For & against Amina Wadud

The following is a piece published in defense of Amina Wadud leading prayer.  It is written by Abdennur Prado, a Spanish convert to Islam.

In March, a group of American Muslims announced that Amina Wadud Muhsin would lead the jum’a prayers on Friday 18th of March in New York, delivering the khutba and leading the collective prayer.

The reaction of the official communities of New York has been negative. The prayer was summoned at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery. A bomb threat forced the organizers to cancel the act. Finally, the yum’a prayer took place on the foreseen day, in a room provided by the Anglican Church. More than a hundred men and women attended the prayer, which took place among strict security measures.

1. There is no ayat of Qur’an or Tradition of the Profet (saws) that states that a woman cannot lead men and women in prayer, or that denies their right to deliver the khutba.
2. The Qur’an affirms women’s capacity to direct a community, in the political and spiritual realms, even to the degree of prophecy.
3. The conditions required to deliver the khutba are: knowledge of the Qur’an and of the Sunna and teachings of islam, and the person’s interior condition (their imam or trust in God). None of these are gender related.
4. There is a hadith where it is said that the prophet Muhámmad (saws) chose a woman to direct the collective prayers of his community.

This should be enough to close any debate. We should treat the prayer of the 18th as a historical event, as a recovery of genuine islam, and a break from the macho islam which has nothing to do with the Prophet’s teachings, peace and blessings be upon him. An event that encourages us to discern between genuine islam and historic or cultural influences, and to recover islam as a message of universal liberation.

The hadith he refers to is one where the Prophet (pbuh) allowed Umm Waraqah to lead the members of her “dar” in prayer.  One or more of these members were male.  Some have translated “dar” as house and some as area – so it either means she was allowed to lead her family members in prayer, or her community.


This was the reaction to Wadud from Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most popular Islamic scholars today (his TV show is watched by 40 million).

Throughout Muslim history it is unheard of that a woman has ever led the Friday Prayer or delivered the khutba… It is established that leadership in Prayer in Islam is for men only… Prayer in Islam is an act that involves different movements of the body… Hence, it does not befit a woman, whose physique naturally arouses instincts in men, to lead them in Prayer and stand in front of them, as this might divert their attention and concentration, and disturb the required spiritual atmosphere.

My advice to the sister referred to in the question [Amina Wadud] is that she should revert to her Lord and religion and extinguish this unnecessary strife. I also advise my Muslim brothers and sisters in the United States not to answer this stirring call and to stand as one before the trials and conspiracies woven around them.

I love how Qaradawi points out that a woman’s body will distract men but that there is nothing wrong or unusual about that.  It is also interesting that he does not go into detail about anything, he just says that it is established that leadership is for men.


What do you think?


41 thoughts on “For & against Amina Wadud

  1. Takfir anyone??? And where did he get the idea that it’s OK for men to pray in front of women? Or is he one of those types who thinks that women should only pray at home? Puhleez.

  2. It is interesting that Qaradawi is stating his own opinion rather than giving hadiths. I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to find hadiths to support his view, but I didn’t know about the hadith of a woman leading prayer. If I had the time I’d love to study hadiths – they give so many diverse pictures, it’s fascinating.

    • The hadith are definitely fascinating! And so so complicated.
      Qaradawi probably has enough of a following to not have to give a valid answer based in the sources (although for me that’s always a must). Plus he’s saying what everyone wants to hear: woman should not be given these “extra” rights they are asking for.

  3. I think Qaradawi doesn’t like to change the status quo. The status quo works very very well for men and their power over women so why change it?! If women start demanding to lead prayers where will it go next? Where will this all end? Will they then demand other rights? God forbid!

    Not sure if I need chocolate for this post except maybe the fact that there was a bomb threat warrants indulgence in cocoa. What do you say?

      • LOL.

        Cocoa sounds good! I’m kind of used to Qaradawi and his (interesting) opinions so I don’t need actual chocolate this time. But its still annoying so cocoa sounds good 😀

        We should totally make some kind of scale Susanne!

        Extremely depressing: chocolate with nuts
        Mildly depressing: milk chocolate
        Depressing: white chocolate
        Sad: brownies
        Annoying: cocoa
        Happy: strawberries dipped in chocolate (so we’re healthy, but still having some chocolate)

        WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON: whole carrot cake

  4. “It Does Not Befit A Woman….”

    Bothers me. So patronizing. Basically the consensus among many men is that it has always been one way, and it will not change. Sex is the excuse given. Our bodies. If we are respected for our minds and our intelligence it shouldn’t matter how sexy or beautiful we are to men, we are to be respected first and foremost. It is lumping all of us into one category : too sexy to lead.

    When really beautiful men lead, of course some girls are going to develop a crush, it is natural, but first and foremost we respect him as a leader. Certainly we don’t stop men from leading due to their looks, so why do we hinder women? Why are we not expecting the same of men and women?

