50 of our Latino siblings in Orlando. We have to add to this list the hate crimes against queer people in Veracruz, México, as well the slaughtering of women in thousands of gendercides that have become the standard cover of newspapers every day, and the violence against lesbians and trans women, crimes that fail to capture the visibility and solidarity of a homophobic and androcentric society.

Without denying the misogyny and homophobia existing in my community, I want to say that the specific religion of those criminals doesn´t matter, you know why? The pernicious influence of religious patriarchy extends beyond the limits of our assemblies. People blame misogyny and LGTBQphobia on religions as if this is something external to their lives. But each day, at the school, workplace and media our society reproduces all that hetero-sexist, colonial, racist, elitist violence. Heterosexuality as a political regime, validated by hegemonic religious narratives, present in all belief systems, is a source of violence and a form of terrorism itself.

There is a verse or ayat in the Quran, in the chapter or sura called An-Nisa ,”The Women” that talks about this radical commitment to justice for people of faith in 4:135

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.

Stand firmly for justice even if it be against yourselves. That’s a radical call. Against all oppressors and on behalf of all oppressed. In times where injustice is our daily breakfast, a firm stand in behalf of justice, a stand above everything including our own comfort, is a must for people of faith. I personally think is not a coincidence that this verse is in the chapter that Allah dedicates to women. There’s wisdom in this and social sciences have confirmed what God already knows: Women are very important actors in building communities based in social justice and wellbeing for everyone, so this call of the Quran is there, in a chapter that talk about us and TO US.

We have to be brave to admit that although we believe in the compassionate message of our revelations, there are other passages that can be used also to justify unmerciful actions and the violation of our human rights. We can´t be blind about this: Religions have an actual impact in the lives of people, and it is our duty to promote an impact rooted in human dignity and equality, and challenge those discourses and stances that are contrary to them.

Many feminists left religious spaces in the hands of patriarchy, saying there’s nothing they can do and from the outside, they criticize us for staying. Patriarchy and its narratives of exclusion and death won`t stop if we leave. One of its strategies of domination has been precisely keeping us out and silenced, with endless idiotic arguments like “menstruation brings impurity” or that our “bodies are tempting” ...

What fragile faith, what fragile masculinity, what great fear of those men.

My call is to organize our rage, because there is nothing more radical than stay and fight.

I won´t leave to patriarchy a space which also belongs to me; even if I have to rip my rights from their hands. Where there are women, there should be feminism; where there is patriarchy, there must be strategic resistance against it.

There is nothing more radical than women fighting where no one dares to fight. 

Our anger is as sacred as the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have enough faith to:

  • Demand loudly the end of  this misogynist complacency and arrogance of God-Male Ego
  • Challenge the narratives and practices that are an expression of male domination and heterosexual political regime
  • Advocate tirelessly for the establishment of  inclusive and compassionate hermeneutics and leadership of women
  • Claim the right of everyone to develop our spiritualities in safe spaces, free from abuse, free from hierarchies and free of unmerciful gods found in the dominant religious culture
  • Build movement of people on fair horizontal relationships and practices rooted in inclusivity, gender justice, and authenticity.
  • Talking openly about spirituality, weaving our stories as women with the mystery of the divine.

Patriarchy has already brought so much death.

Let follow the core message of our revelations as we are believers and, as the Quran says: “Stand firmly for justice.” Let’s  be warriors for life.

We carry within us the chaos that will give birth to a new hope.

Vanessa Rivera de la FuenteVanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities. 


Categories: Activism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Islam

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29 replies

  1. So glad you were able to give this wonderful sermon. Yes women need to stay and fight, but there is no need to criticize women who leave. All of our decisions are heart-felt and as no one knows the outcome of any action, who is to say which decisions will have greater long-term results? I left because of the harm my tradition was/is doing to women, myself. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. You stayed to fight. Is that wrong? I respect your decision too.


