Rahma with Rose

Walking the Spiritual Path as a Scholar-Activist: A Conversation with Dr. amina wadud

October 06, 2023 Dr. Rose Aslan / Dr. amina wadud Season 1 Episode 13
Walking the Spiritual Path as a Scholar-Activist: A Conversation with Dr. amina wadud
Rahma with Rose
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Rahma with Rose
Walking the Spiritual Path as a Scholar-Activist: A Conversation with Dr. amina wadud
Oct 06, 2023 Season 1 Episode 13
Dr. Rose Aslan / Dr. amina wadud

In this episode, I am joined by Dr. amina wadud, aka the Lady Imam. She is well-known as one of the foremothers of Islamic feminism and has been a student of Islam for over 50 years. An outspoken activist and scholar with a focus on Islam, justice, gender, and sexuality, in this conversation, I ask Dr. amina questions beyond her public persona about her personal spiritual and healing journey. amina describes her spiritual life as one of different phases and how we need to follow an approach of gentleness and self-compassion to live a life of presence and connection to the Divine. 

Rather than teach an obligation-centered Islam, amina proposes that individuals practice spirituality according to their ability and capacity. She emphasizes that only by trusting oneself and focusing within can one begin to experience peace and stop focusing on the outside world's noise. Keep listening to hear many more gems on embodying spirituality and living a good life from Dr. amina wadud.

Find Dr. amina wadud at these websites and social media accounts: 

Support the Show.

Find out more about Rose's work here: https://lnk.bio/dr.rose.aslan
Website: https://compassionflow.com

Support Rahma with Rose so I can keep producing more episodes here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2197727/supporters/new

Music credits: Vocals: Zeynep Dilara Aslan; Ney/drum: Elif Önal; Tanbur: Katherine Hreib; Rebap: Hatice Gülbahar Hepsev

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I am joined by Dr. amina wadud, aka the Lady Imam. She is well-known as one of the foremothers of Islamic feminism and has been a student of Islam for over 50 years. An outspoken activist and scholar with a focus on Islam, justice, gender, and sexuality, in this conversation, I ask Dr. amina questions beyond her public persona about her personal spiritual and healing journey. amina describes her spiritual life as one of different phases and how we need to follow an approach of gentleness and self-compassion to live a life of presence and connection to the Divine. 

Rather than teach an obligation-centered Islam, amina proposes that individuals practice spirituality according to their ability and capacity. She emphasizes that only by trusting oneself and focusing within can one begin to experience peace and stop focusing on the outside world's noise. Keep listening to hear many more gems on embodying spirituality and living a good life from Dr. amina wadud.

Find Dr. amina wadud at these websites and social media accounts: 

Support the Show.

Find out more about Rose's work here: https://lnk.bio/dr.rose.aslan
Website: https://compassionflow.com

Support Rahma with Rose so I can keep producing more episodes here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2197727/supporters/new

Music credits: Vocals: Zeynep Dilara Aslan; Ney/drum: Elif Önal; Tanbur: Katherine Hreib; Rebap: Hatice Gülbahar Hepsev

Dr. Rose: Hey, Dr. Amina Wadud, it's such a blessing and honor to have you on Rahma with Rose today. thank you for finding the time. I know it wasn't easy to find a time when we're both available. 

Amina Wadud: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. 

Dr. Rose: Yeah, this is absolute honor. And I know that a lot of my listeners are going to really look forward to this episode because You're not going to need much introduction for the people who already listened to my show, but they know a lot about your scholarship, your activism, but I think what people don't know a lot about is more about your spiritual and healing journey specifically and, what went on behind the scenes. So I would love to talk about the behind the scenes and meet up with a dude and to learn more of that if you're up for that. 

Amina Wadud: up for that. Definitely. 

 Wonderful. because we see so many, activists and scholars like yourself doing so much out there. And I think it's really important to also know what's happening behind the scenes. What happens when we reach a point of burnout. Is it like for people and then how do people recover from burnout? I know it's been a long process for you and I think it'll be a healing, conversation for many who listen to this. So if we can get started, I'd love to ask you, do you remember when you first got? interested in spirituality as a whole? 

Amina Wadud: I think before, there were words, that sort of made categories that were separate. 


Amina Wadud: I was always interested in the esoteric. My father was a Methodist minister. So I was raised in a God conscious household. In fact, I was raised in the God of love and, I took the name Wadud but in university as an undergraduate, I really started to examine, religious traditions other than Christianity, and I became a Buddhist.

