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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Woman Leading Friday Prayers In Switzerland Mosque Sparks Uproar On Social Media

Woman Leading Friday Prayers In Switzerland Mosque Sparks Uproar On Social Media. (Memri).

On May 27, 2016, Dr. Elham Manea, a Yemeni liberal activist residing in Switzerland, reported on her Twitter and Facebook accounts that, at the House of Religions in Bern, a woman had led a mixed congregation of men and women in Friday prayers. The prayer was led by Halima Gosai Hussain, who is the chair in Britain of a project called the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI). After the prayers, Elham Manea herself delivered the Friday sermon. The call to prayer was also performed by a woman. In addition, the service included musical interludes, another feature that is not a part of mainstream Islam.

In the sermon she delivered after the prayer, Dr. Manea called upon Muslim men and women to reject the claims of Muslim clerics that a woman may not serve as prayer leader and that men and women may not pray side by side in mosques. She also urged the women not to wait passively for change to come but to demand it and bring it about themselves.

The news of a Friday service led by a woman and accompanied by music caused a furor on social media. Many responders harshly criticized Manea and the others who participated in the service, accusing them of heresy and showering them with curses and invective. In response to these attacks, Manea posted an article on the Al-Hiwar website and on her Facebook page in which she repeated what she had said in the Friday sermon and stressed that all she and the other participants had done was pray to Allah.

It should be noted that this is the not the first time a woman has led Friday prayers at a mosque. On February 12 this year, it was reported that Danish-born Muslim activist Sherin Khankan had opened the Miriam Mosque in Copenhagen, which offers Friday services led by women and for women only. Khankan said that she sought to challenge the patriarchal character that dominates Islam's religious institutions – just as it dominates other religions – and stressed that the responses of Copenhagen's Muslims to the opening of the mosque were positive and that criticism was "mild."

The first woman-led prayers were held over a decade ago, on March 18, 2005, when Dr. Amina Wadud, an American Muslim of Indian origin who is professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, led a service for a mixed congregation in New York.

The Friday prayers were held at a church in New York City, after several mosques had refused to host it, due to threats by extremists. The call to prayer was also performed by a woman, who in addition to setting this precedent did so with her head uncovered. The service was attended by some 100 men and women. The main organizer of the event was Asra Nomani, an Indian-born Muslim author. The organizers stated that their aim was to set the question of equal rights for women and men on the Muslim agenda, and stressed that women were entitled to be spiritual leaders in Islam.

A week later, Friday prayers were again led by a woman, this time in Boston, by an American Muslim named Nakia Jackson. Also during this week, Asra Nomani herself led a mixed congregation in prayers at Brandeis University, and stated that she would continue to organize similar women-led prayers throughout the U.S. Read the full story here.

Volume 1, Book 9, Number 490:  Narrated 'Aisha:

The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, "Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)."

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