The Sharing Group Discussion: Is a Female Imam in Swalah & Female Prophet Possible?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is a discussion, on The Sharing Group, that began from a post from my blog: A Muslim Convert Once More: Can Women Lead Men in Swalah?, on the 07th September 2014.

Brother Billy Johnston: There was a discussion on this on the Christian Muslim Forum years ago.  If I remember correctly, it seemed like there was a source mentioning in historical tradition there have been some examples of women leading mixed congregation prayer- but from behind.

Brother Will Coley: Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) and other scholars have discussed special circumstance when it is permissible for women to lead men in prayer.

Brother Daniel I. Montenegro: Where is the statement of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) of his view on allowing women to lead prayers under special circumstances?.  If my memory is not failing me, Imam ibn Qudamah (r.a.), a great source of authority for the Hanbalis, in his opus, al-Mughni, mentioned about a small segment of Hanbali scholars who allowed this but Imam ibn Qudamah (r.a.) held the view as wrong.  Therefore, for the overwhelming majority of the Hanbalis, it is not permissible.  I say Hanbalis because Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) was a Hanbali in fiqh.

Brother Will Coley: Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) mentioned it in his Majmu’ al-Fatawa: “Imam Ahmad allowed a woman to lead men in the swalah when there is a necessity, such as in when the men do not know Qur’an and she is the only one knows it, so she leads them in the tarawih.  Similar to how the Prophet (s.a.w.) allowed Umm Waraqah (r.a.) to lead the men of her household, assigned someone to call for adzan.  She, however, stands behind them even if she leads them due to a necessity.”

Brother Daniel I. Montenegro: This hadits, as explained by Imam ibn Qudamah (r.a.) himself, is not a green light but an specific order to Umm Waraqah (r.a.) to lead prayers for her household only.  This is where Imam ibn Qudamah (r.a.) disagreed with the minority who hold this view.

Brother Will Coley: It is a good thing disagreements are allowed.  I see the mixed-prayer movement as just another sect.  There are dispensations made available for special circumstances by some scholars, and they even go so far as to ignore those, and make something new of their own.  I see the dispensations from the fatawa of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) to be rational, logical, and common sense, for their specific situations.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Some of our fuqaha’ have taken it to mean that in specific conditions, women may lead swalah.  Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) was not the first to make that fatwa.  Whether one chooses if it is permissible or not, both opinions are legitimate.

Brother Daniel I. Montenegro: Here is my opinion on the matter.  Out of all the constellation of scholars that the Hanabilah have besides the controversial Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), it kind of baffles me why they stick to the opinion of his.  I am not knocking Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) as a legitimate faqih, although many fuqaha’ do not even use him as a hujjat in any of their masa'il, but to use him as proof of the matter when the heavy weights of the Hanabilah ‘ulama have disposed their research and hikmah into this matter and others is beyond me.  But I understand, opinions at a laymen level, are plenty and for sure we can go back and forth on this and many other issues.

Sister Shahla Khan Salter: Female led prayers took place during the time of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and then it was removed from Islam.  Both Umm Salamah (r.a.) and ‘Aishah (r.a.) led men and women in prayer together and there was no gender segregation.  Umm Waraqah (r.a.) was appointed as imam by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  There would likely be far less misogyny in Islam if women could lead prayers everywhere and give the khuthbah and provide a feminist interpretation of Islam.  Keeping up innovations and traditions in the name of unity is shirk.

Sister Samra Hussain: If women bending over to make sujud in front of men is improper in mosques and jama’at prayers, then how come so many women could be in the front rows and even next to men at the Ka’bah which is in the holiest of all the mosques in Islam?  I went for hajj a few years ago, and there were so many times I prayed, squished next to strangers who were men and also there were men behind me and nobody did anything improper.

