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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 18 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Woman’s Voice at the Mosque



By Raheel Raza

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, Toronto and Montreal arrests of two Muslims charged with terror related activities, there’s been some hand wringing and questions about “what leads Muslim youth towards violence?”

Amidst an array of reasoning, one constant factor that has emerged is the possible influence of Salafist mosques and this is not a new idea. For years after 9/11, we were concerned about possible seditious messages coming from the pulpit, and I’ve heard a few myself.

While the sermon every Friday in the mosque may not outright ask Muslims to commit violent acts, I believe what’s not being said is the issue here.

Keeping in mind that one day soon we will be hearing women’s voices in the mosque giving a sermon if not every Friday, then at least once a month (one can always hope), I decided to be prepared and have written up a sample sermon Of course sermons should evolve with time but this is something along the lines I would have liked my kids to have heard as they were growing up in Canada.

“I begin in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Salaam Alaikum. Peace upon all those who gather here.

Let’s speak to the concept of compassion and mercy. If we want to ask God for compassion and mercy, then we must try and show the same compassion and mercy for all God’s creation, which includes people of all faith, the environment and animals.

We greet each other with the universal Muslim greeting of peace. Just saying “peace upon you” does not create peace. Peace is something we have to actively work towards and put into practice, because only when are at peace with ourselves, can we can spread peace towards others. Peace is also about justice so when we want justice for ourselves, we must be prepared to offer the same justice to others.

We live in a society where we meet people of diverse faiths, ethnicities and nationalities. This is a blessing and we have to learn to interact with respect and dignity. Remember when we offer our prayers five times a day, we send blessings upon the progeny of Abraham who are Jews and Christians. Today Christians are being persecuted in Muslim lands and anti-Semitism is on the rise. We must speak out when we see this happening.

Most of you are either born in Canada or have chosen to live in Canada. A wise man once said that your home is not the country you were born in, but the country you will die in. So whether you were born in Multan, Mangalore or Malaysia, when you become a citizen of Canada and death overtakes you in Montreal, wherever you come from you will die as a Canadian citizen.

Therefore my brothers and sisters this IS home – this is the country we have to build, to fight for, to live for and to bring about the change we want from within. 

There is a tradition in Islam where we are asked to follow the laws of the land in which we live. Thus it’s incumbent on us to follow the laws of this land which gives us our livelihood, a roof over our heads and our bread and butter.

This does not mean that you have to accept everything you see around you. In a liberal democracy there is the beauty of disagreeing and all of you have the right to disagree with your political leaders but there are ways of making this work. We have systems at our disposal through which we can address our discontent. Violence is never the solution to any problem and the Quran clearly advises us that killing one human is like killing all of humanity.

Most of all we must learn to use reason and logic and bring back the concept of Ijtehad – one of the noblest ideals in Islam which means that we have to be able to think freely and question the status quo without condemning anyone or passing judgement. In Al-Baqura (The Cow) 2:44, the Quran asks us

Do you bid other people to be pious, the while you forget your own selves -and yet you recite the divine writ? Will you not, then, use your reason?

The next sermon will be about women’s right based on the Quran, the Prophets Life and an example of Khadijah. For this we hope to see women as equal participants in the mosque.

Let us pray that God grants us the wisdom and knowledge to be good human beings, exceptional citizens, doers of good deeds and let us also pray that the Leafs win next time. Ameen!”

RaheelRaza is President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and lead the first mixed gender prayer in Canada. She hopes that was not the last.