Female Imam Leads Eid Prayer

“By segregating [men and women during prayer], you sexualize the area in ways that it wouldn’t be sexualized if the area was mixed.”

Those are the words of Pamela Taylor, a European-American female imam who embraced Islam twenty-five years ago. This past Tuesday, Taylor led a mixed congregation of 50 men, women, and children observing the Eid Al-Adha prayer. There was nothing particularly exceptional about the content of the annual prayer, or khootbah (sermon), that followed, but a female Imam leading men and women praying side-by-side is anything but typical.

Taylor and fellow members of Muslims for Progressive Values, an organization she co-founded in 2007, held the service at All Souls Unitarian Church in Northeast Washington, DC. Although Taylor and many others have led mixed congregations in prayer before (in Bahrain, Canada, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US), the topic remains highly contentious. The majority of Islamic scholars and schools of thought do not encourage Muslim female religious leaders and mixed-prayer spaces, citing a few hadith–narratives of the Prophet Muhammad’s words and actions–that discourage these practices.

Taylor, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, and other Islamic scholars counter the majority perspective, offering other hadith citing women’s leading mixed congregations during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. No verse in the Qur’an directly discusses the issues of female-led prayer or mixed congregations. Furthermore, while there are some hadith that nearly all Muslims agree upon, there are others that are highly disputed.

Regardless of hadith interpretation, there are some who support Taylor’s sentiment and struggle for female equity within Islamic practice, but question her tactics, calling for a less “confrontational” approach and exploring alternatives to having female-led prayers and mixed congregations. They argue that the backlash created by such an approach further displaces the importance of these issues within Islamic theological discourse as well as how these issues are viewed by the majority of Muslims. Taylor recently told Inside Islam her reasoning for her outspoken writing and activism on these issues.

“If prayer and other religious practices are the most important things for Muslims and they are only led by men, what does that say about the value of women? I’m sorry, but if a woman doesn’t have access to the highest position, that continues down into other aspects of life.”

Taylor cites three arguments for her activism on this issues. Female Imams should be allowed because:

1) If they are not, it creates an atmosphere where women’s leadership is devalued or at worse, prohibited;

2) It is an Islamic right based upon a hadith where the Prophet Muhammad asked a woman (Um Waraqa) to lead the people of her area in prayer; and

3)It is a matter of a woman’s fulfillment.

What do you think about Pamela Taylor’s approach to securing more rights and respect for women within an Islamic space? Are there parallel struggles of female religious leaders in other faiths? Do you have any experience yourself, as a Muslim or non-Muslim, where you felt like your rights were infringed upon in an Islamic context? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

17 thoughts on “Female Imam Leads Eid Prayer

  1. I am so glad that you have focused a blog article on this issue. As a woman who is not Muslim but has great interest in learning all that I can about Islam, women and men not praying together is one thing I am unable to come to terms with. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Taylor is challenging this. It is only when women take a stand and have the self-respect and confidence to question the status quo do things move forward and reflect the times we live in. I applaud her for her determination and hope that more Islamic women will support her in her efforts.

  2. “I’m sorry, but if a woman doesn’t have access to the highest position, that continues down into other aspects of life.”

    this is a very sort-sighted point of view…
    taylor should ask herself what really is the highest rank with the almighty creator. To lead a prayer? i think not… may god help her to see the right things…

  3. I thought this post was interesting, coming from a Catholic perspective. While it is a different discussion, the idea of female priests is an issue that is highly debated within the Church. We do of course have mixed prayer, that part isn’t a parallel, but the patriarchal leadership element is totally there. Also the question of the role of women in the Church, what it means for us to be outside of the Church hierarchy, is something that we as Catholics discuss A LOT. I wouldn’t say a Catholic woman is powerless, however, and I don’t feel like I can’t take a leadership role within the Church. This is a big issue, one that could take up a whole OTHER blog post so I won’t go nuts. Basically, I think it’s cool these similarities between Catholicism and Islam exist, we all struggle with these questions.