Sister Sheyha Sulong: Is there anywhere that says women are not suppose to lead prayers in front of men?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: There seems to be a lot of confusion here.  There are scholars who state that women leading men in swalah is permissible.  And we have the dalil for that in the hadits of Umm Waraqah (r.a.) being ordered by the Prophet (s.a.w.) to do so.  Scholars who have said it permissible include the following: Imam at-Tabari (r.a.), Imam ibn Hazm (r.a.), Shaykh Muhyi ad-Din ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.), Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) and Shaykh Khaled Abou El Fadl.  There are many more scholars besides.  The majority of scholars have deemed otherwise in most cases.  However, both positions are legitimate.  It is not proper for someone to say then, that just because they agree with one position, that the other is automatically wrong.  That is the problem with many Muslims.  They argue incessantly over things because everybody must follow every single thing according to one way.

On a secondary level, even the scholars who have said that it is not permissible in general, have issued fatawa stating that it becomes permissible in certain conditions.  And therein is where the disagreement lies.  For example, if the man is an adult and he does not know how to pray, can the women lead him in swalah?  If the household consists of adult women and young children, can the mother lead her son?  What if the man is a convert and does not yet know how to recite Surah al-Fatihah and his wife is an ustadzah; can she lead him in swalah?  In such conditions, the majority opinion is not so clear.  Now, what if we have a situation where the men know how to pray and they are adults, but the woman is noted for her superior piety and knowledge.  Can she lead the men?  In such cases, some cite the case of Umm Waraqah (r.a.) above.  Others state that it only applies to the examples I gave before that.

After this, comes the question of the forms of swalah.  Do the women lead the men from the front or the back.  The majority opinion is that it is from the front, citing the case at the Ka’bah.  The idea that the men would be beguiled does not actually enter the equation since that is an issue of taswawwuf and tazkiyyah an-nafs, not fiqh.  Here, as in many cases, we have people jumping into the situation without considering the conditions, the nature and time and the place.  No question is fiqh is an automatic yes or no.

Sister Ilse-Aisha Terblanche Van Tonder: Yes, they can.  This should not even be a question raised.  Just read through the responses now and actually see some are “No” - why?  If a woman is good enough to teach a child to make swalah and if there are men in the crowd who are new converts, should one of them then lead the swalah, even when he does not know how?  Of course a woman can lead swalah.  The law is the one that is most qualified should lead, not always the man present at the moment.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Islam is not according to what “makes sense” to any particular individual.

Sister Ilse-Aisha Terblanche Van Tonder: No, Islam is practical.  So let me rephrase.  It is not practical to say that a woman cannot lead swalah period, because there is practical applications where it not only can but should be done.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Islam is also not about what we think is practical.  For instance, some today say that it is not practical to avoid riba’.  While practicality is considered, it does not drive religious rulings.  Instead, Islamic behaviour including who should lead in prayers is to be based upon the scriptures and the guidance provided by the ‘alim in their learned study of the scriptures.  It is not for any Tom, Dick, Harry or Jane to decide based on what he or she thinks ‘makes sense’ or is ‘practical’.

Sister Ilse-Aisha Terblanche Van Tonder: That is a contradictory statement. And Brother Abd' Al-Halim, my name is not Tom or Dick or Harry, and this is not a personal attack, this is discussing an issue on which there is obviously a dispute.  So let me get this straight, according to Islamic ruling, for arguments sake,  I should rather tell my convert son to not make swalah with us, my daughters and I, until he can actually lead us, should just tell him to go make it somewhere else, imagine how rejected he would feel about that, or stand in front of us, when I know full well he is not someone I can follow - because he does not have the knowledge yet?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In such a condition, sister, it is permissible for you to lead the swalah since he is not able to.  Please refer to the rulings given above.

Brother Richard Ronco: This thread is getting very granular. It is probably not such a good idea get into the minutiae of the subject because it is not going anywhere productive.

Sister Ilse-Aisha Terblanche Van Tonder: Thank you, Brother Terence.  I actually missed that part.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: What is the contradiction, Sister  IIse?  As I said, matters of practicality are to be considered but the rulings of who is to lead swalah is not to be based upon “practicality” as one sees it sans scriptural basis.  In the case that you mentioned, it is still possible for your convert son to learn swalah properly before taking the imam role.  In the meantime, he does not need to follow a woman imam.  He can pray on his own while he learns to improve in his swalah or pray in congregation at the mosque.  The opinion that allows women to lead men in swalah is obscure and definitely not according to the jumhur of the ‘ulama.  I wonder why women are so keen to lead men in prayers.

