Unfortunately, an inordinate number of Muslim men, and also women, fail to recognize the many ways that patriarchy is an offence against morality and Islam. Too many Muslims and non-Muslims are not sufficiently sensitized to the fact that patriarchy is despotism and that it is a morally offensive condition. As an institution, patriarchy feeds on the eradication of women's moral agency; it erases and marginalizes women; and, most significantly, it negates the possibility of true surrender to God. Likewise, an inordinate number of Muslims fail to reflect upon the extent to which patriarchy exploits the instruments of religious authority but ends up displacing God's authority altogether.
Often erasure is purposeful and sinister, as when it is the result of willful animosity to women, but what is more challenging and also endemic is when erasure is subtle, inconspicuous, and nearly imperceptible because it is the outcome of moral ambivalence, or a well-theorized and well-fortified act of self-deception. After all, what could be more potent and dangerous than the seemingly endless ability of human beings to deceive themselves into believing that those who are erased are actually being affirmed, that the oppressed are actually in the process of being liberated, that the marginalized are well sheltered and protected, and that, ultimately, they like it this way?
Centuries ago the Quran warned human beings against the psychology of ambivalence - the dealing with moral failures through escapist strategies of displacement and projection. The Quran warned that the psychology of ambivalence creates people who are oblivious to the true nature of their conduct - such people corrupt the earth while insisting that they are doers of good. Corrupting the earth is a Quranic expression that refers to conduct that fundamentally undermines and tears apart the fabric of God's creation. However, the quintessential act of corruption is, whether intentionally or obliviously, to perpetuate conditions that rob humans of their agency and thus their ability to partake in God's covenant in any meaningful way. A part of this corruption is to attempt to erase the Divine presence, to replace God’s role by usurping and claiming the authority of the Divine as one's own, to arrogantly and pretentiously stand ready to issue judgments about God's will without due diligence, critical moral reflection, or conscientious pursuit of learning. It is the psychology of ambivalence that is responsible for the virtual flood in self-designated so-called experts indulging in ijtihad-talk and simultaneously spewing a plethora of ill-informed fatwas.
Speaking one's mind is an exercise in autonomy and agency, but the practice of ijtihad has its own equally compelling ethics, the most essential and basic of which is well embodied by the meaning of the word itself, which is: to exert and exhaust oneself in the pursuit of thought and knowledge in search of the Divine will. Without question, Muslims ought to be free to speak their minds and voice their opinions, but it is a different thing altogether to pretend to speak the mind of the Divine and, instead of humbly voicing one's opinions, presumptuously endowing oneself with the voice of God.
Foreward to "Inside The Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam" - Khaled Abou El Fadl