“Historically, what is or isn’t mainstream (in Islam) has always been a function of power, not of truth” -Iyad El-Baghdadi, Arab Spring activist
My name is Misha. My age seems to be rather frequently discussed, so let’s get that out of the way first. I was born in 2002, I was first published at the age of 11, and I started writing Qur’anic exegesis at the age of 14. Yes, I know. I’m not interested in having a discussion about my age or lack thereof. If that’s your intention, go away. I’ve heard it all already.
My objective with ifoceanswereink is to cultivate the framework of justice Islam intended to bring to this world. Traditional Islamic scholarship has failed at this in its entirety, and has brought unbridled suffering in its wake. It is my job to undo part of that. Muslims need to stop arguing over whether women are allowed to leave the house without their faces veiled and instead center rational faith, uplifting the oppressed, and bringing back the Islamic integrity that mullahs have been hell-bent on destroying over the past fourteen centuries. No longer will we let right-wing religious extremists lecture us on the best way to cloak our intellect and obey our husbands. We owe more to ourselves and especially to God.
Let’s face it. The Muslim world, from a combination of Western exploitation and Muslim ignorance, is in absolute ruins. Nobody knows what Islam is meant to represent anymore, and apparently, nobody cares. Perhaps that can be changed, inshaAllah.
I keep myself mostly anonymous online (Misha Az-Zahra is a pseudonym) because I don’t want to be murdered. As for my actual occupation, I am a student. (Pre-med.)
It feels like an exercise in futility to write about faith when no bearded, rosary-wielding misogynistic mullah in Pakistan is ever going to listen–but then again, the mission of Muslims has never been to force kuffar to listen. For it is the hearts that are blind, not the eyes. I only write for those whose hearts are open. And if it reaches even one of them, that is enough.
I am done letting God be a pawn. “Islamic” orthodoxy has rendered God a slave to the privileged male elite, and a torturer of women, slaves and orphans–the lowest, most deplorable form of shirk conceivable to humankind. It is time to let loose with a harsh indictment of the Muslim community’s collective blindness towards the moral corruption of its leaders.
I entertain productive debates and interfaith dialogue. I despise it when people take Qur’anic verses out of context or mistranslate them, so it would be endlessly hypocritical if I were to do this. If you feel like I’ve made a mistake in translation or taken a verse out of context, feel free to tell me. If a mistake has been made, I have no problem remedying it.
Everything good is from Allah and everything inaccurate is from myself.
Everything on this site can be freely reproduced as long as the following citation is provided:
- Misha Az-Zahra
Are you Muslim?
Yes. I understand that truth can be found in different theological denominations/religions, but I do identify as a Muslim. I follow the Qur’an, which means that I condemn all terrorism and extremism perpetrated in the name of God.
So like…if I email you, will you answer?
Yes, unless you’re a jerk and I deem your email too idiotic or nonsensical or entitled to respond to. (There have been several such emails so far.) I’ll do my best to help with exegetical issues. I’m not a religious scholar. (God forgive me if I ever call myself one. The word scholar makes me physically gag.) I can’t answer everything for you. Nor am I interested in doing so. I’ll answer to some extent, but the best remedy is to read the text on your own. I realize how hard this is, BTW. I do.
What do you mean by “orthodox/mainstream/normative” Islam?
Orthodox Islam refers to Islamic rulings as dictated by the four main Sunni schools of thought. I actually dislike using adjectives such as “orthodox” because they sound awfully sectarian, but they serve to distinguish what Islam actually is from what Hanafi/Maliki/Shafi’i/Hanbali scholars say it is.
How do you interpret the Qur’an and what is your position on hadith?
I study the hadith corpus for its historical/contextual value but do not regard it as religious legislation. While hadith can be useful, they often inhibit Qur’anic exegesis and there is no guarantee of their veracity. The Qur’an doesn’t indicate that hadith are necessary to understand or explain God’s word. I believe prohibitions and allowances cannot be formulated purely on the basis of secondary sources without explicit Qur’anic evidence to support them. I interpret the Qur’an through its own lens, against itself, using it as its own dictionary. More information is here. (On a separate note, I do have lists of hadith that I like. I read them like Sufi poetry.) I recognize that hadith can be misinterpreted and taken out of context just like Qur’anic/Biblical verses can be, so I do make an effort to understand the full story behind them. However, the hadith corpus at large lacks the internal logic/consistency that the Qur’an upholds, and therefore does not stand up to intellectual or moral scrutiny.
Do you endorse Rashad Khalifa?
I absolutely do not endorse him in any way, shape, or form. I categorically reject the idea of removing verses from the Qur’an.
If you “reject” secondary sources, why do you refer to classical Arabic lexicons so often?
The Qur’an states that it is preserved/guarded, which includes an appropriate ability to discern the meaning of its words. This constitutes the endorsement of primary sources used to understand grammar. I make use of early classical Arabic lexicons (Edward Lanes, Taj Al-Arus, Kitab Al Ayn) to determine the meanings/grammatical nuances of specific words used in the Qur’an. This is very different from using secondary sources with highly dubious chains of narration, such as hadith, to interpret entire Qur’anic verses. (Sometimes definitions contained within dictionaries vary as well, so I always back up translations through Qur’anic concordance indexing, which is very consistent.)