And I still practice meditation today. I belong to a tariqa that, does meditation. And, 


Amina Wadud: I coming home to Islam, which now is almost 51 years, it allowed me to bring the love, for my Christian upbringing and Buddhism allowed me to bring the necessity for awareness of oneself in a very present manner.

It is still a of my practice and my perspective. So I've never had a negative experience with regard to religion. but you know, when they start to distinguish in terms of spirituality, I think that my spirituality has phases. I've gone through different phases in my life with regard to it. It wasn't static. and I think that's a blessing as well. 


Amina Wadud: It was a journey and I'm still on the journey, I guess I should say. 

Dr. Rose: Would you be willing to take us through some of those phases? If, in whatever kind of format suits you? 

Amina Wadud: Sure. 


Amina Wadud: I think first of all, I was fascinated with the reality of knowing that different people approach the divine, in different ways. that doesn't mean that I knew what way was, going to work for me. And I think, kind of an obsession with sincerity. So I want to do something that I know for sure, aligns me in the highest level of integrity. And, sometimes you get challenged with regard to things you know I still have dreams.

Where, it's like, will I go and, 


Amina Wadud: pray the Muslim, ritual, act of worship, the Salah? Would I do that without taking the proper ablutions? I like, I still dream about that, 


Amina Wadud: and even in South Africa, when they, asked me to be, the khadiva, to give the chutbah for the Friday prayer, 


Amina Wadud: because I was menstruating at the time, I gave the chutbah.

I couldn't join the line of prayer, and I'm like, nobody will know. There's like this momentum. And I said, Allah knows, and I just stepped to the back . so I think for me, everything has to do with, challenges to myself in terms of how I perceive of, 


Amina Wadud: being in my integrity for what I do, 


Amina Wadud: and how I do it.

 I think that's, a part of. I mean, I'd rather love a law, really, than to love a law because somebody makes you feel like somehow I'm obligated to do something and checking myself, continuously, 


Amina Wadud: for that integrity. I think that's an ongoing struggle. 


Amina Wadud: yeah, I do. I think it's an ongoing struggle and,


Amina Wadud: the phases in my life to me, I think, are more about the conditions that might allow me to simply, and I use this word, seriously, indulge in my spiritual practices. When my children were little. And I was a single mom. I had a lot of things on my plate. And my Ibada was like very functional, not very healing.

And now that you know my kids are adults, and they're having kids. I have the luxury of, simply giving time to my own spiritual reflections and I consider that to be a phase as well because it was not something that was always available to me because, I had too many responsibilities, whereas now I just have me.

Yeah. So I'm enjoying, the privilege of, being able to focus. On my spirituality and not have to worry that, somebody is challenged by whatever things happen to kids at different stages of their lives. 


Amina Wadud: so, in a way I kind of think that my faces were like that, that it has to do with how easy it was for me to access.

The kinds of things that I now find are very healing for me. It was not always available to me because I was just like, 


Amina Wadud: I consider myself to have had three jobs. A full time mom, full time, 


Amina Wadud: a place to make money, which happened to be a university. You and I both left it early. And,


Amina Wadud: I was a full time community, volunteer.

I mean, most of the work that I did on a voluntary basis. Yeah. 


Amina Wadud: so I was very much centered on, faith through worship, which in fact, through deeds, you know, like, yeah, more focusing on serving the community, than I was focused on, like, Just taking quiet time doing healing practices, which should be at my age or not as much of a luxury as I try to make them seem.

They're a necessity. So, yeah, I mean, I do feel like for me the journey was partially in relationship to the convenience of being able to actually participate. 

Dr. Rose: Yeah, this is such a much needed perspective. I say that as a single mother who often struggles to do everything I want to do because like you said, we have the job of being a mom and community service and professional life and it's a lot.

And so many women come to me and tell me that. They feel that they're not doing everything they should be, that God won't love them because mostly they're in the stage of motherhood, of being deeply dedicated to their jobs. And then they feel, they're deficient, right? What would you tell people, women and men, and anyone who is struggling with this challenge of not being able to do everything they want to do?

and this approach of thinking of our life as many chapters and we're in one chapter, what would you tell these 

Amina Wadud: people? I actually have people that I counsel on this because I try to tell people that the forms of worship that we are familiar with, to, the faith of our birth or the faith that we chose or whatever, that these forms of worship are available to the degree that we are available for them.

