Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Khateebah: New Word Added To Muslim Vocab

The following message was relayed by Tarek Fatah:

The First Muslim Woman on Record to Lead Mixed-Gender Prayer

On Friday, March 18, 2005, i.e., today, Dr. Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, will be the
first womanto lead a public, mixed-gender Friday prayer. She will also deliver the Friday sermon.

Dr. Wadud, the author of the groundbreaking book Qur'an and
Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective
, is an esteemed scholar of Islam who affirms the right of Muslim women to be prayer leaders.

When: Friday, March 18, 2005 at 1:00
Where: Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 137 Greene
Street, New York City, NY 10012 212-677-4520

This issue has been raised again and again, and yet it remains highly controversial. Even if one were to prove that there is no scriptural basis to prevent women from leading prayer, there are some very practical matters that make the Muslim prayer very different from that of other faiths. The simple act of making sujood can be problematic for a sister. Nevertheless, had this event taken place in Toronto, I think I might gone to observe the proceedings.

Anyway, after hearing about this event in New York, I did a Google search on Wadud. Interestingly enough, I discovered that she had come to Toronto a few weeks ago. In fact, Tarek Fatah wrote an article about Wadud's appearance at the Noor Cultural Centre. The event - and the ensuing article - created waves, and Wadud responded here and here. Here's a comment from an observer that resonates with me.

Not knowing very much about Wadud, I am loath to judge. However, the controversy made me reflect more generally on the role and adaab of a leader. In Islam, speakers are viewed as leaders, to be respected and emulated. A speaker must behave in a manner befitting that role. There is a way of being that is expected but not unreasonable. I do not believe there is any conceivable justification for a speaker to scream derogatory words in a religious centre. It is rude when a member of the congregation does so. It is exceedingly crass and distasteful when it comes from a religious leader.

Especially when the idea is revolutionary, one must take extra care to express it in the best possible way. One must show empathy and respect for the audience by demonstrating a cognizance of where they are coming from. The mainstream Muslim community holds the Quran in high regard. One will not win sympathy from the audience by making bold statements that appear to disparage it. There are ways of expressing ideas - of couching terms - to make the audience more amenable to the message being put forth.

I once asked a female Muslim professor (who had published a book with revisionist interpretations of the Quran) how her ideas had been received by the Muslim community, and whether she could offer words of wisdom to those who might find themselves in a similar situation. She pointed out that one must pay a price to make change and that is the price that reformers of all sorts have paid historically. One cannot alter entrenched modes of thought without opening oneself up to critique. When I heard her words, I thought of Ibn Taymiyyah. One who challenges the status quo must realize that acceptance and success may not come in one’s lifetime. But those who wish to take that bold path must be prepared to sacrifice happiness for the sake of God.


  • At 3/05/2005 10:00:00 p.m., Blogger Magazine Man said…

    Hi there,

    Just dropping by to say THANKS for linking to my blog (and for the Coulter post. She's a dope). Looking forward to reading more of your stuff here. Cheers! --MM

  • At 3/06/2005 08:40:00 p.m., Blogger Salikah said…


    What are people's thoughts on a woman giving khutbah and leading men in prayer?


  • At 3/07/2005 12:16:00 a.m., Anonymous Darnell said…

    Interesting thoughts...saw you deleted the other post (with the moose)...thought it was funny...oh well.

  • At 3/12/2005 03:13:00 a.m., Blogger dawud al-gharib said…

    salaams from Dawud:

    long post on the fiqh of women imam's (from Tariq-ul-Islam, Ustadh Abdullah (also appears on

    Why cant muslims get with the modern times and allow women to
    lead in prayer? Dr. Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at
    Virginia Commonwealth University, will be the first woman to lead a
    public, mixed-gender Friday prayer in the modern day. Is there any possible objection you can have to this historic event?

    Ustadh Abdullah's Response:

    Can a Woman Lead Men in Salat?

    Let's get right to the point.

