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Muslim Masculinities. By Abdennur Prado.pdf

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1 Muslim masculinities: an open process By Abdennur Prado International Congress on Islamic Feminism Critical Muslim 08: Men in Islam, pp.31-46 Bismil-lâhi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim This paper is divided in three parts. The first and shorter one traces the traditional symbolical framework to which are subject masculine-feminine relations in Islam. The second and more extended part deals with the establishment of a patriarchal model of masculinity as an historical process, acting in dif
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  Muslim masculinities: an open process By Abdennur PradoInternational Congress on Islamic FeminismCritical Muslim 08: Men in Islam, pp.31-46 Bismil-lâhi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim   This paper is divided in three parts. The first and shorter one traces the traditionalsymbolical framework to which are subject masculine-feminine relations in Islam. Thesecond and more extended part deals with the establishment of a patriarchal model of masculinity as an historical process, acting in different levels: biography of the ProphetMuhammad (saws), ethics and values, sexuality, Sufism, Philosophy, Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence… Leading finally to patriarchal domination and segregation of women. Inthe third and last part, I will refer to the impact of colonialism and the current situation,asking about the possibilities of a feminist Muslim masculinity. Overall, this paper canbe seen as a presentation about the instauration of patriarchy in the frame of Islam,considered as an ideological and historical process. Importance and necessity of addressing the issue of masculinity The gender issue is incomplete without consideration of masculinity. Despite this, “there are very few studies that render Muslim men visible as gendered subjects and that show that masculinities have a history and are part of gender relations in Muslimcultures”  (Lahoucine Ouzgane 2006, p.1). Here, there are two key factors that seem insome sense contradictory:a) Masculinity in Islam has a history. We cannot define a unique and univocal Islamicconcept of masculinity. As in any other religion or culture, the concept of masculinitydominant in a precise historical moment is conditioned by economic, society, class, age,ethnicity, membership, history, political situation... Denying this would contradict thevery nature of the gender studies that have led to the emergence of the category of “masculinity”.  Highlighting the historicity of the concept of masculinity keeps us from falling into anykind of essentialism. It avoids falling into Eurocentric reading, projection in Islam's of the myths of Western culture. We must avoid the unconscious equiparation of images of aggressive virility characteristics of Western history, with different models of masculinity present in the Islamic tradition.We hear to talk about of stereotypes about Muslim women. But the image of “Muslimmen” in the West is also monolithic. The millionaire Sheikh, the obscurantist Mullah,the vociferous Muslim. Interestingly, the current image contrasts with the ancient imageof Muslims men as effeminate. The accounts of Western travellers in the Islamic worldconveyed an image of sensuality and delicacy of a refined and mannered civilization.Far from offering a monolithic model of masculinity, the history of Islam offers avariety of them. Some of them present us with a warrior conception of manhood, butothers may be considered as opposites, offering a model that incorporates aspectsconsidered “feminine”: the use of perfumes, grooming, affection, the culture of thebathrooms, crying as an expression of masculinity... In the Persian and Ottomanminiatures, men are often portrayed as sensitive and sensual, not at all hardened males.  b) The concept of masculinity is part of a broader understanding of gender. It has oftenbeen said that, in the patriarchal mentality, man is constituted as the One and the womanas the Other, the man is considered as the paradigm of the human, and the woman issubordinated. And it is precisely to preserve a certain concept of ideal masculinity thatis necessary to seclude women, segregate them in a differentiated mental and socialspace. That is: although (as stated above) there is no single model of masculinity,dominant models do exist, which have led to the discrimination and the subordination of women.From this point of view, it is obvious that the concept of masculinity that has prevailedthroughout the history of Islam can be described as patriarchal. The ideal masculinity isconceived as a series of guidelines for action it should take the man to be fullyconsidered as a man. In this sense, the ideal masculinity subjects men, just as theconcept of femininity subject women. Both models are instruments of pressure thatsociety exerts over its members, in order to maintain a cohesive social structure. Thispressure becomes a repressive morality of which it is virtually impossible to escape asthe discourse of patriarchal religious elites is taking hold on the minds of the Muslimsas if orthodoxy. The pair male-female in traditional Islamic thought To understand how the concept of patriarchal masculinity is conformed in Islam, wemust first situate ourselves within the traditional paradigm. For “traditional Islam” Imean here those manifestations that are based on an unbroken chain of knowledge thatcan be traced to the Qur’anic revelation. Traditional thinking is constituted as a set of symbols deeply rooted in the collective psyche. A religion cannot be understood only byappealing to a sociological perspective or analysis of their practices or their doctrines, asthese are inseparable from a worldview. To his followers, there is a symbolic dimensionthat gives meaning to such practices and doctrines. A traditional society is an organicsociety in which each individual naturally takes his place, as a part of a whole that isdesigned to fully develop their spiritual capacities. The primary objective of TraditionalIslam is precisely that all individuals can live in dignity and realize themselves in thespiritual realm.   In relation to gender, Masculine and Feminine are attributes that are, in first place,beyond men and women, they are archetypal features of creation as a whole. TheQur’an teaches that Allah created everything in pairs, and that Creation is supported ona Balance, in a perfect equilibrium. In the world of forms, everything is dual: male-female, wet-dry, high-low, dark-light, etc. Every quality has another that opposes to it,and with which it seeks to be in harmony. The male-female duality is related to otherdualities, between active and passive, action and contemplation, heaven and earth, spiritand body, the transcendent and the immanent. In traditional thinking, the male isdescribed as active, rational, regulatory, courageous and austere. The female would bereceptive, emotive, intuitive, sensitive and sensual.This duality has a cosmological application. In the traditional symbolic universe,everything that exists in the world of creatures is a manifestation of a higher plane. Thesun and moon correspond, in a certain sense, to man and woman, although I must saythat in Arabic sun and moon are feminine words. Beyond the easy identification, themost important relationship is that the pair sun-moon has an equivalent in the male-female pair. Not because the sun can be compared with the man and the moon with thewoman, but because just like happens with sun and moon, man and woman form aninseparable pair. Is the harmony between these two principles that makes possible thedevelopment of life, understood as an endless cosmic cycle. At the same time, the male-
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