And I truly believe that, sort of allowing yourself To be in touch with yourself, uh, spiritually is a job that you have to take on. I don't feel like it just happens organically. I feel like devotion, the word that I use is devotion. I feel like devotion wants you to be devoted.

So I try to get people to understand that you take spaces. However small they are to just stop and be present with the presence of Allah because Allah is always present and we sometimes are busy and so it's not to say that, being busy is good or bad. It's simply to say that, for me, I see that the internal life requires, the Sufi calls, the polishing of the heart.

So there's a kind of notion in that metaphor, first of all, that the polishing is work. The end result, however, is your capacity to be able to taste that presence of Allah more readily, because you have never required of yourself something because of an external You know, push, but rather because internally you're wanting to find your presence in the presence of a love and it doesn't happen 24 seven to anybody.

And so whatever, I just try to get people to take increments. So that they carve out a little bit in their busy time, for themselves with the law. And there's no measurement of that experience of Allah's presence. So, just two seconds of it is enough for you to drink from for a very long time.

 But I think sometimes when we're busy doing as many things as we do. I know in my case. I tended to singularly focus on, the Islamic ritual of Salat. And that's not always available to people. And I tried to get people to accept that. they can perform in accordance to their location, and that is what Allah, accepts from them.

Amina Wadud: again, there's no external measurement like this is the right amount. But, we are taught, the five are obligatory. And that's great. And sometimes I actually managed to do the five, myself and sometimes I don't. And so. I have a battle with myself sometimes of acceptance.

Acceptance is an important part of, the journey of spirituality. You can't be who you are not. And if you want him to say, know yourself. You want to know Allah, you must know yourself. And in knowing yourself, you have you really and I have still to work on accepting myself as I am.

 So I don't make a judgment about the times in my life when I couldn't enjoy the kind of spirituality that I have the privilege to enjoy now, because I did also do service. So, yeah, that, in Arabic is both work is both service and it's devotion. And so I think that I kind of grew into being a servant through service.

Amina Wadud: So I don't, I don't begrudge it. I mean, it was necessary for me to survive. Under the circumstances that I was in. Yeah, I mean I very much enjoy this privilege right now. But I didn't always have it. And so I can't look at when it's not available to me as a judgment against me.

Yeah, otherwise I couldn't be present now, so, yeah. 

 I'm so curious how you support others and how you work on this yourself of working through that feeling of guilt and obligation and often the sphere based approach, consequence based approach to ritual in Islam specifically. How do you work through that and counsel others to work through it?

Dr. Rose: Because it's very prevalent among Muslims. 

Amina Wadud: It's pervasive, yeah. Well, most of my work is in the context of people who are experiencing oppression or omission, invisibility due to the structures that dominate, patriarchal, hegemonic, binary structures. And I find that people yearn for, a spiritual center.

And so what I try to do is to help them to remember that they are the vehicle, and and that you are okay where you are because Allah accepts you where you are, and that the only way that you go forward is that you do this as a partnership with Allah. and sometimes you're lucky to also have community because, again, the invisibility stuff is because some people are excluded from places.

And so when people can draw from that spiritual well again, I find that they're not quite as thirsty, so they're even better able to do, the work that they also are called to do. Yeah. 

Dr. Rose: Great. Thank you. I want to backtrack a little bit because you mentioned your first, Introduction to spirituality was Christianity, then Buddhism.

And as someone who was formerly Buddhist before I became Muslim, I was very intrigued by that because for me, it was such a important phase of my spiritual life. And it really helped me go through a very abusive and difficult childhood. And that's why I'm forever grateful to my experience of Buddhism.

I would love to know how your Sufi community and how you integrate Buddhism and Islam, Islamic spirituality together because for me it sounds normal and every day, but for a lot of Muslims, they're like, what? How? Please. So please explain how these go together. 

 Well, first of all my Sufi community is 100 percent Muslim.

Amina Wadud: They don't identify, with Buddhism, but I mentioned my journey because my journey began with a practice. It didn't begin, but my journey included a practice of meditation, which I gave up, when I took shahadah. However, I was fortunate to join a Sufi community that, practices mor off about intentionally and so, I not only returned to it, but I've had different kinds of experiences with it. Then I had when I was living in a brut usam, namely, that I. Feel more deeply about. Silence and stillness as one of the aspects of our spiritual well being. so I, that's why I say I retain the benefits of growing up with.

 my father is a Methodist minister who was, in my experience, very loving. And he was a fire and brimstone kind of preacher sometimes because he was evangelical. But I loved him and I loved his love of God. It's just, I began to have certain curiosities theologically, about this father son thing.