    Because this is where male only leadership takes us, down a biased path.

    Amina Wadud is an intelligent, gifted teacher, scholar, and leader.. For her to be debased and placed into such a shallow category, to strip her of all her merits due to her female body; it enrages me. I want to riot and set fire to the streets.

    Good for her for leading prayer. She is a true leader in the face of criticism.

    • “Our bodies. If we are respected for our minds and our intelligence it shouldn’t matter how sexy or beautiful we are to men, we are to be respected first and foremost.”

      Many veiled women actually say they veil so that they will be taken seriously by men. So men will look beyond their bodies and focus on their personalities. Uhm. Okay?

      “Why are we not expecting the same of men and women?”

      Question of the millennium.

      Newsflash: I crush on men all the time.
      “Gasp. But you’re a woman.”
      Yes. I have feelings and hormones as well.


      • I feel like I’m hijacking this thread Cairo but anyway… I don’t think that argument works either, to be taken seriously by men. Maybe you could say “I wear this to make a statement that I am *wanting* to be judged for my personality and my achievements, etc.” because honestly in the end we’re not responsible for what men do. All we as women can do is what makes us comfortable and if it works for men then ok, if it doesn’t then whatever.

  5. “My advice to the sister referred to in the question [Amina Wadud] is that she should revert to her Lord and religion and extinguish this unnecessary strife.”

    I don’t understand how anyone could think that it was an “unnecessary strife”. That implies that there is no reason for women to even seek their Islamic rights, because it’s just a tiny thing so it’s unnecessary! Ugh. How often do we give men their rights? Every day. But women? I wish I could say every day.

    • I think many men would see it as unnecessary 😛

      It’s sad that most Muslims would not see leading prayer as one of women’s Islamic rights. As a sheikh once said: women’s Islamic rights are the following:


      How lovely that they even sound so poetic when put together.

      • EUGH! Disgusting. I cannot stand that attitude at all, it just makes me so upset. Sometimes I wonder if men realise they wouldn’t even be on the earth if it wasn’t for the fact that women have wombs, I mean hello. A little respect, please?

        Lol sometimes I imagine what it’d be like if every woman in the world decided to take birth control for like, 5 years or something just to proove that to men. I’m pretty sure that even that wouldn’t work though. I can hear the protests from men now: “Women are sensitive, we are the strong ones! Women should be confined to the house because they are so precious, and if they go outside uncovered all hell will break loose!” reminds me of that lollypop advertisement with the flies.

        • They evidently haven’t met me yet. But then again, they will think that I am on my way to hell because I ‘resemble a man’. So yeah, all hell would break loose. Women would become like men!

          • This all reminds me of a documentary I saw about Pakistan, where a 11 year old boy (member of the Taliban) said women should be banned like plastic bags were. Meaning they should just stay at home. So apparently a burqa is no longer enough!

  6. Men don’t want women to lead the prayer because it will distract them from there prayers. How can you be a leader if you are that easily distracted? Why are the men asking the women to solve their problem: if you don’t lead the prayer, I will not get distracted.

    will not get distracted????

    • That’s exactly the problem: why are men asking women to solve THEIR problem. Why is it my problem that he can’t focus on praying to GOD instead of checking me out?

      Ah yes. I’m a cause of fitna.

      Fitna (pl. fitan) (فتنة) is an Arabic word with connotations of secession, upheaval and anarchy.

  7. Aren’t we supposed to fix our eyes to the spot in front of us when we pray?
    I guess if she has one beautiful voice – a voice that brings tears to your eyes and makes you feel like you are floating, then there is a risk of 1.) men falling in love and 2.) women giving evil eye all at the same time.

    I am sure there would be quite a few wives who would be concerned if their husbands were off to the mosque where the woman leads the prayer as well – and some resentment & jealousy too.

    I am for women leading prayer – however I can understand how (in light of the novelty factor) there are the virtue-threatening risks that everyone is complaining of. Yet, if women leading the prayer was a “normal” thing – we’d be used to it and there wouldnt be an issue. So…I guess its something that will take time to become normal enough for people to not be scared of it.

    • “Aren’t we supposed to fix our eyes to the spot in front of us when we pray?”


      I have heard many men with very beautiful voices. But when they are reciting the Qur’an or something religious, falling in love with the guy is the last thing on my mind. Plus if we are scared of the evil eye, then it applies to men as well.

      “I am sure there would be quite a few wives who would be concerned if their husbands were off to the mosque where the woman leads the prayer as well – and some resentment & jealousy too.”

      True, but it applies to men as well I would say.

      I think like you said, its the novelty of the thing that is causing so many problems. Since Wadud led the prayer, there have been many of them…so i’A it won’t be a novelty forever!