    The first problem with this scheduled event is that the theme
    is `Muslim Women Reclaim Right to Lead Prayer,' while it should
    read `Muslim Women Claim Right to Lead Prayer,' since there is no
    basis for the belief that it was ever a right for women to lead a
    mixed-group prayer. And there are no explicit accounts of women ever
    leading a mixed-group of men and women in prayer.

    Three of the four Sunni Schools of law (Hanafis, Shafi'is, and
    Hanbalis) permit for a woman to lead other women in prayer except
    that the one leading is not to stand out in front of the row.[1]
    Rather, she is to remain aligned in a single row with the other
    women, so as not to appear to be leading as a man would. They base
    this on the following reports:

    1- Imam Baihaqi, Daraqutni, and Ibn Abi Shayba report from
    Ra'ita Al-Hanafiyya that she said: "'Aisha led us. And she stood between us during the obligatory prayer."

    2- Ibn Abi Shayba and `Abdur-Razzaq Al-San'ani report by way of
    Hujayra bint Husayn that she said: "Umm Salama led us in Salatul-`Asr. And she stood between us."[2]

    Imam Al-Nawawwi says about these two hadiths, Daraqutni and Baihaqi
    related them with sahih chains.[3]

    As for Imam Malik and the popular view held in the Maliki School,
    any prayer that a woman leads others in – whether women, men, or
    mixed – is invalid. Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported to have said, "The woman is not to lead (Salat)."[4] This was also the view of Sulaiman ibn Yasar and Al-Hasan Al-Basari.[5]

    As for the other three schools, their position in general[6] was
    that it is permitted for women to lead other women in Salat.

    As for the cause of this disagreement, we can reasonably say that it is the direct result of the different views of the Sahaba, in so much as that 3 of the Imams adopted the views of Umm Salama and `Aisha who were both wives of the Prophet – while Imam Malik and those who held the same view accepted the report of `Ali ibn Abi Talib -.

    If we were Hanafis, it would be easy to resolve this matter by just having everyone follow the particular Companion's opinion we deem most worthy of following.

    If one is a Maliki, it would similarly seem easy to resolve by just ascertaining that there was a consensus found among the scholars of Medinah during Malik's time that went contrary to these hadiths supported by the majority.

    But if a Muslim is one who champions the hadith of the Prophet and doesn't place anything over it – as is the view of Shafi'i and Ahmad, the solution would seem easy to resolve by simply relying on the most authentic report found that demonstrates what the Prophet's sunnah was in this regard, since it is possible that some Sahaba heard what others may have not.

    So after searching, we find that the strongest report found that
    goes back to the Prophet is the following:

    Abu Dawud reports that Umm Waraqa y said, "I said: "O Messenger of
    Allah! Permit for me to participate in the raid with you. I'll nurse your sick. Perhaps Allah will grant me martyrdom." He said: "Remain in your house. For verily Allah I will grant you martyrdom." And she asked his permission to take a muadhdhin in her home. And he allowed

    In another version Abu Dawud reports: "The Messenger of Allah used to visit her in her house. And he assigned to her a muadhdhin who would make the summons to prayer (adhan) for her. And he ordered her to lead the inhabitants of her home."

    The hadith was reported by Baihaqi, Daraqutni, and Hakim. And Hakim said, "Muslim advanced Al-Walid ibn Jami' (one of the narrators) as being authoritative.[7] But this is a hadith with a single chain of narration (sunnah ghariba). I don't know of any hadith with a connected chain to the Prophet (musnad) in this chapter other than this one." And Imam Dhahabi concurred with his findings[8].

    Al-Mundhiri said, "Al-Walid ibn Jami' is the subject of dispute
    (fihi maqal). And Muslim has reported through him." Ibn Al-Qattan said, "Al-Walid's state isn't known."[9] Ibn Hibban mentioned him in (his book) Al-Thiqat (Trustworthy Narrators).[10] And Ibn Hajar said, "In its chain is `Abdur-Rahman ibn Khallad (a second questionable narrator). And his status is unknown (fihi jahala)."