  4. In the Name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messengers & Prophets, Adam, David, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jesus & The Last Messenger & Prophet Muhammad (May Peace, Mercy & Blessings of Allah, of Almighty GOD, be on all of them).

    We really do appreciate your concern, which shows how interested you are in becoming well acquainted with Islam and its teachings. May Allah bless your efforts in the pursuit of knowledge!

    The vast majority of scholars agree that it is not permissible for a woman to lead men in obligatory Prayers. However, there is a minority of scholars who consider it permissible for a woman to lead members of her own household including men in Prayer, on condition that she is old and well-versed in the Qur’an and that she stands behind, not in front of them.

    A woman is allowed to lead other women in Prayer, in which case she is to stand along with them in the row, not in front of them.

    As for women’s leading men in general in Prayers, there is a scholarly consensus that it is impermissible. So is also the case with women’s leading people in the Friday Prayer and delivering them the Friday sermon, though they may give other religious lessons in general to people.

    In his response to your question, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:

    Throughout Muslim history it has never been heard of a woman leading the Friday Prayer or delivering the Friday sermon, even during the era when a woman, Shagarat Ad-Durr, was ruling the Muslims in Egypt during the Mamluk period.

    It is established that leadership in Prayer in Islam is to be for men. People praying behind an imam are to follow him in the movements of prayer—bowing, prostrating, etc., and listen attentively to him reciting the Qur’an in Prayer.

    Prayer in Islam is an act that involves different movements of the body; it does not consist merely of saying supplications as it is the case with prayer in Christianity. Moreover, it requires concentration of the mind, humility, and complete submission of the heart to Almighty Allah. Hence, it does not befit a woman, whose structure of physique naturally arouses instincts in men, to lead men in Prayer and stand in front of them, for this may divert the men’s attention from concentrating in the Prayer and the spiritual atmosphere required.

    Islam is a religion that takes into account the different aspects, material or spiritual, of man’s character. It does not treat people as super angels; it admits that they are humans with instincts and desires. So it is wise of Islam to lay down for them the rulings that avert them succumbing to their desires, especially during acts of worship where spiritual uplifting is required.

    Hence, it is to avoid the stirring the instincts of men that the Shari`ah dictates that only men can call for Prayer and lead people in the Prayer, and that women’s rows in Prayer be behind the men. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was reported to have said, “The women’s best rows (in Prayer) are the last ones, and the worst of theirs are the first ones, while the men’s best rows (in Prayer) are the first ones and the worst of theirs are the last ones.”

    Rulings pertaining to leadership in Prayer are established by evidence of authentic hadiths as well as the scholarly unanimity of Muslims. They are based on religious teachings, not on social customs as it is has been claimed.

    The different juristic schools agree that it is not permissible for women to lead men in the obligatory Prayer, though some scholars voice the opinion that the woman who is well-versed in the Qur’an may lead the members of her family, including men, in Prayer on the basis that there is no room for stirring instincts in this case.

    However, there is no single Muslim jurist ever heard to have agreed to the woman’s leading people in the Friday Prayer or delivering its sermon, though if we review the religious texts pertaining to the rulings of Prayer, we will not find a text that states pointblank that women are not permitted to lead people in Prayer or deliver the Friday sermon.

    There is only one hadith, which is not well-authenticated, reported by Ibn Majah on the authority of Jabir ibn `Abdullah in this connection; it is to the effect that “A woman may not lead a man in Prayer, nor may a Bedouin lead a believer of the Muhajirun or a corrupt person lead a committed Muslim in Prayer.” The eminent scholars of Hadith say that the chain of reporters of this hadith is extremely weak, and hence, it is not to be taken as evidence in the question in hand.

    Furthermore, there is another hadith that contradicts this one. It is reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others on the authority of Umm Waraqah, who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) appointed a muezzin for her, and ordered her to lead the members of her household (who included both men and women) in Prayer.

    Though scholars of Hadith also regard the chain of reporters of this hadith as weak, yet it has to do with a special case in which a woman well-versed in the Qur’an led the members of her family in Prayer where usually would be no place for arousing instincts among them.

