The Feminine in God by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


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An expert traveler knows that the best part of leaving is coming back. I am happy to open another year writing here again, after a necessary break, since writing is the way I maintain my strong ties with my critical spirit and this community that I cherish and has become through the years, my safe space.

Let me start with this. At the end of last year I was teaching a course on Gender, Women and Islam for social science students at a College in Mexico. One of the question I was often asked was: Madam, Is God a She?

In my early years in Islam, I used to ask this question to senior believers. I never received a direct response, but expressions of outrage with a resounding NO. NO! NO! No way! God is not SHE! HE is the neutral!

I avoided linguistic controversies, privileging actual political intervention in religious sphere. However, the context we live in, where patriarchal violence grows in cruelty and impunity, challenging a neutral masculine becomes critical to denounce the predation on women and minorized bodies.

According to the Quran, Allah does not have a gender. Is not a man, nor a woman nor a thing. It is not possible to assimilate Allah with anything created. Sura 112 says that God is:

… the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten…

God is one, everything created is a godly manifestation. God is everything and in everything there is something of God: You and I, the dawn and the flight of the birds, the thousands of varieties of orchids, the sublime design of the snowflakes, the joy and the sadness, the anger and the calm. God is eternal, nothing in this world can contain or express such Magnificence. God speaks clearly to us in the Quran about the all-encompassing and non-generic Divine Nature in Sura 24:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth (…) Light upon light.

If God is the light, a radiant light whose merciful glow embraces everything, then, I wonder:  Why is mandatory using the He to name God? Why using She is taken as linguistic rebellion? God is gender-neutral, there should be no problem in calling God a She.

Few days ago, I came across a text of Nahida S. Nisa called Pronouns, where she says that in her mother tongue “Everyone has one pronoun, the same pronoun, adjusted to singular or to plural or to familiarity. That’s a true neutral.” Nahida states that the fondness in using He to name God, is due to the limitations of language and the shortcomings of believers:

You don’t know language. You only speak primitive languages that rely on gendered pronouns. English. Arabic. French. Primitive, just like you. You will never understand that as long as She exists—and you have tried very hard to erase her existence—He will never be neutral…

She has a point. Our languages are poor in comparison to God´s Depth. Also, there is no obligation for Muslims to call God as He. Ibn al- Arabi, a prominent 12th century Islamic philosopher, said, “I sometimes employ the feminine pronoun in addressing Allah, keeping in view The Essence.”

Shahla Khan Salter in her article Inside Allah, The One Divine Mother And The Conscience Of Islam states that the words rooted in RAHMA that describe the main attributes of Allah (The Compassionate and The Merciful) express the feminine side of the Divine:

Al Rahman and Al Raheem directly emanate from The Divine Feminine. Why? Because, it is from the root of these words, Al Rahman and Al Raheem, that we discover a direct correlation to The Divine Feminine specifically from the word, “RHM” which means Womb.

If Allah is a Matrix, then God is also a She.

So, in Islam, God has no gender nor human form, so the pronoun She, should be considered equally projective of God’s nature. Even if we are humanly guided by language, there is a powerful feminine expression in fundamental divine attributes.

Think about it. God is also a She. Her mercy encompasses all things. This should not be controversial. So, what is the problem?

Is not God, of course. Maybe believers who live in patriarchal societies where the masculine is seen as the preferred gender over the feminine? Believers who have scholars and preachers who pollute the sacred notion of Tawheed with the divisive arrogance of his male chauvinism? Believers who disobey God and stay repeating what they’re told, with no further reflection?

What is the level of vanity and ignorance of those “wise men and scholars”, who claim to act in knowledge of ALLAH, THE CREATOR, while giving to misogyny a divine rank? Why are they so afraid of thinking about God with female expressions? I think they know they are weak before the Powerful Divine Creative Force, which is and will be eternally SHE. All act of creation needs and depends on a Matrix to happen and succeed so, without a WOMB nothing exist.


Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Global Consultant on Gender, Human Rights and Development, a Writer and a Muslim Feminist. 

A short and edited version of this article will be published in the February issue of Muslim Views, South Africa. Image: Divine Womanhood by Gioia Albano. Used only for illustrative purposes



Categories: Divine Feminine, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Islamic feminism

Tags: , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Yes!!! …”without a WOMB nothing exist”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful! I have read apologetic texts arguing that rhm words applied to the Hebrew God indicate God’s female/womb/compassion. But then this is one image among so many others. And after all despite this image Jews address God as the Holy One Blessed is He and Christians as Father Son and Holy Ghost. But the fact that two rhm words are used in the most common address to God in Islam is far more meaningful and convincing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Naomi Janowitz and Maggie Wennig created a Jewish feminist prayer (see Womanspirit Rising) in which it is said that “Her womb covers the earth” (if I remember correctly). The painting you chose reflects that idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great column! this is why the Goddess movement arose, to reclaim and rejoice in the Divine in female form. The Cosmic Weaver, Great Mother, ancient icons of ancestral women, and so much more: https://www.suppressedhistories.net/catalog/deasophy.html This multiplicity too is Tawhid, which necessarily encompasses the All.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s incredible how the Divinity of the Feminine has been so efficiently erased in almost all religions. How effectively the female has been brain-washed to believe she’s a shameful being.

    Nice to hear from you again by the way. Was wondering what happened to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, I loved this post!

    You are so right! “However, the context we live in, where patriarchal violence grows in cruelty and impunity, challenging a neutral masculine becomes critical to denounce the predation on women and minorized bodies.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Welcome back Vanessa! I missed you.
    And thank you for this post which I find so clearly stated (and which agrees with my opinion! ;-)) There are similar understandings of Divine Mystery in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well, but pushed to the background and ignored.

    As long as people imagine a strong male god who has placed everything under the dominance of humans, we can continue to destroy Earth for profit and worship the “almighty +dollar”. If we envision the One we call “God” as life giving, animating Presence in all of creation, we might be inclined more to community and respect for other life. I think that at this time of history we are at a crossroads of, literally, life or death.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t know how the “+” got in there, or how to edit it out!

    Like

  9. Salaams! Thanks for this wonderful piece. All of the anthropomorphising of God in Christianity is one of the things that drew me to Islam, and I still believe God is ungendered in our faith. I even tried to convince an Arabic speaker that since many women’s names end in -ah-that Allah is a female name. They told me no, it doesn’t mean that. But, I agree with your beautiful analysis, Although I won’t call God She, but rather just God. I have the same problem with pronouns for trans people. Calling them “they” is hard for me. I will just call them by their names. Therefore, God/Allah is my name for my God.

    Like

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