Can a Muslim woman lead prayer services?

Next week I will be in Washington DC to lead the services for Eid ul Adha, the holiday that marks … Continued

Next week I will be in Washington DC to lead the services for Eid ul Adha, the holiday that marks the end of Hajj. Many friends have asked me, Why fight for women’s right to lead congregational prayers and preach in the mosque? Aren’t there more important battles? What about domestic violence? What about women being stoned for adultery while the men go scot-free? What about political rights? Or educational and economic rights? Is this really what we should be spending time on?

My answer has always been a resounding, “Yes! It is definitely worth fighting for.” Women’s leadership in the mosque is the touchstone for women’s rights in every other aspect of life. When women are denied leadership in prayer, when they are denied the right to sermonize, it has profoundly negative ramifications upon their ability to practice leadership and to have a voice in less important spheres of life.

First, it creates an atmosphere where women’s leadership is devalued, or worse, prohibited. If women cannot lead prayers, it throws their suitability for leading anything into question. When it is OK for women’s voices to be silenced in the pulpit, it becomes OK for them to be silenced in other arenas. If they cannot be heard in the most important place — and according to the Islamic worldview, religion is the most important sphere on one’s life — if they have no right to offer leadership in the most sacred of human activities, certainly it doesn’t matter if they are not heard and do not participate in other, less important spheres of life.

In essence, by allowing a second class status for women in the mosque, we are allowing women to be considered second class citizens at all times. The implications are broad and scary — if women’s voice and leadership are secondary to men’s anywhere, then clearly men have the right to rule in the family, in the workplace, and in the government. It is only a short step from there to limits on women’s economic rights, political participation, and men’s sense of superiority over women that leads to violence against women.

On the other hand, if women are fully participatory in religion — the most important part of life according to the Islamic worldview — including leadership of the prayers and delivering sermons, it becomes harder to argue for political disenfranchisement, economic and educational restrictions, and patriarchal family structures. It becomes less easy to whitewash domestic violence, to justify inequal justice in our courts, and to maintain a position that women are subordinate to men.

Second, this is, I believe, an Islamic right. The Prophet commanded Um Waraqa to lead the people of her area in prayers. He assigned her a muezzin (the person who calls the faithful to prayer). When she asked permission to go to battle with him, he refused, saying that she had been commanded to lead prayers, and should consider that a more important duty than jihad. (This is documented in hadith in Sunan Abu Daud). I do not believe we should compromise on our rights, not at a time when women’s rights are severely challenged in so many Muslim countries. When we compromise on one right, it becomes easy to compromise on other rights. When we settle for less, so that we don’t rock the boat or upset other folks, then we end up always settling for less. No, we don’t always have to demand every right, and a world based upon the premise that we should would be not a particularly happy one. But today, the rights of Muslim women are being impinged on a global scale. Today, we cannot compromise, so that in the future, if we choose forgo a right, it will be from a position of strength and general enfranchisement, not from a position of weakness and disenfranchisement. It will be an act of free choice, not an act of appeasement.

And third, aside from the systemic effects mentioned above, there is the matter simply of women’s fulfillment. Some women are called to the pulpit. Some are called to theology. Some are called to motherhood, or to be an engineer or doctor. Some are called to work in non-profit organizations; or to athletics. As long as these callings are wholesome (sorry, if you are called to be a mass murderer, you are out of luck!), then women should not be denied the opportunity to live their lives as they choose. Women who are called to ministry should not be limited to being chaplains, or leading prayers for city councils (while being denied the right to lead prayers in their own mosques!). All human beings should be able to follow their dreams, and have agency in their own lives.

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  • momtotsan

    Salero — the point is that these things are unislamic, and a lot of people think we ought to focus on those first. I believe that women’s leadership in the mosque can help address all those issues, though clearly they need individual focus as well.

  • Arif2

    Pamela,More power to you though! You go Girl!

  • abrahamhab1

    All those women’s who are convinced of women equality either have left the Muslim societies or are closet apostates. The strangest phenomenon is that women who grew up in the liberated societies of the West seem to drop the equality notion the minute they cover their heads. Many of those, though, go through the motions simply because they marry practicing Muslims and that is the price to pay to keep their marriages. It is much easier for women like Pamela to preach equality of women because the society she lives in believes in it and practices it. She must be ready to face an outrage by those men who wish to maintain their dominance and could quote “sacred” texts to back their claims.