    If this is true in that this report has two suspect narrators, Al- Walid ibn Jami' and `Abdur-Rahman ibn Khallad, then this hadith can't really have much if any authority.

    And if it had not been for its weakness, it could be used by those
    who argue for the right of women leading men in prayer to support
    their argument even though the indications in the hadith are very
    subtle. That is, the fact that it states that the Prophet – assigned
    a muadhdhin for her and then ordered her to lead those in her house in prayer, gives the impression that she led at least one man in prayer who was likely a bondsman or unmarriageable relative of hers, since she would only be allowed to keep the company of a bondsman or a male relative, and men are usually those who make the call to prayer.

    One could just as well assume that the muadhdhin appointed by
    Allah's Messenger while presuming the hadith is authentic – was another woman, and that Umm Waraqa led a group of women in prayer as the other authentic reports make clear.[11]

    But all of this is overshadowed by the weakness of the hadith. So it falls as a basis for argument.

    Another important point is that Imam Abu Ja'far Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (died 310 AH) held the view that a woman could lead Salat in spite of it being a view never accepted by the Ummah, and it has never been witnessed in all of Islamic history.[12]

    Imam Al-Tabari was an absolute mujtahid and is known as the Imam of the Exegetes (Mufassirin). But his school didn't thrive and it
    didn't last as the 4 surviving schools did. So his view is extremely ancient and contradicts what the Ummah later unanimously agreed upon in that a woman cannot lead a man in prayer.

    Add to that, it would difficult to know what exactly Imam Al-Tabari based his ijtihad on today, since his school hasn't been preserved with an unbroken chain as the 4 schools have. So are we to accept his opinion just because it was an opinion without proper scrutiny and research?

    Furthermore, what lends to the understanding that a woman's proper place is not leading a man in prayer are the following:

    - If it was permissible, it would have been reported from
    the Salaf.

    - Since the Sunnah for women in prayer is for them to be
    behind the men, it is known from that that it is not permitted for
    them to be in front of them. For Abdullah bin Mas'ud said: "Put them back to where Allah put them back." Al-San'ani and Tabarani reported it. It is also mentioned in Majma' Al-Zawa'id. And for that reason, some of the allowed them to lead other women, since they are all to align straight in one row.

    - The Prophet also said, "The best ranks of the men are
    those at the front. And the worst of them are those at the back. And
    the best ranks of the women are those at the back. And the worst of them are those at the front."

    And if the Messenger – had intended any other arrangement for women in Salat, then we would have found him at least on one occasion allow the women to pray directly behind him or for a woman to lead the men in Salat.

    So we are to understand that this is from the divinely inspired
    direction of the Creator. And to contravene it would be to question
    His wisdom. And to question His wisdom, would be to follow in the
    footsteps on Satan. And to follow in the footsteps of Satan, one is
    surely to be damned as he is.

    So it becomes clear that such people who insist on the
    permissibility of a woman leading men in prayer have nothing firm to
    rely on in their position other than the following of their fancies and what their lusts dictate to them.

    The Issue of Apostasy

    The next important question would be, are such people Muslims who
    contravene the consensus of the Ummah, which upholds that a woman
    leading men in prayer is prohibited?

    The short answer is, no! But that `no' is a `no' that doesn't remove
    the danger from being damned by the Almighty One.

    In other words, the decisive consensus for Sunnis cannot be
    violated. Were one to contravene that consensus, he/she would be
    considered an apostate from Islam.

    But this consensus is one that occurred after a well-known
    disagreement due to the view of Al-Tabari and Abu Thawr. And
    scholars have differed about whether or not contravening this kind of consensus is enough to expel a person beyond the pale of Islam.
    One can also reply that the Shiites do not consider consensus to have the same authority that Sunnis do. And they do not accept it.

