Monday, March 28, 2005

Woman Leads Muslim Prayers in New York

Yesterday morning, in New York, a woman led Muslim Friday Prayer Services for what the organizers claim was the first time ever on record. The Voice of America writes:
Amina Wadud has now taken a step to change Islamic traditions. An Islamic scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University, Professor Wadud describes herself as a lonely scholar who took this most public of steps to symbolize the possibilities for gender equality within Islam. She led the mixed-gender service at a building on the grounds of the episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine after the original venue was changed following threats.

Several religious leaders in the Middle East have criticized the event, saying it violates centuries of tradition. But in her sermon, Professor Wadud said it is a violation of god's integrity to try to reduce half of God's creation. 'Allah is always present whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we agree with it or not, whether it is convenient for us or not, women and men both are necessary and essential to Allah's plan for creation and women and men both have the capacity to reach more moral excellence,' she said.
A quote in the New York Daily News brings up the fear of Muslims who protest against this event, that it might spread ripples of women's emancipation across the Muslim world.
Although billed as a spiritual event, yesterday's service held potentially profound social implications for Muslims around the world, said Khaled Abou El-Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA.

"What the fundamentalists are worried about is that there's going to be a ripple effect not just in the U.S. but all over the Muslim world," Abou El-Fadl said. "The women who are learned and frustrated that they cannot be the imam are going to see that someone got the guts to break ranks and do it."
Also see New York Times, other related stories.

UPDATE 3/28/05:
Khalid commented:
The Grand Mufti did not speak out in support. You can read his ruling for yourself.

Anyhow, there are already female imams, in China, where they have woman-only mosques; no one has a problem with this. And women have always been scholar/jurists and sufi shaykhas-- both of these positions are considered much more important than imams, whose function really is just to keep everyone ontime and in sequence.
I see that he actually reported that some scholars wrote that it was acceptable for a woman to lead men in prayer, but not in the Friday prayers.
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