Europe has always been on the spot for what critics argue is islamophobia and anti-semiticism. In fact, cases of subtle or even aggressive approach to Muslims have attracted public outrage in the past. The story of the Muslims have always been a struggle to get equal treatment and respect of their religious practices wherever they are. An headline like Anti-Islam protesters march in Dresden, Germany are not anything new. In fact, incidents have been reported of schools insisting that Muslim girls desist from wearing their hijabs. So much is always at stake when it comes to Islam in Europe but then there is some great news that in 2015, a Women-led mosque opened in Denmark. That may seem a small thing to many but it really marked a great shift not only in women role in Islam but also opened up more space of the religion in Scandinavia.
Copenhagen opens its doors to the first Women-led mosque opened in Denmark.
Copenhagen, the Danish capital, is known for many things. Only this time, Copenhagen opened its doors to the first mosque in Scandinavia run fully by women. The Mariam Mosque is led by women imams and founded by feminist Sherin Khankan. Unfortunately, some members of the Islam community, have not welcomed this move, especially men.
Soft-spoken Sherin Khankan is not a new face in Denmark. She has made a name as an author and commentator. Her aim in starting the first female-led mosque was to do away with the narrative that women could not be imams. Surprisingly, countries like Canada, Germany, and the US have had Muslim women take center stage leading Mosques.
About Sherin Khankan
Together with other Islamic academics, Sherin Khankan founded Denmark’s first women-led Mosque. Located in Copenhagen, this mosque came into existence in 2016, spearheaded by Sherin Khankan born in 1974. She is the daughter of a Muslim Syrian father but her mother is a Finnish Christian. Sherin has believed in religion all her life and that is what made her go deeper on a spiritual path. She enrolled at the University of Copenhagen to study the science of religion and philosophy.
Typically, Sherin Khankan grew up in a Muslim environment. She however recognizes the fact that she is a product of two religions that is Muslim and Christian. Sherin aims at marrying these two worlds together. Regardless, she is a phenomenal woman who believes that women are the future of Islam.
Moreover, Sherin lets her hair hang over her shoulders. You will find her in a headscarf only in time of prayer. She is not your everyday Muslim woman who dresses to cover every part of her body. That she says is something Muslim women have been made to believe and stay loyal to.
There is a quote Sherin loves to use in most of her speeches which is “the perfect man is a woman.” She borrows this quote from a scholar by the name of Ibn Arabi whom she connected with during her studies. That quote has made Sherin who she is today for she believes it’s not about gender but about equality.
The Mariam Mosque
The Mariam Mosque introduces a contemporary spiritual approach to Islam. It is the first female mosque to open in Denmark. Everyone is welcome at this mosque whose mandate is to give an alternative to traditional Islam.
The main objective of the Mariam Mosque is to contest patriarchal structures presented in religious institutions. It is a fact that women have not dominated Islam. This is not only present in Islam but also in Judaism and Catholicism. However, in the Protestant faith, things are different. Not only are women ordained but they also lead.
So far, five weddings have happened at the mosque. It doesn’t end there for three more weddings are underway with some being inter-religious marriages. Traditional mosques do not welcome inter-religious marriages. The Mariam Mosque has conducted several divorces besides marriages. This is enough evidence to show that this woman-led mosque has turned a blind eye to the naysayers.
Interestingly, the Mariam Mosque has come up with a six-page marriage charter. It has four significant principles that it identified with. The principles include women having the right to divorce. After divorce women should have equal rights to children.
Moreover, the Mosque shall not recognize polygamy. Infliction of physical or psychological violence will lead to the annulment of a marriage. These principles are without a doubt different from the traditional Islam principles.
The future of woman-led mosques
The day the Mariam Mosque opened its doors, Sherin Khankan sang the call to prayer and presided over it. On the other hand, Saliha Marie Fetteh presented a sermon whose message was about Islam and women in the not traditional world. Since its inception, the mosque has received both support and criticism as expected. This has mostly been done by conservative members of the Muslim community.
Imam Waseem Hussein, the head of Copenhagen’s leading mosques has not welcomed this move. He wondered whether there should also be a need to start a mosque only for men. That has not made Sherin relent in her quest of allowing women to come to the mosque on Fridays to pray. This was not the case because traditionally, Friday prayers are meant for men only. Women only pray at home with some mosques creating limited accessibility to women’s sections.
China had the world’s women’s mosque established in 1820. South Africa also began a woman-led mosque in 1995. In 2008, Muslim feminist scholar Amina Wadud led prayers in Oxford.
Furthermore, in Los Angeles, the Women’s Mosque of America recently opened doors to worshipers. Many years ago, the wife of Prophet Aisha was at the forefront of leading women in prayer. That has been the inspiration factor for the Islamic feminism movement to create a new Islamic community that embraces women Imams.