Saturday, March 19, 2005Making History and Controversy
Dr. Amina Wadud, an African-American Muslim convert, a professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University made it into history yesterday, as she became the first woman to lead men in congregation at a Friday prayer. She became the Imam in front of 130 men and women, even the athan (call to prayers) was called by a female, an Egyptian-American woman who says she learned from her father a former mo’athan (Prayer caller) in Cairo. Usually, female Imams are found only in homes, when a woman leads her children or other women in a prayer or in schools like I used to remember when our teacher during Religion class used to lead us in prayer, but as years passed and we started to grow up, she started to choose from the male students to lead the congregation.
The prayer took place in an Anglican Church (imagine) building in New York city, after the mosques in the area refused to host it. There was around 15 protestors gathered in front of the church holding slogans that read Amina will go to hell. The event was covered in all Arab news networks, Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, When a protestor appeared on TV and (who hardly spoke Arabic) said something like Amina is a traitor, should die and she will burn in hell... at this moment I threw a bottle of water at the TV, hoping (in my simple mind) to hit the bearded-goat face while screaming my lungs out “WHO THE FU.. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? PLAYING GOD? YOU MOTHERF...” , alas it didn’t hit him but I almost broke my TV and scared the hell out of my fiancé who’s not used to this kind of behavior from me! (except when I’m watching a soccer game involving the Egyptian national team)
The prayer event featured strong publicity from websites such as Muslim Wakeup!(a progressive Muslim movement) and co-organized by Asra Nomani, a Muslim writer and feminist. "We will no longer accept the back door or the shadows," Nomani said. "Today, we are ushering Islam into the 21st century, reclaiming the voice that the prophet gave us 1,400 years ago." Although many people are criticizing Nomani for using this event solely to market her new book.
The event has been criticized by many of Muslim clerics, who say it goes against the Islamic doctrine and traditions.
"A woman's body is private," Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar wrote in a column in Al-Ahram newspaper 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."
Come on! your Grand-Excellency-Highness, we all know that a woman’s body is private (as well as Man’s privates are private), I think it would take a really really sick person to start checking a woman’s body during a prayer and I think if someone who is “sexually distracted” by looking at women who are dressed like these during these spiritual minutes, needs to kill himself immediately as he is beyond therapy... because all women wear Islamic dresses or modest dresses during prayers and not lingerie.
But before some of the Islamophobes who will feel the urge to use this as a medium to spout some hate against Islam. Let me remind you of this, in Judaism, a woman cannot be a Rabbi or lead a service. In Christianity, women are not allowed to preach or become a pastor or a priest. In other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Balabism you will not find women performing any religious services!
The light of hope finally came from the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Goumaa, as he has declared that woman-led prayer of mixed-gender congregations is permissible, so long as the congregation approves it.
My final words to the radicals and the rigid folks, this woman DID NOT do anything wrong, she was only praying to Allah and she was leading others in the Friday prayer, and nothing in the Quran or Hadith prohibit the women from leading men in prayer… the only controversy that could’ve been made here is if she was belly-dancing for them during the prayer and thank Allah that it didn’t happen. So please shut up!
P.S.: To all the Progressive Muslims and Islamic feminists I really do support your causes and everything, although many of your issues are several steps ahead from our current needs. (I'm not talking about the woman Imam case). But please don’t ever reach to a progressive cause of having Friday Prayers held on beaches and where the congregation could wear thongs!