Women Leading Prayer - The Deeper Issue
On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumuah prayer. On that day women took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did we come closer to actualizing our God-given liberation?
I don't think so.
What we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to God-not in relation to men. But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left-but men. As a result the western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man. And in so doing she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man-the standard.
When a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to join the army. She wanted these things for no other reason than because the "standard" had it.
What she didn't recognize was that God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness--not their sameness. And on March 18, Muslim women made the very same mistake.
For 1400 years there has been a consensus of the scholars (both men and women) that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim woman, why should this matter? The one who leads prayer is in no way spiritually superior. Something is not better just because a man does it. And leading prayer is not better, just because it's leading.
Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldn't the Prophet have asked Ayesha, Khadija, or Fatima-the greatest women of all time-to lead? These women were promised heaven-and yet they never lead prayer.
But now for the first time in 1400 years, we look at a man leading prayer and we think, "That's not fair." We think so although God has given no special privilege to the one who leads. The imam is no higher in the eyes of God than the one who prays behind.
On the other hand, only a woman can be a mother. And God has given special privilege to a mother. The Prophet taught us that heaven lies at the feet of mothers. But no matter what a man does he can never be a mother. So why is that not unfair?
When asked who is most deserving of our kind treatment? The Prophet replied 'your mother' three times before saying 'your father' only once. Isn't that sexist? No matter what a man does he will never be able to have the status of a mother.
And yet even when God honors us with something uniquely feminine, we are too busy trying to find our worth in reference to men, to value it-or even notice. We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother-a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and self-less compassion (considered feminine), rationality reigns supreme.
As soon as we accept that everything a man has and does is better, all that follows is just a knee jerk reaction: if men have it-we want it too. If men pray in the front rows, we assume this is better, so we want to pray in the front rows too. If men lead prayer, we assume the imam is closer to God, so we want to lead prayer too. Somewhere along the line we've accepted the notion that having a position of worldly leadership is some indication of one's position with God.
A Muslim woman does not need to degrade herself in this way. She has God as a standard. She has God to give her value; she doesn't need a man.
In fact, in our crusade to follow men, we, as women, never even stopped to examine the possibility that what we have is better for us. In some cases we even gave up what was higher only to be like men.
Fifty years ago, society told us that men were superior because they left the home to work in factories. We were mothers. And yet, we were told that it was women's liberation to abandon the raising of another human being in order to work on a machine. We accepted that working in a factory was superior to raising the foundation of society-just because a man did it.
Then after working, we were expected to be superhuman-the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker-and have the perfect career. And while there is nothing wrong, by definition, with a woman having a career, we soon came to realize what we had sacrificed by blindly mimicking men. We watched as our children became strangers and soon recognized the privilege we'd given up.
And so only now-given the choice-women in the West are choosing to stay home to raise their children. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 31 percent of mothers with babies, and 18 percent of mothers with two or more children, are working full-time. And of those working mothers, a survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found that 93% of them say they would rather be home with their kids, but are compelled to work due to 'financial obligations'. These 'obligations' are imposed on women by the gender sameness of the modern West, and removed from women by the gender distinctiveness of Islam.
It took women in the West almost a century of experimentation to realize a privilege given to Muslim women 1400 years ago.
Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something I'm not--and in all honesty--don't want to be: a man. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness.
If given a choice between stoic justice and compassion, I choose compassion. And if given a choice between worldly leadership and heaven at my feet-I choose heaven.
Yasmin Mogahed received a B.S. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently a graduate student in Journalism/Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and working as a free lance writer.
Topics: Mothers, Prayers (Salah), Women
As a teacher, I have seen the faces of those chidren in school who have broken families and can not excel in their studies. During counceling, I have felt their pain when they mention I don't have dad/mom or they are so busy in their affairs, competing eachother, that we don't get enough time with them. I hope my sisters will find their examples in Ayesha, Khadija, Fatima and the ladies who have left the marks on history by not competing with men but hoping the rewards from Allah(SWT) for their dignified work, i.e. raising Mo'min children that will become Sadiq-e-Jariah for them until the day of judgement and not of those who by their neglect will become curse for both parents. May Allah give us Hidayah, Aa'meen.
Very well put....and makes a lot of sense if the reader can start with an open mind...i went through both the comments for the ones who agrees and disagrees...and basically the ones who do not agree either do not understand or do not want to understand....
