All-Female Mosques in China

One of the stereotypes of Islam is that  it forces women to be subservient and prevents them from full participation in society. While there are societies that I would argue do misappropriate the faith to serve their own interpretations, numerous examples exist of how Muslim women not only participate, but take on leadership roles. One such example is in China where Muslim women not only have their own mosques, but also have their own female imams.

China is not often thought of when one discusses Islam, but it should be. Not only does it have over 20 million Muslims (much larger than the American Muslim population), it has the unique tradition of independent all-women mosques. Some of these mosques date from over 100 years ago and the imams are formally trained. Many of the women’s mosques began as Qur’anic schools for girls, providing education they were not able to find elsewhere.

In these mosques, the imams (ahong in Chinese) lead the prayers and teach the women in the congregation to read the Qur’an. Having women take a leadership role and acting as teachers is not foreign to Islam. In fact, Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, was very active in the community and was one of the primary sources of hadith after his death. Also, both women and men have a right to education. Thus, these imams are acting within the sphere of the faith.

These mosques reflect an important trend among Muslims to have more women receive formal religious training in order to engage in discussions about Islam. Despite the stereotype of the faith, many Muslim women see the problem not as Islam itself, but rather in some of the interpretations that they are challenging.

What do you think of an all-female mosque? Why do you think these mosques are only in China? Please share your thoughts below.

6 thoughts on “All-Female Mosques in China

  1. I think that it would be interesting to take debates from the Chinese context about female-run mosques, rulings, and understandings of female leadership to open up debates about the roles of women in well-established Muslim institutions in North America. We seem to be forever struggling simply with space and greater inclusion, and bringing other understandings into our own debates might perhaps influence and educate us in broader understandings and further the cause of building female leadership and a deeper respect for female scholarship.

  2. The idea is not only nice but essential and the role model for this was Aisha” the wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Mother of the Believers who’ve teached Muslims after him.

    On the other hand, I’ve no answer for why these mosques are only in China. If you mean the rest of the world, I guess Middle Eastern countries – like Egypt – have mosques where Muslim women lead teaching for other Muslim women at least on a weekly schedule. These are women-only times.

  3. I did not know about the situation of women in China? Does anyone have more information about that? Do you know someone dealing with Muslim women issues in China (professor, activist ect)? I will do my researches about that and I need more information.
    Thank you for the interesting information!

  4. I enjoy this as it is step 1 to female equality, empowerment, and involvement in the mosques. I do not like it because it is further separating the sexes. We are not so different that a female cannot lead or be an imam of a mixed sexes mosque.

  5. Well – this style is typical Chinese but there are all-female mosques elsewhere as well.
    On the other hand – I’m not sure this is to be preferred to equality and exchange of men and women in the mosque.