The issue raised heated debate among religious scholars
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 4/18/2005 | 4:49 pm
Naima Gouhai, 30, a Moroccan expatriate in Tuscany, Italy, seeks to be the first woman Imam in Italy, after American Amina Wadud had broken with Islamic tradition by leading the Friday prayer service in a New York chapel, where men and women sat together. This issue was raised last month by the Milan-based daily “Corriere Della Sera”.
According to the paper, Gouhai – nurse and mother of three children – applied for the Imamat at a local mosque in Tuscany two days after Wadud had led the Friday prayer in NY. Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, led the Islamic weekly service, where 50 men and women prayed behind her, after she had delivered the sermon, thus defying basic Islamic rules.
Naima Gouhai told the Corriere Della Sera that “it is not a problem for a woman to become Imam if she is more qualified than a man to lead prayers”. Firas Jabrin, an Imam in Tuscany also saw no problem in her being an Imam. He also said that she could come to the mosque where he is leading prayers. However, many of the 1,500 Muslim in the area have refused to accept a woman Imam.
Abdelbari Zamzami, an Imam and a religious researcher, told Morocco Times that “a woman Imamat is not totally forbidden in Islam. That's why some prominent religious scholars enabled both men and woman to be Imams”. “Throughout history Muslims did not need a woman Imam to lead prayers, because men were enough”, he said adding that “there is no Prophet's sayings forbidding women to be Imams”.
Zamzami said that what happened in America is not accepted, referring to Amina Wadud leading Friday prayers. “A woman should be covered up while praying, but what we have seen in America is different. Women prayed with their hair uncovered, wearing Jeans, which contradicts with praying requirements,” said Zamzami.
Mustapha Rmid, a leader in the Justice and Development Party, said that “Throughout history, there was a consensus that a woman cannot lead men and women in prayer”. He added that this is not “an important issue to discuss”.
Al Mustapha Moatasim, leader of 'Al Badil Al Hadari Party', said that “there is nothing in the Koran that forbids women from being Imams and that some religious scholars allowed them to lead women in prayer, but not men”.
Dr Abdelhadi Boutaleb, member of the Academy of the Moroccan Kingdom and a researcher, favours men Imamat but said that a woman can lead prayers for women. “Wadud masters Islamic teaching; she was reciting the Koran properly, and was wearing descent clothes, respecting Islamic prayer traditions. However, the women who were praying behind her were not covered up, which is against Islamic teachings,” said Boutaleb.
He added that “praying in the church is allowed, because Islam enables praying in churches and synagogues.” Woman Imamat raised heated debate among Muslim communities around the world. Some claim that Islam bans women from leading women and men and that the congregation should only be made up solely of women. Others see no problem in a woman leading men and women.
Qatar-based Sheikh Yussef Al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim cleric said that “Prayer in Islam features getting up, sitting down and kneeling...It is not befitting for a woman to make these movements in the presence of men when worshipping requires a peaceful mind and concentration on communicating with God." But Egypt's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ali Guma, declared that woman-led prayer of mixed-gender congregations is permissible, so long as the congregation agrees to it.