Islamic Feminism

“The most perfect of believers are those who are best in character.  The best amongst you are those who are the best to their women.”                                                                                 -- Prophet Muhammad (P) (Tirmidhī 1/217)

A Voice that liberates feminism from the shackles of its cultural relativism.  If there is a logical concept or a mathematical possibility that one could agree with someone more than a 100%, this would be my bit.  Bravo Myriam.


The following is carried over in its entirety, along with the photo descriptives, from the Huffington Post:

Women's Mosque Opens In L.A. With A Vision For The Future Of Muslim-American Leadership  

The Huffington Post  |  By Antonia Blumberg

Posted: 01/30/2015 5:46 pm EST  Updated: 01/30/2015 5:59 pm EST

The Women’s Mosque of America opened its doors on Friday in central Los Angeles, welcoming a crowd of Muslim women from around the country.

L.A.-based professionals M. Hasna Maznavi and Sana Muttalib serve as president and co-president of the mosque's board, respectively, and have worked with the rest of their team for months to bring the project to fruition. By day, Maznavi is a filmmaker and comedy writer, while Muttalib works as an attorney. They teamed up with the Pico Union Project, an interfaith worship space in Los Angeles, to house their mosque, and held the first juma’a, or Friday prayers, on Jan. 30. Edina Lekovic, the director of policy and programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, led the mosque’s inaugural khutbah, or sermon, and congregants were invited to join in a post-juma’a discussion and Q and A. 

The Women’s Mosque is making its debut at a time when many American Muslims are questioning the traditions and norms they grew up with. The Chicago-based writer Hind Makki started a website in 2012 called “Side Entrances,” which invited women to post their photos and experiences at worship services. Mosques are often segregated by gender, sometimes with wall dividers marking off each area. Many women have expressed frustration at these divisions, and as Makki told NPR earlier this month, many men had no conception of the women's experience.

"They just had no idea that this was somewhat typical of women's experiences at a mosque -- that you go to a mosque and you don't see a dome; you don't see the imam, certainly; you don't see the architecture -- you see a big wall in front of you," she said. 

The Women’s Mosque tackles that issue head-on.

“The emergence of a female-only mosque is a natural outcome of the culture of female exclusion in mosques across the country,” Makki told The Huffington Post by email. “A female-only mosque empowers women to take ownership of religious scholarship and spirituality in a safe and welcoming space.”

HuffPost spoke with Maznavi and Muttalib about the process of opening a women’s-only mosque and what they see as the future of Muslim leadership in the U.S. Their answers were written and edited jointly except where noted otherwise.

Why, in your opinion, is a women's mosque necessary?

We believe that the Women's Mosque of America can play an important role in strengthening the Muslim community at large by increasing women's access to Islamic knowledge, encouraging female participation in existing mosques and fostering Islamic leadership and scholarship -- both within and outside of the Muslim community. The Women's Mosque of America seeks to provide an atmosphere in which Muslim women are surrounded by their peers and feel comfortable exploring more active leadership roles in a safe space.

What experiences in your own religious life led you to embark on the project?

Muttalib: As a young girl, my mother and father taught me that Islam was a religion that promoted equality among classes, races and sexes. With time, I realized that the egalitarian spirit of Islam that I loved so much was not always upheld or applied in Muslim spaces. When I reconnected with the Quran as a law student, I found that the text solidified my belief that Islam promotes the rights and equality of women. A closer look at Islamic history also made me realize that women played an important and strong role in throughout Islamic history. 

Maznavi: As a young girl growing up in California’s largest mosque, I always felt welcomed and included. But once I left home and began exploring mosques outside of Southern California, I realized many mosques favored cultural practices of secluding women over Islamic practices of inclusion. It was hard not to internalize this disconnect in God’s houses as a lack of worthiness of my connection to God. I began studying under various female Islamic scholars across the country and found my studies transformative and incredibly empowering.

Congregants listen to khutbah

What has the process been like? Have you encountered roadblocks?

We were able to secure our venue through establishing a supportive partnership with the Pico Union Project in Los Angeles -- a beautiful multifaith synagogue that hosts six different religious groups, including Christians, Jews and now Muslims. We are honored to be the first Muslim group to join this wonderful multifaith effort toward peace and understanding between the Abrahamic faiths. 

Though our planning process has been a largely positive one, the primary roadblock we face is that of securing funds to cover our operational costs. At the moment, the Women’s Mosque of America is a volunteer-run organization that depends on the goodwill of its volunteers and the generous contributions of supporters and congregants. Our hope is that we will be able to secure sufficient funding that will allow us to expand our programming.

What feedback have you gotten from men in your religious communities?

We have received numerous messages from men who have expressed that they are enthusiastic about our concept and are encouraging their mothers, sisters, wives, female friends and daughters to attend our first Friday prayer service. Specifically, we have heard from a number of young fathers who have told us they are grateful that their daughters can one day participate in a space like ours.

We also have two male board members who were so supportive about this idea that they personally wanted to become involved. One of them is the new father to a baby girl and wants her to grow up in a world where she has access to a space specifically designed to develop her nearness to God.

What elements of the new mosque are you most excited about? 

We are most excited by the fact that a woman speaker, or khateeba, will be able to address women’s issues and concerns from a female perspective and with an all-female congregation. In most existing mosques, women do not often get a chance to access the male imam for questions or discussions after prayer, because he is in the men’s section and is inaccessible until a later time. The concept behind the post-juma’a conversation is to further facilitate meaningful conversations between the congregants and the khateeba, and to increase women’s access to productive discourse relating to faith and to Islamic scholars who can answer their questions and speak to their concerns.

Khateebah (One who delivers Khutbah) answers a question during the reflection/discussion circle

How do you envision the future of Muslim leadership in America?