    Furthermore, Ad-Darqatani reported that the order the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave to Umm Waraqah here was that she lead the women among her household in Prayer.

    Commenting on this report of Ad-Darqatani, Ibn Qudamah said in his book Al-Mughni, “This addition of Ad-Darqatani must be accepted even if it had not been mentioned pointblank in the hadith in question. It is to be logically deduced from the hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered Umm Waraqah to lead the women of her household in obligatory Prayer, for (according to the hadith) he (peace and blessings be upon him) appointed her a muezzin, and the Adhan is practiced only in the obligatory Prayer; besides, there is no scholarly disagreement regarding it being impermissible for women to lead men in obligatory Prayers.”

    Ibn Qudamah then said, “Even had Umm Waraqah been ordered to lead both men and women of her household in Prayer, this would have been peculiar to her, for no other woman was appointed a muezzin (by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him) as was the case with her, and hence, it would have followed from this that leading men of her household in Prayer had been peculiar to her.”

    Ibn Qudamah, moreover, supported his view by saying that since women are not permitted to call the Adhan for Prayer for men, they are also not allowed to lead them in Prayer.

    But I do not agree with Ibn Qudamah that it is probable that the permission given to Umm Waraqah to lead her household, including men, in Prayer was peculiar to her. I believe that any woman well-versed in the Qur’an like Umm Waraqah may lead her family members, including men, in both obligatory and supererogatory Prayers, especially the Tarawih Prayers.

    There is a dependable opinion in the Hanbali School of jurisprudence that says that women can lead men in the Tarawih Prayers.

    Az-Zarkashei said in this respect, “According to Imam Ahmad and the majority of his followers, it is permissible for women to lead men in the Tarawih Prayers.”

    This has been also reported by Ibn Hubairah to have been held by Imam Ahmad. (Al-Ifsah `an Ma`ani As-Sihah, vol. 1, p. 145.)

    But it is to be kept in mind that this applies only to women who are well-versed in the Qur’an when it comes to leading their household and relatives in Prayer. Moreover, some scholars see that this is confined to women who are advanced in age.

    In addition, the author of Al-Insaf said, “A woman may lead (her household of) men in Prayer, (but) in which case, she is to stand behind them, to be on the safe side (with regard to arousing instincts).”

    Standing behind men in leading Prayer in this case is an exception from the rule that states that the imam of Prayer is to stand before the people he leads, but it should be done here to avoid stirring seduction as far as possible.”

    A Woman Leading Other Women in Prayer

    Regarding a woman leading ONLY women in Prayer, there are a number of hadiths such as these:

    The hadith of `A’ishah and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them). `Abdur-Raziq (5086), Ad-Daraqutni (1/404) and Al-Bayhaqi (3/131) reported from the narration of Abu Hazim Maysarah ibn Habib from Ra’itah Al-Hanafiyyah from `A’ishah that she led women in Prayer and stood among them in an obligatory Prayer. Moreover, Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/89) reported from the chain of narrators of Ibn Abi Layla from `Ata’ that `A’ishah used to say the Adhan, the Iqamah, and lead women in Prayer while standing among them in the same row. Al-Hakim also reported the same hadith from the chain of narrators of Layth Ibn Abi Sulaim from `Ata’, and the wording of the hadith mentioned here is Al-Hakim’s.

    Furthermore, Ash-Shafi`i (315), Ibn Abi Shaybah (88/2) and `Abdur-Raziq (5082) reported from two chains of narrators that report the narration of `Ammar Ad-Dahni in which he stated that a woman from his tribe named Hujayrah narrated that Umm Salamh used to lead women in Prayer while standing among them in the same row.

    The wording of `Abdur-Raziq for the same hadith is as follows: “Umm Salamah led us (women) in the `Asr Prayer and stood among us (in the same row).”

    In addition, Al-Hafiz said in Ad-Dirayah (1/169), “Muhammad ibn Al-Husain reported from the narration of Ibrahim An-Nakh`i that `A’ishah used to lead women in Prayer during the month of Ramadan while standing among them in the same row.