    But we can reply that in spite of that Shiites do not allow for
    women to lead men in prayer. So even though they may not consider it to be a valid source of law, their practice shows that they share with Sunnis in their traditional belief that a woman may not lead the Jumu'a prayer or any other prayer for that matter unless it be a woman leading other women in a prayer that is not Jumu'a.

    So even if Shiites don't accept scholarly consensus as a valid
    source of law, they do accept that Allah says in the Qur'an,

    "Whoever splits from the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him, and then follows other than the way of the believers, We will turn him to what he has turned, and enter him into Hell. And how evil a destination!"

    And it is the way of the believers that from the time of the Prophet until now that no woman has ever been reported leading the Jumu'a Prayer, Eid Prayer, or any other prayer when those being led were a mix of men and women.

    In the end, I seriously doubt that many people will be in attendance at this event, at least not many real men or women.

    We know that the enemies of Islam have many tactics they use in
    trying to get a misdirected and emotional response out of the
    Muslims. And perhaps they do that in order to produce a situation
    where they can justify taking action against those they label as
    extremists, radicals, terrorists, and fundamentalists.

    I think that if people want to make up their own religion, let them do as they like. We just ask them to give us a little respect and not call it Islam, and don't call themselves Muslims. That's all.

    Was Salam

  • At 3/12/2005 10:56:00 p.m., Anonymous Deena said…

    Nevin Reda from Muslimwakeup makes a powerful case for why Muslim women can lead prayer. See here:

  • At 3/15/2005 02:17:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 3/15/2005 02:18:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 3/15/2005 02:21:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Thanks, both of you, for contributing to this discussion.

  • At 3/20/2005 04:20:00 p.m., Blogger Salikah said…

    The MWU (Muslim Wake-Up) recently posted a claim that Shaykh Ali Jumu'a condoned female-led, mixed gender Friday congregational prayers. The following was taken from a post by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on a mailing list where this was being discussed:

    Thank you, Shaykh Ali Jumu`a...

    In the formal Fatwa from the Dar al-Ifta' al-Masriyya, Shaykh Ali Jumu`a makes clear that it is not permitted for women to lead men in prayer, and affirms that the position permitting it--ascribed to some scholars--is an aberrant position (ra'y shadhdh); and states that there is no difference of opinion regarding the fact that it is impermissible and invalid for women to conduct the Friday khutba or to lead the Friday prayer. [The full text of the fatwa, from the Dar al-Ifta' al-Masriyya site, is below.]
    رقم الفتوى: 4278
    الموضوع: حكم إمامة المرأة للرجال فى الصلاة.
    تاريخ الفتوى: 20/03/2005
    نوع الفتوى: عام
    المفتي: فضيلة الأستاذ الدكتور علي جمعة محمد