Sister Ilse-Aisha Terblanche Van Tonder: We do not live in an area where there are other Muslims or a masjid close by.  I am definitively not one to want to lead in prayers - so I really cannot answer that question for you.  But was taught that it was permissible to do it, because it was family and done at home, until the point where he can actually lead.  I was also taught that he does not have to stand right in front, even if his heels is a centimeter or two before my heel; basically he is then still standing next to me, but because of the heel placement, it still counts as him standing in front.  Can you please advise if this is correct or not?

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: My position is a plead for you to understand the arkan and shuruth of swalah.  Learn that first.  Find a person who is knowledgeable in your area.  Failing that, read a good book on swalah and other fundamentals of ‘ibadah.  There is a good translation of Imam an-Nawawi’s Maqasid that details the arkan and shuruth of swalah and other such guidance.  In fact, it tells you of the arkan of Islam and iman which is indispensable for any convert to Islam.  Ask a question based on the book, not read a blog and then think based on your notions of what ‘makes sense’ and your notions of ‘practicality’.  Have some scriptural basis so that you can reduce conjectures, zann.  As I already said, in the case you mentioned, there is no need for your son to pray behind a woman if he is a new convert.  You can teach him how to pray and even supervise him but there is no need for him to pray jama’ah if there is no man to lead him until such time that he is able to lead others.

This is the book I spoke of.  Please get it.  Though it is Shafi’i, but these are fundamentals that are common with all madzahib: al-Maqaswid: Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Manual of Islam.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The opinion given in the original post, by the way, is from Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah, in case people are concerned about its authenticity.  He kindly summarised the position of our ‘ulama.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: That is true, brother, but it is still far from the jumhur of the ‘ulama.  The established position that is agreed upon is that women do not lead prayers of adult men.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Ustadz Abd' Al-Halim, you are correct that it is not a jumhur.  However, that does not mean that the opinions of our other scholars and those who choose to follow them are wrong.  For example, many of the scholars in the West, Europe and North America follow the position that it is permissible because Muslims, particularly converts, live in an environment that there are not enough men who are capable of leading the swalah.  They invoke the principles of fiqh al-aqaliyyat and al-awlawiyyat, until such time that there is a man who can be the imam.  It is a valid Maliki position.  The discussion amongst our scholars, even in Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Maqaswid, is not that women categorically cannot lead swalah, but established the conditions that make it necessary.  As you are well aware, we have to go by the principles, and apply them to the situation.  It is on this basis we have these discussions, to educate the people.

One of my concerns of the teachings of fiqh and ‘aqidah in Singapore, is that it is too ethnocentric and too madzhab specific such that when we are on a forum, where we have people from many different madzahib and parts of the world, our young asatidzah are very sure about many things, but they are wrong.

Sister Sheyha Sulong: There is no right or wrong, I suppose?  It depends on circumstances and situations.  However, men being the head of a family should be able to learn to lead prayers, convert or non-convert.  At Makkah and Madina, with the large crowd, the issue of who is behind or in front is not pertinent at all because the imam leading the prayer is a man.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: I did not say that one is wrong and the other right.  But it is important in this confusing times when people have strong tendency for fatwa shopping that we adhere to the ijtihad of the jumhur of the ‘ulama as is also mentioned in a famous hadits about as-sawad al-a’azham which I am sure you are familiar with, Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Insha’Allah, I have faith in the people here.  If they are fatwa shopping, we can advise them accordingly.

