Amina Wadud is a professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. On Friday, March 18, 2005 Professor Wadud made history by leading Friday prayers before a congregation of 80 to 100 men and women - becoming the first known case where a female led a mixed gender group in public prayer. Professor Wadud and her supporters said the service was intended to draw attention to the inequalities faced by Muslim women, saying:

"Women were not allowed to (have) input in the basic paradigms of what it means to be a Muslim," she said, adding that while the Quran puts men and women on equal footing, men have distorted its teachings to leave women with no role other than "as sexual partners."

She also said that this service was to emphasize "the belief in the reality that women are equal" under Islam.

Several New York mosques were asked to provide their facilities for this event and all refused. A local art gallery offered the use of its facilities, but backed out after receiving a bomb threat. The service was eventually held at the Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan - an Episcopal Cathedral - while a number of protestors picketed outside with placards reading "Mixed-Gender Prayers Today, Hellfire Tomorrow." One protestor, who identified himself as Nussruh, said:

"If this was an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged, she would be killed, she would be diced into pieces."

The Sheikh of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque added that Islam does not allow women to preach to men.

Professor Wadud also stirred controversy by periodically substituting Allah, with the pronouns, "he", "she" and "it" - asserting that God's omnipresence defied gender definition. One of the organizers of the event, Asra Q. Nomani, introduced a 10-item list that she called "An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque," which included the right for women to enter through the front door of the mosque and to lead communal prayers. Asra Nomani then led the second such event in New York City, one week later.


We recommend that Professor Wadud, and others, look at our section: Women in Christianity and Islam

"Muslim wake up" - A site affiliated with Professor Wadud
Asra Q. Nomani's website: http://www.asranomani.com/

Articles covering the event:

From CBS
From BBC
From The Telegraph [Calcutta, India]
First Mixed Friday Prayers Led by a Woman: Muslim Reactions to an Historical Precedent is a thorough review on the incident from MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute).

Discussion of one revealing Muslim response: Idiocy of Gender Equality: The Case of the Woman Imam
The Ruling of the Mufti of Egypt: What is the religionís ruling concerning a woman leading men in prayer?

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