How do you know how to pray without ahadith?
LOL. How do you know how to pray? Go ask some worthwhile questions instead of bothering me with queries that have been answered 500 times over on multiple forums.
Why do you think you can ignore the scholarly opinions and consensus gathered over the past 1,400-1,500 years?
Because when scholars display the moral bankruptcy that Muslim scholars throughout history have, when they pervert verses to permit slavery and the oppression of the vulnerable, it would be haraam on me to endorse them. I have absolutely no interest in promoting tyrannical mullahs on the payroll of dictators. If you have a problem with this, leave my website and complain to your maulana. Nobody invited you here anyway.
So you want to reform Islam?
I don’t want to reform Islam. Islam, in its purest form, is a beautiful religion that centers on the protection of human rights, dignity, and justice. Primarily, I believe that since Islam in its true form was never oppressive or inherently violent, there’s no need to reform it. Rather, I’m reviving it: Returning to/examining the classical language of the Qur’an and freeing it from both secondary sources and ethno-political bias, so that it can be interpreted the way it was originally meant to be, instead of being used as ideological weaponry.
Why are your posts locked sometimes?
Usually because I’m working on them. If you want access, DM me on Twitter or Facebook, or email me through the contact form (I read everything, though it may take a while to respond). I may withhold all passwords at my own discretion if I decide you don’t actually need them.
Which translation of the Qur’an do you read?
I read them all. The most semi-accurate orthodox translation is that of Yusuf Ali, though his language is rather Victorian. The most accurate non-traditional translation, in my opinion, is this one. It should be understood, however, that translations are often untrue to the original Arabic text, and are replete with translator bias. A translation of the Qur’an is only a personal interpretation–and sometimes a misinterpretation at that.
Do you have a religious or spiritual partner/teacher?
Why, yes. She became my sheikha around December 2017. Her name is Nahida S. Nisa. Our interpretive approaches are similar, though our exegetical conclusions are not the same. This is what we wish to foster: A variety of exegetical opinions within the range of Qur’an-centered justice. We collaborate sometimes, though we don’t aim for conformity. She is my older sister, not my boss. We argue. 🙂 By the way, religious teachers are neither necessary nor always a good thing. In fact they are usually extremely self-righteous and counterproductive. Nahida is a rare exception. We both work intensely with the Qur’anic text, and compare conclusions afterwards. It is not hierarchical. (You’ll see our cross-citations throughout our websites, by the way. She blogs at TFF.)
Are you a misinformed little girl who enjoys committing blasphemy?
I’m white, and I want to use your posts to support my xenophobic views about how oppressed Muslim women are!
Shut up. Nobody cares. And get your white supremacist self off my blog and out of my Twitter mentions. In the meantime I’ll go punch some Nazis! 🙂
Why are you “confirming Western stereotypes” about Muslims?
I’m writing about my community, period. Nobody invited Westerners or Orientalist white saviors to the party. I don’t like them any more than you do. (On a serious note, I wish I could write exegesis in Arabic or Urdu. That way, it would only reach my target audience, and white people would not be able to access it. The language barrier forms an important aspect of religious communication, and should be put to good use.)
Social media handles?
Why the hell are you on the Internet, little girl?
Why the hell are you on my blog, little unemployed Pakistani boy living in his mother’s basement reading The Fiqh of Polygamy by Sheikh bin Baaz? And what the hell are you doing in my Twitter mentions, Sheikh Abdullaah ibn Islaam ibn Muhammad Al-Jihaad Al-Qur’aaaan, who prays five times a day and gets up early for Fajr and lectures his students about the piety of possessive cruelty, domestic violence, clipping one’s mustache and growing one’s beard? (Ahh, the notorious Salafi double-voweling! Louder for those in the back!!!) And you, the Anonymous Akh, who spends his time ranting about the “Westernist evils” of secularism and feminism and praying fervently for the return of the Ottoman Sultanate? What are you doing on a blog like mine? (Cue Anonymous Akh screaming incoherently about the Return of the Caliphate.)
But ukhti, I only wish Jannah for you! I want you to be guided! Subhanallah!
Better watch it, habibi. Hellfire is in front of you. Go too far and you’ll fall in.
I did not find the truth of Islam alone. As students of the Quran, we often collaborate on exegetical endeavors and learn from each other. Several individuals have helped me extensively with regards to researching Islam and studying the Qur’an. I owe them a great deal. For reference, their websites are below:
- Joseph Abraham Islam: quransmessage.com
- Shafiqah Othman Hamzah: shafiqahothman.wordpress.com
- Wakas Muhammad: misconceptions-about-islam.com
- Nahida S. Nisa, my sheikha: thefatalfeminist.com
These are not the only students of Islam who have helped me; there have been many others as well, too numerous to list.
Other individuals I owe a lot to, whether they know it or not:
I am not responsible for anything found on external websites. I do not endorse all the views of the above authors. I have simply listed them for reference.
The only views I fully endorse are my own, and all writing found on this website is my own unless otherwise cited. I have cited every source used.
On social media, my writing has been shared by Dr. Amina Wadud and others. I am not responsible for any views held by these individuals, although I may occasionally reference their work in citations.