Sister Samra Hussain: I just do not get why this has to be so complicated.  It is one of those topics that gets me upset because men are the default standard and women are given complex rulings and scenarios under which they may lead.  I just hope my daughter wants to stay Muslim as an adult.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Apparently for some people, the ijtihad of the jumhur of the ‘ulama is nothing.  Apparently, for some people, the arkan and shuruth of swalah are nothing.  Apparently, they would also challenge the historical fact that only men are among the anbiya’ because the feminist agenda has so deformed their sense of place in Islam that the fact that only men occupy such positions is to them a travesty that needs changing.  The fact that Allah (s.w.t.) has Sent only men as anbiya’ would be interpreted as men insisting that only men are to lead over women.

Brother Richard Ronco: Well stated, Brother Abd' Al-Halim.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Actually, some of our scholars of the Ash’ari madzhab of ‘aqidah are of the opinion that it is possible that there were female prophets.  Some of our scholars believed Maryam (a.s.) was possibly one of them.  I would be careful of making blanket statements without checking our books.  Islam is very wide. And there are a multitude of fatawa depending on the circumstances.  Even the issue of women leading swalah is dependent on circumstance.

Before we use jumhur and ijma’ to impose a position, it is important to understand that there are several categories of ijma’.  And they change with time.  It used to be the jumhur that blood transfusion and organ transplant is haram.  The only binding ijma’ upon the entire ummah is the ijma’ of the swahabah.  And that became the basis of Maliki fiqh, after the Qur'an.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: It is quite clear that Maryam (a.s.) is not a prophet.  Again, this require us to study properly what qualifies a man to be a prophet.  And also there is a difference between nabi and rasul.  Again, follow the ijma’ of the jumhur of the ‘ulama and you will not be caught up with such speculations which are in the final analysis not beneficial to an overwhelming majority of Muslims newly convert or not.

Brother Munawar Khan: I would love all if not most of you to refer to the link here about what is in question: Women Praying.  I hope it will answer all, if not most of your questions mentioned here and even more.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Again, Ustadz Abd' Al-Halim, I will disagree with you on that.  It is not as clear cut as that.  There are scholars who believe otherwise: A Muslim Convert Once More: The Possibility of Female Prophets.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Of course there are some scholars who think otherwise but the fact is there is not a single explicit or implicit reference to any of the women mentioned in the Qur’an or ahadits that shows that they are referred to as nabi or rasul in the appropriate female gender marker.  The women of the highest stature mentioned in the Qur’an are Maryam (a.s.), mother of ‘Isa (a.s.), and Asiyah (r.a.), wife of Fir’awn; and neither of them were addressed as nabi or rasul by anyone including Jibril (a.s.).  And furthermore, neither of them have ever claimed to be any sort of messenger of Allah (s.w.t.), Sent to anyone.  One necessary but not sufficient condition for a prophet in Islam is that he will proclaim to his ummah that he is Sent by Allah (s.w.t.), just as all the prophets of Islam did.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: My point is that there are a variety of opinions amongst many of our great scholars.

Sister Sabine: Brother Abd' al Halim, the Qur’an Mentions that there were many prophets whose names are not being mentioned.  So obviously, we cannot know their gender either.  Thus, it does not make sense to claim that all prophets have been male.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Sister Sabine, your reasoning is flawed.  Just because not all the names of the prophets are mentioned they cannot all be males?

Sister Samra Hussain: How do we know all the 124,000 prophets ever Sent to mankind were all men?  The ones Mentioned in the Qur’an are all men because the societies they were sent to were patriarchal, so it would not make sense to have many women prophets.  I personally do not think it matters whether there were any female prophets or not because prophets had very serious work to do and so Allah (s.w.t.) Sent whomever based on His Wisdom.  But, I feel like men being prophets has to do more with the cultures and social organisation of societies rather than something inherent within men or women.

And can we please stop trying to brush all attempts at equality as a feminist agenda?  Maybe some of the men should live as women for a few days and see how it feels to be trampled on and considered less important.  It is the exact same thing as when some white people refuse to acknowledge white privilege and they think that colored people are just trying to mess up things and cause trouble.

Brother Colin Turner: There are female prophets mentioned in the Old Testament.  There is nothing to preclude a woman being a prophet.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: It is amusing to think that equality is about having female prophets.  That is sameness, not justice nor equality from the Islamic perspective.  The Old Testament is not the Qur’an.  There are many, many things mentioned in the Old Testament that are rejected in the Qur’an.

