In this series of articles the BBC goes in search of goddesses from many religious cultures and different continents, and ask: what does it mean for both women and men to worship a goddess, rather than a male god? Where has the goddess disappeared to in faiths like Christianity and Islam, which appear so dominated by men?
“Mary of course is an important figure in Islam, where she’s honoured as the mother of the Prophet Jesus.
But anything like the veneration of Mary at Walsingham would be quite unthinkable for Muslims – so where do they look for the feminine aspect of the divine, and where do they find it?
“When you look at the Quran it has one description of the essence of the divine. And language fails to describe the essence of that entity, which is indescribable and cannot be defined. But there is a description in the Quran, and the description is androgynous. Androgynous, gender-less, or even better, beyond gender.
“My conclusion is that the divine as defined in the Quran is gender-less or even beyond gender. However, if the Quran is divinely inspired, when it was recorded it was recorded by a patriarchal culture. And the divine was turned into a He. So when you read the Quran you will find that God said, Allah said, and then He said.”
Fadia Faqir, Jordanian British writer and feminist.
And yet, if the Qur’an is divinely inspired, as Muslims believe, does this text inspired by God reveal a feminine side of God? There are attributes like compassion, kindness, and forgiveness, says Fadia – but to call them feminine may not be useful:
“If God is an essence, you can’t apply gender norms to an essence. So I wouldn’t go there myself. The feminists in the West, they have turned God into feminine, they say she rather than he. And I don’t know if it’s going to be useful for us to turn God into a she. We cannot define God. So to apply gender is a bit hasty.” “