Religious Manipulation in One Word: Fitna

Written by Theresa Corbin and originally posted on

You are fitna!  If you’re a Muslim woman, it’s likely that you have heard this a thousand times. You might have even been convinced that your own existence is somehow bad or the cause of evil or misguidance (which is essentially what fitna means).

“Women are Fitna” has unfortunately turned into a blanket statement and a kind of religious manipulation to keep women from participating in, well, pretty much everything including their own lives.


Much of what Muslim women face in terms of oppression is because many misunderstand the meaning of one particular adîth (a saying of the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]):

I have not left behind me any fitna more harmful to men than women. (Bukhâri)

And this misinterpretation plays out in very real and destructive ways in Muslim women’s lives.

Fitna in Driving?

Maha Salman recalls a trip to her husband’s country, where she was unaware of cultural standards. She ended up feeling traumatized after being told she had caused fitna. Salman says, “While I was visiting with my family, I needed to get something out of the car.

I put on my outer garments, grabbed the keys, and went to the parking garage. As I approached the car with car keys in hand, one of the [morality police] started running toward me yelling fitna and something else in Arabic that I didn’t understand.”

While disallowing women to drive is seen in few countries, it is still based on the “religious” assumption that women driving, in their particular local context, will lead to fitna, or a door to sin, in many ways.  Yet we know that in the Prophet’s time his wives rode camels, the modern equivalent to driving. The Prophet œ said:

The best women among the camel riders are the righteous women of the Quraysh. (Bukhâri)

Fitna in the Mosque?

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Misquoting Muhammad (PBUH)

written by Theresa Corbin

Recently, I was digging around for some inauthentic hadith for a project I am working on. Since, in Islam, we have a strict grading system to let us know which hadith are actually attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and which ones are just made-up, it was pretty easy to find the made-up ones.

There are tons of these made-up hadith that are just trash tossed from the sacred texts of the authentic hadith collections. Some people are the worst, wanting to manipulate the religion to suit their own desires.


Then I thought it might be fun to take a look at some made-up (or fabricated) hadith and make fun, er, point out how absurd they are. Again, all of these hadith were made-up and are not actually said, done, or approved by the Prophet (PBUH) himself. I would NEVER EVER make fun of any authentic hadith. And neither should you. That is dangerous territory.

But since these are all from liars, game on, playas!

1. Made-up hadith: The sneezing of a person while another is speaking is a proof that what the person is saying is the truth. (Classified fabricated by Ibn Jawzee)

Theresa’s Response: This one is kinda like believing that if a cat farts in the middle of the street, you know you are going to come into money. It’s superstition and weird at that. Muslims don’t do superstition.  

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Ignorant, Arrogant Hypocrites

written by Theresa Corbin and Maryam Lautenschlager

We, as Muslim woman, have handled the ignorant, arrogant hypocrites with kid gloves for far too long. We have been pushed well beyond any person’s limit. The gloves are coming off!  

We will freely admit that being a Muslim woman comes along with so much patronizing and splaining it is maddening and exhausting.

But here’s the thing- we hardly ever experience such splaining from Muslim men. Nah, it comes from non-Muslims of all kinds: doctors, engineers, beauty school drop outs, republicans, lawyers, paralegals, democrats, men, women, children, hand puppets (seriously)… *catches breathe*.

For sure, there are Muslim men who support the patriarchy and even toxic masculinity – nothing to do with Islam. We have never denied this. In fact, a lot of what Theresa does and researches and writes is because she is calling bullshit on this phenomenon within the Muslim community. But even the patriarchy supporting Muslims do not belittle us, disrespect us, or shut us down like the ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical non-Muslims do. 


So the kind of non-Muslim (please note this is not every non-Muslim, but it seems to us to be the majority) we are shining a light on come at Muslim women, trying to tell us about how “bad” our faith is for women and how oppressed we are, blah, blah, blah, ignorance ad nauseam.

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Sabr Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

written by Theresa Corbin

Sabr. If you are new to this site or Islamic thought in general, you might Google this word and find out that it stands for the Society for American Baseball Research. Yes! We Muslims are so very invested in researching American Baseball. It’s alllll we think about.