Brother Colin Turner: It has nothing to do with equality.  It is a statement of fact, that is all.  Female prophets appeared in the Bible and there is neither scriptural nor rational evidence to preclude the existence of female prophets in Islam.  And the fact that female prophets are not mentioned in the Qur’an has no bearing on the matter.

Brother Mustafa Howard: The Old Testament is not a reliable source.  The Qur’an uses the words anbiya’ and mursalin, both of which are masculine.  How could a woman be a prophet while having premenstrual syndrome?  How could she be off the job for 5-7 days every month, unable to receive Revelation, nor convey it, nor enter a mosque, nor pray, nor fast?  How could a woman lead an army of men into battle?  Muslims need to learn their Diyn, accept it, be very satisfied with it, and stop succumbing to media-hype and political pressure of the non-believers.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: This thread is about whether females can be imam of males in prayers and developed into whether there are female prophets in Islam.  This has nothing to do with the fact that in the Old Testament female prophets are mentioned.  The Qur’an does not mention any female prophets at all and the Qur’an is al-Furqan, not the Old Testament.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Ustadz Abd' Al-Halim, the Ash’ari and Maturidi scholars still debate it.  It is a possibility, and Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.  Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.), amongst several others, certainly believed it.  As such, anyone who believes it is not in a state of sin, and anyone who chooses not to, is not wrong as well.  Many Muslim institutions teach the cultural perspective that all our scholars were in agreement about this, and that is intellectually dishonest; just as they teach a lot of things as if that was the only opinion amongst our scholars.  There were a multitude of opinions, and as part of a comprehensive education, people should be aware of this.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I have already responded to what you have said.  Let some, actually very few, of the ‘ulama debate it.  However, the ijma’ of the jumhur of the ‘ulama is clear on the issue.  That there are a few who suggest the possibility of a thing, does not in any way undermine the virtually unanimous stand of the as-sawad al-a’azham.  Do not fall into the trap of reducing every gender difference into a culture thing.  It seems that if some people have their way, menstruation would also be a cultural phenomena.

Brother Colin Turner: Again, there is neither naqli nor ‘aqli evidence to preclude the possibility of female prophets.  The citing of premenstrual syndrome as a possible reason militating against female prophethood is, frankly, laughable.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: The citing of the Old Testament as justifying the existence of prophets in Islam is plainly wrong, not to mention, in the final analysis, irrelevant.

Brother Colin Turner: As a Muslim do you not believe in the Old Testament?  What part of the Old Testament discourse on female prophecy is irrational or scripturally unacceptable?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Like I mentioned before, and we both studied fiqh and ‘aqidah, based solely on the principles, that the only jumhur that is binding upon the ummah is the ijma’ of the swahabah.  On the basis of ijma’, there are several categories.  There is ijma’ within makan, within zaman, within madzhab and several categories in between.  When people say ijma’ then, which ijma’ specifically are they referring to?

Also, ijma’ is a tool used to derive ahkam, specifically for the mu’amalat in regards their relationship with Creation, and as a guideline with their relationship with the Creator.  It does not make a ruling cast in iron.  Within the books of ‘aqidah, since this falls under that subject, there are major points of ‘aqidah, such that disbelief of them constitute kufr.  They all pertain to the Nature of Allah (s.w.t.) and the status of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  This is not one of them.  Therefore, we cannot impose a ruling upon others that is not pertinent to their iman, or even a point of mu’amalat.  That is the problem we have with this ummah.  Unlike the generations previous, the Muslims are afraid to consider any new possibilities and are quick to dismiss the opinions of the scholars of the past they do not agree with, but they cite the scholars they like.

In regards the opinions above, I cited three recognised mujtahidun of our tradition, and one of them is a major Maliki opinion with a precedent.  We have to be fair and intellectually honest.  Saying something is jumhur does not actually have any meaning unless that jumhur has a context and a scope.  There was a jumhur, as I mentioned previously, that blood transfusion was haram.  There was a jumhur on many things and the positions evolved.  The uswul is the same, but furu’ changes.  Dr. Colin Turner is a professor of this subject, and I normally defer to him on issues of ‘aqidah and kalam.