It just it didn't always work for me. So I gave up all gods to become a Buddhist because it is not a theist tradition and instead I began to really understand the notion of the sacred as pervasive in the universe. Again, the question is not whether or not it is present, the question is whether or not we're present to it and Buddhism taught me that and then doing this again with my sheikh, I've been with my sheikh about 25 years.

Just sort of rounded it out because I felt the sense of direction that Islam gives me needed as well, the sense of being centered that I got from Buddhism. And so, now, they're all together. I identify as an eclectic Muslim because I do want to retain, the history of my own spiritual work.

In the ways in which it nurtured me, I don't want to feel like some of that was Wrong or bad, just because, it might not be what everybody does. so I hold on to it through my own self naming, naming myself as as an eclectic Muslim. Yeah, I love that. I'm not afraid. Yeah, I'm not afraid of other things that have.

That have worked for me in this difficult journey.

Dr. Rose: I love that. I might start using that term myself, eclectic Muslim, because I was often searching for how do you describe yourself when there's various lineages and traditions that resonate with you and that have wisdom and teachings and healing and we can't just discard them.

So I appreciate that perspective a lot. And I think others will as well. So we talked about your spiritual journey, which started when you were very young. What about your healing journey? Would you say it's parallel or did that start later on when you intentionally started to realize that you needed to do a little bit more that, often there comes a time when people feel broken, just like stuck.

What was it for you? what triggered that start to walk the healing path? 

Amina Wadud: That's an interesting question because I guess I'll have to think whether or not I actually identify as having a healing journey personally because I don't have a memory of any religious, experience being negative.

I didn't have to heal in that way. I think we all, come from dysfunctional families and, some obviously are, more severe than others. Mine was. It was only one where literally the poverty that we experienced was crippling and, led to, certain traumas like, being evicted at the age of 10 and having my whole world turned upside down, I didn't understand.

But because, I've been really focused on the sacred since I was a teenager. I guess I could say I was blessed in that, I didn't have any negative, I had some theological questions, but I didn't have any negatives about my experience of being Christian, didn't have anything negative about my experience of being Buddhist.

Everything fed into who I am now. And so, I'm not really on a healing journey, except that I'm getting old. I have physical things that I have to, constantly, tend to, but I also do these in a loving way because I've chosen not to take medication for chronic pain, based on like back injury and arthritis.

Instead, twice a week I, in my own home, I create the perfect smile condition and I, aromatherapy and gel masks and finally learn how to make a playlist on those channels that you purchase and everything. I never knew how to make a playlist until the last few years and I just. I blissfully enjoy two and three hour massages twice a week, once for two hours, once in three hours.

Heavenly. And it's so centering and I recommend it to people because of course here is part of the culture. So they're very cheap, but I really recommend it to people in terms of what we call self care. the thing about me is that I did not, I didn't necessarily feel like I had to heal. But I wasn't really very good at self care.

I was too busy with this many children or this many, responsibilities. And now I have no excuse. The purpose of which is to again, bring me to a place of presence in the presence of Allah. And especially women, we are, we're so deeply into the care of others, that learning how to care for ourselves.

And that means in terms of trauma, and therefore healing, but also just in terms of maintenance because it's not a one time thing, this loving yourself. It's something that you have to put as much attention into as you have into a partner or a child or children or other things in the world that, people do love beauty.

I love beauty. I love nature. Learning to love myself is still an ongoing challenge. I replicate it sometimes by certain things and it reminds me to, as they say, stop and smell the roses because when I'm there for three hours, I don't have to think about. Anything other than being at one with the law. I mean, yeah, I recommend it. 

Dr. Rose: Yes. I'm sure we all wish we could do that, right? We've all moved to Indonesia, get massage, three hour massages twice a week. I would love that too. When you're younger and juggling all those different responsibilities, did you have a similar self care practice or is this a more recent addition? 

Amina Wadud: Yeah, I didn't not know that taking care of myself meant that I had to devote some time to it. I didn't understand that because first of all, my health was You know, very good. And so I just ran. I'm learning to, as I said, put myself into the formula of what has to happen in order for me to say, that I'm well.

 that was a learning curve, I noticed that Muslim women in one of the communities that I lived in, when I was still teaching, they would do these Pamper Me Plus was the name that they gave to this. And, I mean, my daughter loves to tell people, I mean, I never even had a pedicure and manicure until I was in my forties.

 it's sort of like. It's one of the cheapest things you can do for yourself, and you can take yourself off to get it done. And it takes, an hour maybe if they're quick and maybe 40 minutes or something like that. The idea of the Pamper Me Plus group really brought me to the awareness that just because you're really strong and you're really healthy, it doesn't mean that you need to neglect it.