I am not a sports fan (big shocker), but honestly baseball is the one sport I can tolerate. But I joke. Sabr, the term I have chosen to write about today has nothing to do with baseball at all. So relax, you silly right wing nutters. The Muslims ain’t coming to establish no Shariah on the baseball diamond.

But if we did, I am sure it would make the sport so much more high-stakes. Stealing bases would get you your hand cut off. I joke again. You gals and guys know me-I ain’t for that.

Ehhmem, so sabr, it is an Arabic word that is peppered throughout religious texts. And it is usually translated as “patience”.

And be patient, indeed Allah is with the patient ones. (Quran 8:46)

The problem with this translation, although it can mean patience, is that it makes people think that sabr only means patience. And that leads people to believe that sabr means to just let bad stuff happen and lock it up tight and never talk about it.

The other problem with this understanding of the word “sabr”, since it is such a heavily used religious term, is that it is also used to manipulate people with religion. Shock! Horror! What? People use religion for there own evil gains to manipulate others into doing what they want? How! This is news to me?– you might be thinking.

But you aren’t thinking that because you know people suck. I’ll say that again for the people in the back -PEOPLE. SUCK. <— write it down. remember it. trust in God. not people. because? that’s right! people suck. including me.

Well, that is not at alright. Sabr is so much more than patience. Sabr in fact means steadfastness, perseverance, patience in the path of justice, patience in doing what is right and good even though smacking people seems like so much fun. Sabr does not mean be a patient victim and let people oppress you.

But often this word is thrown around at victims of oppression to convince them that they should put up with and actually enable their oppression. E.G. a woman who is regularly beaten by her husband because he has a small penis and this make him angry. She goes to a dimwitted sheikh (scholar) and he actually tells her to have patience, meaning just put up with it or enable his behavior by doing nothing to stop it.

The thing is that Islam is not a religion that allows people to enable each other and it certainly does not advocate for people to allow oppression. How do we know this? We know this because of the famous prophetic tradition that states:

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Support your brother whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand.”In another narration, the Prophet said, “By restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice, for that is how you support him.”

Recently, I wrote an article about not putting people on pedestals. And as I always do when making a claim, I thought of the opposition’s argument against my claims. One idea that disturbed me while writing this but could not address due to space was that I knew people would take this to mean that the victims of a crime should never have put the perpetrator in the position to hurt them.

NO! This is victim blaming and I don’t stand for it. In this article about not idealizing people, I was addressing people in general, not victims of a crime. In general I absolutely believe that we should not idealize people. As the term “human” or “person” suggests, we as human beings are all weak and fallible pieces of dust on our way out.

But the thing is that if you are a victim of a crime by someone you put on a pedestal, the fact that you put them on a pedestal does not make the crime your fault. You must seek justice. Our religion demands it. Islam does not manufacture victims: 

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnessing 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. (Quran 4:135)

Never ever be complicit in oppression especially if it is your own oppression. Never be silent when you see oppression, especially if you are the victim of a crime, even if the perpetrator is very close to you. The term sabr for the victim means to strive and persevere in seeking justice and stopping oppression. 

And never let anyone tell you any different even if that person calls him/herself a scholar. Scholars are wrong every day. Some scholars are even invested in keeping victims quiet in the name of protecting male supremacy. Don’t put up with it. To God we all are equal. By God we are demanded to stop oppression. By God we are charged with seeking justice. If you prefer to listen to a scholar over Allah then you should know that is worship. 

It is narrated from Adi bin Hatim (May Allah be pleased with him):
I heard the Prophet (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) read this verse:

“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and Messiah -son of Maryam, while they were commanded to worship none but One Ilah (God Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshiped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)”. (Qur’an 9:31)

So I said to him (May Allah be pleased with him)’ “Verily, we did not worship them,” to which he replied, “Did they not make Haram what Allah made Halal so you then made it Haram, and (did they not) make Halal what Allah made Haram and you therefore made it Halal?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “That is worshiping them.” (Ahmad and At- Tirmidhi)

Criminal behavior is haram. Allowing criminal behavior and not witnessing against it is haram. Do not let the sheikhs tell you it is sabr to enable it. This is worship. Sabr when witnessing against evil, injustice, and oppression means perseverance and steadfastness in seeking justice and stopping evil and oppression. 

Sabr sometimes means to be the tree that grows through concrete and tears it up in the process. 


