How Ms. Marvel Led Us to Feminist Quranic Interpretation

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

So I remember the moment I discovered there was a Muslim female superhero – Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. I remember ordering one of the comic books online for my daughter, and how she devoured it when it first arrived, how she was hungry for more, and I believe I went and bought her a Kindle version of another issue.

This week, my daughter’s been sick, and we binge-watched the Ms. Marvel series (only 6 episodes). I was NOT expecting to have to explain to my daughter what Jinn meant. I mean, I could have just let it pass, in the way that I let it pass when TV shows talk about ghosts or bigfoot or aliens or whatever. But there is actually a chapter in the Quran called Jinn. I’m not actually very knowledgeable about Jinn, but it felt like I should address this issue. So I kind of started, got stumped, then let it slide for a while, and mulled it over.

Then today, after a recent conversation with a friend who sometimes reads Quran in English, I remembered that there was this site I really like to use called Corpus Quran, which shows all the different English “interpretations” of Quranic verses. We called them “interpretations” not “translations” as a recognition of how the act of translation involves interpretation, and we can reach different conclusions. This corpus site shows about 6 different interpretations by different scholars. Anyway, here is the link to Surat al Jinn (chapter of Jinn) first verse, and you can go through them if you’re interested: https://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=72&verse=1.

The main point of this blogpost, though, is not Jinn, or anything. It’s that when my (decidedly very feminist) daughter started reading the different interpretations and noticing the differences, she first started to form favorites “I prefer this interpretation to that one…” and eventually “this person’s way of interpreting and writing is more accessible”… and then… “this is a sexist translation” and finally… ” I want to do this. I want to become a translator of Quran”. And this was a big moment. Because then we could have a conversation about how the Quran has historically been interpreted by males, and how this could lead to biased interpretations, and how valuable it is when women interpret it.

I don’t know, of course, whether an 11 year old making this statement with passion might lead to anything significant, but I felt like this moment of inquiry and bonding led to a lighbulb moment of critical thinking (not spirituality, interestingly). But it was one of my favorite moments of this week. So I just wanted to share that here.

3 thoughts on “How Ms. Marvel Led Us to Feminist Quranic Interpretation

  1. I love, love, love the idea that your daughter wants to translate the Quran. This made me think about how important it is to ensure that we have a diverse representation in who translates and/or interprets a text–certainly in sacred texts as you discuss here, but also as we consider the so-called canon in secular disciplines.

    1. Hi Michael! So good to hear from you πŸ’• and I hope you’re well.
      Every time I choose to blog about something like this, I hesitate for a split second: will this benefit others? Or is it just me talking about myself and my child? And then I remember who my audience are, and they’re educators and some of them will find it useful! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      1. Thank you! I’ve been what a friend once referred to as “pandemic-good.” But I’m hopeful that things will continue to improve.

        I mostly lurk on your blog (and a few others) these days; I don’t seem to be able to find the time to engage as much as I would like on blogs, Twitter, and so forth. But I learn a lot from what you share. πŸ™‚

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