Just as, loving yourself, I have a song that I play on my special channel that I made called The Spa Channel I will be gentle with myself, I will only go as fast as the slowest part of me, feels safe to go. And I didn't have any conception of that. I just ran.

And that's why for me, the language that I use is being present in the presence of Allah, which is something to me, I experienced most powerfully, with meditation. the reward from that is unbelievable. And yet I did not take advantage of it because I was too busy running around taking care of things that, were important to be taken care of.

Yeah. so we do sometimes have to learn To put ourselves in formula. And to not always think that, just because we're blessed with good health, that means that we're supposed to run ourselves ragged. That's like really difficult for some people, to see. And it was difficult for me. 


Dr. Rose: This is so essential for everyone to hear. And that doesn't matter how strong, healthy, how good you think you're doing. You still need to treat yourself well and with care and gentleness. And thank you for saying that. And, I say this. Every day, all the time, to everyone, and they still don't hear it.

So it doesn't matter how many times I say it and others say it, I want to repeat it again and again. What do you think was the turning point that made you say, hey, oh, it actually, like, I need this? what happened? Was it gradual? Was it all of a sudden you tried something and 

Amina Wadud: my kids grew up. 

I'm sorry to say it really was very practical. I think in some ways felt like, my mom didn't do everything that I wanted her to do. So, I wanted to be a better mom than my mom, the illusion, that I had that there was such a thing. And so I chose. To defer to, what in the Christian, upbringing that I had, I can characterize as, to be good, you have to work hard.

And I internalize that to the place where I didn't really have an understanding to transcend these narrow kinds of frames for goodness. And to see goodness as fulfilling the purpose that Allah has brought me to this earth to, to fulfill to align myself with that purpose. And I have surmised that you cannot know that purpose if you don't quiet your entire being.

To be present in the presence of Allah. I mean, you can do good things. I'm not trying to say that, people can be non religious and do good things, but I'm just saying that in terms of my journey, learning to put myself into the formula. As difficult as it was for me. Has led me to encourage others to understand that you, it's like this thing I say to my grandchildren.

Yes, you are the center of the universe. And then I say, and so is everyone else. So it is not a selfish journey, which, noticed in the beginning, I said something about, indulge, like it's not a selfish journey, but I so clearly remember when I did not have the options to pray that I went in the mosque, because I'm a single parent.

There's no way I'm going to go off and leave my kids and I can't afford a babysitter for, that many hours, that many days, so it was just something that was not even on my mind. Except that I knew it was happening, and, it's as again, I believe that we have to work at our spiritual wellness, but it is not just for the worth of it.

It is also for, I mean, I had the experience of going to, all of the Tarahueh for all 20 of the Rakhats, with a hafiz and everything. And what that was like when I was in the state of Michigan, which has very late Iftar. So, how long those went into the night. I'm not a night person.

And then you have to get up at three o'clock, to eat. And there came a time in that, one experience that I had of it until I was, in COVID. In COVID, I made 29, because now I don't have a break from menstruation. So, COVID, I made 29, but I would because we were just a group of people that didn't online, But to feel that transcendence, of this continual state of worship. Wow. That was so special. And I could not indulge in it when I was full time parenting, the kids at various stages of their lives, So I think Learning to put yourself in the formula is a task that is not learned just at one time, like you do it and then you slip.

It's like, okay, I'm rejuvenated now. I'm in spirited as they say, let me just go out and do a bunch of service again for everybody, and then you just exhaust, So, I mean, I still work to exhaustion sometimes, I admit, but I'm trying to do better with that. I tell people I'm working and being a non workaholic.


Dr. Rose: I'm a 

Amina Wadud: workaholic and I have to work at not being a workaholic. Because it doesn't come natural to me.

 I appreciate you sharing because there's a lot of workaholics out there and they need to hear that for workaholic you have to work at not being a workaholic and it's something that you're modeling really beautifully.

Dr. Rose: So thank you for sharing that with us too. Yeah. Question for you, something that you didn't actually mention, but I have to ask. So it seems like you're very skilled at differentiating between Muslims and Islam because you're saying you've never experienced trauma or difficulty within Islam.