    ما حكم الدين في إمامة المرأة للرجال ؟ وما مدى صحة صلاتهم ؟ وما حكم الدين في جواز أداء صلاة الجمعة وتؤم القوم امرأة ؟ وهل يجوز أن يصلي المسلمون ذكورًا وإناثًا في صف واحد على هيئة مختلطة ؟ وما حكم حجاب المرأة ؟ وما حكم الدين في أذان المرأة تدعو به المسلمين إلى الصلاة في الجمعة أو الجماعات ؟ وما حكم الشرع في المنشقين الجدد الذين يريدون أن يغيروا ثوابت الدين ؟
    أمر الإسلام بالعفة والعفاف ، وحرم الزنا والفاحشة ، ولأجل هذا نراه قد أمر بغض البصر للمؤمنين والمؤمنات على حد سواء ، ونهى عن الخلوة التي تـؤدي إلى الفتنة ، وأمر بستر العورة للرجل فيما بين السرة والركبة ، والمرأة في كل بدنها إلا الوجه والكفين ، قال تعالى : ( قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ ) ( النور:30 ) ، وقـال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ( : " يَا أَسْمَاءُ ، إِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْمَحِيضَ لَمْ تَصْلُحْ أَنْ يُرَى مِنْهَا إِلاَّ هَذَا وَهَذَا " وَأَشَارَ إِلَى وَجْهِهِ وَكَفَّيْهِ رواه أبو داود. ، ومن أوامر الإسلام لهذا الغرض أيضًا أن الله تعالى أمر النساء - تكريمًا لهن - أن يقفن خلف صفوف الرجال ؛ لأن صلاة المسلمين قد اشتملت على السجود ، فكان ذلك من قبيل قول العرب : إنما أخرك ليقدمك ، فتأخير النساء في صفوف الصلاة ليس نوعًا من أنواع الحط من كرماتهن ، بل ذلك إعلاء لشأنهن ، ومراعاة للأدب العالي ، وللحياء ، وللتعاون بين المؤمنين ذكورًا وإناثًا على الامتثال للأمر بغض البصر ، ولذلك نرى المسلمين شرقًا وغربًا سلفًا وخلفًا قد أجمعوا فعليا على عدم تولي المرأة للأذان ولا توليها لإمامة جماعات الصلاة ولا توليها لإمامة الجمعة. وأمَّا صلاة الرجال والنساء في صف واحد فلا تجوز بحال . أمَّا الأذان من المرأة وتوليها خطبة الجمعة وإمامتها فلا نعلم خلافًا بين أحد من المسلمين علمائهم وعوامهم على عدم جوازه ، وعلى بطلان الصلاة وبطلان الأذان إذا ما فُعل. وأمَّا إمامة المرأة للرجال في جماعة عارضة ، فذهب جماهير العلماء إلى حرمة ذلك وإلى أن الصلاة تقع باطلة ، على أنه قد ذهب الطبري وأبو ثور والمزني من الشافعية ومحيي الدين بن العربي من الظاهرية إلى أنه يجوز للمرأة أن تؤم الرجال وتصح معها الصلاة إلا أن بعضهم قد جعل موقفها خلف الرجال حتى ولو أمتهم ؛ التفاتا للمعنى الذي قدمناه، فاستدلوا بحديث أبي داود والدارقطني أن أم ورقة سمح لها النبي ( أن تؤم أهل بيتها، ورد الجمهور على هذا الاستدلال بأن ذلك كان في النافلة ، أو بأن المقصود منه أهل بيتها من النساء ، أو بأنه خاص بأم ورقة ، وعلى الرغم من ذلك فإن أحدا من المسلمين في الشرق والغرب لم يقلد هذا الرأي الشاذ. أمَّا ما يحدث في العالم الآن مما نراه ويراه كل أحد من الخلط بين مسألتي إمامة الجماعة ومسألة خطبة الجمعة، فالأخيرة لم يجزها أحد ، فهؤلاء المخلطون ممن ينتمون إلى مدرسة المنشقين ، وهي تشتمل على تيارات عدة : بعضها ينكر السنة والإجماع ، وبعضها يتلاعب بدلالات الألفاظ في لغة العرب ، وبعضها يدعو إلى إباحة الشذوذ الجنسي والزنا والخمر وإلى الإجهاض وإلى تغيير أنصبة الميراث ، ونحو ذلك مما نراه يبرز كل قرن تقريبًا ثم يخبو ويسير المسلمون في طريقهم الذي أمرهم الله به حاملين رسالة سعادة الدارين للعالمين ؛ ( فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً وَأَمَّا مَا يَنْفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الأَرْضِ ) ( الرعد : 17

  • At 3/20/2005 04:22:00 p.m., Blogger Salikah said…

    Somebody else on the list then posted a translation (I cannot attest the accuracy, but so far no complaints from those who are fluent in Arabic on the list):

    In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate:

    “Ask the followers of Remembrance if ye know not!” (Q

    All praise is due to Allah, and peace and blessings
    upon the one after whom there is no prophet, our
    master Muhammad the Messenger of Allah and his family,
    companions, and those who follow him in righteousness
    until the last day.”

