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26 J. L. & Religion 141 (2010-2011)
I Am One of the People: A Survey and Analysis of Legal Arguments on Woman-Led Prayer in Islam

handle is hein.journals/jlrel26 and id is 149 raw text is: I AM ONE OF THE PEOPLE:

Ahmed Elewa and Laury Silvers*
For Muslims, prayer leadership is necessary to fulfill the
confirmed sunnah of congregational prayer, as well as the
obligatory Friday sermon and prayer. The majority of jurists
consider the role of imam to be better than any other duty
associated with the prayer including that of the muezzin.2
In New York City on March 18, 2005 Dr. Amina Wadud shocked
the Muslim world when she led a mixed-gender congregation in the
Friday prayer. The Friday congregational prayer is at the center of
Muslim religiosity. On Friday mid-day, Muslims come together as a
community and turn collectively toward God. The form of the prayer
affirms the community's identity; Muslims pray as brothers and sisters
equal before God. They stand in straight lines, shoulder to shoulder. No
one has a reserved spot. The rich stand next to the poor.
While the form of the prayer affirms the equality of all men and
women before God, it also reinforces the social inequality of women and
their corresponding lack of religious authority. Only men have the
unrestricted right to lead the prayer, give the sermon, or even ask the
community to serve God through the call to prayer. Women most often
stand behind men or sometimes in another room altogether. In mosques
that are sensitive to their female congregants, women sometimes give a
1. The authors would like to acknowledge the following people for their detailed comments
and criticisms: Kecia Ali, Carolyn Baugh, Mohammad Fadel, Ahmed Saleh, and the editors at the
JOURNAL OF LAW AND RELIGION, most especially Marie A. Failinger who showed an unflagging
commitment to our work. Any faults and misunderstandings are our own.
* Ahmed Elewa is associated with the Islamic American University & University of
Massachusetts Medical School and Laury Silvers is associated with the University of Toronto.
2. Hamza Yusuf, Can Women Serve as Imams?, SEASONS, Spring 2007, at 47-64. This
article was written two years after the Wadud Prayer. Shaykb Yusuf adds some insights, but for
the most part this article is a brief and eloquent summary of positions already expressed in the
lengthy collection offatwas prohibiting unrestricted female prayer leadership cited below. The
article is itself a superb expression of North American traditionalism and its culture of taqlid,
meaning the choice to defer legal options to these scholars (talfiq) rather than consider one's own
legal options by surveying the breadth of already-accepted rulings. Relatedly, see our discussion
of consensus infra.


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