But I think those of us who followed, that you've experienced many negative, you've had many negative experiences with Muslims attacking you, critiquing you and I'm sure it's much worse than we've even seen in terms of the messages you must get for your what people think is controversial statements and actions about Islam within the Muslim community.

So I would love to hear how you came to such a healthy perspective. First of all, what it was like. And what it's like to receive these kinds of comments and attacks. I'm sure it's been decades, unfortunately, and you've had death threats against you. So how have you dealt with that, first of all? And then how do you differentiate between Muslims and Islam so well?

Because so many Muslims I know really struggle with that and they Confused Islam with Muslims. And that really is a detriment to their practice of Islam and their connection to Allah. So I guess we can start with first, how have you dealt with the attacks? And then we'll go to the next question, but I'm so curious to hear your answer.

 I do have to say that there is more sensation than is reality. First of all, I literally never had any death threats. Okay. But there was a security measurement taken out and I became. Sort of under the Homeland Security, about my actions after the prayer, in 2005, but it wasn't because they were, that I personally received any death threats.

Amina Wadud: I did not. So it's not been that severe. But it became popular because, we were just starting with Google at the time, and literally, if you did a search of my name, in the first page, there was always this, death threat watch that somebody had created. And so people clicked on it, and so it stayed on the first page, forever.

It's probably still out there somewhere, but. I've endeavored to imbue my digital presence with much more of the divine love and stuff. So it has moved off the page, however, I have a lot of angst about the journey. Especially since so much of my journey was as a single mom, the journey that led people to focus on what was controversial and not take in the whole picture of the reality that I've been a student of Islam actively for 51 years.

And as a student, I have learned some things. And I am a human who has experienced some things, and I'm a member of community who has networked on certain things, and I have a field of scholarship that I've contributed to. And yet, people don't read that. they like the controversy. In fact, I'm preparing to do what I'm considering to be my last Teach in a full webinar on my 30 years experience working on hud.

Because when I did the work that I did it as a quote unquote objective academic, and yet the parallels in my own life and the suffering, difficulties that I had. trying to be an academic in a context where there's still Islamophobia, there's still racism, there's still sexism, don't go and have an opinion that's also on the left, it's like, so, I went through all of that and excelled as far as their markers go.

But, there was no comfort for me at night, I may be comforted my children and was comforted by their being comforted, but there was no comfort for me. And there were places where I felt, really betrayed, by the Muslim community where I was living, but because I have traveled in 60 countries and lived in six.

I don't have a view of Islam that is limited to any one community, no matter how many ways we might also, identify. So, for example, the African American Muslim community is extremely conservative. So they should be my go to community, but they have not been for me. So, sometimes I'm right now practicing gratitude in a certain way.

 I'm practicing an age appropriate gratitude. And that is that, of the 10 members of my family, only two of us are left. And a brother of mine who died a few months ago lived to be 74. That's the oldest anyone in my family lived. Up until that time, the oldest had only lived to be 69. Well, I'm having my 71st birthday next month.

 And so it means that every day that I live beyond, my family, especially, thinking about my mom and the females in my family who all died, one in their 40s and one in their teens. That every day that I have, I must celebrate the achievement of having this opportunity. I've lived longer than my mother lived.

Amina Wadud: and so I'm gifting to my mother, what she did not get to have in her life as a way for me to express with gratitude that Allah has given me life. So sometimes when you're looking at things. like the struggles that I went through, most of which I did not share, like I've never shared except one time was literally the month in which we, I started quarantine.

 I left the UK and went into quarantine beginning of the pandemic, March of 2020. The first time I've ever spoken in public about being in a marriage with violence. I never spoke about it, but I worked on domestic violence issues. I worked on paraic passages that people use to justify it, but I never spoke about my own.

 So there was lots of things that I went through that I put a good face on because there was so much more good than, the other stuff. and if. there's ever, I mean, my first book is now also, 31 years old. The idea that little book can exist for so long and still sell and none of those, you are not Muslim because you are not like us kinds of Muslims.

Amina Wadud: have been able to refute that book. It's an amazing thing, if you think about it. So, in a way, I have been given certain gifts, and those gifts I want to live in gratitude. I was given an opportunity for better education at the age of 14, which means I left my family and literally integrated my high school, all white graduating class, and there was only two of us in the whole school.

 The whole idea that intellectually I had something gifted to me that was unlike the rest of my family. None of my family went to the university. The next generation never went to the university. It was not until the third generation after that my family, saw university education. And yet, I went straight through the system.