  8. Well, according to custom, people normally pray in rows with people of the same gender. So presumably if a woman were going to lead, they’d have to put the divider lengthwise rather than crosswise so that the men would pray on one side and the women on the other, and then the woman leading would stand on the women’s side and then wouldn’t have any men looking at her behind while praying.

    I understand that in China, they have entirely separate mosques for men and women – and women imams at the women’s mosques!

  9. PS- I think that many of the traditional Islamic scholars pride themselves on how Islam has always been the same – its kind of a USP of Islam: that it never changes – and they critise their fellow religions for the changes and reforms that they have made throughout history, arguing that it is the very evidence that proves it to be fickle and untrustworthy. One of the “big jokes” in Islamic chat is how Churches have women priests and how ridiculous it all is – so what is being threatened here is not just sexual dominance, but years and years of boasting about Islam’s loyalty to itself.

    So naturally, to change anything about traditional Islamic practice, means to lose that very argument-trumping USP that Islam is very proud of.

    It is only by proving that we are going back to the original way, (instead of inventing a new way) that we can have any chance at all of bringing women to the front line.

    There’s a lot to break through – Scholars, Traditions, Mentalities – I mean – we’re talking about so many barriers. I hope Amina Wadud has not put herself in too much danger as it seems that she is martyring herself for the cause.

    What a legend.

    • That’s a really good point! I never thought of it that way. Yes, Islamic scholars are always quick to point out how often other religions have changed, and how Islam has stayed the same.

      So true!

  10. I don’t think women’s rights should be curbed because of fear of jealousy or petty gossip.. I mean, really that is all these fears are, right? Afraid someone’s man might run off with the lady imam… Juvenile, if you ask me..

    One thing that has always bothered me about my fellow sisters, Muslim and non Muslim, is that we are not united like other minorities in history. We truly accept so much discrimination and we are very good at making excuses for our own disadvantages.. Sometimes I think we support men hindering us more than we support eachother’s rights.

    Of course that has a lot to do with how we have been raised. We have been taught to see eachother as competitors for men’s attentions, and to accept our positions in quiet obedience.. Not just Muslim women, but all women, all cultures… I always find it amazing what we are willing to accept and conform to, as compared to what men are willing to accept.. Myself included.

    • “One thing that has always bothered me about my fellow sisters, Muslim and non Muslim, is that we are not united like other minorities in history.”

      That’s very true. At the same time it is a lot to ask for 3 billion people to unite. Plus like you said, women have been raised to compete with each other.

      It’s a sad situation 😦 gender inequality may be the one true universal we human beings have.

  11. I am so glad there is a strong woman like Amina Wadud to start breaking down this barrier. What she’s doing is seriously amazing and I sure wouldn’t have the courage to go up against practically the whole of Muslim men (and many women too). Men really don’t want to give up that power, do they?

  12. Nobody gives up their privileged position without a fight.. There is no way around it for women. The hardest part of this is that these are our husbands, brothers, and sons. It is not strangers doing this to us, it is our own families doing this to us. I think women’s rights issues are more complex than race or even class issues.

  13. Hi, CLA and all your readers,

    Sorry to go back to a previous post, but the lecture you heard by the professor who argued that Muslims should not beat their wives because Muhammad never did got me thinking, so I did a post discussing it in the larger context of Muslims and the Quran. If anyone is interested and reading and/or commenting on it, it is the last posting at:

  14. Peace to All. There is a common rule we all must follow as creatures with functioning brains; do not speak before doing proper research. Dr. Alqardawi without a doubt has done more research and studying then anyone on this thread, and he speaks only from what hes read. Many times he doesnt have time to mention proofs, so he must go straight to ruling. Anyways here are some proofs supporting Qardawi and the other 99.9 percent of scholars who also agree with him
    1. أخرجه البخاري: لَنْ يُفْلِحَ قَوْمٌ وَلَّوْا أَمْرَهُمُ امْرَأَةً A hadith found in Bukhari that the Prophet Muhammad SAW says, ((A people who put woman as there leaders will not succeed))
    Also: لِمَا رَوَى جَابِرٌ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَال: خَطَبَنَا رَسُول اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَال: لاَ تَؤُمَّنَّ امْرَأَةٌ رَجُلاً Narrated by Ibn Majah that Jabir RA said that the Prophet Muhammad SAW said ((A woman shall not be the Imam of a man))

    2. He mentioned that a woman may attract men, and some replied that the opposite may happen. We must know that there is a big difference between a male being attracted to a woman, and a woman being attracted to a man. Woman are more attractive and are created in a more soft attractive way so that the man goes to her. This is why she is commanded to cover in a certain way for her own safety. Woman cannot protect themselves like men. its not everyday you here that woman raped a man, or sexually abused him… Yes of course men should control themselves in Prayer, and they do, but this strong desire will take him away from the prayer even if he doesnt see woman. Her voice can attract him to the point to where he cant pray anymore. Yes woman, men do have stronger desires than woman. Just look around you and read the stats.