    Q: What is the religion’s ruling concerning a woman
    leading men in prayer; is their prayer correct? What
    is the religion’s ruling concerning the permissibility
    of a Friday prayer in which a woman leads the
    congregation? Is it permissible for men and women to
    pray in the same row mixed together? What is the
    ruling concerning a woman giving the adhan and calling
    Muslims to the Friday prayer or any other
    congregational prayer? What is the ruling of religious
    law concerning the new dissenters who want to change
    fixed elements of the religion?

    A: Islam commands chastity and virtue and it forbids
    adultery and fornication. It is because of this that
    we find Islam has commanded both the male and female
    believers to lower their gaze in the same fashion, and
    it has forbidden seclusion that leads to temptation.
    Islam has commanded for men to cover themselves
    between their navels and their knees, and for women to
    cover themselves entirely save the face and hands:
    Allah exalted is He said, “Tell the believing men to
    lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for
    them. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do.” (Q:24:30).
    And the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him,
    said, “Oh Asma’, if a woman reaches the age of puberty
    it is not fitting for her to be seen except for this
    and this” and he pointed to his face and hands (Abu
    Daud). One of the Islamic rulings with this intention
    behind it is that Allah exalted is He has commanded
    women to stand behind the rows of men in prayer. This
    was done in order to honor women, because the prayer
    of the Muslims is comprised of prostration. Thus the
    command is like the saying of the Arabs “He only held
    you back so he could put you forward.” Putting the
    prayer lines for women behind the prayer lines for men
    is not a form of degradation, rather it is a means of
    raising their station and upholding high manners and
    virtue, and it is a means of mutual cooperation for
    the believing men and women to follow the command of
    lowering their gaze. It is for this reason that we see
    that the Muslims in the East and the West, during the
    times of the Pious Forebears and their successors,
    have unanimously agreed in practice that women are not
    assigned to give the adhan, or be the imam of Friday
    or [mixed-sex]-congregational prayers.

    As for men and women praying in one row mixed
    together: this is not permissible in any situation.

    As for a woman giving the adhan and giving the Friday
    sermon and leading the Friday prayer: we do not know
    of a single difference of opinion between the Muslims
    - scholars and laymen alike - concerning its
    impermissibility and the fact that should such a
    prayer and adhan be performed, it would be incorrect.

    As for a woman being the Imam of men in an unscheduled
    prayer: the overwhelming majority of scholars have
    said that it is forbidden and the prayer is invalid.
    al-Tabari, and Abu Thawr, and al-Muzani from the
    Shafi’i School and Muhyi al-Din ibn Arabi from the
    Dhahiri School held the opinion that it is permissible
    for a woman to lead men in prayer and that their
    prayer is valid. However, some scholars have her stand
    behind the men – even if she were to lead them -
    taking into consideration the principles mentioned
    above. The evidence these scholars used is the hadith
    from Abu Daud and al-Darqutni stating that the
    Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, allowed Umm
    Waraqa to lead her household in prayer. The majority
    of scholars have understood this hadith as referring
    to supererogatory prayers, or to leading the women of
    her household, or as being specific to Umm Waraqa. In
    spite of this, not a single Muslim from the East or
    West has followed this anomalous opinion.

    As for what the entire world and we see happening
    today in the mixing between two issues: the issue of
    leading a prayer and the issue of delivering the
    Friday sermon: the latter was never permitted by
    anyone. These confused people who adhere to schools of
    dissent are divided into various movements: some deny
    the Sunna and consensus, some tamper with the
    significations of words in the Arabic language, and
    others call for the permissibility of homosexuality,
    fornication, alcohol, abortions, and changing the
    prescribed portions of inheritance. These movements
    appear in almost every age. Then they disappear, and
    the Muslims follow the path Allah has made incumbent
    upon them, bearing the standard of felicity to all the
    worlds “Then as for the foam, it passeth away as scum
    upon the banks, while, as for that which is of use to
    mankind, it remaineth in the earth.” (Q:13:17)

  • At 3/24/2005 05:57:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Thanks, Salikah!


Post a Comment

<< Home