Little Details

A Fact-Checking Community for Writers

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
[ANON POST] Muslim Faith Leadership Roles for Women
orange_fell wrote in little_details
I have a Somali-American woman in the Twin Cities, and I'd like to make her some sort of Muslim faith leader, but I don't know where to begin. I've read a lot of stargazer's blog, and I've Googled variations on "Muslim faith leaders women" and "female Muslim religious leaders." I got a lot of stuff for Muslim women by Muslim women, which was excellent, but very theoretical: what women could do, not what women do do. I also got a lot bigoted junk about how Muslim men are all misogynistic and never let "their women" do anything, so, yeah.

She's about forty years old and widowed. She has a teenage daughter, but no other children. Her education, employment, etc. can be whatever's required. I'm considering making her a professor of something relevant at the University of Minnesota as a day job, but, again, whatever's best.

Setting is around 2010.


I dunno if it could help you, but this religious University had been build by a woman in IX century : She is really respected about it and lot of people see her like a saint woman.
Her sister, Mariyam, is very well know too, because she had build an other mosque in Fes, too : the Al-Andalus Mosque.

The easiest one would probably be to make her a Hafiza, which is basically a scholar on the Qur'an. She could then be the leader of a woman's group, teach the Qur'an to students (adults and children however the adults would mostly be female). She also could lead a group of women in a communal salat (prayer).

She wouldn't be able to lead men in prayer so she wouldn't be able to be the leader of a mosque or a masjid. However she would be able to own one, or work as an administrator, which isn't really a faith position but they're usually quite respected.

Source: Growing up a black Muslim in America. My information is from the communities I was a part of in Michigan, I did live in Minneapolis for about a year but wasn't involved in the Muslim community there.

be careful with dismissing complaints of misogyny as bigoted junk.

One does have to apply discernment and consider the source of the information. A big clue is if it claims that all Muslims, everywhere, at all times are misogynistic in all ways.

That said, there is plenty of reliable testimony that many Muslim men, especially conservative or reactionary ones outside the US or Canada, would be very unhappy with a female religious leader who did not confine herself to women-only audiences.

edit reason: typo

Edited at 2014-02-22 10:13 pm (UTC)

UK example, but since you're thinking about a university professor, Mona Siddiqui is an example of someone with a significant public profile. She's a well-known scholar on Islamic issues, and she's done Radio 4's Thought for the Day - would a local TV/radio role be a possibility for you?

When my children did RS at GCSE they had to study Islam. Their school textbooks - apparently written to make Islam sound good (and some of it actually does) - talk about women not being allowed to do various things, including leading worship for men, being in the same worship place unless they are behind the men, etc.

That sounds like misogyny to me, and if it's not driven by the men, where is it coming from? It doesn't make sense to dismiss a textbook apparently written by Muslims as "bigoted junk".

Is that really relevant and helpful to the OP, though? They're asking for resources about what women can do.

Also, if the people who wrote that book were misogynist, the anti-woman parts could be seen as good parts also to them; it doesn't reflect the whole religion.

Yes, the OP is asking for ideas, but he/she also appeared to be dismissing the concept of Muslim men being misogynistic as “bigoted junk”.

As far as I know there is no rule stating that commenters are only allowed to respond to certain sentences in the original post. I felt I had some information that might have a bearing on the assertion, so I stated it.

it doesn't reflect the whole religion

Perhaps not. But I am talking about an official textbook designed to describe and explain Islam to schoolchildren. At the very least, then, the facts contained in the textbook are the ones which people in authority within Islam have selected as (a) representative of the religion and (b) important in helping outsiders to understand Islam.

And some of the facts in this textbook show Islam as being essentially misogynistic in many of its rules and procedures.

Finally, posts in communities like this one serve as a resource and centre for discussion for many people besides the OP, and so long as the OP is happy they are getting what they want, most people don’t object to a widening of the discussion so long as it remains polite and interesting.

Of course, as yourself and the OP are both anonymous, I have no way of knowing whether the OP has read, or replied to, any of the comments, or indeed whether you are the OP.

Thanks for asking! Some great ideas here! She could be influential online, as a vlogger or blogger, like Hind Makki. Locally, she could be a radio host, as mentioned, serve on the board of a mosque or president of a mosque (, if her community's open to that, act as a youth director or women's spokesperson, lead a local study group, charity, teach (one doesn't have to be a scholar, although there are plenty of female scholars as well) full-time or only Sunday school, work for CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) supporting the rights of Muslims, lead a Muslim women's group, convert outreach, start or lead an Islamic magazine or journal, program, school, or college, serve as marriage or general counselor at the mosque, work as a motivational speaker or author, a journalist, and of course, as an activist. There are many female Muslim activists, and they're involved in everything from community clinics like UMMA (,d.aWc), domestic violence resource centers like Project Sakinah (, inner-city services like IMAN (, which provide safe spaces and counseling for youth and sponsors art and music festivals, immigration liaisoning, overseas, etc., etc. Stopping before this becomes a novel, lol.

Feel free to ask anything else!

Urgh, sorry for the sloppy linking. x.x

You might want to look at Amina Wadud which links to this article on "women as imams"

Which indicates that it's rare, highly controversial (especially to more conservative Muslims), but not unknown.

Also, you may find the book I reviewed recently, Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie by Ranya Tabari Idliby, a progressive Muslim woman, about her experiences being Muslim in America.

I can't tell what you mean by "faith leader", but let me tell you about one of the "pastoral care workers" at my local high school. She is a middle aged mum with a background in education - I think at one point she was a teacher in the UK, and she has advanced degrees (she is generally known as Dr. First Name). She is available every week at the school for students of any faith to discuss spiritual issues and general counselling. She is an observant Muslim, wears the hijab, and always answers questions about Islam readily and in a thoughtful and diplomatic manner. She does a lot of community work with ethnic organizations and is on the boards of general community groups. She gives speeches and workshops on tolerance, living with faith, and other such topics, and also sometimes writes about women's issues and faith issues for local and national newspapers. She is a go-to person for comment on such issues for the local news. She came to mind because she's a working woman who is focussed on making a difference in her community, and who is seen as a kind of ambassador for moderate Islam as it is lived by most Muslims in the community. I think of her as a self-developed Muslim faith leader, but her role is in the community at large, not within any kind of Muslim ministry. It sounds like you want your character to be a woman actively living her faith who others turn to (and/or who as established herself as someone to look to) for encouragement, guidance, and support - in a contemporary context, I think your best fit would be someone along the lines of a university professor heavily involved in community work like the individual I've described - or associated with activism as suggested in the comment above.

You probably need to look specifically at Somali forms of Islam.

For a specific female-centered Islamic movement in Somalia, look at Abay Siti - . Aapprently there is a tradition of female saints in at least part of Somalia.

Here's a Unicef report on women in Somalia which might also be useful: