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Women Leading The Prayer

written by Theresa Corbin

The topic I want to tackle today is about women leading the Islamic prayer. The title gave it away, didn’t it? This topic, as all things confusing and provocative, is brought to us by the letter “F” and Facebook.

My talented and super busy social media manager shared a post on islamwich’s fb page about a woman leading the prayer at a masjid (mosque) in Copenhagen. The title was “The Future of Islam is Women”. Perhaps it is.

And as you can imagine, there were many who decided that they have the authority to declare who is going to hell. So much fun! Now my social media manager is experiencing a downward spiral in her faith and needs counseling because of all the harshness that was spewed over this post. 

Should women run masajid (mosques)?

My thinking on this “scandle” is that yes, women must be running masajid. There must be at least one woman on every masjid board. Period. Why? Because this is the example of the Prophet (PBUH). Prophet Muhammad sought advice from women often. Women in his community had a voice, a vote (see Sahih Bukhari 2732 for one of many examples).

Women must be on every board of every masjid and hold offices higher than that because we are half of the community. We are more than half of society. We are moral agents just like men. And if we want our community and society to function properly, women must be included as women were included in the Prophet’s shura (consultation). We must sit at the table, as the Quran says:

{Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance} (emphasis added- Quran 42:38)

Should women lead prayer?

This is my opinion. It may differ from yours. It may even differ from the opinion of the people with which I work. Does that mean we must part ways? Nah, I will accept you for whatever opinion you have (as long as you aren’t a jerk about it). Because opinions are like …. the wind. They are always changing. But unlike the wind, opinions depend on us keeping an open mind and heart and sticking to the path of seeking knowledge, and that I encourage. 

Women can lead prayer when it is for a group of women. Women can lead the prayer when it is for a group of women and the men she is closely related to (see reference below). I do not think women should lead (stand in front of) prayer for a group of both women and those men to whom she is not related.

Why? No, it’s not because I think women are incapable or inferior.

It is because I think the majority (not all but most) of men are weak when it comes to watching a woman bend and kneel in front of them, which is what the Islamic prayer calls for (following the imam’s bending and kneeling). So no, I don’t think women should stand in front of men in this case only.

I get it. You are tired of women having to alter their habits because of how men feel about it. Me too. Like, NO! We don’t wear hijab so men won’t harass or rape. Men are 100% responsible for their actions. 

But, I also recognize that life is not lived in black and white. And the distraction of a woman bending and kneeling in front of men, when focus is necessary as it is in prayer, would put men at a disadvantage. Distraction is something we all have to avoid during prayer. This is not a case of taking away rights of women so men can be comfortable. I am not down with that ever. 

The big picture is that the imam (the leader of prayer) has no authority. The imam answers to the board of the masjid. He leads the prayer and does what the board says. So there is no need for a woman to aspire to this position. Women will not affect any real and much needed change in this position. 

Are we really just vying for positions because people say we can’t have them? Then, let me just say that you can never, ever, ever, ever be my unpaid personal assistant because of some random part of your identity that you were born with and cannot change.

Muslim women, we have a lot of work to do. So, my suggestion is that we move on from this useless fixation of leading the prayer, and aspire to make our way onto the board of the masjid in the towns and cities in which we live, to become scholars and jurists who have a seat at the table so that we can rid the disease of misogyny that is plaguing our community.

Reference: From Umm Waraqah, the daughter of Abdullah bin al-Harith, “the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to visit her at her house. He appointed a mu’adhdhin to call Adhan for her and he commanded her to lead the inmates of her house in prayer.” Abdurrahman said, “I saw that her mu’adhdhin was an old man.” [Abu Dawud (Eng. Trans. #591 & 592)]

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3 thoughts on “Women Leading The Prayer

  1. Great article and I like what you said! Yeah, I remember Sh. Omer Suleiman saying how the “Imam” in our religion is not equivalent to the position of “Pastor” or “Rabbi” for the other Abrahamic faiths, i.e. “Imam” just means someone who leads the prayer. It’s not a title of authority or power. Should women be on Shura boards and become scholars? Yes, and those are higher positions of power. And women shouldn’t want to be an Imam just to “check something off a checklist”.

    I respect your opinion. I’m of the more prevalent opinion that a woman should only lead in front of other women. I don’t think she should lead men she’s related to unless they’re like incredibly young and unable to be serious/responsible about the Salah, like young kids. And yes, everyone’s responsible for their own actions, but everything isn’t black and white either. So the physical movements of the Salah definitely can be something that can not just distract men, but I know some women will feel uncomfortable about doing that in front of men. So it protects and saves both genders without blaming any.

    Thanks for the discussion and glad we can share our opinions respectfully!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion respectfully. It’s refreshing to read other’s opinions without being yelled at. It’s also ashame more people can’t be mature enough to do so (including me at times) :/

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Aassalamu’ Aalaikum Theresa Ma’am

    Allah has singled out men for some virtues and rulings, and He has singled out women for other virtues and rulings. It is not permissible for any man to wish for that which has been granted to women only, nor is it permissible for any woman to wish for that which has been granted to men. This kind of wishing is tantamount to objecting to the laws and rulings of Allah.

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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