    Further, `Abdur-Raziq reported (5083) from the narration of Ibrahim ibn Muhammad from Dawud ibn Al-Husain from `Ikrimah from Ibn `Abbas that the latter said, “A woman can lead women in Prayer while standing between them.”

    Would that our sisters who are so enthusiastic about women’s rights revive this act of Sunnah—a woman leading other women in Prayer—instead of innovating this rejected novelty: a woman leading men in Prayer.

    The following is stated in Al-Mughni:

    The narrations differ as to whether it is desirable for a woman to lead other women in congregational Prayer. It is reported that the matter is desirable, as the following scholars said that a woman can lead other women in Prayer: `A’ishah, Umm Salamah, `Ata’, Athawri, Al-Awza`i, Ash-Shafi`i, Ishaq, and Abu Thawr. Furthermore, it is narrated that Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah be merciful to him) said that the matter is desirable. However, ahul ar-ra’i (scholars who mostly depend on reason in deducing rulings) regard the matter as undesirable, but if such congregational Prayer is done, it will be sufficient for the women who perform it. As for Ash-Sha`bi, An-Nakh`i and Qatadah, they say that women can perform Prayer this way in supererogatory Prayers but not in obligatory ones.

    It is important here to state that the original judgment concerning acts of worship is that anything not prescribed in Shari`ah in explicit texts is prohibited, so that people may not innovate matters in religion not ordained by Allah. Thus, people may not innovate a certain act of worship, change or add things in the ordained ones according to their own fancies or only because they think such matters are desirable. Whoever innovates anything in religion or adds to it whatever is not in it—that addition or innovation is rejected.

    That is exactly what Allah has warned us from in the Qur’an when He dispraised the disbelievers saying, (Or have they partners (of Allah) who have made lawful for them in religion that which Allah allowed not?) (Ahs-Shura 42: 21)

    The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also warned against the same wrongdoing in the hadith which states, “Whoever innovates in this matter of ours (i.e., in our religion) whatever is not in it, that innovated thing is rejected” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Beware of innovated matters, for every novelty is perversity” (Ahmad in his Musnad and regarded as authentic). All scholars are resolved that acts of worship are unchangeable and must be taken exactly as Allah has ordained them.

    Other religions were distorted and their acts of worship and rituals were changed when people innovated in them, and their men of religion did not stand against innovators.

    However, as regards matters like transactions and worldly affairs, the original judgment concerning them is that they are permitted, for the Islamic rule is following in religious matters and innovating in worldly matters. This was the rule to which Muslims adhered during the times of their superiority in civilization. They followed in religion and innovated in life, and that was how they created a lofty civilization. But when their condition worsened, they reversed the matter; they innovated in affairs of religion and kept the worldly affairs.

    A last word to conclude this issue: What is the necessity of making all this fuss? Is that what the Muslim woman lacks—to lead men in Friday Prayer? Was that one of the Muslim women’s demands at any time?

    We see other religions specifying many matters for men and their women do not protest. So why do our women do so, exaggerating in their demands and arousing what will cause dissension among Muslims at such time when they need their unity the most to face afflictions, hardships, and major plots that aim at their complete destruction?

    My advice to the sister referred to in the question is that she should revert to her Lord and religion and extinguish this strife which is unnecessary to be lit. I also advise my Muslim brothers and sisters in the United States not to answer this stirring call and to stand as one in front of these trials and conspiracies woven around them.

    I ask Allah to inspire our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters everywhere sound judgment in speeches and right guidance in deeds. I also ask Him to make them all see what is right and grant them to abide by it, and see what is wrong and grant them to avoid it. Ameen. (Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Thy Presence. Lo! Thou, only Thou art the Bestower) (Aal `Imran 3:8).

    @ Karen
    Sister, Your Holly book consists of the first testament, the last testament & the final testament. However the final testament is the Holly Qur’an. Do get a copy of it and read it for sake of general knowledge and you will know the truth yourself.

    May Allah (GOD) bestow his blessings on all of you. AMIN..

