Can a woman lead a religious community in Islam?

In some countries in Africa especially in Senegal, the debate has arisen since the third wife of a spiritual guide proclaimed herself the successor of her husband, triggering a succession dispute and a warning of the supreme authority of the Murid community.

The country has never had a female president, but Mame Madior Boye became the first female prime minister from March 2001 to November 2002. She has been emulated because Aminata Touré was appointed Prime Minister in 2013. A position she left in 2014. If politically women seem to break the glass ceiling, on the spiritual level things are not so simple.

What happened?

Sokhna Aida Diallo, the third wife of the Thiantacounes guide, who died on 7 May 2019 in Bordeaux, France, learned this at her own expense because many of her compatriots believe that a woman should not lead a religious community in accordance with Islamic orthodoxy and Koranic texts.

Her willingness to succeed her husband came up against the intransigence of the general Khalif of the Mourides, Serigne Mountakha Mbacké Bassirou.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the religious leader simply excommunicated Aida Diallo while denouncing “her actions” which, according to him, are contrary to Islam. On Wednesday evening, she apologized to the general Khalifa of the Mourides in a video.

Islamologist Khadim Mbacké argues that a woman has no right to lead a mixed group where there are women and men. “She must instruct her sisters in religion, but she cannot lead women and men. This is not possible, according to the teachings of Islam,” says the professor.

However, it stresses that “women have an indispensable role in Islam”. “Women have played a role in the genesis and development of religion like Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet, Oumou Salamata and Aïcha who helped their husband, the Prophet, to succeed in his mission,” says Professor Khadim Mbacké interviewed by Senegalese radio RFM.

According to him, women have to lead other women if they have the skills to do so.

The place of women in Islam

The journalist and writer, Serigne Mansour Sy Cissé, an expert on Islamic issues, says that “Islam gives women an important but supervised role in society. In a context marked by overflowing leadership and feminism, which sometimes transgresses permits and defended, some women think they can contest the spiritual heritage to men,” the journalist explains.

Under no circumstances can a woman lead a prayer in front of men, according to Imam Malick. In his view, a woman’s caliphate or imamate is not accepted by Islamic texts.

“However, it must be admitted that the Prophet Muhammad urged Muslims to get closer to his wife Aisha to learn half of their religion. This means that they can easily access Muslim theology and its branches through their dedication. Aisha has never been Caliph of the Umah, nor Imam of a mosque,” Cissé added.

“On the other hand, women are housed in the same way as men in terms of education, training, adoration towards God, and extraordinary professional life, like Khadija, who employed Seydina Mouhamed, before the Revelation, but strength is to recognize that alongside recommendations, there are prohibitions,” he says.

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