||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2008)|
September 25, 1952 |
|Main interests||Islamic studies, Islamic feminism, theology, philosophy, interfaith dialogue|
|Alma mater||University of Michigan, American University in Cairo, Cairo University, Al-Azhar University|
|Notable ideas||Women as imams|
Amina Wadud (born September 25, 1952) is an American scholar of Islam with a progressive focus on Qur'an exegesis (interpretation of the holy text). As an Islamic feminist, she has addressed mixed-sex congregations, giving a sermon in South Africa in 1994, and leading Friday prayers in the United States in 2005. These actions broke with established Islamic law, which allows only male imams (prayer leaders) in mixed-gender congregations, and thus she triggered debate and Muslim juristic discourse about women as imams.
Wadud was born as Mary Teasley to an Afro-American Family in Bethesda, Maryland. Her father was a Methodist minister. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Pennsylvania, between 1970 and 1975. In 1972 she pronounced the shahadah, that is, accepted Islam. By 1974 she had changed her name officially to Amina Wadud, to reflect her chosen religion. 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 in Egypt, including advanced Arabic at the American University in Cairo, Qur'anic studies and tafsir (exegesis or religious interpretation) at Cairo University, and philosophy at Al-Azhar University.
Wadud's research specialities include gender and Qur'anic studies.
From 1989 to 1992 she worked as an assistant professor in Quranic Studies at the International Islamic University Malaysia. While there, she published her dissertation Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective and co-founded the non-governmental organization Sisters in Islam. The book is still used by the NGO as a basic text for activists and academics, but it is banned in the United Arab Emirates.
In 1992 Wadud accepted a position as Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She retired in 2008, and took up a position as a visiting professor at the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Wadud has spoken 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. Some of her speaking engagements have included the keynote address "Islam, Justice, and Gender" at the 2008 international conference Understanding Conflicts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, held at Aarhus University, Denmark; a paper titled “Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis” at the 2009 Musawah - Equality and Justice in the Family conference; 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; a workshop on "Sharia and Human Rights" at the University of Bergen, Norway in late November 2009; 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 in February 2010; a lecture on “Tawhid and Spiritual Development for Social Action” at Muslims for Progressive Values at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California in July 2011.
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. At the time, this was 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.
2005 prayer leadership
More than a decade later, Wadud decided to lead Friday prayers (salat) for a congregation in the United States, breaking with Islamic laws, which allows only male imams (prayer leaders) in mixed-gender congregations. (See Women as imams for a discussion of the issue.) On Friday 18 March 2005, Wadud acted as imam for a congregation of about 60 women and 40 men seated together, without any gender separation. The call to prayer was given by another woman, Suheyla El-Attar. It was sponsored by the Muslim Women's Freedom Tour, under the leadership of Asra Nomani, by the website "Muslim WakeUp!," and by members of the Progressive Muslim Union. A small number of protestors gathered outside against the prayer.
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. Wadud said while she initially wanted to host the prayer in a neutral place, but after the bomb threats, she decided on the church, not to make a statement, but because she wanted to conduct the prayers in a sacred place. She additionally 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."
2013 Madras University controversy
Wadud was to deliver a lecture on on 29 July 2013 on 'Gender and Reform in Islam' at the University of Madras in Chennai, India. The scheduled lecture was cancelled because police cited possible law and order problems in view of opposition by Muslim groups. S.M. Syed Iqbal, state secretary of Indiya Towheed Jamad said that she comes with the backing of the US government and offers so-called progressive views that are against the basic tenets of Islam, and that his outfit would protest in front of the venues if she were allowed to talk.
Some Muslim academics supported Wadud, maintaining that her leadership of prayer represented a long overdue change. Egyptian academic Gamal al-Banna argued that her actions were supported by Islamic sources, and were, therefore, acceptable. 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". 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."
On the other hand, the general ʻUlamāʼ response from across the world has been similar to that of the widely respected Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. He responded that, while a woman could lead other women and even possibly her young children 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, under certain circumstances, a 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. Al-Qaradawi berated her actions on Al-Jazeera, calling it un-Islamic and heretical.
Because Wadud said she 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. In her first interview after the prayer, Wadud denied receiving any death threats and described them as media hype.
There has been support from some Muslims to Wadud's actions. In spite of the criticism, Wadud has continued with her speaking engagements and has to lead mixed-gender Friday prayer services. On October 28, 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. 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.
In 2007 Wadud received the Danish Democracy Prize.
She was interviewed on WNYC radio on July 14, 2006, to discuss her book Inside the Gender Jihad. She responded to questions and comments about other activities including women in gender-mixed Friday prayer service.
In 2007, Wadud was the subject of a documentary by Iranian-Dutch filmmaker, Elli Safari, called "The Noble Struggle of Amina Wadud".
Her first book, titled "Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective", published in March 1999, contributes a gender-inclusive reading to one of the most fundamental disciplines in Islamic thought, Qu'ranic exegesis.
Her latest book, "Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam", was published in 2006. It not only continues her Qur'anic analysis but also provides extensive details about her experiences as a Muslim, wife, mother, sister, scholar, and activist.
- "Amina Wadud (USA)". Gariwo.net. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- New Straits Times - The day I met Amina Wadud By Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi
- Arabian Woman - A wake-up call
- [www.musawah.org/docs/pubs/wanted/Wanted-AW-EN.pdf Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis]
- Regional Conference on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Societies
- Sharia and Human Rights
- Public Lecture Series
- LGBT Group Interview
- Canadian LGBT Mosque Reference
- Amina Wadud, Our Phenomenal Professor
- "Interview–Asra Nomani". Newsline. April 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- Studying Islam article on the incident
- Sadia Zaman (Executive Producer) (February 21, 2007). 360 Vision - Heretic Interview with Amina Wadud (Television Production). United States: VisonTV2. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- Article campuswatch
- Woman leads Muslims in prayers
- Singing A Song Many Women Have Been Humming By Richmond Times
- Amina Wadud Leads Mixed-Gender Prayers at Islamic Feminism Conference in Barcelona
- US academic first woman to lead Muslim prayers in UK
- Quiet Heretic: on Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University
- WNYC - The Brian Lehrer Show: Gender Jihad (July 14, 2006)
- The Noble Struggle of Amina Wadud
- Amina Wadud interview
- Amina Wadud interview by the Halal Monk
- Woman Imam, BBC Urdu page
- Who is Dr Wadud (Urdu)?
- Gender and Reform in Islam
- Associated Press story: Woman leads Muslim prayer service (CNN link)
- WNYC podcast of July 14, 2006 radio appearance:
-  (index of podcasts)
- A’ishah’s legacy by Amina Wadud in May 2002, Issue 345