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Masha’Allah!  Since when is the Old Testament the reference point in deciding what is acceptable and what is not in Islam?  That is the question.  No need to go into any analysis of what are and are not acceptable from the Old Testament from the Islamic perspective.

Ijma’ of the jumhur of the ‘ulama is not an imposition of a ruling.  It is the most grounded and safest position to take for a Muslim considering an issue in contention.  It is the sunnah to adhere to the as-Sawad al-A’azham.  Leave the ijma’ of the jumhur of ulama and you will very likely fall into needless speculations.  If anyone wants to do that in the name of being aware that there are differing opinions, tafadhdhal.  I think I have said what I needed to say here on this issue.

Brother Colin Turner: You still have not answered the question, where is the definitive scriptural and rational evidence which precludes female prophethood?  Do you really imagine that giants such as Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi (q.s.) would accept the possibility of female prophethood if there had been as much as a shred of evidence to militate against it?  SubhanAllah!

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.), in his famous commentary, explained that in principle there is nothing against sending female prophets, similar to sending male prophets.  He based his opinion on numerous verses in the Qur’an that mentioned wahy, Revelations, Sent to women, similar to the same word wahy that was used with Revelations Sent to men.  Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) cited the following verses from Surah Maryam to support his opinion:

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.  She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We Sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.  She said, “I seek Refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.”  He said, “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.” (Surah Maryam:16-19)

Imam as-Suyuthi (q.s.), an authority in the sciences of the Qur’an, in his al-Aswbah wa an-Nazha’ir; Imam al-Kamal ibn al-Humam (r.a.), a principal Hanafi scholar, whose opinion is mentioned in Husn al-Uswah by Ustadz Muhammad Swiddiq Khan (r.a.); and Imam al-Mubarakafuri (r.a.), in his Tuhfat al-Ahwadzi bi Sharh Jami` at-Tirmidzi, who actually cited the same verses from Surah al-Anbiya’; all agree on the possibility of female prophets.

Therefore, saying there is a “consensus” that in Islam women cannot be prophets is a lie.  And the claim that there could be no “perfect” woman, that is human perfection, is contrary to the general Islamic principles of equality between men and women, as well as the authentic hadits, in which the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Kamula minna an-nisa’i,” “Made perfect amongst women were: Maryam, Asiyah, Khadijah, and Fathimah.”

This hadits was one of the principle evidences that Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) and others used to support their opinion regarding female prophets.  The general misperception that no single woman, however excellent she might be, could be equivalent to men in carrying major responsibilities and leading people in the way of good deeds must be corrected.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

And Allah sets forth, as an example to those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh: Behold, she said: “O my Lord!  Build for me, in Nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and Save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and Save me from those that do wrong”; And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into her (body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). (Surah at-Tahrim:11-12)

There are differences between women and men in the shari’ah, but these differences are not in principal rights and obligations.  They are due to the distribution of responsibilities in the family according to men’s and women’s natural roles, and biological differences.  However, these rulings should never be interpreted to imply that Islam enforces a natural inferiority of women or that no single woman could be a capable leader and guide, especially if Allah (s.w.t.) Names a whole chapter in the Qur’an after her and sets her as an example to all believers, men and women.

We can add these to the names of the other scholars I mentioned above in the thread.  There are quite a large number of names, but I only cited a few.  If that be the case, where is this mythical jumhur?

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: Please, Brother Colin, I do not want to debate with you.  It is quite clear your sense of logic has failed.  You are asking me to prove the negative when in fact it is you should prove the positive.  Where is the unequivocal and demonstrative proof that Islam admits women as nabi or rasul?  Where in the Qur’an or even ahadits that clearly and explicitly mentions a nabi or rasul who is a female Sent to her kawm?  If there are no explicit answers to these questions, then it is a waste of time.  Please, no more jiddal!  And leave the hypothesising of the ‘ulama alone.  That is not the playing field of the awwam.

