Outcry in Bahrain over Female Muezzins
Wednesday 04 November 2009
By Salman Dossari
Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat- Bahrain was shocked to learn last week that Bahraini female citizens were now working as "muezzin" [person who calls for prayers].
This was revealed by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, through official documents, to the effect that there are three female muezzins who are working in two different mosques in Bahrain. This has led a deputy in Bahrain's Parliament to threaten to question the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, because he considers a woman working as a muezzin "a reprehensible innovation [bidah] that no Muslim has ever dared introduce before; so, how come that this is allowed to happen here in Bahrain by the ministry?"
In this respect, responding to a question asked in Parliament by the Salafi Deputy Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid Bin-Ali Al Khalifa, revealed the names of three women working as muezzins in mosques belonging to the Jafariyah [Twelvers; Shiite group] Religious Endowment Administration.
According to the minister's response, the first female "muezzin" is Mariam Hasan Ali. She works at the Sheikh Muhammad Mumin Mosque, which is one of the large mosques of the capital, Manama. The other two "muezzin" are Fawziyah Ali Hasan Rustum and Salwa Ahmad Sultan. They work at the Sheikh Darwish Mosque, in the area of Al-Diyah, near Al-Badi district, also in the capital Manama.
Contacted by Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, who is a Salafi independent deputy in Parliament, said that he is surprised by the permission given by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs "to subvert the Islamic religion and its tenets by appointing women to the post of "Muezzin." He considered that the admission by the ministry that female muezzin are part of its official staff is "a shame on all of us in Bahrain."
Sheikh al-Saidi emphasized that "the issue has only one of two explanations: either the appointment to this job, which happens for the first time in the Arab and Islamic world, is merely formal and not genuine, or they were appointed as muezzin officially but without having to do this job, or they are indeed working as muezzin, and then this is a disaster, with the situation reaching such a level of laxity toward religion."
Al-Saidi stated that he is awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs concerning the real function of the three women.
Calls by Asharq Al-Awsat to Jafariyah Religious Endowments Council in Bahrain were not immediately returned. As for Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, he has asked the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs to dismiss the female muezzins working in the two mosques in question. He stressed that a woman working as a muezzin is "a reprehensible innovation that no Muslim has ever dared introduce in the past." He pointed out that a woman working as muezzin is not permissible, "dangerous, and badly affects the reputation of Bahrainis in Islamic circles."
Al-Saidi threatened the minister of justice and Islamic affairs that he would question him in Parliament "if no rapid, immediate action is taken to correct this matter." He added that he was surprised by the answer given by the minister of justice and Islamic affairs to a question he had asked about a request for a full and detailed inventory of all the mosques, funeral sites, Husayniyat [Shiite mosques] and places of worship in Bahrain.
Al-Saidi also said that he is shocked by the presence of official documents proving that there are female muezzins who are performing this function.
He stated: "This is a dangerous, reprehensible innovation that no one in the world introduced before us. All the Islamic doctrines agree that it is impermissible for a woman to occupy this post, and therefore the question is: How dare the Jafariyah Religious Endowments Administration employ three women as muezzin? And, does the Imamate Shiite jurisprudence authorize women to perform the function of muezzin? How come that these women have continued to receive their salaries all throughout the previous period of time? This proves that there is clear administrative corruption at the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and the minister is politically responsible for this."