Man ..woman..honestly it does not matter....what is important is not who lead the prayers but our prayers and how we interprete Islam and the Quran. Form and substance....it is the substance that matters..NOT the form..
Some comments even wants to challenge the laws created by Allah...if for non Muslims..understandable... but from fellow Muslims????
All the best ..Alhamdulillah..
MUSLIMS UNITE!!!!STOP THE PETTY BICKERING AND LOOK AT THE LARGER PICTURE......
Many years ago it was unthinkable for a woman to become a journalist. Did Ms. Mogahad become one because she saw men doing it? Probably not.
Is Ms. Mogahad a mother? If not, will she give up her dream of journalism to ensure her children do not become strangers to her? If she is a mother, because she works, can heaven not be laid at her feet?
Many years ago it was even unthinkable for women to have a higher education, much less read or write. And yet it is for the benefit of all, for education to be instilled in all children.
I do object to the implication that those mothers who do work due to "financial obligations being imposed upon them by the gender sameness of the modern west" . Is it gender sameness for a mother to wish her children to have food on their table, a roof over their heads, or provide for a better education? Yes in a perfect world, a mother should not want or need for anything, but she does need and generally it is for her children. Are these mothers un-worthy and in-distinct because they put their own needs (being at home with her children) below those of her children (food, shelter, clothing)?
And what of women without children who work? Are they un-worthy and in-distinct? What of widows (either men or women) who must be both mother and father?
Each individual is praised with different gifts to benefit society. It would be shameful to deny a person (and I say person to include men & women) the avenue to express those gifts whether it be a woman leading prayers or a man raising a child. I know men cannot give birth but do not say they cannot be mothers because they can and they have.
Gender distinction is a wonderful thing but a person should be true to what Allah has instilled in thei
It is not compulsory for woman to do Jumaat prayer. Why then she wants to lead that prayer?
a lovely expression of aspirations for all muslims male and female...why should men and women aspire to standards set by humans when we can aspire to the standards set by the lord of creation.i agree y should women follow standards set by men who many themselves now seem to feel that the only way to redeem themselves is to be more feminin...
I am not asking for a Fatwa but a simple answer: Suppose in a female group [any group], the members elected an Imam (from among themselves) to say their prayer (mandatory) in Jamat. Can a male join that jamat (as urged in Quran)?
I agree that a woman should not try to be like a man. However, how can seeking a position of leadership whether in prayer or in any other case be defined as trying to be a man?
I do not understand why gender should be important, since, unlike giving birth, leadership, does not require any gender-specific biological characteristics.
Any human being, regardless of gender, race, or social status should thus be allowed to lead prayer.
Prayer should be a reminder that we are all equal before our Maker...
The article is very well written. I completely agree with you. Keep up the good work. May Allah bless you. Khuda Hafiz. Sahiba
When you confront them with facts, like the writeer did, they start arguing about not enough evidences and so forth. They simply want to reject the Quraan and Sunnah and innovate a new Islam, that fits their whims and desires.
I say to all of them, Islam has liberated women 1400 years ago. The west dares to value women in the manner prescribed by Allah SWT to all muslims.
If you truely care about women and that is your real agenda, go back to the teaching of Islam, fulfill Allah's commands as you are told, follow the Sunnah as prescribe my the Prophet PBUH, and our situation InshaAllah will change. But, you will not do it because it is too hard for your weak souls. This is why you want to revert to "shortcuts" and innovate a new religious and dress is with your version of Islam.
As for "God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness--not their sameness", human dignity stems from the fact that we 'know Allah'. Hence Adam's distinction from the rest of creation was that he was given knowledge - that is how God dignifies humans. And that refers to all humans - not just men!
I do agree on one point - that striving to be like a man if you're a woman, or like anyone else taht you're not, for that matter is shortsighted. Our striving is ultimately for excellence in knowing Allah. And if some of us chose to know Him through leadership ... why not?
BTW ... If we women are striving to be like men, who are men striving to be like??? Who do men strive to be like when they interpret the Qur'an and hadith in a way that keeps me confined to the darkest corner of my home? Who are they striving to be like when they lead salaah, make azaan, lead the community etc? I wonder??
All I can say is that we're not striving to be anything like that. If anything, I think we are all of us striving to stop anyone, men or women who try to keep us from a full and wholesome relationship with God ... so that we may dignify Him!