  • WmarkW

    Can a Muslim woman lead prayer services?Of course. But she really should wear stilettos and minishorts, like in the AltMuslimah column.

  • yasseryousufi

    Nice going Pamela! And how are your other pet projects going? I know you’re a big fan of re-writing the Quran to suit your bosses at PNAC, are you also gonna talk about how Islamic it is to be lesbian and gay in your sermon? and while you’re at it would you also preach from your pulpit that those muslims resisting america and Israel are going to hell. The layers are coming off you one by one Pamela. Your treachery and deceit gets clearer with every article you post on Islam.

  • bloggersvilleusa

    It really doesn’t matter WHO leads the “Eid Prayer” on Tuesday, because Eid isn’t until Wednesday. Fools …

  • halozcel2

    *Can a Muslim woman lead prayer service?*No.It’s Impossible in terms of Submission Teaching and 1400 year-old tradition.Because,according to islam ideology;-Woman is Second Class Citizen.Woman Imam is against Desert Order Hierarchy and it’s an Insult to Males who hate from woman’s hair.Conclusion: Woman Imam is an American Woman Fantasy and has no any ideological(islamic) base.

  • Jihadist

    Pamela, Happy Eid ul Adha. It’s on Tuesday over here. Yes, Muslim women can be doctors, lawyers, scientists, bankers (conventional and Islamic), kadis, enter politics etc. but most Muslim men can’t seem to let Muslim women be Muftis and imams in mixed gender prayers as yet. They’d rather be stoned to death than let us, or, more apt, to stone us for it.I’m thinking if they allready let us be kadis, then, to get women on the National Fatwa Council. Being on fatwa councils and having more ustazahs is more important than women being imams for mixed gender prayers now. You know as well as I do that it is not easy to take “power” away from those who insisted it is God given to them, but to persuade them it is consultative for consensus in line with shared responsibility for collective good. Not all Muslim men are unreasonable on that. But of course, only if they are politically, economically and socially secure apart from being educated, and yes, truly Islamic to be just, advance and protect the rights of women, children and the aged, be they Muslims or not. Best regards

  • asizk

    Pamela,There are many women who are jurists (Doctors of the Law-Shariah) too. Nothing in Islam prevents women from relaizing their potential in all walks of life.On women leading in prayer:it is not really illegal and it has never been done ever for a very simple reason:modesty. So a woman does not have to prostrate before a group of men-that is all.U are just blowing this minute issue out of proporation and trating it as a leadership issue which is absolutely not. Go ahead and show us your leadership qualities in comabting the frenzy of Islamophobia and bigtory against American Muslims in America and Europe. Show us yoyr leadership on the hundreds of thousands of incarcerated Palestinian woemn in jewis apartheid jails-or IRaqi refugee women.A woman leading in prayers is a non-issue.Am afraid u are inventing a distorted Islam to fit your size as u did when u falsely claimed that Islam condones homosexulity and accomodates gays.I still challenge u once more to get a legal opinion from Al Azhar or any resepctable leading Islamic institution both on gays and u leading in pryers. Islam is not the Catholic Church in midieval times that needs a Martin Luther:Islam has always been progressive and innovative thru the great institution of Ijtihad.Unlike Christianity but like Judaism (The Law/Torah),Islam has the Shariah/Law which goverens the Islamic Way of Life including rituals/worship which are fixed for a good reason:to give stabbility and tranquality to Muslim life. Do jewish women lead men in prayers in viloation of the Torah??What are the basis of your Ijtihad on jays and on leading prayers? Or are u looking for publicity so u like a hero and a reformer?I strongly suggest you re-consider your ill-advised move to lead prayers if u really are praying for God-and not publicity and notority.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    “Do jewish women lead men in prayers in viloation of the Torah??”Jewish women have been serving as rabbis for forty years.In secular nations, religions either keep up with human rights advances or those religions die.Tolerance for wife-beating, for example, is at an all time low in the US. That is the case regardless of whether Jews, Christians, or muslims are the abusers.

  • asizk

    salero21,Jewish law stoning women has been there for severl thousand years-yet no one talk about it.Those who genuinely sympathize with Muslim women should speak louder to the racist apartheid jewish entity occupying all of Arab Historic Palestine and demand the realse of thousands of Palestinian women in its jails,or help the untold number of starving Palestinian refugee women and their infants in Gaza-or help a couple of million Iraqi refugee women and their children as a result of GWB’s curusade on Iraq.Just too much hypocricy on earth.