Amina Wadud: And then became a university professor, so in some ways I was separated from my family because of this gift. And because of this gift. I have so much more joy than I have angst. about the naysayers, they pissed me off and say all kinds of cool little words in their presence because I still got soul. But yeah, they're not my focus. 

 I love it. You're just not letting them take away from your presence and your life and it's such a beautiful perspective because we can spend time stewing in anger and frustration, but where's that going to get us? Right. So that's such a beautiful approach. And how do you recommend people who maybe have less patience or ability to see this beauty everywhere?

 How do you recommend these people deal with the difficulties of seeing cruelty of poor behavior, all these sorts of things that distance people from Islam? 

Amina Wadud: Yeah, I definitely start off by validating their experience. I never want it to seem as if. we have different perspectives even on anger.

And I never wanted to seem as if I'm criticizing somebody because they are still angry. So I do validate, their experiences, and I think that's really, important. But. What I have learned is one of those things, because I learned it by experience. I didn't learn it because somebody told me.

What I have learned is that you will not have peace if Your focus is only on the negative. And I can make up enough negative about myself. So I have to also deal with that. It's not just the external stuff, and yet having people understand that, you're working on the healing journeys, having people understand that the healing that you achieve.

I want to say empowers you, but it lights you up so that you can be closer to your own capacity. the healing is for you. The serenity is for you. The turning and being present in the presence of Allah is for you. Allah does not need our worship in any form. So if we don't learn to, I mean, the one of the things that I do is I try to get people and give people tips about how to personalize your, your sacred practices, like I say, have a dedicated space in your house.

I know the whole world's a masjid, but have a dedicated space Because each time you go to that space, put your rug down or leave the rug down or whatever, you build up sacred energy in that space. And then when you return to that space, that energy is already charged and you get to sit in it. I have had, the first time I ever did a vision board, I was waiting for my daughter to give birth to her second child.

And, they went off to community center with other moms and everything and they did a vision board. And one of the things I put in vision board was that I would have a meditation room. I now live in a house where I have a meditation room. Wonderful. And it's just like, I dreamt of this, the idea that, this room will be only for prayer and meditation.

I don't do electronics and I don't do anything in that room except for do prayer and meditation, what a luxury. It's such a gift to myself. So I try to teach people that focusing on your spiritual well being pays so much back to you. And it pays the kind of revenue that no one can ever take from you.

 And so I don't want people to think about what you're working on, for example, the healing journey, as something that is simply a band aid to repair something, that was ripped. It is actually a way for you to reclaim your full integrity. And in that integrity, you understand, yes, you are the center of the universe.

Amina Wadud: You're exactly, one of my, another kid's book. Made by God, so I must be special. like, find the special within yourself. And you can't do it when you have all these scars. So the healing journey is about you reclaiming yourself through these spiritual practices. They give you the capacity to be at one with it.

It's not a show that you're doing with somebody else. It's not a mandate that your mother makes you do, or your father makes you do, or your wife makes you do, or your husband. It is you claiming your own spiritual reality. And that is a well that never runs dry. 

Dr. Rose: What I'm hearing. Thank you. This is absolutely beautiful. I definitely want to clip that part and share with people, especially what I'm hearing is that this involves a lot of self trust because to be able to drown out those voices. Often people give more trust and validity to those voices than they do to their own soul, right? To be able to focus on yourself means you trust yourself and that you trust yourself over the voices.

Is that what you're saying basically? And how do you get to a point of self trust, I think? Because that's what a lot of people I speak to are struggling with. They're like, I think they're more valid. They're orthodox Muslims. They must be more valid than me. I don't know anything about Islam. I'm just trying, but I don't know anything.

Therefore, I can't trust myself. What do you say to people who say that? 

Amina Wadud: Yeah,I understand that. because I'm a Muslim by choice, which is, in other words, a convert. And I think maybe for the first 20 years, I always thought that there was a thing that was, well, first of all, I thought there was such a thing as true Islam, which now I understand is a metaphor about utopia and we're striving.

But I also thought that was a true Muslim and I wanted to be a true Muslim and everything that I thought meant being a true Muslim was taken from the outside, and that's why I'm saying that it's extremely important for people to even understand how you are the vehicle of your own transformation.

And you can't do it in the cacophony of, all of your responsibilities. You've got to fulfill them. I'm not ever, I'm PK, Preacher's Kid. responsibility is the way we're raised, I'm not ever saying don't fulfill your responsibilities, but put yourself in the formula.

