While traditionally in Islam, Friday prayers and the attached sermons are lead by male Imams, America's first female-only mosque has begun female-only Friday prayers.
Friday prayer is usually a communal service reserved for men, while women tend to pray at home or pray in the female section of a mosque but now, in LA of all places, one interfaith centre is holding female-only Friday prayers for Muslim women. The downtown LA center, a former synagogue, is now home to the Women’s Mosque of America, which is the nation’s first female-only mosque. On Fridays, women gather at this mosque and conduct the Friday prayer, much in the same way men traditionally do, except it’s comprised entirely of females, which includes a woman both delivering the sermon, or khutbah, and leading the prayer.
Last Friday’s official gathering was led by Edina Lekovic, an activist with California's Muslim Public Affairs Council, who said "We have the right and responsibility to our faith."
Traditionally, Friday prayers not only have a man at the helm, but the women pray behind the men, and usually in a separate area entirely. But M. Hasna Maznavi, who founded the Women's Mosque of America organisation with Sana Muttalib, did so after she felt excluded from the regular services, saying "I want every woman to experience what it feels like to learn from a female religious authority in the mosque."
Though the idea of a female ‘khatibah’ is unconventional to say the least, Maznavi hopes that this will empower and encourage women to be actively involved in Muslim prayer and education.
Main image courtesy of Reuters.