Muslim Women Doing What?

Two things that are true about me: I don’t mind a lively debate from time to time and I’m usually ok with things being a little gray.

As a result, I enjoy chatting about the role women can, should, and do play in ministry. What Paul meant when he said what he did about this. And how we’re to deal with it today. In fact, I’d find it fun to kick this around with you. . .in a socially distanced way, of course!

I was surprised (embarrassingly) to discover that Muslims also wrestle with “women in ministry” issues.

Well, some of them do. Others, less so. Hui Muslims in central China began to establish Islamic schools and mosques for women as early as the 17th century. These continued through the Communist crackdown on religion in the 1950s.

Female Hui imams have served as inspiration for some of the women-led mosques emerging in our day. The daughter of a Syrian father and a Finnish mom, Sherin Khankan helped open the first female-led mosque in Denmark in 2016. Though she faced resistance to her plan to become an imam and open a mosque, she contends there is, “no valid religious criticism of us – we are on safe theological ground.”

The Quran, it seems, doesn’t talk directly about this issue. But a hadith (collections of sayings of Muhammad) recounts Muhammad asking a woman to lead prayers for her “house.” The debate is whether that only means the women in her house, the women in her village or anyone who heard the call to prayer.

The sunnah (the written traditional customs and practices) indicates against women leading mixed-gender congregations since there are no examples of this happening.

Finally, the ijma or the consensus of Islamic scholars’ opinions is pretty much, “No can do, buckaroo!” Imagine a bunch of old men agreeing women can’t share their power.

I suspect we’ll see more women in Islamic clerical leadership in days to come, along with strong resistance in some areas. Sound familiar? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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8 Responses to Muslim Women Doing What?

  1. Schatzi Fry

    Jesus taught us that TRUE leadership is exercised with an attitude of humility. Hopefully, ALL of us, men and women, have the attitude that we are not experts, we don’t know everything, and that we are all to “work out Your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil. 2:12]
    The book of Acts has examples of women in ministry, including Lydia, the dealer in purple cloth, and the prophets who warned Paul of what he would face in Rome. I don’t know what the situation in Corinth was that prompted Paul to discourage women from teaching, but the patriarchal attitudes that were common may have been an influence. There were also people in the church who were being led astray by false teaching, and this may have been a factor.
    Our current church has male and female chaplains. Chaplains don’t have or exercise authority over the individual members of the congregation. This arrangement works for me, and I think that the many women who have blazed trails in reaching the unreached people groups of the world have done and are are also doing God’s work.

  2. Sherry Wasserstein

    I struggle with this as well… and find this fascinating
    That the issue is also being debated among Muslims.
    I sincerely wish I knew God’s heart on this matter.
    I was raised in a church where women could not pray
    Aloud in a mixed congregation and now attend a
    Church with women pastors. So my heart is really

  3. Lorena Wood

    I love this post. A frequent Marge is a scholar and I enjoy getting equipped by her. I was with a group of Muslim ladies the other day talking about this very subject-what women can do and how we in the West are surprised (at least that is what one was saying) when she talked about what she did for work.

  4. Joe Sapp

    Hi Shane,
    Interesting topic, particularly since it seems to permeate so many organizations and is evident around the world. I was raised in a church that made women wear hats and were not allowed to preach. They were allowed to teach Sunday School and give announcements from the pulpit, but nothing more.

    My personal take is that the issue is a cultural one, not a religious one. And like you say, there is much gray.

  5. Mirtha

    So interesting, and these days I was thinking how muslims countries are different about women rights from Saudi Arabia to Tunisia..

    And about women in ministry my thougths flyes from Jewish women in ministry when first time tried to study (like the film/play Yentl) to Christian Women with doctrines as cover their head and how that (that O isn’t no my doctrine, helps me to understand muslim background PR muslim women.

    Excuse my bad English and cell phone, it’s no my core language.

  6. Mirtha

    That’ año my doctrine*

    Muslim background or muslim women*

  7. Makes me think of the wonderful documentary “The Light In Her Eyes”

  8. Dina Horne

    I’m a big fan of women in ministry leadership, as an ordained Wesleyan pastor myself. Thanks for your advocacy for women as well as opening our hearts and lives to our Muslim neighbors and friends. With the centrality of Jesus as my focus, whom shall I fear?

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