Many years ago, when i was at primary school and just started to say my prayers regularly, someday we had my religious uncle and his family there in my parents’ house as guests. After Maqrib Adhan, they started saying prayer together in a family group and i decided to join them.
Slowly going forward, i put my prayer mat across from my uncle’s. I was going to start prayer that my cousin came to me hurriedly and took my prayer mat back, behind my uncle. I wondered and asked:”Why you do this?” She said:”Bcs you’re a woman and you can not be leader in mixed-gender prayers.” I asked again:”Why women can not?” She just gazed on me and said:”well.. Bcs they simply can not.”
Now after many years, and saying many prayers, i still could not exactly convince me for that. I’ve found some reasons though. Even if my uncle was supposed to be Mahram after all, I could say i may not lead a prayer while stranger men are behind and can see me bowing down. But then is that all about?
Untill the other day, i read this news that had made a big debate nowadays:
Muslim scholar Professor Amina Wadud is to give the sermon – or khutbah – at the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College in Oxford.
The move has provoked opposition as the tradition is that imams – always men – hold mixed services. Some believe it is against Islam for a woman to do so. But organisers heralded it as a “leap forward” for “theological destiny”.
Chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre Oxford (MECO) Dr Taj Hargey, who is organising Friday’s conference, argued that the prayer service would be a step in the right direction.
“We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion,” he said. “There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored. Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here – it is a celebration.” Source
There were some oppositions to this statement. For example Mokhtar Badri, vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain, is opposed to the sermon:
“With all respect to sister Amina, prayer is something we perform in accordance to the teachings of our Lord,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with position of women in society. It is not to degrade them or because we don’t think they are up to it.
“This is something divine not human. We have to do it in the way it has been ordained by God to do it. Women can lead prayers before other women but for this very specific point, in this situation before a congregation of men and women, a man must lead.”
He added: “I also don’t think this is a subject confined to Islam. Even in Christianity Catholics still don’t accept female priests.” Source
The well-known liberal minded English writer, Bernard Shaw has said: “I have always held the religion of Muhammad (P) in high estimation, because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age.”
Nowadays however, there are debates that how muslim jurisprudents can use the flaxible charecter of Islam. Not going off-topic, I may write another post on it later.
I’d say, I may have my reasons that I am not sure we really need to debate women as prayer leaders, bcs it’s not the biggest and most important issue right now in muslim world for women.
Although for me, Amina Wadud and her segregationism as Islamic feminism is somehow bitter -for i dont believe in Islamic feminism - nor may Mukhtar Badri convince me for this. Being priest (or not) in christianity is absolutely different from leading a muslim prayer. Isn’t it?
This example goes for being scholar, when in Islam, women are allowed to study religion and be great scholars. It’s exactly the greatness of Islam that encourages women to study and learn. Also we all know that Women rights In Islam are somehow versus Women rights In The Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Muslim women can even take the position of Ijtahad (jurisdication) as we’ve had many of them in the history and the most recent example is ”Lady Amin“, an Iranian Islamic jurisprudent and theologian herself who had permission to state the islamic laws.
So if muslim women can be the jurisprudent, i’d like to know why not the prayer leading then?