It is about being RESTRICTED from doing something. If a man can lead prayer and if prayer is DIRECTED TOWARD GOD and if the woman is TRULY honored before God, then WHY is the Muslim woman FORBIDDEN from this beautiful practice or position? It is the MEN who have made this about MEN, saying that a woman has no place in leading prayer. But prayer isn't OR SHOULDN'T be about them anyway but about God.
take your proper place in our society. Islam has given you the equal rights please do not step over the basic rules & regulations of Islam.
Leading Jumuah prayer is not right. Sisters please take your proper place in Islam and your homes.
Do you think in a olympic games which women/girl is gold medel winner she ran equal to the men?Never.She should be equal to the men who is 4th.or 5th.If you looking for equal rights then men & women run togother do you think they ever win?Allah creat men stronger than women thats allah's secreacy & beauty.In a wrestling man and women never fight togother.If they fight women never win.This is not a disrespect to fight men& men Women & women.This is respect and values.Whatever Allah gave to the women he never gave to the men.Women should be proud for that Allah creat her as a wommen as a mother as a child's Haven.
Allah give us the tawfique to understand islam and follow Quran.Amin.Jajakumullah khaier.
All this has resulted in this woman taking great pride in leading a prayer & others aligning this side or that side. In effect it is bid'ah, a deviation without justification. Hope it is not. But it can lead to the same situation as American women demanding and getting the right to serve in the armed forces and getting raped & gang raped.
Having said that, it is a fact that women have not been given their due and honorable place in ( mostly Arab) Muslim societies. They are aggrieved party. If they fall on the otherside, from the frying pan to the fire - whome should we blame ?
Let us pray, good sense prevails on both sides.
With Sis. Amina having to prove to herself that she can create a ground swell of opinion by declaring that it is acceptable for women to lead the Jumah prayer, the jester only gives relief to those oppressed Sisters who feel that their rights have been denied to them by men. Unfortunately, whom ever is advising Sis. Amina has misinformed her. For oppressed women in
countries that show no respect for women, this will not elevate their conditions at all. It appears to me that this was derived to divide us and cause greater disunity. However, Allah is the best knower and while it appears in the light of day to be dark, there is a reason that Islam has been given the attention that it has. Allah is the best of Planners. Insha Allah, look to the positive aspect of the revelations that are before you, and keep your words and your actions to the right. May Allah forgive us our sins and bless us to continue with the light of His understanding.
1. who did Allah created as khalifah ?
2. name one female prophet ?
3. Maryam is mentioned by name not Maryam ibnatu Imran but Isa is mentioned Isa ibnu Maryam.
4. nowhere in the qur'an when mentioned both man and woman, woman's name comes first.
there's more but do they really want to hear.
"khatamallahu a'la quluubihim"
May Allah reward you for this.
we even wouldn't dare against it. May Allah give
us guidance every second of our remaining life.
We all must be concerned and focused towards making the right decision within the boundaries of Islam. Competing with men to establish equality should not be the norm for women. The society, or so called world democracy has created the definition for equality for men and women. As you correctly pointed out, equality is defined within Allah's Quran and our prophets (SAS) Hadiths. Certain privileges are given to women and others are not, and vice versa for men. Just because the Quran and SAS Hadiths don't permit certain things for men and women, we must not come to conclusion that our noble book and Hadiths are biased towards a certain gender. Eventually, we will find the right mix and a good explanation for all, if we spend time studying the Quran and Hadiths rather than reading it.
One thing I like to point out in terms of Women leading prayers. Take for example; men always know their purity because Wudu establishes that for them. But Women even if they take Wudu, can they guarantee purity? No. Though women keep a count of days for their mensors (Periods), there is no 100% accuracy on when it'll be experienced. What if it happens at the time of leading prayers? All at the congression following the imam in prayers, will have the notion of prayers not being answered. Let's say the Lady Imam is changed on her mensors day. Won't this be a subject for others to laugh? Therefore, Islam is established with strong principals by Allah. If SAS didn't allow it, then we must not do it.
alhamdulliah i think the author has made it clear the fair love of allah toward his creation.women has such a high status that non of the wordly justice can ever give. i thank the author for giving out so much information in such a good way.may allah accept our sincere efforts.ameen
Being leading prayers for men does not give women any extra credit that we may be accountable to Allah swt.May we all be guided to the right path.
uniqueness and beauty of the roles of men and women. There is
something however that we definitely do not want to lose sight of and
that is, as Ms. Mogahed mentioned a woman that chooses to stay at home
to take care of her children (be it Muslim) or not does not make her a
passive and weak individual. Furthermore, a Muslim woman does not
just stay at home and take care of children (this is a full time job
on its own that goes completely unrecognized unfortunately in our
world today). However, She is one who helps society enhance and move
forward in every sense of the word.
