Theology Thursdays: 99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds, and Doors in the Muslim World By Asra Q. Nomani
I am a Muslim woman who lives with her parents and young son in Morgantown, West Virginia. The men who are the leaders of my mosque are considering banishing me for attempting to claim the rights of a Muslim woman at the mosque and to stand up for a tolerant and inclusive Islam.
Facing trial for disturbing the peace of these men, I have reflected on how we need to restore our Muslim world to the principles of Islam that the prophet Muhammad practiced in the th Century, transforming an ancient desert town called Medina into "the City of Enlightenment." My experience teaches that Islam must redefine the way it expresses itself so that modern-day Cities of Enlightenment will shine throughout the Muslim world.
We have inspiration in the names for God in Islam. Among them: compassion, truth, tolerance, justice. I present " Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World," modeled after those names and the essential messages of a book I have written about my ordeal at the mosque, Standing Alone in Mecca.
To realize these precepts for women, I offer two charters of Muslim justice -- an Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques, and an Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom. The precepts or the bill of rights call not for "reform of Islam" but rather restoration of Islam.
*Asra Nomani's "99 Precepts":
1. The Loving One. Live with an open heart to others.
2. The Only One. We are all part of one global community.
3. The One. All people - women and men, and people of all faiths,
cultures, and identities - are created and exist as equals.
4. The Self-Sufficient. All people - women and men, and people of all faiths, cultures, and identities - have a right to self-determination.
5. The Creator of Good. All people have a human right to happiness.
6. The Generous. A fundamental goal of religion is to inspire in us the best of human behavior.
7. The Expander. Religion isn't meant to destroy people.
8. The One Who Gives Clemency. We aren't meant to destroy people.
9. The Absolute Ruler. We are not rulers over each other.
10. The Owner of All. No individual or group of individuals may treat any of us as property.
11. The Mighty. Spirituality goes far deeper than mere adherence to rituals.
12. The Appraiser. We are the sum of our small deeds of kindness for others.
13. The Inspirer. It is not for human beings to judge who is faithful and who is not.
14. The One with Special Mercy. Humanity and God are best served by separating the "sin" from the "sinner."
15. The Finder. Virtue doesn't come with wealth.
16. The Supreme One. All people are created with an inner nature that seeks divine nature and is disposed toward virtue.
17. The Doer of Good. Thus, live virtuously.
18. The Greatest. Have the courage to take risks.
19. The Possessor of All Strength. Have the courage to stand up for your beliefs, truth, and justice even when they collide with the status quo.
20. The One Who Honors. Respect one another.
21. The Magnificent. Glorify one another with kind words not harsh words.
22. The Forgiver. Forgive one another, and ourselves, with compassion.
23. The All-Compassionate. Be compassionate with one another.
24. The Compeller. Love the soul even when we don't love the "sin."
25. The All-Merciful. Be motivated by love of God, not fear of God.
26. The Compassionate. Be kind, respectful, and considerate with one another.
27. The One Who Rewards Thankfulness. Appreciate the freedoms you enjoy.
28. The Governor. Know that we are all accountable for how we treat one another.
29. The Gatherer. Know that anyone you wrong will testify against you on your judgment day.
30. The Reliever. Be friends to one another.
31. The Exalter. Win the greatest struggle - the struggle of the soul, jihad bil nafs - to good.
32. The Highest. Rise to the highest principles of Islam's benevolent teachings.
33. The Giver of All. Rise to the highest values of human existence, not the lowest common denominator.
34. The One Who Opens. Live with an open mind.
35. The One Who Enriches. The Qur'an enjoins us to enrich ourselves and our communities with knowledge.
36. The Subtle One. Islam is not practiced in a monolithic way.
37. The Forgiver. We allow ourselves to be more positively transformed if we accept, not despise, our dark side.
38. The Maker of Beauty. Islam can be a religion of joy.
39. The Maker of Order. In any society governed by oppression and senseless rules, there will be rebellion, whether expressed publicly or in private.
40. The Guide to Repentance. Evil is social injustice, discrimination, prideful rigidity, bigotry, and intolerance.
41. The Nourisher. We were all created with the right to make our own decisions about our lives, our minds, our bodies, and our futures.
42. The One Who Withholds. Certain traditions and ideologies betray Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and justice.
43.The Constrictor. Repression creates fears that are manifested in dysfunctional ways.