  • asizk

    yemni jews? what about them? What about the devastated Palestinian People-eleven million of them:six million are still languishing in refugee camps since jewish terrorist gangs ethnically cleansed them by systematic violence in 1947/8 and occupied 78% of their ancestoral homeland:PAlestine;and the remaining 5.5 million Plaestinians enduring a brutal apartheid jewish military occupation since 1947/8 and 1967? There are over eleven thousand Palestinian men,women,children and infants (yes infants because jews jailed expecting Palestinian women) languishng in jewish jails:their crime is resisting alein jewish occupation-the longest in modern history financed at US taxpayers expense.One jewish illegal armed settler only is jaild in Gaza for war crimes against its people.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    What about the murdered Yemeni Jews? What about the three million Jews in exile from their Middle East homelands?What about our stolen property? What about our murdered friends and families? What about our family friend Ismael murdered in front of me, dragged out of our home and murdered in front of me when I was a girl? His blood spattered on my clothes.Word to muslims: Return Ismael’s body to his family and to us. We want to bury him.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    How are you A Sizkk?Btw., women are becoming imams just as they have become rabbis.Live with it.

  • asizk

    Pamela,”Second, this is, I believe, an Islamic right. The Prophet commanded Um Waraqa to lead the people of her area in prayers…etc…”

  • FarnazMansouri2

    The notion that only a man can be an imam, priest, rabbi, minister is IDOLATRY.

  • asizk

    FarnazMansouri2,U still get really unnerved when u even smell the Truth or see it passing u by!!As a zionist racist jew u are free to do what u like with your outdated and anchronistic torah-but please leave Islam alone….for good.yemni jews are full-fledged citizens and have been living peacefully in Yemen since the Queen Sheba;what u should worry about if u have a grain of decency and humanity are the 5.5 million Palestinian People languishing in a dreadful and brutal jewish jail called occupied Arab Historic Palestine-including the besiged and starving 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in Aushwitz #2,Gaza.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    A Sizk,I’m not going to call you names. However, the plight of Yemeni Jews came to the world’s attention just a few months ago, when one of their number was told to “Convert or die,” and was murdered in the streets.This brought an end to an ancient civilization dating back over three thousand years. The Yemeni Jews are extremely innocent, even by Islamic standards.MOst of them are rural. Before a few months ago, they had never been in a plane.When the rescue of the Yemeni Jews began there were only five hundred remaining, islamists having driven out the thousands who had settled their thousands of years ago.And as for the name-calling, I did not murder Ismael, you did. Your IRG friends murdered him. I beat one of you animal friends with my fists. That is how Ismael’s blood got on my clothes.I was nine.

  • asizk

    Once a jew always a jew:U keep focusing on and inventing distractions to evade the issue:The sixty three old Human Tragedy and Plight of the Palestinain People,Elevn Million of them,craeted by jewish violence and terrorism (jewish terrorist gangs:hagana,shtern,irgun…etc)……See the fair-minded and honest jewish author:Illan Pappe’s book :”The Ethnic Cleansing of PAlestine.”Again face the truth about what u jews have and continue to do to the 11 million Plaestinain People: what u should worry about if u have a grain of decency and humanity are the 5.5 million Palestinian People languishing in a dreadful and brutal jewish jail called occupied Arab Historic Palestine-including the besiged and starving 1.5 million Palestinian refugees in Aushwitz #2,Gaza.U may call me bad names provided you jews stop murdering the Palestinian People and providd u alien occupiers leave PAlestine and go back to Russia and Poland…the sooner u do it the better…u still have your passports…Calling me names would be a quantum leap in jewish behavior: Palestinains are used to jewish bullets,heavy artillary,phosphrate incindery bombs,torture,jails,breaking bones,point blank executions,starving and ethnic cleansing…what jews are doing to the PAlestinain People is worse than what the naziz did to the jews. But jews are not good students of history-they have never been…they always bite the hand that feeds them:Only Muslims in North Africa and Ottoman Turkey accomodated and welcomed jews fleeing the Catholic Inquisition.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Azisk, all you are doing is embarrassing yourself. What do you mean, “once a jew, always a jew”?Why did you lie about the Yemeni Jews and then try to ignore them? And what about the Iranian Christians?And what of Ismael, and the three million of us in exile, the murders, our property, etc.Anything to avoid the issues, eh? But you won’t get off so easy.I am not like you. I will not stoop to name-calling. Also, it’s unproductive, will get us nowhere.And the issue of female imams? As I wrote earlier, the notion that rabbis, imams, priests, ministers cannot be clerics is idolatry.

