Woman professor leads Muslim prayer, irks Islamic leaders


Posted on : 2005-03-19| Author : Darya Zarin

News Category : General



Gender inequality in Islam took another beating when a female professor, Amina Wadud, led a Muslim prayer service attended by 80 to 100 men and women in New York. The move has invited flak from Islamic leaders in the Middle East, who feel that this is a violation of long-held traditions.

Wadud, who teaches Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Vancouver, held the prayer service in Manhattan at Synod House at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. “The issue of gender equality is a very important one in Islam, and Muslims have unfortunately used highly restrictive interpretations of history to move backward,” Wadud said, adding that the prayer service was ‘symbolic of the possibilities within Islam’.

She asserted her intentions to ‘remove the artificial and sometimes extremely inconvenient restrictions on the entry and participation of women’ in Islam. Sharply criticized by religious leaders from Muslim countries, Wadud also received malicious calls and emails, said Saleema Abdul-Ghafur of Progressive Muslim Union, the main organizer of the event.

According to Asra Nomani, another activist supporting Wadud, the event aimed at putting the spotlight on gender inequality in not only day-to-day Muslim life but also its spiritual aspect. Nomani said that she and Wadud were standing up for their rights as women in Islam. “We will no longer accept the back door or the shadows. At the end of the day, we’ll be leaders in the Muslim world,” she said.

Meanwhile, around 15 protestors gathered outside the church to oppose the event. One man also tried to enter the hall, but was not allowed in by policemen who were guarding the congregation against any untoward incidents.

Wadud, who is an African American, is a convert to Islam. She is also the author of Quran and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective.

According to Wadud, the Holy Quran contains no objection to women prayer leaders. To substantiate her claim, she cited the incident mentioned in the Holy Quran about Prophet Muhammad who allowed Umme Warqa to head a prayer of followers of both genders at her residence.

However, Muslim illuminati Hafiz Abdur Rehman Madani has contented that Muslim women are prohibited not only from leading prayers but also from standing among males in a mosque.