Triumph of Bigotry
By Ali Sina
Friday, March 18, 2005 a Muslim woman made history. For the first time in
1400 years a female led an Islamic prayer service Friday with men in the
congregation. This event drew a lot of attention from the western media
who, eager to see some reformation in Islam, gave it full coverage. It
also drew sharp criticism from Muslim religious leaders in the
who complained that Wadud violated centuries of tradition.
the prayer was not led in a mosque but in a church. Three
mosques had refused to host the service. Amina Wadud, a professor of
Islamic studies at
, led the service at Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,
an Episcopal church in
, after an art gallery that had earlier been selected for the service,
received a bomb threat.
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 before the service. "With this prayer
service we are moving forward. This single act is symbolic of the
possibilities within Islam." She said,
80 to 100 people attended the service, and the group appeared evenly
divided between men and women. “The event was meant to draw attention to
the inequality for women in Muslim spiritual life and Muslim life in
general,” said Asra Q. Nomani,
an author and former Wall Street Journal reporter who was the lead
organizer of the prayer.
are standing up for our rights as women in Islam. We will no longer accept
the back door or the shadows,” Nomani said. “At the end of the day,
we'll be leaders in the Muslim world.”
event drew the protest of Muslims even in US and heavy police presence was
required to protect the worshippers from being assaulted by the angry
Muslims demonstrating outside the building. One
born, bearded protester said Wadud was not representative of Muslims. He
carried a placard calling for Allah's curse to be upon Nomani. “She is
tarnishing the whole Islamic faith. If this was an Islamic state, this
woman would be hanged,” he told the Associated Press. Another protester
had a large placard that read: “Mixed Gender Prayer Today: Hellfire
organizers of the event said, “It is not about telling other Muslims how
they should worship. We just need to be open to new ideas."
problem is that new ideas are not allowed in Islam. New ideas are called
bid’a (innovation) and this is a major sin. Muhammad claimed that his
religion is complete (5:4) and so there is no need of addition and
deletion. According to one tradition he said: “There is nothing that
will take you closer to paradise but that I have enjoined it upon you, and
there is nothing that will take you closer to hell but that I have warned
you from it" [Musnad ash-Shaafi'ee and others] [source]
surprisingly, the event drew widespread condemnation from Islamic scholars
's Al-Azhar mosque, one of the world's top Islamic institutions, said
Islam permits women to lead other women in prayer but not a congregation
with men in it.
woman's body is private,” Sheik Sayed Tantawi wrote in a column in the
Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram in which he was asked about Wadud's planned
prayer. “When she leads men in prayer, in this case, it's not proper for
them to look at the woman whose body is in front of them. Even if they see
it in their daily life, it shouldn't be in situations of worship, where
the main point is humility and modesty.”
al-Khayyat, a former minister of religious affairs in
and a Muslim cleric, also said it would be forbidden under Islamic
doctrine, and that the prayers of men who participated would not count.
Muhammad and all the scholars did not allow the woman to lead ... mixed
congregations, not even to allow her to pray at the side of the man,"
al-Khayyat said. "She can only pray behind him."
daily Ummat of Pakistan in an editorial titled as “New Fitna”
(sedition), wrote that a woman leading Jummah Prayer is another Western
conspiracy to modify Islam and make it a more liberal religion.
the news section they also connected Dr. Wadud to Salman Rushdie. As for
Asra Nomani the daily ummat wrote that she is a woman of bad character who
slept with Daniel Pearl. This is so typical of Muslims who resort to
slander and character assassinations as soon as they fail in logics.
Muslim scholar wrote:
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
went on to say that 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.
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.”
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