Woman's reflection by Yasmin Mogahed

topic posted Thu, May 1, 2008 - 2:36 AM by  Lina
Woman's Reflection on Leading Prayer
Yasmin Mogahed

(Friday 25 March 2005)

'Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade
Myself by trying to be something I'm not--and in all
honesty--don't want to be: a man. As women, we will
never reach true liberation until we stop trying to
mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given
On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first
female-led Jumuah (Friday) prayer. On that day women
took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did
we come closer to actualizing our God-given
I don't think so.
What we so often forget is that God has honored the
woman by giving her value in relation to God-not in
relation to men. But as western feminism erases God
from the scene, there is no standard left-but men. As
a result the western feminist is forced to find her
value in relation to a man. And in so doing she has
accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that
man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a
full human being until she becomes just like a man-the
When a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her
hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to
join the army. She wanted these things for no other
reason than because the 'standard' had it.
What she didn't recognize was that God dignifies
both men and women in their distinctiveness--not their
sameness. And on March 18, Muslim women made the very
same mistake.
For 1400 years there has been a consensus of the
scholars that men are to lead prayer. As a Muslim
woman, why does this matter? The one who leads prayer
is not spiritually superior in any way. Something is
not better just because a man does it. And leading
prayer is not better, just because it's leading. Had
it been the role of women or had it been more divine,
why wouldn't the Prophet have asked Ayesha or Khadija,
or Fatima-the greatest women of all time-to lead?
These women were promised heaven-and yet they never
lead prayer.
But now for the first time in 1400 years, we look at
a man leading prayer and we think, 'That's not fair.'
We think so although God has given no special
privilege to the one who leads. The imam is no higher
in the eyes of God than the one who prays behind.
On the other hand, only a woman can be a mother. And
God has given special privilege to a mother. The
Prophet taught us that heaven lies at the feet of
mothers. But no matter what a man does he can never be
a mother. So why is that not unfair?
When asked who is most deserving of our kind
treatment? The Prophet replied 'your mother' three
times before saying 'your father' only once. Isn't
that sexist? No matter what a man does he will never
be able to have the status of a mother.
And yet even when God honors us with something
uniquely feminine, we are too busy trying to find our
worth in reference to men, to value it-or even notice.
We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything
uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being
sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother-a
degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality
(considered masculine) and self-less compassion
(considered feminine), rationality reigns supreme.
As soon as we accept that everything a man has and
does is better, all that follows is just a knee jerk
reaction: if men have it-we want it too. If men pray
in the front rows, we assume this is better, so we
want to pray in the front rows too. If men lead
prayer, we assume the imam is closer to God, so we
want to lead prayer too. Somewhere along the line
we've accepted the notion that having a position of
worldly leadership is some indication of one's
position with God.
A Muslim woman does not need to degrade herself in
this way. She has God as a standard. She has God to
give her value; she doesn't need a man.
In fact, in our crusade to follow men, we, as women,
never even stopped to examine the possibility that
what we have is better for us. In some cases we even
gave up what was higher only to be like men.
Fifty years ago, society told us that men were
superior because they left the home to work in
factories. We were mothers. And yet, we were told that
it was women's liberation to abandon the raising of
another human being in order to work on a machine. We
accepted that working in a factory was superior to
raising the foundation of society-just because a man
did it.
Then after working, we were expected to be
superhuman-the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the
perfect homemaker-and have the perfect career. And
while there is nothing wrong, by definition, with a
woman having a career, we soon came to realize what we
had sacrificed by blindly mimicking men. We watched as
our children became strangers and soon recognized the
privilege we'd given up.
And so only now-given the choice-women in the West
are choosing to stay home to raise their children.
According to the United States Department of
Agriculture, only 31 percent of mothers with babies,
and 18 percent of mothers with two or more children,
are working full-time. And of those working mothers, a
survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found
that 93% of them say they would rather be home with
their kids, but are compelled to work due to
'financial obligations'. These 'obligations' are
imposed on women by the gender sameness of the modern
West, and removed from women by the gender
distinctiveness of Islam.
It took women in the West almost a century of
experimentation to realize a privilege given to Muslim
women 1400 years ago.
Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself
by trying to be something I'm not--and in all
honesty--don't want to be: a man. As women, we will
never reach true liberation until we stop trying to
mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given
If given a choice between stoic justice and
compassion, I choose compassion. And if given a choice
between worldly leadership and heaven at my feet-I
choose heaven.

Source: by courtesy & C 2005 Yasmin Mogahed

posted by:
  • I can only dream about being home with my kid, which is what she seems to need right now. If only...

    It's that "hindsight" thing being 20/20 again. We (women) thought we were so smart to "fight for equal rights." Hmmmpphh!

    Thanks for an enlightening article, Lina.
    • Unsu...
      Wonderful! I expecially liked this comment:

      "It took women in the West almost a century of
      experimentation to realize a privilege given to Muslim
      women 1400 years ago."

      Don't get me wrong, I looove my country and feel blessed to have been born and live here (or I wouldn't get so upset when I see us going down the wrong path) but a little reminder that there are many diffinitions of what it means to be "advanced" doesn't hurt. Thanks from me as well for this one.

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