    Other proofs that support other opinions:
    عَنْ أُمِّ وَرَقَةَ بِنْتِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا أَنَّ رَسُول اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ جَعَل لَهَا مُؤَذِّنًا يُؤَذِّنُ لَهَا وَأَمَرَهَا أَنْ تَؤُمَّ أَهْل دَارِهَا
    أخرجه أبو داود (1 / 397 – تحقيق عزت عبيد دعاس) ، وصححه ابن خزيمة (3 / 89 – ط المكتب الإسلامي)
    It was narrated by Abu Dawood that the Prophet Muhammad SAW prepared a man to make Adhan for Um Waraqah and then told her to be the Imam of the people of her Daar (abode)
    So i guess this a difference in opinion in regards to the word “daar’. Well i can clear that up very quickly. I have been studying Islamic Law in Arabic overseas for the past 4 years and i am currently a student at Azhar University specifying in Islamic Law.

    Definition of “daar”
    – الدَّارُ لُغَةً: الْمَحَل. وَتَجْمَعُ الْعَرْصَةَ وَالْبِنَاءَ (4) ، وَتُطْلَقُ أَيْضًا عَلَى الْبَلْدَةِ
    Linguistically speaking: A place, and can also mean a town.
    So here we have a very general meaning, and we know that in the Arabic Language a words meaning can change depending on context. This is also applied to other languages, right? Of course. So lets look at the context of the Hadith. He the Prophet SAW said Daarihaa. The “Haa” at the end of the word makes the meaning “her” place. So what is the closest meaning we can take from “her place”? Her House.
    ok then what type of men would a woman at that time allow to be in her house without the Prophet SAW mentioning anything to her, and without her having any fear? Men from her direct family. This is what makes the most sense. Also we have other Hadith that do not support the woman being an Imam. As a student of Islamic Law we know that when 2 or more Hadith contradict instead of throwing one out and using the other, we put them together and take rulings from all. So we can take from combining the 3 Hadith that if the men were from her direct family than its ok, and if not then no. This is the most fair opinion I found personally.
    There is also an opinion that Imam Ahmed holds that a woman can lead the prayer for men during the night prayers of Ramadan, as long as she is behind them.
    I hope this helped. Please I meant no offense towards anyone. If you have any questions feel free to email me.

  15. The hadith of `A’ishah and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them). `Abdur-Raziq (5086), Ad-Daraqutni (1/404) and Al-Bayhaqi (3/131) reported from the narration of Abu Hazim Maysarah ibn Habib from Ra’itah Al-Hanafiyyah from `A’ishah that she led women in Prayer and stood among them in an obligatory Prayer. Moreover, Ibn Abi Shaybah (2/89) reported from the chain of narrators of Ibn Abi Layla from `Ata’ that `A’ishah used to say the Adhan, the Iqamah, and lead women in Prayer while standing among them in the same row. Al-Hakim also reported the same hadith from the chain of narrators of Layth Ibn Abi Sulaim from `Ata’, and the wording of the hadith mentioned here is Al-Hakim’s.

    Furthermore, Ash-Shafi`i (315), Ibn Abi Shaybah (88/2) and `Abdur-Raziq (5082) reported from two chains of narrators that report the narration of `Ammar Ad-Dahni in which he stated that a woman from his tribe named Hujayrah narrated that Umm Salamh used to lead women in Prayer while standing among them in the same row.

    The wording of `Abdur-Raziq for the same hadith is as follows: “Umm Salamah led us (women) in the `Asr Prayer and stood among us (in the same row).”

    In addition, Al-Hafiz said in Ad-Dirayah (1/169), “Muhammad ibn Al-Husain reported from the narration of Ibrahim An-Nakh`i that `A’ishah used to lead women in Prayer during the month of Ramadan while standing among them in the same row.

    Further, `Abdur-Raziq reported (5083) from the narration of Ibrahim ibn Muhammad from Dawud ibn Al-Husain from `Ikrimah from Ibn `Abbas that the latter said, “A woman can lead women in Prayer while standing between them.”

  16. Schools differ on whether a woman may be imam (leader) of a jama’ah (congregational) prayer if the congregation consists of women alone. Three of the four Sunni madhhabs—Shafi’is, Hanafis, and Hanbalis—allow this, although Hanafis consider it to be makrooh, a disliked act. (The fourth division, Malikis, do not permit women to lead women in prayer.) Where it is allowed, the woman stands among the congregation in the front row, instead of alone in front of the congregation. In 2000, six marjas among Iran’s Shia leadership declared that they too allowed women to lead a woman-only congregation, reversing a previous ban in that country.

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