  5. Assalamu Aleikum

    Khalid, “vast majority”, “minority” – these are disclaimers used by those who do not engage in the intellectual exercise of thinking about the issues for themselves rather than goose-step with the loudest voice. By the way, the majority of Muslims do not “follow” the “majority” of scholars. A brief view of basic statistics makes that clear (and the Inside Islam project helps very well with that).

    “… permissible for a woman to lead members of her own household including men in Prayer, on condition that she is old and well-versed in the Qur’an and that she stands behind, not in front of them.”

    This, since you left it out, is based on a hadith that states that the Prophet, when asked, gave Umm Waraqah permission to LEAD prayers for her ‘daar’ – the precincts of her home – and assigned a muezzin (one who calls to prayer) for her. The part of your statement saying that she be 1) old 2) well-versed in Qur’an 3) stands behind them (men) are all additions or extrapolations based entirely on the ego and self-serving agenda of those who issue such judgments – ahh, men!

    “Standing behind men in leading Prayer in this case is an exception from the rule that states that the imam of Prayer is to stand before the people he leads, but it should be done here to avoid stirring seduction as far as possible.”

    (YOUR QUOTES) – since you placed this in quotes I expect it is a statement of someone else. I hope that you’d be willing to state who it was that said that. However, the statement itself is preposterous and actually contradicts your position that women cannot lead prayer of men and women. If, as the statement suggests, a woman can lead mixed prayer BUT must stand behind them (a really ridiculous assertion) demonstrates the agreement that a woman CAN lead men in prayer. For ANYONE leading prayer to not stand ahead of the group contradicts the basic practice of “leading” the prayer. The statement about “seduction” is really absurd – each one praying should be focusing on ONE thing – approaching Allah in prayer. If “seduction” (which suggests blame on the one who is being looked upon and not the one doing the looking) is a problem for a person then that person is sick.

    “Throughout Muslim history it has never been heard of a woman leading the Friday Prayer or delivering the Friday sermon…”

    Just because it has not been done before does not mean it should not be done. To pray on a plane or not – to calculate the new month or to sight it… these are decided in analogy and consideration of local habits and practices (culture!). Women leadership of any type in the past was pretty rare and would have still capitulated to the patriarchal demands of others related to power. Nowadays women regularly hold positions of leadership (from businesses to countries) and as such should be considered eligible for leadership of prayer should they choose and the congregation accepts them.

    “All scholars are resolved that acts of worship are unchangeable and must be taken exactly as Allah has ordained them.”

    Then, we ALL need to demand a full, complete and easy to understand demonstration that the acts of worship that are observed today are exactly as “Allah ordained”… What you are REALLY saying, Khalid, is that those sets of laws DERIVED FROM Qur’an (from Allah) and the Hadith (from our Beloved Prophet) are “Allah Ordained”… we know that Allah is constant and unchanging and yet in the laws (or legal opinions) there is a diversity of rulings which, at times, contradict each other and, yet, we are free to choose which opinion to follow (yes, I am talking about madhahib).

    When we equate those things that MAN creates with the agency of Allah we have made the equation of MAN = ALLAH.
    THIS is a frightening thing… not the possibility of a woman leading the prayers – even those of men and women together. It has precedence in the practice of our Beloved Prophet and that should really be the end of the subject.
    And, Khalid, you have grossly misused the term “innovation” (and derivatives). We are moving forward and being presented with new situations that need to be addressed – and can be addressed – with consideration of our spiritual (not religious) principles.

    AND – as I stated, there is precedence for woman led prayer – so, for us to conduct woman led prayer is not an “innovation”.
    I, too, pray for the guidance of myself first, and all my sisters and brothers. I pray even more for the enlightenment of minds and the freeing of their minds from the bondage of blindly following those that are sought as “authorities”.

    Fatima

  6. Assalam u Alaikum Khalid,

    In many masjids I have visited, women pray in an area separated by a screen. So if the leadership of prayer by women is a problem due to the arousal of desire, why can’t the arrangement simply be reversed when a woman leads prayer? If the men were on the other side of the screen they would not see the woman leading the prayer, just as I didn’t see the imam leading the prayers when I went to the mosque this Eid.