Brother Colin Turner: The point is not to prove unequivocally that Islam supports the notion of female prophets; the point us that there is no scriptural or intellectual basis for rejection.  The Qur’an is silent on many matters; there is nothing to suggest that this is not one of them.  However, if you are looking for indications, Brother Terence has provided them in spades.  There are many indications that tell us female prophethood is possible, yet none which would argue against it.  Surely that is telling, no?

Brother Adam Kelwick: Now let us spice things up.  According to the opinions which allow a woman to be the imam for prayer, would they also allow hermaphrodites to lead?  Which direction would one face if praying behind a hermaphrodite on the moon?  And is tayammum from moon dust valid?  And how would we pray five times per day when the days on the moon are very different, behind a hermaphrodite of course?

Brother Abd' Al-Halim: What is telling is your reference to the Old Testament to “prove” your stand.  And what is even more telling is that you cannot answer my direct questions requiring direct answers.  Those are not trick questions.  “Indications” borne out of hypothesising even by the ‘ulama are not by any stretch of the imagination, proofs.

Sister Rebecca Rhouni: Brother Terence, since there are two topics here, can you clarify if you are saying there is a major Maliki opinion for female prophets or is it for women-lead prayers and which scholar are you referring to?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: That was asked of ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.), Ustadz Kelwick, although I cannot remember the kitab.

Brother Adam Kelwick: Masha’Allah!  I am just kidding.  This has been a very interesting and important discussion.  In short, we have a wealth of knowledge on Islam which the inheritors of the prophets, the scholars of this ummah have done a huge service for us.  One cannot deal with issues like those discussed in the thread without giving this scholarly tradition, through which all of our Islam has been preserved until today, it is fair due.  It is nice to see that people have their opinions, but in matters like these my opinion is worthless, in religious science, unless it is based on the opinions from the scholarly tradition, well worthless to anybody else except me that is.

What I find beautiful about Islam is that you will find so many different qualified opinions on a subject, whether there is a possibility of female prophets, women leading swalah, and so forth.  This, however, can shake a person who is not well versed in the basics of Islamic jurisprudence or the other sciences because they tend to believe there is only one right way to do things.  The more one learns, the more they discover that Islam is an ocean full of scholarly debates, discussions and opinions about many different things.

What is important though is that we are equipped to recognise a qualified opinion, then we accept and respect it is weight, even if it is not in line with the ijma', consensus, of the scholars and even if we do not agree or choose to follow it.  However, preferring those opinions of ijma’ or the mu’tamad positions within the madzahib is often the most stable route to follow, but this never means that other valid opinions are necessarily wrong.  Just make sure they are ‘valid’.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: This reminds me of Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi (q.s.) when he said that the Mu’tazila and Ash’ari are both correct from the direction each is coming from.  The Mu'tazilites attributed the actions of people to themselves, stressing free choice and using Qur’anic ayat that supported this view, while the Ash’arites held the view that ultimately, all acts Belong to Allah (s.w.t.) using ayat that supported their view.  Of course, this is just a comparison, so please let us not devolve into a discussion of who is right between the two.

In this case, Brother Abd' Al-Halim is correct in asserting that no “unequivocal and demonstrative proof in Islam admits women as nabi or rasul,” and Brother Colin is also correct in asserting that “there is no scriptural or intellectual basis for rejection.  The Qur’an is silent on many matters; there is nothing to suggest that this is not one of them.”  Brother Terence has masterfully stated evidence which seems to support Brother Colin’s opinion by relating the comments of certain great Islamic scholars.  So, it seems obvious that the jumhur support the view of Brother Abd' Al-Halim, and minority view supports Brother Colin.