Women during Prophet's (PBUH) time were the best teachers, best
warriors, amazing home care mothers, best business people, and also
held ministerial positions like Ayesha (Rady Allah 3anha). The Prophet
PBUH once said that if anyone needs to learn about the teachings of
Islam, one should go to Ayesha (not her father Abu Bakr ElSedeek who
was one of the Prophet's best friends). This does not make a woman
want to be like a man rather, it is the urge to want to help society's
civilization grow and gain her value in relation to God, which is very
much a woman's role in Islam. This comes to show the uniqueness of
women's multitasking skills, intelligence and the ability to help the
enhancement of society in every way.
Where as others compare the Islamic world to the West in how it is worse.
Certainly we can take things from the West and improve our societies, or from China, or from the soloman islands, or any where a beneficient idea that is not opposed to our base principles (and not simply are legalistic obsessions) but that doesn't mean that we must do EVERYTHING like the West...
on the converse just because something has been done in certain ways in the west isn't a declaration of it being "unislamic" in and of itself... and the fact that something is Western shouldn't be an argument either for or against implimentation of it in Islamic society...
the merit of the idea itself is what should be viewed forget where it is from...
1. Does it accomplish good and justice
2. Does it CLEARLY go against the PRINCIPLES of the Quran without any round about arguments or evocations of hadeeth to which contradictory also saheeh hadeeth also exist.
3. If the Quran makes something Halal at the time of its writing, does that mean it is considered the best thing? Divorce is Halal, but I would never advice someone to get one, penalties listed in the Quran are maximum penalties... but the Quran never makes them obligatory penalties and and Islamic society does even require ever going that far if they can come up with a lesser penalty that is an equal deterant for the crime.
The real issue is not of a women leading prayer but of why women feel they have to make dramatic statements to get the attention of Muslim Men who have taken away their rights as Muslim Women.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was allowed to attend and participate in the Prophet's Mosque, in the main hall. She was not told to go sit in some closed off area of the mosque where she would have been unable to have any discussions or interactions with anyone but women. But this is the current state of affairs in most Mosques in America.
i often read articles at islamicity but i never give my comments but this is the first article which influenced me to say few words
this is a well balanced article i have similar thoughts but was never able to put my feelings into words
Allah has promised Quran will be preserved for all times. We Muslims have to be alert from those who try to mislead our young generation. Make believe Scholars will come and go but Quran will stand pure and true...Ameen
u have come up with an excelent piece of work..i really appriciate..May God bless you..and keep u on the right path ameen
In western society the role of God is none. And it is quite normal feminist movement to have upper hand. THe whole effort of muslim women in taking that 'controversial' decision is to tell this liberal feminist that we are not any different that the freedom you talk about.But again i dont want to make villain out of Dr.Amina wadud. It was jus' a mistake, which insa allah, allah will overlook and forgive her.
Many westerners might find difficulty to coming terms with the points raised in this article, as they attribute islamic rationalism to cultural upbringings, they also have some stigma which attached to their own upbringings which in turn might veil the truth behind it.
"A heard from B heard from C heard from D heard from E heard from F who may have heard it from the Beloved Prophet (saw)"
The most important point I gathered from Ms. Mogahed's article is the concept of the directness of relation to God (in reality, the Scripture).
That is, current-claiming-Muslims, men, Arabic-speakers, previous generations, etc., have no authority to define future-Muslims', women's, non-Arabic-speakers', current/future generations', etc., relationship with the Scripture.
Everyone has direct relation and responsibility. If one relinquishes that directness, it is no one else's fault.
The article's author seems to be striving in the way of Allah. Perhaps as a result of her jihad, the author's secular education is a blessing for the Ummah. Or so it might seem. If I had a point worth getting, I suspect you might have gotten it by now. Wassalam.