Sister on a Mission

A Muslimah in the Midwest trying to counteract all the "war on terror" propaganda.

Location: Midwest, United States

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why Don't Muslim Women Support Amina Wadud?

There's been a lot of bru-ha-ha in the past couple of days about Amina Wadud and her efforts to fight for Muslim women's rights by purportedly acting as the first female imam in history. While the Western feminists are all over this and the Progressive Muslim Union (PMU) has helped create a media spectacle surrounding it, this is not an issue that regular Muslim women support or even care about. Why?

To Americans it seems an important step for Muslims toward "joining the 21st century". To fringe groups like the PMU is seems like a great opportunity to show Americans that we're "just like them". But to most Muslims - even Muslim women - it seems like much ado about nothing important.

As far as women's rights issues go, there are so many real issues that could be fought for - so many more important areas to spend one's energy on. Muslim women in some areas of Africa still suffer the horrors of radical circumcision - a practice left over from pre-Islamic times that destroys women's bodies and indeed their very identities. There are Muslim women who are illiterate and have no access to learning. There are Muslim women whose entire existence is marred by fear for their very lives, with Israeli or American or Indian or Russian missiles and soldiers breaking violently into their homes and killing their children and family members. There are Muslim women who are prevented by war or poverty or ignorant misogyny from accessing medical care for themselves and their children. And there are millions of misinformed Westerners who think that all those circumstances are caused by Islam itself rather than destructive economic systems, unfair foreign policy decisions made by their own leaders or deliberately ignorant Muslim men (who have deviated from their religion and enforce their deviation in order to maintain the delusion of their own superiority, much like skinheads).

Into the middle of all this injustice lands Amina Wadud, and she decides to spend her time fighting fiercely for...women's right to lead the prayer? Could there possibly be a more frivolous issue? The only people who care about it are the liberal Christians and the secular feminists. I even know a Catholic nun who says the same thing when accused of cowardice by some women in her own faith for not joining their struggle to get women ordained as priests: "If I'm going to fight for something, I'm going to fight for something meaningful - something that really helps women!" she declares. (And she does!)

And that's the crux of the matter. Wadud and her cohorts might really believe that women leading prayers would somehow improve women's status, but that's because for all their advanced degrees, they lack a basic understanding of Islam. They are chasing after the feminist dream of erasing gender roles - but that's not a Muslim dream. Not because Muslims are backward, but because it's not a healthy goal. It is a dream born of a sick society where only men and men's roles were valued. Their answers are not our answers.

There is wisdom and a primer for society in the way the prayers are performed. Men in front, protecting, serving and leading their families and communities. Women bringing up the rear - disciplining, nurturing and teaching the children, making sure they don't fall out of line or out of love in the community, and protecting them from the back-door dangers of the world - like doubt and negative peer pressure - with unflinching love and care. And the young men and women in the middle - secure and protected from all sides while they learn and grow into mature adults who will take their complimentary places in the community when they come of age.

This formula reflects a healthy society where men's and women's roles are different but both are respected. Where men and women have complimentary rights and responsibilities. Where men stick around and raise their families with kindness and piety. Where women are educated and independent, and participate in the life of the community just like the men, but don't abandon their responsibilities to their children and spouses in search of "self fulfillment". The dream and efforts of all Muslims should be to fully implement THAT system. Not to run around showing the dysfunctional Westerners how eager we are to implement theirs.


Anonymous Becky said...

Assalamu alaikum,

"There is wisdom and a primer for society in the way the prayers are performed. Men in front, protecting, serving and leading their families and communities. Women bringing up the rear - disciplining, nurturing and teaching the children, making sure they don't fall out of line or out of love in the community, and protecting them from the back-door dangers of the world - like doubt and negative peer pressure - with unflinching love and care."

Such a wonderful description!!!

Jazak Allah Khair

Thu May 19, 12:23:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Amina said...

i really enjoyed reading this i got to admit its nice to finally read something about islam other than all this nonsense about muslim women being oppressed. nice job. Mashallah. i'm looking forward to reading ur other work. Ramadan Kareem

Wed Oct 12, 04:18:00 PM CDT  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your overall premise, in my opinion the idea women leading prayer may not be of paramount importance when considering the state of the world today and other more immediate concerns, however my overall impression of this issue is a reminder that the Quran does not support a stereotyped role for it's characters, male or female.. (because woman's primary distinction is on the basis of her childbearing ability, it is seen as her only exclusive function).

Sun Nov 20, 10:55:00 AM CST  
Anonymous Islam said...

Asslam Alaykum,
A wonderfully written blog, always used to wonder what the common Muslim Women thinks about the "Lady Imam" thing, now i got my answer, they dont care a hoot about it. They have Better things to worry about, some people really need to set their priority right.

Wed Dec 28, 01:30:00 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikum

Sister I had only heard about this lately and as you feel it is a non issue. However, may I venture a point of discussion? When men are not present to "lead" women would have to do the leading and that includes prayer. I do not want to see Islam go the way of some Christian and Jewish in terms of the equalizing the sexes but forgetting the reason of the separation in the first place. Our ancestors were not stupid, and things have been designed, hamalduallah, for specific reasons.
With the exception of hardship and the lack of men at all, no woman should lead prayer, it upsets the balance of spirituality that Allah designed.

Tue Mar 07, 12:36:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

such an sexist and misogynist thing to say.

Tue May 16, 10:00:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Saaleha said...

subhanallah sister

you have encapsulated the issue in such choie words. Did this make it into any publication at the time. I hope it did. It really is beautiful


Tue May 23, 01:41:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous lolo said...

Nice, coherent ideas to explain your opinion. I am not sure I agree completely, as I feel its best to bring women out of the societal box Muslims in particular have placed them in. Any advancement is better than none. Its also easier to tackle than female circumcision or honor killings, which have both been addressed by many people, Muslim and non-Muslim, and yet they still happens. While this is a non-issue in comparision, it maybe this was just something that was easier to overcome than the rest. I agree sister, we still have a long way to go.

Sat May 27, 01:04:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Sister. I found out about your blog from my dear Sister Saaleha in SA. Sister, this post is beautiful - and so is your writing. May Allah (swt) continue to guide you on your "mission"/Ameen! I also suggest that you turn on your comment moderator; helps to deal with some of the people who feel the need to leave insane comments on people's blogs.
Fi Aman Allah
Sister Safiyyah

Fri Jun 02, 06:13:00 PM CDT  

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