    • Actually the critics always come from women who leave against us we stay.The lack of solidarity from that group is appalling but that’s a topic for another article. There is no epistemic justice in that. Taking a stand to say: “Staying can also be radical” is not against women who leave but in behalf of those we stay. The struggle of black women is not against white women right? Here is the same.


  2. This is just someone’s radical, offbeat opinion. But to me, religion, as it is taught, is too organized into set patterns, and therefore lacks spontaneity and it is also ruled by people in power. Spirituality, on the other hand, is our presence in life and our unity with the cosmos. It has no prescribed beliefs, and no one in authority. Spirituality has no coin box to contribute to, no scripture to adhere to, no dictates. Even so, it can be a most wonderful, and playful path, full of awakening, of joyous spontaneity and of profound enlightenment.


    • Yes. This is “just” my opinion and “just” the offbeat of someone with a big pair of ovaries to not runaway when the backlash come. Proud of it.
      But still, one thing doesn´t exclude the other. Who say so? That is just a dicotomic limited opinion, expression of colonial paradigm of thought that make people unable to think beyond
      A woman can make activism in religious spaces and still can have a deep, free spirituality. Is about who you are not where you are. I am the proof of that, amina wadud is the proof of that, many women are the proof of that, despite what white colonial liberal feminism, out of fashion nowadays and their minions say..
      To be free of soul, one must be free of colonization. Many feminists leave religions but they get marry, have children because “motherhood is part of woman fulfillment”, attach to heterosexuality, etc and religion- based institutions without questioning how that keep them jailed of religion. So, that’s why I consider feminism in religion very important: Feminist hermeneutics is core to bring equality for women in religious spaces but also there are many women out of them who are still blind about their own slavery regarding androcentrism rooted in sacred scriptures
      Overcome dicotomic thinking is part of being free; this include the way we think and organize ideas, so is not enough to leave religions. Dicotomic mindset divide people and worlds according to exclusionary principle. This is legacy of white- european way to see the world. As a woman of color I reject it. We got to get rid of that pernicious influence too, so we can appreciate the many posibilities that women have to transform this world.


  3. Have I stayed or have I left? It’s hard for me to answer this question because I have taken a “half way down the stairs” position. I am building something different. Instead of going to the local big mosque (routinely preaching misogyny and ‘complementary roles’), a group of like minded men and women formed our own group and meet for Friday prayers in friends’ basement. Men and women alternate giving khutbah, we stand in equal rows broken by a 12 inch gap, and we bring our children. Afterwards we talk about the khutbah, and yes, sometimes I feel like the Crazy Feminist who has to point out how the man’s khutbah was insensitive on this or that point- but these men are interested in their blind spots. The children are also listening to these conversations.
    After the discussion, we typically gather and have coffee, tea and snacks. Since it is Ramadan, we have changed it up a bit and are having a “Ramadan Salon; Food for the Soul”. We do a kind of talent show (again making the kids perform) with music, singing, art, reading of short stories or poems.
    I am living in a “third space” and I feel this is more in keeping with my spiritual purpose.


    • Yes, that works for the most of muslims with a progressive stance. I believe in women only spaces though. I think women to be really spiritually free must give up the paradigm of complementarity we have been conditioned to and make us want men in everything, even in our struggles for liberation. Is not only about patriarchy, is compulsory heterosexual way of organize life too, including in this, spiritual life.
      As long there are men in the middle, women will be unable to see each other as partners and develop empathy and love for each other as a political option AKA sisterhood, as we have for men. To be free women would have to learn to be friend, mothers, sisters, support, confident, healer etc for other women as we are “naturally” for men.
      Once women are able to live spiritually without the must of complementarity, women could take over religious spaces or have those of their own. Feminism in for women and feminism in religion should not be the exception.


  4. You could choose another god to worship, more female than the Demiurg, but:
    “We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”
    /Richard Dawkins


  5. Absolutely beautiful. This really touched me and reminded me of why the Quran is perfect. The article refers to God’s call to arms in the Quran directed to women (!) to fight for justice NO MATTER WHAT. How beautiful that God wants us to seek justice in society and in the world over.



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