    Wassalam

    a convert

  7. Fatima. I read both yours and Khalid’s responses to this issue. I have also read your opinion on at least one other thread. The difference between your response and Khalid’s is that Khalid supplied evidence and you supplied opinion and, of course you know what Allah subhanna wa t’ala said about opinion.

  8. Thank Allah for women like Pamela Taylor! Muslims need to stop blindly following these interpretations and begin to address how these apply (or not) in todays society – particularly for muslims living in the west. Women and men praying side by side is the best reflection of the equality that SHOULD be between the two sexes. This lame excuse of men being unable to control themselves should not be visited on women. Give me a break! All these men work in mixed environments – are they aroused then?! If they are aroused in a MOSQUE where they have come to pray, they need to ask themselves why & seek treatment!

  9. More power to Pamela Taylor. I hope she is still leading mixed congregations as I would to participate if possible.

    Let me add that Khadija, the Prophet’s wife, although she did not lead congregational prayers, because these had yet to appear, was a successful business women. Ayesha, his other wife used to take part in battle and even lead troops.

    It was Islam that, for the first time in human history ever, empowred women; gave them right of pre-nup, divorce, alimony, and child support.

  10. I have no issues with women leading the prayers of Muslims. I am a Muslim and do not see any hard evidence for Muslim women not allowed to lead prayers. I strongly believe that there is a need to revisit our Islamic beliefs through critical thought processes. However, one (Pamela Taylor and the likes) must not be influenced/pressured by the contemporary social (Western) trends and feel in some way obliged to reconcile the Islamic beliefs with the demands (undue in many cases) of the contemporary (Western) social values.

  11. I agree with Irtezaa; women can be a leader in Islam not because of western values, but because we can see this through Islamic history and the teachings of Islam. How the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) allowed his wife Khadija to lead in business matters, and Aisha in war. Women need to stand for their rights. Islam arrives and rises in patriarchical culture. Most hadiths are from males. Even Qur’anic translations are mostly being studied by male perspectives.
    I personally salute Sisters Pamela Taylor and Fatima Thompson. Both of them converted to Islam. Brother Khalid, I think was born, educated, and acculturated in an Islamic environment. These two sisters just need be to more referent to justify their right. I will try to discuss with Prof.Dr. Syafa’atun Almirzanah. Maybe she can help answer Brother Yusuf’s opinion about sister Fatima, and “fact versus opinion.”
    May Allah lead us in the right way. Amen
    Sarah

  12. As a Muslim Male, I am very proud of this Muslim Sister breaking the traditional cultural norms that have invaded our religion. People need to separate culture from religion, as well as respect varying viewpoints. If you do not agree with her practice as an Imam, dont attend her mosque. No need to try to put down someone else’s practice of their religion.

    Religion is a personal issue and she is entitled to follow Islam however she feels fit as are any of you. I would be honored to pray at her Mosque one day.

    Salaam.

  13. its Bidah (heresy) for women to be Imams.

    have any of you heard of women priests or rabbis?

  14. I have never wondered why muslim women aren’t leading me in prayer should I happen to be at the masjid. As a muslim woman,I don’t personally have any thoughts or desires of ever leading the men in prayer, but should something really bizarre happen where it was left to the women/ a woman to lead the prayers of men and women in the masjid, I am sure that could be successfully accomplished, by the grace of Allah, because the majority of muslim women are just as learned and well-versed in the recitation of Quran as muslim men are. I’m just wondering, since it was not an issue, that I know of, that was brought up and talked about by the women in the Prophet’s (S.A.W.) time with him (S.A.W) and the Sahabah–as was the issue Asma (may Allah be pleased with her) brought up to the Prophet (S.A.W.), about women acquiring the same rewards as men from Allah for the tasks they perform each day–if leading the prayers of men and women would be considered an innovation. I know Allah has afforded me, as a muslim woman, all the rights and dignities, privileges,etc. due to me. I would not feel second-class if I was denied the opportunity to ever lead muslims in the salat.

