Question:On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumu`ah Prayer. On that day, women took a huge step towards being more like men. But, did we come closer to actualizing our God-given liberation?
Answer: This answer was kindly provided by Sister Yasmin Mogahed, a member of Ask About Islam Editorial Staff. Yasmin is an Egyptian-American journalist based in Wisconsin, USA. She is currently studying for a Master's degree in Journalism.
Thank you for your inspiring question!
Well, answering your question, I can say that I don’t think so.
What we so often forget is that God has honored women by giving them 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 standard.
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, and so on. 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 1,400 years, there has been a consensus of 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 is leading. Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldn’t the Prophet have asked Lady `A’ishah or Lady Khadijah, or Lady Fatimah—the greatest women of all time—to lead? These women were promised heaven and yet they never led Prayer.
But now, for the first time in 1,400 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 the Creator 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 it. We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a mother is a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and selfless 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 here.
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, we saw men leaving the home to work in factories. We were mothers. And yet, we saw men doing it, so we wanted to do it too. Somehow, we considered it 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 fulltime. And of those working mothers, a survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found that 93 percent 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 1,400 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 distinctiveness.
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.
I hope my words answer your question. In case you have any comment or you need more about the topic, please don’t hesitate to contact us again. Thank you and please keep in touch.
If we look deeper into our life, we will see that everyday and eveytime, each one of us strive to to be the best among the best. We are taught from small that the one who are successful are the ones who scores many A's in exams, scoring the highest possible marks in the exam, then getting highest paid job later in life. Those are the successful people in this world.
We always looking for something to be emulate with or to be the 'standard' for our life mission. When we are small, some of us envied the one who scored higher mark than us. When we are small, we tend to be broken hearted when we lost one single mark that differentiate between excellence or failure. Believe it or not, this trend continues till where we are standing today. Everyone struggles harder and harder to be the best. Being in the mean-distributed group in the population is totally unacceptable. We strived to be unique. We worked hard to get the esteem of others.
Same goes to those woman who perceive that they are being discriminated when the man lead the prayer. Same goes to the woman who fought for their equality to be atbpar with man. The 'standard' must be distributed well and equal between genders. Differences is discrimination.
Yet humans are created in their own unique entity. None of us have the same attributes as to the person who sat next to us. Even identical twins have their own unique differences. Differences is a blessing for those who knows how to appreciate it.
The question is upon reaching the standard, can we claimed that our life is a successful life?
What is success and what is failure?
.....The surah moves on to state the basic truth about man, and relates this truth to the various phenomena of the universe, for man is one of the most remarkable wonders in this harmonious creation: "by the soul and its moulding and inspiration with knowledge of wickedness and plety. Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and ruined is the one who corrupts it."
These four verses in conjunction with a verse in the preceding surah, "The City": "And ( We have) shown him the two paths", and a verse in surah 76, "Man", which says: " We (Allah) have shown him the right path, be he grateful or ungrateful, " [Al-Qur'an 76:3] constitute the basis of the "Psychological Theory of Islam". They supplement the verses which point out the duality in man's make-up in surah 38, "Sad", which says: " Your Lord said to the angels, 'I am creating man from clay. When I have fashioned him, and breathed of My spirit into him, kneel down and prostrate yourselves before him. ' [Al-Qur'an 38:72-73] These verses also supplement and are related to the verses which define man's responsibility and accountability for his actions, as the one in surah 74, "The Cloaked One", which reads in translation: "Every soul is the hostage of its own deeds," [Al-Qur'an 74:38] and the verse in surah 13, "Thunder", which states that Allah's attitude to man is directly related to man's own behaviour: "Allah does not change a people 's lot until they change what is in their hearts." [Al-Qur'an 13:11] These and similar verses define the Islamic view of man with perfect clarity.
Allah has created man with a duality of nature and ability. What we mean by duality is that the two ingredients in his make-up, i.e., earth's clay and Allah' with, form within him two equal tendencies to good and evil, to follow Divine guidance and to go astray. Man is just as capable of recognising the good as he is of recognising the evil in everything he encounters, and he is equally capable of directing himself one way or the other. This dual ability is deeply ingrained within him. All external factors like Divine messages only serve to awaken his potential and help it take its chosen way. In other words, these factors do not create this potential, which is innate; they only help it develop.
In addition to his innate ability man is equipped with a conscious faculty which determines his line of action and is, therefore, responsible for his actions and decisions. He who uses this faculty to strengthen his inclinations to what is good and to purify himself and to weaken the evil drive within him will be prosperous and successful; while he who uses this faculty to suppress the good tendency in himwill ruin himself: "Successful is the one who keeps it pure and ruined is the one who corrupts it."
There must be, then, an element of responsibility attached to man's conscious faculty and freedom of choice. For if he is free to choose between his tendencies, his freedom must be coupled with responsibility. He is assigned a definite task related to the power given to him. But Allah, the Compassionate, does not leave man with no guidance other than his natural impulses or his conscious, decision-making faculty. Allah helps him by sending him messages which lay down accurate and permanent criteria, and point out to him the signs which should help him choose the right path and which exist within him and in the world around him, and clear his way of any obstructions so that he may see the truth. Thus, he recognises his way easily and clearly and his conscious decision-making faculty functions with full knowledge of the nature of the direction it chooses and the implications of that choice.
This is what Allah has willed for man and whatever takes place within this framework is a direct fulfilment of His will.
From this very general outline of the Islamic concept of man emerge a number of vital and valuable facts: firstly, that this concept elevates man to the high position of being responsible for his actions and allows him freedom of choice, (within the confines of Allah's will that granted him this freedom). Responsibility and freedom of choice, therefore, make man the honoured creature of this world, a position worthy of the creature in whom Allah has blown something of His own spirit and whom He has made with His own hand and raised above most of His creation.
Secondly, it puts man's fate in his own hands (according to Allah's will as explained earlier) and makes him responsible for it. This stimulates in him an attitude of caution as well as the positive sense of the fear of God. For he knows then that the will of Allah is fulfilled through his own actions and decisions: "Allah does not change a people's lot until they change what is in their hearts." This is in itself a great responsibility which demands that one should be always alert.
Thirdly, it reminds man of his permanent need to refer to the criteria fixed by Allah in order to ensure that his desires do not get the better of him, lead him astray and destroy him. Thus man keeps near to Allah, follows His guidance and illuminates his way by the Divine light. Indeed, the standard of purity man can achieve is limitless.
The surah then gives an example of the failure which befalls those who corrupt themselves, and erect a barrier between themselves and Divine guidance: "In their insolence the people of Thamoud denied the truth, when their most-wretched broke forth. The Messenger of Allah said to them, 'The she-camel of Allah, let her have her drink' But they cried lies to him, and hamstrung her. For that sin their Lord let loose His scourge upon them and razed their city to the ground. He fears nor what may follow." ....
-Under The Shade of Quran : Syed Qutb -
"Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and ruined is the one who corrupts it"
(As-Shams : 9-10)