  • asizk

    Farnaz—Mansouri2 (An Arabic sounding name!!! for an Arab hating racist)…Clearly u don’t have the moral courage to deal with the unprecedented tragedy u jews inflicted and continue to inflict on the Palestinian People:Eleven Million of them and thier homeland which have stolen and continue to ethnically cleanse them from it as we sepak:Palestine…Palestine..and the six million exiled Palestinians by alien jews and 5.5 million Palestinains presently occupied by your alien jews in Arab historic Palestine..Do u now get it??? The “jew as a victim” is a tired and exhuasted tale no longer beleived by any one including many jews….Did u read the books:”The Holocaust Industry” and “The invention of the jewish people”??? Read them and come to terms with objective truth…

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Farnaz Mansouri is not Arabic. But then neither are you, evidently.The perpetual theme of Muslim as righteous victim is wearying, particularly in light of the Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Morroccan, etc., Jews, Christians, and in some cases Bh’ai. And let us not forget HIndus.Excuses and bs of every kind won’t change that.If you gave a darn about Palestinians then you would be directing your attention to Egypt where they cannot attend Egyptian schools. And they are Egyptian.You would pay attention to Saudi ARabia where they are believed to be “unclean.”You would pay attention to Jordan where they are treated as second class citizens though in the majority.Some were killed last week. Interesting that INdian HIndus are speaking out about this, whilst you busy yourself with Jew-bating.Yemen?The 3 million Jews in exile?And the issue of female imams? As I wrote earlier, the notion that rabbis, imams, priests, ministers cannot be clerics is idolatry.——————————There is no game you can play that I cannot play as well, if not better.

  • bloggersvilleusa

    Responses to FarnazMansouri2:FarnazMansouri2:”Do jewish women lead men in prayers in viloation of the Torah??” Jewish women have been serving as rabbis for forty years.—FarnazMansouri2:In secular nations, religions either keep up with human rights advances or those religions die.—FarnazMansouri2:Tolerance for wife-beating, for example, is at an all time low in the US. That is the case regardless of whether Jews, Christians, or muslims are the abusers.—

  • woodstock-41

    A S I Z K, (the-Great)i[WE], aka EKLAHt-i-ONs or HUUMATE-Apocalyptarians TODAY, Am a “1[WE] Sincerely suggest that YE/YO become an ex-Ishlami//ex-Esuai or simply become an Ex-Preapocalyptic-OFF altogether. WHEREFORELET US SiNG, a NEW-SONG born’th from All our Old Songs. WE[i] art all born in MIRACLE Birth Awareness, never ever are Ye/Yo born’th in any Sin nor Curse nor Jinn or via any “Satanic-VersUS.” Dear Bredren, Brother.., Sisstar, Sister & those with more than “99 Name”s; FACT:Talking about the-GREAT. But me want to talk more about the great [not Iran but of] PERSIAN but all of todays real ABEic-JU’ Ummah by how ever names WE give them; sames for Ishlami Ummah, Xristian-Ummah, Moroni-Ummah & also VEDic-HiNDU Ummah, Buddhist Ummah, SEHK-Ummah, TAO-Umah et al, So we can give them Labels not only Tattoo’s. ButiMAGINE if The BABYLONIAN Empire of Iraqi’s/Irani..areas today Never Imprisoned those JEW’S nor DESTROYED their QUESTION: WHAT would This Planet would’ve Look-like IF the ‘Mixed-Multitudes’ of JU’s Was Not-stopped//not DEstroyed or IF the enslaved ME seriously think that if Ju’s 1st Temple was not Destroyed and then Enslaved by BABYLONian’s for 100’s of Years, but Then Released into the World, When King Cyrus Should’ve never Let “MY PEOPLE GO”?So, Today, like everyday is a birthday that, i[WE] are singing, “Irony, Today Those same Emancipated Babylonian JU’s happen to somehow Have a Today [wannabe Secular] ISRAEL, a 3rd-Temple, is trying to establish itself as a JU-STATE instead of a “SABRA-STATE” and operating in the iMagine IF, unlike-Hitler, that the PASHA’s or POSHA’s of ishlami OTTOMAN-TURK Sultinates or their Emirates et al Never Rose up against the West and IF Islam Never’ve Exacted a DHIMMITUDE or (like Apartheid), Jyzyat tax on the KAFIR(s) UMMAH (None Ishlam//Esau-ites and Isral-ites) folks in Conquerable Kafir Landa’s?? . iMagine if the BRITISH empire, A new Babylon Alliance iduring WorldWar 1(+/-) Did Not Stop the ABE-Nation of-ISLAMI’s, Not JU’s, via TURKEY et al?? Where wouldv Islam Been, in AMERICA 1st? Oye…!Now, al Ishlami’s Unite with “KAFIR” WEapons [Fact: Islami Ummah per-Capita Have The Lowest I.Q. on S.pace-S.hip Earth] so ISLM copy-Cat Kafir like they JEALOUSLY did via someone Elses ABE Story & yell “THEFT”??