44. The Generous. Women possess to the same human rights as men.
45. The All-Comprehending. Chastity and modesty are not the sole measure of a woman's worth.
46. The Last. Puritanical repression of sexuality and issues of sexuality is self- defeating, creating a hypersexual society.
47. The Seer of All. The false dichotomy between the "private" world and the "public" world leads us to avoid being completely honest about issues of sexuality.
48. The Majestic One. The Qur'an tells us: There is no compulsion in religion.
49. The All-Aware. The Qur'an enjoins us: Exhort one another to truth.
50. The Knower of All. Thus, seek knowledge.
51. The All Powerful. Do not put any barriers in front of any person's pursuit of knowledge.
52. The Ever Living One. Reject ignorance, isolation, and hatred.
53. The Truth. Live truthfully.
54. The Praised One. Praise worthy aspiration, not destruction.
55. The Manifest One. Be the leader you want to see in the world even though you lack position, rank, or title.
56. The Perfectly Wise. Lead with wisdom.
57. The Originator. Open the doors of ijtihad, or critical thinking, based on istihsan (equity) and istihsal (the needs of the community).
58. The One Who is Holy. Honor and respect the voices and rights of all people.
59. The Sustainer. Empower each other, particularly women, to be self-sustaining.
60. The Governor. Do not allow anyone to unleash a vigilante force on any man, woman, or child.
61. The Hearer of All. Be honest about issues of sexuality in our
62.The Expeditor. Lift repression.
63. The Guardian. Reject a sexual double-standard for men and women.
64. The Restorer. Reform our communities to reject bigoted, sexist, and intolerant practices.
65. The Righteous Teacher. Question defective doctrine from a perspective based on the Qur'an, the traditions of the prophet, and ijtihad, or critical reasoning.
66. The One Who Resurrects. Know that we all will face a reckoning for our deeds.
67. The Guide. We must open the doors of Islam to all.
68. The Creator of All Power. We are in a struggle of historic proportions for the way Islam expresses itself in the world.
69. The One Who Is Witnessing All. The Qur'an is clear: "Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it may be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin."
70. The Satisfier of All Needs. Political expediency does not override our morally compelled duty to tell the truth.
71. The Responder to Prayer. Spiritual activism is a noble pursuit.
72. The One Who Humiliates. Sexism, stereotypes, and intolerance are the common denominators of all extremism.
73. The Giver of Life. We cannot accept murder in the name of Islam.
74. The Inheritor of All. Racism, sexism, and hatred are unacceptable in God's world.
75. The Taker of Life. Dogmatism and intolerance lead to violence.
76. The One Who Abases. Making women invisible is a defining feature of violent societies.
77. The Just. Women and men are spiritual and physical equals.
78. The Equitable One. Women's rights are equal to men's rights.
79. The Witness. Nothing we do is without a witness.
80. The One Who Prevents Harm. Rejecting injustice is more important than protecting honor.
81. The Delayer. Honor can be worst expression of ego.
82. The Judge. Justice is not what the majority believes is right.
83. The Forbearing One. We are not judges upon each other.
84. The Ruler of Majesty and Bounty. If change will come tomorrow, we should not wait but should create it today.
85. The Trustee. Thus, know women have an intrinsic right to be leaders in all capacities in our Muslim world, including as prayer leaders, or imams.
86. The Capable. Reach inside to create the change you want to see in the world.
87. The Forceful One. Stand strong for justice.
88. The One Who Subdues. Stand up to extremists and all forms of extremism.
89. The Self-Existing One. Break the silence sheltering injustice and intolerance.
90. The Originator. Create a new reality.
91. The Glorious. Stand up to the forces of darkness.
92. The Watchful One. Question the source of hate in order to dismantle it.
93. The Protector. Respect women's equal rights and human dignity from the mosque and the public square to the workplace and the bedroom.
94. The Avenger. Use principles of social justice to define our communities.
95. The Everlasting. Stand up to create an everlasting Muslim world that will enrich our global society.
96. The Patient One. Exercise patience as a virtue, not as an excuse.
97. The Source of Peace. Live peacefully with others.
98. The Light that Guides. Create cities of light to overpower the darkness in our Muslim world.
99. The Hidden One. Ultimately, our choice is only one: we must create communities with open hearts, open minds and open doors to all.
Asra Nomani is a writer and journalist based in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her latest book, Standing Alone in Mecca, deals with the struggle for women's rights in Islam. For more information, visit asranomani.com. This article was published on Muslim Wake Up!
Asra Q. Nomani
Thursday, March 3, 2005