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What Is The Islamic World?

Written by Theresa Corbin

What exactly is the Islamic world? Is it like Disney world? A place where Muslims go to pay too much for halal snacks and wait in line for hours to get a fatwaIs it the place that I have been told to go back to by bigots shouting on the street? Ooorr is it the place where some media “personalities” pretend all Muslims come from- The Middle East? 

What is the Islamic world?

Well, I don’t hate to break the news to you, but there is no Islamic world. There is no place with over priced halal snacks (OK maybe there are those) and lines for the fatwa ride. Just because someone is a Muslim doesn’t mean they had to come from somewhere else. And only 18ish% of Muslims in the world live in the Middle East. 18%. only. Muslims live and practice Islam in every country on the planet in a variety of concentrations.

Muslims are diverse. Let that sink in. Diverse. We participate in every culture from every country. We are indigenous peoples in the West, in the East, and everywhere in between. We fit in no box.

We worship our creator, share in a sisterhood, wear jeans and eat red beans and rice down South. We pray 5 times a day, say “Salam”, wear embroidered caps, and eat dumplings in Xinjiang, China. The “Islamic World” is the actual world.

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It’s Not About The Headscarf

Written By: Elyse Keelani*

Why is a Muslim woman’s worth symbolized by a headscarf** or the lack thereof?

In Western societies, the lack of a headscarf makes a Muslim woman blend into secular society; whether or not she’s a practicing Muslim is less important. Usually, as long as she looks the part, she is accepted. A lack of a headscarf in the eyes of the West means that she is not oppressed, and that she has found freedom.

its not about the headscarf

However, the West fails to see that their own society confines women also, and that women are treated simply as objects. If a woman wears a bikini on the beach, she’s fine. If a woman wears a bikini on the street, she’s deemed “loose”. If a woman of the right body-type wears a low-cut top, she is seen as sexy; If a heavy woman does the same, she is trashy. There are so many rules to follow, it’s hard to keep up.

“Do I look confident or self-absorbed?” “Do I look strong or do I look overbearing?” “Do I look sexy or do I look slutty?” The lines are drawn according to a woman’s race, body type, socio-economic status, etc. Then a woman might find that the lines are drawn differently in some Western countries, or in some areas of Western countries.

The worth of a woman is often narrowed down to fabric, but that worth was taken away long before anyone saw how she was dressed. Being “Jane” means less opportunity in life, less pay, more risk of being a victim of violence, etc.

Clothing is simply a symbol of how well a woman is fitting into the society that already oppresses her.

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Putting People on Pedestals

written by Theresa Corbin for About Islam

Pedestals are for Prophets and plants. This has been my mantra since I nearly let someone destroy my heart with their short comings. I put someone high up on a pedestal and it was unfair to them and to me.

Pedestals are unstable structures. And that inevitable fall from a pedestal is hard and painful.

Learning about pedestals

As a child and a young woman, many of the men in my life were untrustworthy, abusive, and dangerous, with the exception of one shining example. I looked to this one man to restore my trust, to restore my faith in men, to be that perfect example. I created a perfect idea of him and put that fiction up on a pedestal.

When that idea of this last man standing finally fell from the pedestal, as it was always meant to fall, it nearly broke my heart. I became bitter, angry, and hopeless until a friend reminded me that I had put him in a place only the prophets are meant to be.

Taking this to heart, I began to do the work of learning about the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) perfect character. His life story gave me hope. The more I learn the more I understood what a real man’s character should and CAN be. The more I learned about him, the more I healed. And I started to slowly put him and all the prophets in that highly esteemed place to the exclusion of all others.

Honestly, I am so glad that Allah (SWT) allowed the image of the last man I trusted to fall from the pedestal. I am even grateful for the pain it caused me because painful lessons are the best teachers.

As Yasmin Mogahed writes in Reclaim Your Heart , “That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. We need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.”

And so I told myself pedestals are only for Prophets and plants.


What happens when we put someone on a pedestal is that we put all our hope in another flawed being, we trust an imperfect person to perfectly pass all the tests of this world, or we imagine that they are here as a perfect example for us.

And in the end, we don’t even realize that the object we put on the pedestal is a flawed being- a human. That is until the image we have of them falls and breaks our hearts.

Continue reading here on About Islam.

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