  15. Salam sister Aida, the matter is not what we feel, but what Allah expect of us. You “would not feel second class if you were denied the opportunity to ever lead Muslims in the salat” is not an argument to properly answer the question: “yes or no as to whether a woman can lead the prayer in Islam.” What exposes brother Khalid is interesting, however, when he says, “there is a scholarship consensus,” it’s false. Tabari, Ib’n Arabi, and Ibn Thawr had another idea of the question. And so, if some of the scholars allowed woman leading women, others refused categorically. You have to note that the argument of “innovation” used by brother Khalid is a “bipolar” argument: when it’s question of woman leading women (what is not agreed by a consensus), brother Khalid talks about “reviving” religion; when it’s a question about woman leading men and women (what is not agreed by a consensus), he’s talking about [bad] “innovation” (remember the status of the good one agreed by the Prophet sws). His perception of what could be defined as a “reviving /[bad] innovation” is led by his subjectivity. It’s not an argument. For example, we know cross a hadith used by all scholars (whatever their position) that during the prayers led by the Prophet (sws) women were behind the men in the mosque. So it means that women were in the mosque with the men and not in an other place or separated by a veil or a wall. It’s a fact. However, the most Islamic societies have made a separation in their mosques between men and women since centuries. So, what about this “innovation”? Do we have to consider all the Muslim who led this innovation as “heretics” in the same way that those who agree with women leading mixed-prayers? We have to think about all arguments in details and not make judgements on the plurality of opinions before the true knowledge. May Allah bring us Knowledge.

  16. Assalamu a’lykum!

    Sister Fatima, regarding the women leading a unisex congregation, I just want to mention some simple facts.

    1) An Imaam is not only a person who leads a prayer, a person who is a leader, who has to be present on time, who have to have a strong personality, who should take decisions, a person who has to control various situation. And as a human being you must agree that a man is more efficient in terms of taking a decision and most of the man (specially bad people) do not consider a female as a leader. So if a bad situation arrive, if a conflict situation arrive, a man is more suitable than that a woman.

    2) A Women cannot be a Imam for 30days (unless she is at her menopause). You may argue and say that we can have two lady imams alternatively. Fine, so you are telling that all the community should know when our imam is having her periods, so disgusting! And what if, by chance, both the lady imams get their periods at the same time?

    3) A woman usually needs more time to get prepared for going outside. More cloths, etc. Let’s say if she has to take her bath (farz, Janabat situation) she has to dry her hair before wearing hijab, which is more time consuming compare to a man.

    4) A woman has a big responsibility towards the children. What if she has a young child? Or a sick child? Or a disable child? How she will come on time and lead the prayer regardless the family situation?

    5) A woman has her good days and bad days only for her hormonal changes during the month (periods, pregnancy), which makes her creepy some times for no other reason at all and thus, she is unable to control her emotions. So if she herself is in a vulnerable situation, unable to cope, how we expect her to control another problem.

    6) Last but not least, as a woman you may not know or disagree, but the fact is women are attractive to men. And men experiences difficulty in concentrating while there is a non-muhram woman in front of them. Don’t argue! Men are created that way and Allah as our creator knows who is good for what. Salah is prescribed by Allah through His messenger (pbuh) and we should follow accordingly.

    I know I’m not knowledgeable and am sorry for brining up some unpleasant issues, but couldn’t help myself from telling those unpleasant but real fact.

  17. I’m just going to answer the argument about how women naturally arouse men. SO? If men can’t get their hormones under control and focus on the prayer, that’s their weakness, not my problem. It should never prevent women from entering leadership. I teach yoga to mixed groups and can attest to the fact that not ALL the men are aroused by watching me move my shoulders and even if they are, they focus on the yoga and accomplish amazing things. I’m a Muslim now but with a long background in other religions, I’ve watched this dialogue in Christianity too. Eventually, the truth that men and women are both inspired by Allah wins out.