When I wrote a paper on female prayer, because this was an issue a few years ago, years ago when I was a student in Mauritania, I remembered in a book that Ibn Ayman from the Malaki madhab considered female prayers was permissible, and I remember as a twenty-one year old student underlining that; and I actually went back to the book and found my underlining of that statement. When I studied the prayer issue, I was so stuck by the fact that not only was it debated early on, but there were multiple opinions. Imam Tabari considered it permissible for women to lead the prayer if they were more qualified than men – to lead men in prayer. Ibn Taymiyah himself permitted women to lead men in prayer if they were illiterate and she was literate. He just said that she should lead from the back because she might distract the men if she was leading from the front. Ibn Taymiyeh! Permitting a woman to lead men in prayer!
Oh, so he KNEW this! (Not surprising, even I knew this, and he’s a sheikh.) He knew this “a few years ago” in fact. Very interesting. And he didn’t think to let us know before? He didn’t think to defend Sheikha Amina Wadud when she was being harrassed because she was leading men in prayer? He didn’t think to say anything when a man shouted to the cameras, “If this were an Islamic state this woman would be hanged!”? (Doesn’t say that anywhere, by the way.)
I don’t believe it’s the responsibility of scholars to disclose the whole truth. I believe it is our responsibility, as believers, to study our religion. However, when scholars demand that we follow them in unthinking obedience, demand that we adhere to their advice without argument, invalidate all our interpretations on the basis that they are more learned, create a system in which this is socially enforced through fear and ostracism, and then withhold information while women are being harassed for practicing their own faith as it should be practiced–don’t expect me waive responsibility.
I like Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. It hurts me to criticize him, especially after this, an absurd combination of bitterness and compassion. It should not be his responsibility to speak up–he doesn’t owe that to anyone, he’s just a person who changes and learns like the rest of us. But he has power. I was in tears of anger, relief, and happiness when I heard him say this, what I have always studied and known. I’m glad he recognizes this history and interpretation, and acknowledges it as valid, particularly considering all his previous statements of the contrary. God bless him.
He has not disclosed his own opinion on the matter.
Dr. Amina Wadud received death threats. She was denounced as heretic. Of course, with the adherents of patriarchy, I don’t expect women to suddenly magically be able to lead prayer everywhere because of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf acknowledging diverse scholarly opinions in the Islamic past. But it’s a start. And it’s very interesting, and very unremarkable, that when a woman acts as an agent to bring change to the current state of Islam and return it to its roots, restoring the power given to women by God, her reputation and credibility is destroyed.
Especially if, like Sheikha Amina Wadud, she calls herself a feminist.
That Islam doesn’t need “feminist interpretations” is the claim of pathetic sexist bigots who fear their own privilege challenged and are unwilling to credit those women with a sense of entitlement to their God-given rights. Instead they take it for themselves, a play with words and language–“Okay, okay women can lead prayer. BUT NOT BECAUSE OF THE FEMINISTS!”–in order to secure their own stolen power as soon as they feel a dangerous shift.
I didn’t need your permission. I have the permission of God. Amusing how important this is to you, clearly demonstrating that to you what’s right is not prioritized over pushing your own unIslamic ideology.
It’s a familiar perspective. I’ve heard it before, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “You should do this, because we gave you the right to vote. Maybe we should have never given you the vote!” You did not give me rights, asshat. I already had them, you were just preventing me from practicing them. You can’t keep something from me, allow me to use it after I fought for it to be respected as it should be, and then act like it was a gift of mercy and yours to distribute and I should forever worship your egotistical douchiness.
Feminism is inherent in Islam. Tabari’s interpretations regarding the permissibility of women to lead prayer are feminist. Islam is an egalitarian religion, not a patriarchal one. This discomfort with feminist interpretations, this assertion that they must be biased, is nothing other than a projection of the biased interpretive monopoly of patriarchy.
Muslim men rave about powerful Muslim women in the past. Feminist women. But it appears many of them only love empowered women in theory. Imagine, if those women were alive today!