What Did the Prophet Do? An Evaluation of the “Islamic Basis” on Female-Led Prayer

Ali Yaḥyá

A response to Nevin Reda’s article: “What Would the Prophet Do?” about Muslim women leading prayers. 
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Imām Mālik elucidated this principle in his famous dictum: Anyone who introduces an innovation into Islām, and believes that it is good, has claimed that Muḥammad betrayed the Message. For Allāh says, ‘This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and chosen for you Islām as your religion’ [Sūrah al-Māʾidah, 5:3]. So whatever was not from the religion on that day can never be from the religion today. Anyone, therefore, who attempts to introduce foreign ideas or practices into the religion – under the guise of “progressiveness,” “American Islām,” or otherwise – is implying either that Allāh’s revelation was insufficient or that the Messenger (ﷺ) did not convey His message….

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On March 18, 2005, for perhaps the first time in the history of Islām, a woman delivered a khuṭbah and led a mixed congregation in Jumuʿah prayers. Although this action was clearly at variance with Islamic teachings and the consensus of the Muslim Ummah, attempts have been made to legitimize it. The most notable of these is a piece by Nevin Reda, available on the Internet.

Sadly, Nevin Reda’s arguments have convinced a number of Muslims of the admissibility, or even desirability, of such prayers. This essay is a response to those arguments.

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Researched and Prepared by Ali Yaḥyá

Published: October 19, 2008
Edited: August 22, 2022


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