And really dig deep to hear the still small voice of Allah. Really dig deep. And when you have that presence in the presence of Allah, it does drown out all the cacophony. You become more adept even at fulfilling your responsibilities because you're not wasting time trying to please someone else, which if you think about it, it's a kind of shirk, like, when people say to me, you're not Muslim, and I say, I don't want to be that kind of Muslim.

I don't want to be the kind of Muslim that you are Using to assert nasty things about me, untruths about me, or whatever. If that's what you think Islam is, I don't want that. I do have one advantage. And that is, I literally spent 50 years in the study of Islam. So I have a lot of resources. And when I draw from those resources, intellectually and spiritually, I realized, wow, it's such a shame they're missing out on this wonderful gift that Allah has given us because they have such a narrow mind, so I think that, the need for people to build their confidence that what is asserted.

As Islam through authority, like the authoritative voice of Islam. I mean, it has some reasoning behind it. It even has some source text because, I studied source text. I know, have some source behind it, but the twist that is put on it so that it does not become the thing of love and compassion.

That's all people stuff. And if you collect enough of that information, you can discern between what is true and what is people stuff, now it doesn't mean everybody has to be a scholar of Islam. It does however require of you to make peace with yourself. You have to make peace with yourself. And for me, identifying, for example, as an eclectic Muslim was part of making peace with the fact that there are elements in my life.

That don't come from Islam and they are still important to me. I mean, I did my DNA studies. I don't know some number of years ago and I learned that of all the composites 65 percent African 35%, European, that the single most degree of anything was Irish. And you know what I said? Oh, I guess that's why I like Celtic music.

And I have a Celtic cross, on my altar. I keep an altar, for example, and the freedom that I now feel with regard to loving Allah, you can't buy it in store. it's so different from when I wanted to please everybody by being able to demonstrate that I know stuff.

 it's like, that's great and I'm really, I really am happy that I do know stuff, but there's nothing that really replaces working on a relationship with Allah that becomes authentic for you. And we're not taught to have a relationship with Allah, we're taught to follow the rules.

That's how Islam was given. And it's very difficult to teach something else, by the way, because it's like, well, what are you teaching? how do you verify it? but. I, again, I had the legacy of my father. My father was a fire and brimstone kind of preacher, but he really loved God.

There was no doubt. I lived in the house with this man, and I know, certain ends. I don't know everything. Some things that, like, well, what was that, but. Mostly he presented himself in the house and in the street with the same kind of integrity. And that was my only aspiration when I became Muslim.

It just got sidelined by my thinking that there is a real Muslim, and so I need to somehow be a real Muslim. And a real Muslim is all this, the dominant model of patriarchal hegemonic binary. And that, to me, is not Islam anymore. I did have a period of time where I kind of fell for it, but not anymore.

Dr. Rose: So interesting, and I'm just so grateful for you sharing this. you're known as one of the foremothers of Muslim or Islamic feminism, but I think also maybe what you're teaching now is liberatory Islamic spirituality. It's just beautiful and eclectic Islam, right? It's such a beautiful approach. As we wrap up What pearls of wisdom would you want to share with people listening to this show?

Amina Wadud: Wow. That really puts you on the spot, doesn't it? 

Dr. Rose: Yes, putting you on the spot, I know you have a lot of lessons, you've shared so much wisdom with us, but if you could just share one or two deep lessons that you would like people to really keep with them. 

Amina Wadud: Okay I guess, I still feel on the spot. It's so such a heavy, such a daunting task, pearls of wisdom. I think I have consistently said, since I've been chatting with you that we really have to. Learn to touch the depth of your own self, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the mystery, the wonder. You really have to touch the deepest part of yourself to find that is the place where Allah resides.

And when you can be present with the presence of Allah, you will find a wholeness and a wellness in yourself. That can never be taken away. So, you have, you do have to work at it, but it's in you. 

Dr. Rose: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm so grateful for this conversation. I think others will be as well.

Dr. Amina Wadud, I so appreciate you and the work and legacy you've given to Muslims and many more people around the world who've benefited from everything. And thank you for sharing another side of you. The beautiful spiritual side that we need to hear more of. So looking forward to, more conversation.

 Thank you so much for asking me. It was a challenge because again, I wanted to be authentic, but it's like, well, what can I say? So thank you for asking me. It was such a lovely opportunity. Thank you.