Out Of Context – Part 8

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Omar Suleiman

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Women’s Rights In The Quran – Omar Suleima

In Part 8 of the interview, Shaykh Omar takes questions from the audience. The Quran is very progressive with regards to women, says Sheikh Omar Suleiman.

Episode Transcript

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Hi, my name is Mike Bachman. And I mean, I'm a Methodist pastor, and I'm excited that we're able to share a little question and answer time with Imam Omar Suleiman. He's here to answer questions from some folks who have been part of our audiences, we've been having an extended conversation together. So I'll introduce them each and looking forward to hearing their questions. And their response to that Imam Omar has, well, we have Lynn Walters, here she lives in nearby Irving is right next to Dallas, which has also been a site where there's been a certain amount of controversy surrounding relationship between Muslims and the surrounding context, both in the school district with a case

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where a student showed up with a clock that he made, and he was Muslim, and people assumed that it was a bomb. And it's also the site where we've had some armed protests take place in front of the Islamic Center, and then counter protests of support for religious freedom. So I'm glad that we have someone from Irving here and interested to hear what questions you might have Lynn.

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I am also a student at bright Divinity School. Although I haven't decided yet if I want to be ordained or not, we can talk.

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So my question is about

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women in Islam. So I understand that the Quran is actually pretty progressive in terms of women. But it doesn't seem to translate sometimes into

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the way that the faith is lived out, at least from my Christian perspective. Sure. So if you could answer that, I appreciate it. That's a wonderful question. And so so obviously, Islam, introduced many rights to women that that were well ahead of its time. And so the right to vote, for example, the right to inherit. So the first actual religious scripture which which granted inheritance rights to women, was

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the right to marriage to choose who to marry the right to pursue divorce, all these things were granted, right. And actually, it's interestingly enough, Mohammed peace be upon them was looked at one of the accusations against him was that he was too feminists because he was pushing too many of these things forward. The rights of the mother, the rights of the wife, the rights of the daughter, all of these things were pushed

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in, you know, aggressively by the prophet peace be upon himself. Now, a lot of times what you just mentioned, is actually a complaint that many Muslim women might have, you know, where we don't want to hear about how Islam produced great women's scholars and, you know, put, however, many cracks in the ceiling. But we want to see that lived reality. There is no doubt that there are some cultures that are absolutely regressive. But I would argue that those regressive cultures are regressive because of their economic and political situations, not because of Islam. So for example, if you were to go to, you know, Southeast Asia, certain parts where women do have very oppressive laws

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towards them, rape laws that are just atrocious that have nothing to do with [???]ty our honor killings, and so on so forth, you'll find that the non Muslims in that area also do the same thing that the culture is the non Muslim cultures are not far off, not in dressed nor in laws nor in repression. So if you took, for example, Muslim women here in America, they're actually so the second highest earning class of women in America are Muslim women. So they're very progressive group. They're very well integrated. You have Muslim women lawyers, Muslim women, politicians. We just sent our first Muslim woman, Olympic athlete fencer, if the Hodge, Mohammed who I know

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personally going to, you know, her to their

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jihads is wearing a hijab, and she's going out there, and she's representing the country as well. So,

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you know, it depends on you, it depends how you define how you define progress as well. So if progress means the abandonment of the hijab, for example, and I know you don't mean that, but some people might see that as a, as a mark of progress. I actually would think that that has nothing to do with it, because most Muslim women proudly wear their hijab, had no one to force it on them, in fact, insisted upon it I as an Imam. More cases come to me of parents that are trying to convince their daughters that it's not safe for you to wear hijab, than parents that have forced hijab on their daughters. So they actually feel empowered by it. So it's, it's more a product of the culture,

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where they live, the economic circumstances, the political circumstances. We certainly as a Muslim community here in the United States, we have to deal at times with other cultures that have been integrated into our mosques and things of that sort, which is also a product of the city so Dallas, for example, the mosques are very progressive in the sense that they're very open.

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Very American, right. Muslim women have their place in the mosque and it's it's an you know, it's a very

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Empowering space in most mosques. But if you go to New York, for example, or you go to some other cities where ethnicities are divided, or they have pockets of different ethnicities, so if you go to an Albanian area, you have a mosque, that's Albanian, the sermons are in Albanian. And so the culture is Albanian, an Arab bosca Palestinian mosque and Egyptian mosque and Indian mosque in Pakistani mosque, Somali mosque, they're just all set apart. So I'd say we look towards our Muslim American women here, and what they've been able to achieve, and how they've been able to proudly integrate their faith into their into their career pursuits and into their lifestyles here is that

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if I can just follow that does that?

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You know, there are two sphere spheres that I'm curious if that falls into. So does that follow into, say the family life where I guess a mainstream American Muslim family? Is there a sense of the man is the head of the household?

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Or is there an intentional kind of equal balance in that? How does that play out? So So one thing to point out, and I think it's really important to make make this clear, and I don't think I've made it clear in the interview yet, or in the questions, the majority of American Muslims, the greatest ethnic population is actually African American. Okay, so the greatest population of Muslims in America are African Americans. So the dynamics are what would be simply African American culture, there's nothing that's really foreign about the way that the family functions and things of that sort. As far as the immigrant population is concerned, you have to consider whether it's first

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generation, second generation, third generation in some situations.

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And so, I would say that the it's very hard to say mainstream Muslim American family, because there's so much difference. Now, there's so much nuance within that. But I would say that the amount of people that have the restrictive family role and where women are not afforded their full rights, even islamically.

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That's, that's a minority within the community. That's not the case for most Muslim American homes.

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And so women do have a very empowered, they have a role in the household in Islam. That's not that's not a degrading role. It's not one that diminishes them.

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Are there other mosques in America? where a woman might take a role of spiritual leadership with a community? Or is that restricted within the tradition? So what I would say here is that in Islam, any man is not equivalent to a priest, or even to a rabbi in an orthodox, okay? There is really no religious hierarchy in Islam at all. The Imam is the person that leaves the prayers, okay.

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A woman can lead in Islam, other women in prayer, but because of the nature of the prayer, okay, the way that we pray, then a woman can't lead the prayer in Islam. For men and women, she can't lead a congregation mix of men and women. However, in Islam, a scholar, Island or alima, Hadid scholar, or someone that narrates her deeds, which are the traditions of the Prophet peace be upon him a fapy, which is a personal scholar jurisprudence, even in some schools of thought, adjudge, these are all positions that are far higher than the email, and Muslim women have occupied those higher positions than the Imam. So we have no issues, for example, of Muslim women lecturing.

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Many mosques have Muslim women that lecture men and women, for example, conferences and things of that sort.

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But the prayer leader, the Imam would not be a woman for men and women, a woman could be an Imam to other women, because of the nature of the prayer and things of that sort.

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So what about decision making at mosques for for those other positions that you described? Or though, you know, what the equivalent is like for churches, we have like usually boards of directors or something like that.

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So and women can serve on those boards, those meetings as exciting and as they are in churches. They are just as awful.

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You guys, I was hoping maybe you'd figure something out that you could

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there's that Batman saying that you know, you live long enough to see yourself become a board member.

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But no, we have boards of directors, some mosques do have women on the board of directors. I personally am a proponent of that there's nothing that there's absolutely nothing religiously that would restrict the woman from being in a decision making role in the mosque. So I think that some of the more cultural ones obviously will not have that. But it is something that is on the rise in the Muslim American community for sure.

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Thank you