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Bloggersvilleusa,I don’t go to Musselmen for Torah instruction.Flake off.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    JJ, it is going to get much, much worse in Israel. For one thing there is now this Tomb of Rachel affair. There is the fool Mr. Moon’s failure to deal with the tens of thousands of arms in “Lebanon,” even following the explosion of those Lebanese homes.There is the belief as fact among the Haredi that Jews are being treated in Europe as they were pre and post Holocaust. How they came to this I don’t know, but they believe it. And, of course, there are the Yemeni Jews, et al.This swinging to religious extremism, I fervently believe, could have been avoided if the left had not tried so long and so hard to keep the people from knowing the facts of Palestinian and ME antisemitism. Now, everyone knows.Add this to the endless negotiating under Clinton, the belief that peace was at hand, despite twice-weekly terror attacks, only to have it blow up in an intifada, and you have the current situation.When you consider that Netanyahu was elected over the enormously popular Livni, the facts on the ground are hard to miss.TEN months of no settlement building and nothing. Israel protecting the corrupt Fatah–it’s insane.The right will get stronger. Every time anyone pushes, they gain momentum. It’s getting scary.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Btw., Bloggersvilleusa, women are ordained as rabbis in Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Jewish Renewal Congregations.The Torah is foundational in every branch of Judaism. At present, the Orthodox have a position in every way identical to rabbi, except that the woman may not lead a congregation.Be that as it may, imams have been ordained in China, now in Canada, and elsewhere.To say that a woman may not be an imam, a rabbi, a priest, or a minister is IDOLATRY.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    bloggersvilleusa,Surely, you are not the brightest light on the block.To repeat, the Torah is foundational for all branches of Judaism.”Ordained” is common English, a word used by your co-Musslemen.An imam was also “ordained” in Canada and others have been elsewhere.Musselman, to say that only men may be ordained as rabbis, imams, priests, ministers, etc., is IDOLATRY, though your wits are obviously too dim to grasp the point.Further, my name is not masculine, dolt. Farnaz is a woman’s name, idiot. Mansouri is Farsi (Persian). I am an Iranian Jewish woman.I did not comment on your other pwnings since my eyes could but take in so much nonsense.It is meaningless to win a battle with one’s inferiors, particularly, when, as in your case, they post anonymously.

  • Secular

    I am very disappointed with the comments from Abrahamhab, Akafir, Arif, and other anti-Islamists (not necessarily islamophobes) and jihadist too. Of course the Islamists have all spoken as expected with invective and the usual neanderthal way. The way I see it this might be a small step towards eroding the stranglehold of the male chauvinist pigs that hold the sway. I am not at all certain that this will amount to anything in terms of reformation or liberalization of Islam, like the ones we have seen with Christianity. But if we the critics of Islam do not encourage such liberal & progressive changes, however small they may be, then we shall be guilty as charged that we are just Islamophobes. True the Wahabbis in Saudi are not going to succumb to any such onslaught, but if at least teh native born muslims follow this path it would be interesting to see how it plays out. Above all it will definitely expose the so called moderates like Imam Reuf and others who speak one thing to the west and another to the OIC. So all I can so to Pamela on her quest is GO GIRL, GO. HIP HIP HOORAY.