Amina Wadud : biography
Amina Wadud (born September 25, 1952) is an American scholar of Islam with a progressive focus on Qur’an exegesis (interpretation). 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’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. By Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi 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;[www.musawah.org/docs/pubs/wanted/Wanted-AW-EN.pdf Islam Beyond Patriarchy Through Gender Inclusive Qur’anic Analysis] 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.
Wadud has also openly advocated "pluralism" and "equality" as an endorsement of a LGBT lifestyle.
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 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. A small number of protestors gathered outside against the prayer.