Though the Old and New Testaments, Tawrah, Zabur and Injil, are admitted as sources of Divine Knowledge by the Qur’an for the people to whom they were Sent, and there are instances of Islamic scholars referring to these scriptures, I think we can agree that the Qur’an abrogates those scriptures.  In the Old Testament, seven women are supposedly designated by Talmudic explanation as prophetesses, nabiyyah in Hebrew, in the Tawrah: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther, but the rest where men, 48 or so, and there is no mention of a woman messenger, rasul.  To my knowledge, the term “rasul” is not used to apply to a human being at all in the Bible.  Sometimes the word for angel, “malak”, is translated as “messenger”.

It seems as though, in light of the Qur’an’s lack of support for women prophetesses and the jumhur opinion, that perhaps the Biblical view of nabiyyah is more in line with the predominant Islamic view of the great women of Islam such as Asiyah (r.a.), Maryam (a.s.), Khadijah (r.a.) and Fathimah (r.a.) as well as the possible addition of some of the great women awliya’ such as Shaykha Rabi’ah al-‘Adawiyyah (q.s.) as highly developed spiritual beings who called to Allah (s.w.t.) in their words and actions but not anbiya’ as understood in Islam and certainly not mursalin.  I have enjoyed the discussion and my thanks to all.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Rebecca Rhouni, I believe Brother Hajj Ahmad’s summary is adequate regarding the issue of female prophets.  Please refer some of the other points raised by our ‘ulama in my comment above just above yours.

On the issue of swalah with women as a’immah, the fiqh position has been summarised by me near the beginning of the thread.

Brother Isa Husayn: Although the Ash’aris do not, and they are the majority, the Maturidis believe in the possibility of prophetesses.  Other than them, Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam ibn Hazm (r.a.) both considered Maryam (a.s.) to have been a prophetess.  As for females leading men in swalah, then the vast majority, and dare I say a later consensus, is that it is invalid.  While we believe the mujtahidun who held it valid will be excused, and insha’Allah, Rewarded, they are not considered valid fatawa to act upon, by agreement.  Fiqh is not a supermarket.

Sister Rebecca Rhouni: Thank you, Brother Terence.  That is all clear

Sister Sabine: Brother Abd' Al-Halim, regarding your statement, “Sabine, your reasoning is flawed.  Just because not all the names of the prophets are mentioned, they cannot all be males?” I did not say they could not.  Surely this is a possibility.  But you cannot rule out that there were female ones as well.

Brother Howard, regarding your statement, “How could a woman be a prophet while having premenstrual syndrome?”; that is a strange argument.  Not all women suffer from premenstrual syndrome.  Besides, men suffer from a number of ailments and hormonally influenced mood swings as well.

Regarding the statements, “How could she be off the job for 5-7 days every month, unable to receive Revelation, nor convey it, nor enter a mosque, nor pray, nor fast?  How could a woman lead an army of men into battle ?” a number of male prophets were older when they received Revelation.  So a post-menopausal woman would have no issue with menstruating.  Some women do not menstruate at all, so if God had considered this an issue surely He would have found a solution, do you not think?  Besides, why would a woman not be able to receive Revelation while menstruating?  Women have led armies of men into battle.

I find it illogical and offensive when women’s biology is being used to support the argument that they cannot be prophets, leaders, or fulfill certain tasks.

Brother Colin Turner: Brother Abd' Al-Halim, again, it has to be reiterated here that this is not about finding overt statements or unequivocal “proofs” in favour of female prophets.  There have been 124,000 prophets, and the point is that since there is absolutely no evidence that Islam discounts them.

Brother Hossein Turner: If God wanted to make a female a prophet or a saint, then the temporary issue of biology is not going to somehow stand in God’s Way.

Sister Sabine Es: Biology has been used for ages in order to prevent women from all sorts of activities.  It is so transparent and ridiculous.

Brother Robert Saunders: Sometimes I wonder whether ‘Islam; as a religion that grew out of prophesy and then banned it represents a backward step in the history of religions.  Compare the liberatory experience of the Spirit that early Christians enjoyed where gender is no issue at all:

Acts 2:17-18
17 In the last times, God Says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters will be prophets.  Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 and I will Pour Out My Spirit in those days upon my servants and hand-maids, so that they will prophesy.”


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