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Dr.  Amina  Wadud 

an  inclusive  imam


Early life

Doctor Amina Wadud was born as Mary Teasley in Bethesda, Maryland. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother was descended from Muslim slaves of Arab, Berber and African ancestry dating back to the 8th Century. She received her B.S, from The University of Pennsylvania, between 1970 and 1975. In 1972 she pronounced the shahadah and accepted Islam, not knowing of her maternal ancestry and by 1974 her name was officially changed to Amina Wadud to reflect her chosen religious affiliation. She received her M.A. in Near Eastern Studies and her Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan in 1988. During graduate school, she studied advanced Arabic in Egypt at the American University in Cairo, continued with Qur'anic studies and tafsir at Cairo University, Egypt, and took a course in Philosophy at Al-Azhar University.

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She was contracted for a period of 3 years as Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia in the field of Quranic Studies in Malaysia, between 1989 and 1992, where she published her dissertation Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, a book, which is banned in the UAE. However, the book, continues to be used by Sisters of Islam in Malaysia as a basic text for activists and academics alike.[1] During the same period that she also co-founded the NGO Sisters-In-Islam.[2]

Wadud's research specialities include gender and Qur'anic studies. After publishing her first book, she spoke at universities, grass roots level, government and non-government forums at various gatherings throughout the United States, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. In 1992 Wadud accepted a position as Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, from where she retired as of 2008.

In 2007 she received the Danish Democracy Prize, and in 2008 she gave the keynote address "Islam, Justice, and Gender" at the international conference Understanding Conflicts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, held at Aarhus University, Denmark.

From 2008–present, she is a visiting professor at the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

In February 2009, she was a speaker at Musawah - Equality and Justice in the Family conference, where she presented a paper titled “Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis”.[3]

Wadud was also a speaker at The Regional Conference on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Societies, hosted by United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP) in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March 2009.[4]

Wadud spoke at a workshop "Sharia and Human Rights" University of Bergen, Norway in late November 2009.[5]

She gave a public lecture titled "Muslim Women and Gender Justice: Methods, Motivation and Means" to the Faculty of Arts, Asia Institute, at The University of Melbourne, Australia on 18 February 2010.[6]

Wadud lectured on “Tawhid and Spiritual Development for Social Action” at Muslims for Progressive Values' 5th annual retreat in July 2011 at Berkeley's Pacific School of Religion.

Friday prayers

In August 1994, Wadud delivered a Friday khutbah (sermon) on "Islam as Engaged Surrender" at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa.[7] At the time, this was largely unheard of in the Muslim world. As a result, there were attempts in Virginia by some Muslims to have her dismissed from her position at Virginia Commonwealth University.

More than a decade later, Wadud decided to lead Friday prayers (salat) for a mixed-gender congregation in the United States, breaking with the tradition of having only male imams (prayer leaders), and thus becoming the subject of debate and Muslim juristic discourse. (The event was not the first time in the history of Islam that a woman had led the Friday prayer. See Women as imams for a discussion of the issue.) Over 100 male and female Muslims attended the controversial event on 18 March 2005 in New York City. It was sponsored by the Muslim Women's Freedom Tour,[8] under the leadership of Asra Nomani, by the website "Muslim WakeUp!," and by members of the Progressive Muslim Union.

The gathering was held in the Synod House, owned by and adjoining the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, after three mosques had refused to host the service and the Sundaram Tagore Gallery withdrew its offer after a bomb threat.[9] On Friday 18 March 2005, Wadud acted as imam for a congregation of about 60 women and 40 men seated together, without the traditional separate male and female sections. The call to prayer was given by another woman, Suheyla El-Attar. Wadud stated, "I don't want to change Muslim mosques. I want to encourage the hearts of Muslims, both in their public, private and ritual affairs, to believe they are one and equal." A small number of protestors gathered outside.

Many scholars and others supported Wadud, maintaining that her leadership of prayer represented a long overdue change. Egyptian scholar Gamal al-Banna argued that her actions were supported by Islamic sources, and were, therefore, orthodox.[10] Other supporters include the Pakistani scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi; Islamic scholar Leila Ahmed, who thought it was a good thing as it brought attention to the issue of women in Islam; and Islamic scholar Ebrahim E.I. Moosa, who called the prayer a "wonderful move".[11] Khaled Abou El-Fadl, professor of Islamic Studies at UCLA, California said: "What the fundamentalists are worried about is that there's going to be a ripple effect not just in the U.S. but all over the Muslim world. The women who are learned and frustrated that they cannot be the imam are going to see that someone got the guts to break ranks and do it."[12]

On the other hand, the general ʻUlamāʼ response from across the world has been similar to that of the widely watched Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He responded that, while a woman could lead other women and even possibly her family in salat, she could not lead a mixed group including non-mahram males:

The currently extant juristic schools agree that it is not permissible for women to lead men in the obligatory Prayer, though some scholars voice the opinion that the woman who is well-versed in the Qur'ān may lead the members of her family, including men, in Prayer on the basis that there is no room for stirring instincts in this case.

He berated her on Al-Jazeera, calling her action unislamic and heretical.

Because Wadud had become the target of death threats, the police and her employer, fearing for her security and reacting to concerns from parents about their children's safety, asked her to conduct her classes from home through a video link.[13]

There has been support from Muslims around the world to Wadud's imamate. In spite of the criticism, Wadud has continued her speaking engagements, and has continued to lead mixed-gender Friday prayer services. On 28 October 2005, following her talk at the International Congress on Islamic Feminism in Barcelona, Spain, she was invited to lead a congregation of about thirty people.[14] Following an invitation by the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, she led a mixed-gender prayer in the United Kingdom, even though Muslims planning to attend were threatened with being disowned by conservative imams through personal visits from mosques.[15]

Full article and references on wikipedia