“What’s in a Name?” by Amina Wadud from Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam

“God will not look at your bodies or forms, but at your hearts”(48).

I was drawn to this Prophetic quote that Wadud employs in her discussion of khalifah, or human moral agency, as I am interested in the role of the body in exercising spirituality. This quote implies that divinity does not judge based on the body, but on the goodness of the “heart,” or the moral intent of the human. A reasonable question to follow is whether there are differences between the expected levels of morality exercised by humans with different bodily makeup. While perhaps not the original intent, interpretation, history, and globalization has come to define morality in a manner that expects different behaviors from humans with different bodily makeup. For example, females are often expected to cover more of their bodies than men are, in religion and even in many modern legal codes. Does this necessarily imply that the morality expected of females is higher than that of males? Or does it simply require that women do more so as to attain the same level of morality men attain by doing less? Clearly, throughout history, biological makeup is a factor when it comes to determining morality – perhaps it would be worthwhile to return to this quote, and reevaluate our assessments of the body that translate into notions of morality.

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