Amina Wadud

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amina wadud
Born (1952-09-25) September 25, 1952 (age 69)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, American University in Cairo, Cairo University, Al-Azhar University
Era21st-century philosophy
InstitutionsInternational Islamic University Malaysia, Virginia Commonwealth University
Main interests
Islamic studies, Islamic feminism, theology, philosophy, interfaith dialogue
Notable ideas
Women as imams

Amina Wadud (born September 25, 1952) is an American Muslim theologian. Wadud serves as Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and is also a visiting scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry.[1] Wadud has written extensively on the role of women in Islam.

Born and raised as a Methodist in Bethesda, Maryland, wadud converted to Islam in 1972 while studying at the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to study Arabic and Islamic studies, first in the United States and later in Egypt. Wadud made international headlines in 2005 when she led Friday prayers at a mixed congregation in New York, stirring controversy in some spheres of the Islamic world. Regardless, wadud has continued to lead prayers at various congregations around the world.

Early life[edit]

Wadud was born Mary Teasley to an African-American family in Bethesda, Maryland. Her father was a Methodist minister.

In 1972, she converted to Islam, while a student at the University of Pennsylvania, which she attended from 1970 to 1975.[2] She legally changed her name to amina wadud two years later.


In 1975, wadud graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science.

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 faculty of law at IIUM but her contract was no longer discontinued. 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.[3] The book is still used by the NGO as a basic text for activists and academics,[4] 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, as well as grassroots, government and non-government forums throughout the United States, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. Her speaking engagements include 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;[5] 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;[6] a workshop on "Sharia and Human Rights" at the University of Bergen, Norway in late November 2009;[7] 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;[8] 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.

Wadud has also openly advocated "pluralism" and "equality" as an endorsement of LGBTQ+ rights.[9][10]


1994 sermon[edit]

In August 1994, wadud delivered a Friday pre-khutbah (sermon) on "Islam as Engaged Surrender" at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa.[11] Women delivering even a pre-khutbah talk was unheard of in the Muslim world. It was widely mis-reported that Wadud had actually delivered the khutbah (the formal Arabic sermon delivered from the pulpit), which she did not (she delivered the main talk - in English and not from the pulpit - however a pre-khutbah talk is not part of the formal Friday ceremony). 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[edit]

More than a decade later, wadud decided to lead Friday prayers (salat) for a congregation in the United States, breaking with widespread Muslim tradition, 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.[12] 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 St. John the Divine, in Manhattan's Morningside Heights, after three mosques had refused to host the service and the Sundaram Tagore Gallery withdrew its offer after a bomb threat.[13] 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.[14] She said, "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."


The prayer service drew controversy, with mixed reactions from the Muslim community.[15] Over 100 men and women attended the prayers, and about 15 people protested outside the church.[16][15]

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi of Qatar said 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. Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sayyid Tantawi criticized the prayer in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram: "When she leads men in prayer, in this case, it is not proper for them to look at the woman whose body is in front of them."[15]

Some Muslim academics supported wadud. Egyptian academic Gamal al-Banna argued that her actions were supported by Islamic sources.[3] Writer and Harvard Divinity School professor Leila Ahmed said it brought attention to the issue of women in Islam. Islamic scholar Ebrahim E.I. Moosa called the prayer a "wonderful move."[17] 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."[18]

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.[19] In her first interview after the prayer, wadud denied receiving any death threats and described them as media hype.[14]

Wadud has continued with her speaking engagements and 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.[20] 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.[21]

2013 Madras University controversy[edit]

Wadud was to deliver a lecture 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.[22] S.M. Syed Iqbal, state secretary of India 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.[23]


In 2007, wadud received the Danish Democracy Prize.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Amina wadud has five children and three grandchildren.[24] She lives in Oakland, California. She identifies as non-binary with the use of pronouns she/her and they/them.[25][26] Wadud prefers her name be written in lowercase as Arabic does not utilize capital letters.[27]

Media appearances[edit]

Wadud was an advisor to the documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2002), produced by Unity Productions Foundation and broadcast on PBS.

