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.
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. We must sit at the table.
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.1 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 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.
1 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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