The most common search term that brings people to this site is Yasmin Mogahed. That amazed me. I only wrote about her once in a response to a post on The Nomad Universe about feminism in Islam. She is against feminism as it is described in the U.S. because she says that the goal is to make make women more like men by sacrificing their femininity.
I looked up some of her other writings and they all seem to have the same theme. The most recent onces decried a woman leading prayers at a Friday service in March. This was bad because for 1400 years women haven’t led Friday prayers and if the prophet wanted women to do things then he would have had his wives do them first. I don’t like the fundamentalist position that tradition is the end all and be all standard of what is proper behavior. I went to a church like that growing up. They couldn’t articulate why they did something other than to say that it was the way it had always been. The idea that maybe it had always been wrong apparently never occured to them.
Apparently I irritated some people with this post. I’ve had a request by the author to post the whole article. I guess she thinks I am misreporting her position. So in the fine tradition of Fox News’ “We report – You decide” here’s the whole article.
A Woman’s Reflection on Leading Prayer
by Yasmin Mogahed
(Friday 25 March 2005)
“Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something Iâ€™m not–and in all honesty–donâ€™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.”
On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumuah (Friday) 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?
I donâ€™t think so.
What we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to Godâ€”not in relation to men. But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard leftâ€”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 manâ€”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. She wanted these things for no other reason than because the â€œstandardâ€ had it.
What she didnâ€™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 1400 years there has been a consensus of the 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 itâ€™s leading. Had it been the role of women or had it been more divine, why wouldnâ€™t the Prophet have asked Ayesha or Khadija, or Fatimaâ€”the greatest women of all timeâ€”to lead? These women were promised heavenâ€”and yet they never lead prayer.
But now for the first time in 1400 years, we look at a man leading prayer and we think, â€œThatâ€™s not fair.â€ 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 God 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 â€˜your motherâ€™ three times before saying â€˜your fatherâ€™ only once. Isnâ€™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 itâ€”or even notice. We too have accepted men as the standard; so anything uniquely feminine is, by definition, inferior. Being sensitive is an insult, becoming a motherâ€”a degradation. In the battle between stoic rationality (considered masculine) and self-less 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 itâ€”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 weâ€™ve accepted the notion that having a position of worldly leadership is some indication of oneâ€™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 doesnâ€™t need a man.
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, society told us that men were superior because they left the home to work in factories. We were mothers. And yet, we were told that it was womenâ€™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 societyâ€”just because a man did it.
Then after working, we were expected to be superhumanâ€”the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect homemakerâ€”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 weâ€™d given up.
And so only nowâ€”given the choiceâ€”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 full-time. And of those working mothers, a survey conducted by Parenting Magazine in 2000, found that 93% of them say they would rather be home with their kids, but are compelled to work due to ‘financial obligations’. These â€˜obligationsâ€™ 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 1400 years ago.
Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something Iâ€™m not–and in all honesty–donâ€™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 feetâ€”I choose heaven.