Wadud 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.[28]

In 2007, wadud was the subject of a documentary by Iranian-Dutch filmmaker, Elli Safari, called "The Noble Struggle of Amina Wadud".[29]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Wadud, Amina (1999). Qurʼan and woman rereading the sacred text from a woman's perspective. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198029434. Contributes a gender-inclusive reading to one of the most fundamental disciplines in Islamic thought, Qu'ranic exegesis.
  • Wadud, Amina (2006). Inside the gender Jihad: women's reform in Islam. Oxford: Oneworld. ISBN 9781851684632. Continues Wadud's Qur'anic analysis and provides extensive details about her experiences as a Muslim, wife, mother, sister, scholar, and activist.

Chapters in books[edit]

  • Wadud, Amina (2005), "Citizenship and faith", in Friedman, Marilyn (ed.), Women and citizenship, Studies in Feminist Philosophy, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 170–187, ISBN 9780195175356.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Amina Wadud, PhD". Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  2. ^ Wadud, Amina (2006). "Aishah's Legacy: The Struggle for Women's Rights within Islam". In Kamrava, Mehran (ed.). The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity: A Reader. University of California Press. p. 201. ISBN 0520250990.
  3. ^ a b New Straits Times - The day I met Amina Wadud Archived 2018-08-16 at the Wayback Machine By Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi
  4. ^ "Sisters In Islam". Archived from the original on 2018-10-11. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  5. ^ Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis Archived January 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "United Nations Trust Fund Call for Proposal 2008". Archived from the original on 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  7. ^ "News". CMI - Chr. Michelsen Institute. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  8. ^ "Home — Asia Institute | Faculty of Arts". Faculty of Arts. 2017-10-31. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  9. ^ LGBT Group Interview on YouTube
  10. ^ Canadian LGBT Mosque Reference Archived December 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Wijna, Wihikan Mawi. "Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies .:. HTML Error 404". Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) is an international PH.D Program in Inter-Religious Studies at Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Archived from the original on 2018-10-11. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  12. ^ "Interview–Asra Nomani". Newsline. April 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  13. ^ "Studying Islam | Articles". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  14. ^ a b Sadia Zaman (Executive Producer) (February 21, 2007). 360 Vision - Heretic Interview with Amina Wadud (Television Production). United States: VisionTV. Archived from the original on 2007-12-07. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c "Woman leads controversial US prayer". Aljazeera. March 19, 2005.
  16. ^ "Woman leads US Muslims to prayer". BBC News. March 18, 2005. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Quiet Heretic [on Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University] - Campus Watch". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  18. ^ Woman leads Muslims in prayers Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Singing A Song Many Women Have Been Humming Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine By Richmond Times
  20. ^ "Amina Wadud Leads Mixed-Gender Prayers at Islamic Feminism Conference in Barcelona | The Pluralism Project". Archived from the original on 2013-09-22. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  21. ^ Butt, Riazat; Nixon, Niki (2008-10-17). "US academic first woman to lead Muslim prayers in UK". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  22. ^ "Police force Madras University to cancel Islamic feminist's lecture". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  23. ^ Staff Reporter (2013-07-31). "One SMS, and Amina Wadud's lecture was called off". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  24. ^ Quiet Heretic: on Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "@TheLadyImam" on Twitter
  26. ^ @TheLadyImam (24 June 2021). "Gender is a construct. Happy #Pride month!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "Meet amina wadud: The Rock Star of Islamic Feminists |". Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  28. ^ WNYC - The Brian Lehrer Show: Gender Jihad (July 14, 2006) Archived February 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "WOMEN MAKE MOVIES | The Noble Struggle of Amina Wadud". Retrieved 2017-12-05.

External links[edit]