Women Seek Diverse Paths to Leadership in Islamic Spaces

CAIRO — 

Shortly after Kholoud al-Faqeeh was appointed judge in an Islamic religious court in the Palestinian territories, a woman walked in, laid eyes on her and turned around and walked out, murmuring that she didn’t want a woman to rule in her case.

Al-Faqeeh was saddened, but not surprised — people have long been accustomed to seeing turbaned men in her place. It was only in 2009 that she became one of the first two women appointed in the West Bank as Islamic religious court judges. But she sees her presence on the court as all the more important since it rules on personal status matters ranging from divorce and alimony to custody and inheritance.

“What was even more provoking is that these religious courts are in charge of women’s cases,” al-Faqeeh said. “A woman’s whole life cycle is before these courts.”

FILE - Islamic court judge Kholoud al-Faqeeh poses for a portrait during a break at the court in Ramallah, West Bank, March 29, 2016.
FILE – Islamic court judge Kholoud al-Faqeeh poses for a portrait during a break at the court in Ramallah, West Bank, March 29, 2016.

Women like al-Faqeeh are increasingly carving out space for themselves in the Islamic sphere, and in doing so, paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps. Around the world, women are teaching in Islamic schools and universities, leading Quran study circles, preaching and otherwise providing religious guidance to the faithful.

This story is part of a series by The Associated Press and Religion News Service on women’s roles in male-led religions.

The formal ranks of Islamic leadership remain largely filled with men, but while women don’t lead mixed-gender congregational prayers in traditional Muslim settings, many say they see plenty of other paths to leadership.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOICE OF AMERICA

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