We envision a future in which every Muslim conference is filled with equal numbers of female and male Muslim speakers and religious authorities, in which every mosque in America has an equal number of Muslim women and men on their board, and in which each mosque has full attendance by their entire congregant base because of the improvements they’ve made in making their mosques more inclusive and inviting for women. We also hope male imams will increase their access and availability to their female congregants -- particularly after juma’a prayer is over -- and that they will work with women in their congregations and on their boards in the planning process when designing the architecture and seating structure in their mosques.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

From the Internet:

Prominent Muslim Women in History

Nusayba bint Ka'b Al-Ansariyah (Arabia, unknown-634 C.E.)

Nusayba was of one of the first advocates for the rights of Muslim women. Notably, she asked the Prophet Muhammad, "Why does God only address men (in the Quran)?" Soon after this exchange, the Prophet received a revelation in Chapter 33, Verse 35 that mentions women can attain every quality to which men have access. The verse also conclusively settled that women stand on the same spiritual level as men. She was viewed as a visionary who transcended her own generation.

Rab'ia al-Adawiyya (Iraq, 717-801 C.E.)

Rab'ia was an eighth century Sufi saint who set forth the doctrine of "Divine Love." Rab'ia was born into a poor family, orphaned at a young age and was eventually sold into slavery. One night, while her owner witnessed her bowing in prayer, a lamp hung above her head without support, so he freed her. When asked why she walked down the street with a bucket of water in one hand and a lit candle in the other, she replied, "I want to set fire to heaven with this flame and put out the fire of hell with this water so that people will cease to worship GOD for fear of hell or for temptation of heaven. One must love GOD as GOD is Love." She is widely considered to be the most important of the early Sufi poets.

Fatima al-Fihri (Morocco, unknown-880 C.E.)

Fatima was the founder of the oldest degree-granting university in the world. After inheriting a large fortune, she wanted to devote her money to pious work that would benefit the community. Thus, with her wealth she built the Al Qarawiyyin mosque. From the 10th to 12th century, the mosque developed into a university -- Al Qarawiyyin University. Today, the Guinness Book of World Records and UNESCO recognize this university to be the oldest continuously operating institution of higher education in the world.

Sultan Raziyya (India, 1205-1240)

Sultan Raziyya was the Sultan of Delhi from 1236 to 1240. She refused to be addressed as Sultana because it meant "wife or mistress of a sultan" and only answered to the title "Sultan." As she solidified her power, she believed that appropriating a masculine image would help her maintain control. So she dressed like a man and wore a turban, trousers, coat and sword. Contrary to custom, she appeared unveiled in public. Sultan Raziyya was known for her belief that the spirit of religion is more important than its parts. She established schools, academies, centers for research and public libraries. 

Photo: Students of Sultan Razia Girls School in 2002.

Nana Asma'u (Nigeria, 1793-1864)

Nana was a princess, poet and teacher. She was fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamacheq and well versed in Arabic, Greek and Latin classics. In 1830, she formed a group of female teachers who journeyed throughout the region to educate women in poor and rural regions. With the republication of her works, that underscore women's education, she has become a rallying point for African women. Today, in northern Nigeria, Islamic women's organizations, schools and meeting halls are frequently named in her honor.

(Photo: Fula women.)

Laleh Bakhtiar (USA, 1938-Present)

Laleh's Quran translation, "The Sublime Quran" (2007), is the first translation of the Quran into English by an American woman. Her translation incorporates alternative meanings to Arabic terms that are ambiguous or whose meaning scholars have had to guess due to the antiquity of the language. Notably, her translation of Chapter 4, Verse 34 has gained a lot of attention. She translates the Arabic word daraba as "go away" instead of the common "beat" or "hit." Her Quran translation is used in many mosques and universities and has been adopted by Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan.

Shirin Ebadi (Iran, 1947-Present)

In 2003, Shirin became the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a judge in Iran, she was the first woman to achieve Chief Justice status. However, she was dismissed from this position after the 1979 Revolution. As a lawyer, Shirin has taken on many controversial cases and in result, has been arrested numerous times. Her activism has been predicated on her view that, "An interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith. It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered."

Dr. Amina Wadud (USA, 1952-Present)

In 2005, Amina was the first female imam to lead a mixed-congregation prayer. This act caused a shock wave to run throughout the Islamic world. Some viewed it as an awakening and a return to the equalitarian way of Islam. Others viewed it as an offensive innovation. According to Amina, "The radical notion that women are full human beings is already inscribed in Islam by our notion of tawhid. So the binary that tries to give women less than full human dignity is transformed into a relationship of equality and reciprocity." Despite individuals' views on the subject, she has created a platform where diverse Muslim views can be voiced.

Daisy Khan (USA, 1958-Present)

In 2005, Daisy founded the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), the only cohesive, global movement of Muslim women around the world that works to reclaim women's rights in Islam using a human rights and social-justice based framework. Further, in 2008, Daisy spearheaded the creation of the Global Muslim Women's Shura Council, which is comprised of eminent Muslim women scholars, activists and lawyers from 26 countries. The Council's statements have informed numerous university curriculums and legal opinions. Daisy is viewed as a credible, humane and equitable voice within the global Muslim community.

Anousheh Ansari (USA, 1966-Present)

In 2006, Anousheh became the first Muslim woman in space. When asked about what she hoped to achieve on her spaceflight, she said, "I hope to inspire everyone -- especially young people, women and young girls all over the world and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men -- to not give up their dreams and to pursue them. ... It may seem impossible to them at times. But I believe they can realize their dreams if they keep it in their hearts, nurture it, and look for opportunities and make those opportunities happen."