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Scripture

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O Prophet! When believing women come to you to take the oath of fealty: that they shall not associate anything in worship with God, that they shall not steal, that they shall not fornicate, that they shall not kill their children, that they shall not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they shall not disobey you in any just matter,- then receive their oath of fealty, and pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (60:12)

If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter the Garden, and not the least injustice will be done to them. Who is better in religion than one who makes his direction wholly devoted to God, while doing good, and follows the way of Abraham unswervingly? For God did take Abraham for a friend. But to God belong all things in the heavens and on earth: And He it is that encompasses all things (4:124-126)

We are dedicated to fostering Muslim women’s spiritual growth.

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise,- for them has God prepared forgiveness and a great reward (33:35)

We are dedicated to advancing Muslim women’s positions as religious and spiritual authorities.

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female, his face darkens, suppressing his anger. He hides himself from the people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it in a state of disempowerment, or bury it in the dust? Bad is what they judge! (16:58-59)

O you who believe! Stand up firmly for God, as witnesses to fairness, and let not the hatred of others make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to God consciousness: and be conscious of God, for God knows well what you do. (5:8)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded Umm Waraqah, a woman who had collected the Qur’an, to lead the people of her area in prayer. She had her own mu’adhdhin (person who performs the call to prayers). (Ahmad ‘Abd al-Rahman Al-Banna, Al-Fath al-Rabbani li Tartib Musnad al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal al-Shaybani ma'a Sharhihi Bulugh al-Amani (Bayrut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al- ‘Arabi, n.d.) vol.5, 3:1375; Muhammad ibn Sa‘d , Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (Bayrut: Dar Sadir, 1958) vol.8, p.457.)

God affirmed the suitability of women in major leadership roles as seen in the example of the queen of Sheba in Surat al-Naml (27:23-44). In the category of non-Prophets, she is the Qur’anic role model for a positive leader. Her method of leadership included transparency, public consultation, and putting the welfare of her people first. Pharaoh, a man, is the Qur’anic role model for negative leadership. Compare his words in verse 79:24— “I’m the big boss.” Thus gender is no guarantee for a successful leader, but women can be successful leaders as well.

God similarly affirmed the suitability of women in major religious roles as can be noted in the Qur’anic presentation of Mary as a Nazirite (Qur’an 3:35). Ancient Israelite Nazirites had access to the highest religious positions in the land, as can be noted in the case of Samuel and Samson. They had access to the Holy of Holies (mihrab), which contained the Ark of the Covenant, and to which only the religious elite could enter. Whereas Mary’s mother expected a boy, God willed her to deliver a girl, thereby affirming the suitability of women for major religious roles (Qur’an 2:36).


Resources

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From Aisha to Umm Waraqa, women in early Islam held numerous prominent positions as transmitters of hadith to spiritual, legal, and interpretive authorities. Despite this history, over the centuries, women and girls were largely excluded from Islamic education, Qur'anic interpretation, and religious leadership. They were rendered vulnerable to the misinterpretations fed to them by male religious leaders and other figures. Women are now empowering themselves by reclaiming the traditions of Qur’anic education and religious leadership.

Contemporary Muslim women scholars such as Laleh Bakhtiar, Asma Barlas, Amina Wadud, and others have provided groundbreaking readings of the Qur'an, emphasizing the rights originally affirmed for women. Women around the world are gathering in homes and community centers to read the Qur’an and study it together. The groups READ in Mississauga, Canada and Tajweed Ul Quran for Sisters in Reading, UK are two such examples. Read here to learn how to start a reading group or to learn how to read the Qur'an yourself.

Women are also reclaiming their place in the realms of spiritual and religious authority. China, for example, has a long line of female ahong, or female imams, active since the late 17th century. Moroccan women are now training to become spiritual guides, or mourchidat. Shahina Akbar, a WISE woman, runs educational training sessions on legal issues related to marriage for women’s groups using the Pakistani legal system and Qur’an as a source of law. Women can also enroll in the chaplaincy-training program at the University of Toronto, Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, U.S., the muftia-training program in Turkey, or the Moroccan mourchidat training program.


Articles

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The Christian Science Monitor, 'Inside Islam, a woman's roar' March 5, 2008.