Q. Could a muslim woman be the head of a mosque?
A. Allah has revealed a perfect way of life for mankind and Has blessed us with the religion of Islam. Through this religion, Allah Has not only given us instructions with respect to rituals and acts of worship, but has also identified to us the role of a man and a woman with respect to their duties as Muslims.
Being the head of a mosque means, that one has assumed a leadership role in the community over the Muslims and hence, must be fully committed to the uplift of Islam and the Muslims. This task requires the head to preach Islam openly and privately, lead the prayer at all times, deliver the sermons and judge between his followers. At the time of need, he is required to lead the Muslims to confront those who wish to cause harm to the Muslims. Bravery, courage, valor and being aggressive for the defense of Islam is required for the head/leader whenever the need arises. The head of the mosque is its ‘Ameer’ and the responsibility of looking after it physically and otherwise, is upon him.
When we look at a woman and the attributes with which she is created from her softness, shyness, modesty etc. etc. we see that it is extremely difficult for her (as a woman) to fulfill the responsibility of being a leader or head of the mosque.
While looking at her status and position (as a woman), we see that Allah Has given her a great rank and honor. He has elevated her to the extent that the Prophet (SAS) informed us that, ‘Paradise lies at the feet of thy mother’. On another occasion when a companion asked the Prophet (SAS) for permission to take part in a holy battle, the Prophet (SAS) asked if his mother was alive. Upon replying on the affirmative the Prophet (SAS) said, “Go and serve your mother”. At a time when the world religions and people looked at a woman with scorn and disdain and they considered her to be the gateway of Satan and that she had no soul, Islam raised her status to a lofty position and granted her rights that were similar to men. In Islam, she became the queen of the home, the comfort to her husband, the university for her children and the gateway to Paradise.
Not withstanding all these virtues, Allah outlined her role as being different from that of a man. This is on account of the fact that, He (Allah) created her differently with distinct abilities, strength and weaknesses. Her physical being is dissimilar, her emotional being is diverse and her conduct and behavior is also unlike that of a man.
In this regard, Alexis Carrel, the French Noble Laureate rightly says,`the differences which exist between men and women are of a more fundamental nature than is usually realized and that these differences are caused by the very structure of the tissues and by the impregnation of the entire organism with specific chemical substances secreted by the ovary’. He continues, ‘Ignorance of these fundamental facts has led promoters of feminism to believe that both sexes should have the same responsibilities. In reality woman differs profoundly from man. Every one of the cells of her body bears the mark of her sex. The same is true of her organs and above all, of her nervous system’. (Alexis Carrel – ‘Man and the Unknown’ – Woman in Shariah by Dr. Abdur Rahman Doi)
Allah has ordered the Muslim woman to adhere to the law of Hijaab, which is not only connected to the manner of dress and clothing, but it is equally connected to her conduct, speech, actions and intermingling with the opposite sex. With respect to this last point, women is not allowed to openly mixed and mingle with those who are not blood related to her, except in cases of a valid need/necessity. She is requested to speak in a manner that her voice does not become an attraction to men in whose heart there is lust and wickedness. She cannot be in privacy with any male who is not a blood relative to her.
All these guidelines which have been given to her are not for the sake of ‘putting her down’ or ‘demoting her’ or ‘pushing her behind’ or ‘not giving her an equal opportunity’. These are all deceptive statements of Satan which comes through the tongues of those who are inclined to sins, inequity and transgression and have a love for the Western culture. Allah has given women these guidelines that are meant to protect their honor, chastity and dignity. These teachings help them to be moral and decent, and help them to refrain from such conduct which may ruin their good image. With this understanding, it is clearly understood that it is not a woman’s place to stand in front of men to deliver a khutba/sermon. It is also not her place to stand in front of them to read loudly in the daily Salaah/Prayers. Every month she experiences her sickly days which makes it impermissible for her to enter the mosque, far less for leading the prayers. During the course of pregnancy, it is extremely difficult for her to fulfill her task. In short, it is not permissible in Islam for a woman to be the head/imam of a mosque. This is the established teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAS).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan
This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.