I thank Nuh Ha Mim Keller for writing Sea Without Shore. Surely, after reading the book, that is the feeling many a reader is left with, the hopelessness one experiences when stranded out at sea for months at a time.
The book introduces the reader to a handful of personalities that the author holds in high esteem. Their stories are sometimes a good read if you enjoy biographies spliced with fiction and the glorification of bedu culture.
Keller continues by then describing the way of the Shadhilisufi order. This details what the murid, a disciple of the sheikh, should believe, think, and do on a daily basis. Reading the news and drinking the coffee are out of the question! What really struck me was his description of the Muslim lady and what her duties as a wife entail. Nuh states on page 235,
"Women in the tariqa have also found a lot of benefit from The Surrendered Wife. A third work is Happy Housewives, especially useful for women affected by modern corporate values …”
So a housewife is preferable, but he continues,
"It is better to avoid the overly "academic type" of girl whose mother has waited on her all her life at home with every conceivable labor to free her to study, so that she never learned how to work, cook, clean, … "
And the list goes on, but you get the picture. A few page later Keller again strikes out at educated and work-ambitious women,
"A woman devoted to academic or career achievement should leave marriage and family to those who have time for it, because she will not be able to them their due."
For me, the above is sheer poison for the believing male. Again, I have to thank Nuh for reminding me of the utter garbage he, and many who wear the robes of religion, produce for the unsuspecting and less knowledgeable Muslim. I’ve read about various cases of broken families and faith lost after lodging nearby Keller in Amman and this book has helped provide insight into the abuse and control that occurs in the lives of those who actually follow him.
Perhaps Keller should read up on Khadijah, the first wife of the Prophet ﷺ. Most of the early women in Islam were tough, intelligent, hardworking, and determined. But I admit, I’m not qualified to speak on the early women in Islam, so I’ll leave it to Zaid Shakir, a Muslim cleric in California, to expound on this issue. He said most recently on his Facebook page,
Our Prophet, peace upon him, was surrounded by strong, assertive and independent women. His beloved Khadija, was one of the most successful business people in the Arabian Peninsula, and her wealth allowed the Prophet, peace upon him, to retreat to the Cave of Hira where he would receive the first revelation. Aisha, despite her young age was an aggressive, free-spirited, intellectual powerhouse who would become one of the great female scholars in history. The foundation for her intellectual greatness was laid by the Prophet himself, peace upon him. Zainab bint Jahsh ran a “non-profit” organization. She would make various handicrafts, sell them in the market and then use the proceeds to secretly give charity to the poor people of Madina. Umm Salama, had the courage to migrate from Mecca to Medina, unescorted, although she was ultimately accompanied by a single rider. She also had the vision to resolve the crisis at Hudaybiyya. These were all wives of the Prophet, peace upon him. To their names we could add those of many other strong and dynamic women who played a major role in the life of the fledgling Muslim community.
In short, save your time and wealth on this book unless your doing research on the abuse of women within “sufi” communities.