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Published in the 1-15 July 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Women cannot lead men in prayers

By Muhammad Abdus Samad

The Milli Gazette Online

Of late Juma prayer led by Dr. Amina Wadud as imam in the US has given rise to an opportunity to the enemies of Islam to criticise women’s rights and duties under Islam. 

To start with, Jumu’a prayer is not Fard (obligatory) for woman, it is Fard only for men in Islam. So where does she get the right to lead men's obligatory prayer while it is not Fard for herself? To lead Jumu’a and Eid prayers is the exclusive right of a competent man in Islam. Women may voluntarily join Jumu’a and Eid prayers behind a male Imam with a view to gaining thawab (divine reward). By leading Jumu’a prayer of some men and women, Dr. Wadud has, in fact, transgressed her limits under Shari’ah. The Holy Qur’an announces: "Whosoever transgresseth Allah’s limits, he verily wrongeth his soul" (65:1). 

At present the West demands gender equality in the name of women's liberation. Is this possible in reality? Man and woman cannot be equal because of their different physical structures and mindsets as bestowed on each of them by Allah. If, despite this, both man and woman are required to play the same role, it would certainly lead the society to indiscipline and chaos. This is why Islam has determined rights and duties of both men and women separately and it expects both of them to master their respective roles in order to secure a balance and parity between them. Islam thus wants to bring about this type of equity between man and woman.

In Islam a person is considered “Muslim” who believes in Allah and His prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and acts upon the divine laws (Shari’ah) revealed to the Prophet. Islam has ensured the rights and duties of both man and woman and they are required to enjoy these righs and duties within the limits set by the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet. As such Islam maintains a demarcation line between man’s rights and duties and woman’s rights and duties which are based on their physical structure and mental abilities. No one is allowed to encroach upon others’ rights and duties. It is factually true that the man is naturally stronger than woman with regard to physical and mental power. Due to this reason man has been placed a degree above woman and granted some additional rights and duties than the latter. The Holy Qur’an announces: "And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise " (2:228). Men are protectors and maintainers (qawwamun) of women" (4:34). 

Since man is the protector and maintainer (qawwam) of woman as per the Holy Qur’an, he reasonably deserves the post of Imam (leader) of Jumu’a and other congregational prayers and guiding Muslim society. Any attempt contrary to this will violate the rights and duties as accorded to man in the Holy Qur’an. 
Imam means leader, highest position in Islam after prophethood. Prophets of Allah were the best leaders and guides of humankind. It is a historical fact that no prophet was raised from womanfolk. Prophets led and guided their respective people in accordance with the divine law (Shari’ah) revealed to them and thereby tried to make them qualified for redemption in the next world. The first man who was formally made Imam for leading and guiding his people was Prophet Abraham (on him be peace).

"Allah said to Abraham: Lo! I have appointed thee Imam for mankind. Abraham said: And also of my offspring. Allah said: My covenant includeth not wrongdoers" (2:124). Respecting the right of Prophet Ibrahim (on him be peace), prophets succeeding him were traditionally appointed to the post of Imam for leading and guiding the ritual and social affairs of the mankind and in absence of prophets, this responsibility falls on competent men in the Islamic society. It is also a fact that only man are appointed as religious heads in Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism.

The Imam in Muslim society is appointed for a stipulated term and the success of Muslim society in both worlds in based on the role played by the Imam. Duty of Imam is confined not only to leading Jumu’a and other congregational prayers but also to leading and guiding the Muslim society in accordance with the divine law (Shari’ah). An Imam in reality is the head of the Islamic state (Ameer) elected or selected by its citizens. One of the most important duties accomplished by an Imam as the head of Islamic state is to lead Jumu’a and Eid prayers in the capital’s central mosque (grand Masjid). Besides, he has to look after the defence and other social and international affairs concerning his country.

Islam does not permit a woman to lead a nation as the head of state. A Hadith says that when the emperor of Persia died, his daughter was made the ruler of Persia by its people. When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was informed about this, he warned, saying: “A nation ruled by a woman will not succeed". 

It is expedient to mention here that there is a great difference between a Muslim state and an Islamic state. A state cannot be called an Islamic state until and unless it is governed by the Shariah. Neither Muslims, nor Islam, are safe in Muslim states. Islam and Islamists are facing persecution in Muslim states like Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Similarly now we see the misuse and misinterpretation of some words like Imam, Ameer, Khalifa, Ilm, Jihad etc. 

However, where Muslims are in a minority they should lead a collective life having an Imam elected or selected by them and this person leads Jumu’a and congregrational prayers and guides the Muslim society. Muslim are obligated to abide by the Imam (leader) they have elected or selected.

If a woman is made Imam for a stipulated period for leading Jumu’a and other congregational prayers and managing defence and social affairs in Muslim society, she would not be able to discharge her duties regularly due to some of her physical requirements such as pregnancy and post-delivery, rearing and breast feeding of baby and menstruation durations. A woman becomes ritually unclean and physically weak when she experiences such condiditions which require her to abstain from entering a mosque or offer prayer and keep fast. Under these circumstances a woman as Imam in Muslim society will not be able to discharge the required duties. Another reason that goes against a woman Imam is that if a man regularly leads Jumu’a prayer or attends it on Friday, it will be considered Fard for him while it is not so for women. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not regularly establish Tarawih prayers in Masjid fearing that Muslims may in future consider it Fard. 

At present the West demands gender equality in the name of women's liberation. Is this possible in reality? Man and woman cannot be equal because of their different physical structures and mindsets as bestowed on each of them by Allah. If, despite this, both man and woman are required to play the same role, it would certainly lead the society to indiscipline and chaos. This is why Islam has determined rights and duties of both men and women separately and it expects both of them to master their respective roles in order to secure a balance and parity between them. Islam thus wants to bring about this type of equity between man and woman.

Has the West, which advocates equality between man and woman, been able to employ man and woman in all departments in equal ratio? No. Most of the departments in the West are run by men and 90% of staff are men. So how does the West criticise the rights and duties of Muslim women while it has itself failed to grant equality to its women? 

The author is senior lecturer in P. B. College, Gauripur, Assam 

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