Woman to Lead UK Muslim Prayers

October 16, 2008

Author: Natalie Hancock

Source: BBC News


A woman is to lead a congregation of men and women in an Islamic prayer service for the first time in the UK.

Muslim scholar Professor Amina Wadud is to give the sermon - or khutbah - at the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College in Oxford.

The move has provoked opposition as the tradition is that imams - always men - hold mixed services. Some believe it is against Islam for a woman to do so.

But organisers heralded it as a "leap forward" for "theological destiny".

Chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre Oxford (MECO) Dr Taj Hargey, who is organising Friday's conference, argued that the prayer service would be a step in the right direction.

"We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion," he said.

"There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored.

"Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here - it is a celebration."

But Mokhtar Badri, vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain, is opposed to the sermon.