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Offline Reader Questions

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Can Women Lead Mixed Congregational Prayers?
« on: November 25, 2011, 03:22:16 PM »

Can women lead mixed congregational prayers?

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Can Women Lead Mixed Congregational Prayers?
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2011, 03:26:05 PM »
Salamun Alaikum

This is not strictly a 'deen' related matter. However, from the time of the Prophet, men have led central positions as spiritual / religious leaders in their communities. This tradition has been followed.

A plausible question could be asked as what is the 'hikmah' (wisdom) behind the fact that there is no mention in the Quran of any woman ever being sent as a Prophet?
This might be an uncomfortable question for some, but the fact remains that religious leaders chosen for God's Prophetic ministry have always been men. This is not an accident or the result of skewed probability.  Prophets have also functioned as religious leaders and have lead their congregations (4:102).

Given the difficulties of managing men in congregations or possible disputes in the community that may arise from them, maybe men were / are more appropriate for the task of religious leadership. This does not make women inferior but recognises the most appropriate gender for a particular task. Women can be expecting mothers; they can be engaged in crucial household matters, weaning their young, undertaking crucial roles which provide the bedrock of stable homes and wider society. One needs to appreciate and recognise the different roles men and women play in maintaining the stability of different societies rather than whittling it down to a mere matter of gender competition or comparison.

Mary is mentioned in the Quran as 'chosen over all women' (3:42) and was given up by her mother for God's special cause (3:35). However, even she has never been mentioned in the capacity of 'leading a congregation'. She has simply been told to 'bow with those that bow' (3:43). This indicates participation not religious leadership.

Societal and cultural norms usually develop as a consequence of the sentiments of a community (right or wrong).

The Quran neither instructs nor prohibits women leading prayer explicitly. However narratives do 'imply' a lean towards favouring men in the capacity of a religious leadership role within a given community.  This wisdom needs to be understood and not skirted.

The responsibility of leading a prayer normally comes twinned with other roles of an imam (religious leader) which can involve intricate discussions with other men, resolving societal problems, temperamental youngsters etc. These roles also need to be taken into account and leading a prayer congregation should not be seen as an isolated duty which it usually is not.

However, I do find it unnecessary to go out of one's way to 'prove a point' as some do when they invite women to lead prayer, which may run against the grain of societal sentiments and cause dissension, especially when the Quran is generally neutral on the matter. Causing undue turmoil and to upset community sentiments is not in line with the spirit of the Quran's message unless a practice or belief clearly conflicts with it.

'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell