t was Friday prayers with a difference. Outside the prayer hall, a woman breastfed her baby, while another applied lipstick. There were hugs and kisses, and peals of laughter. The adhan – the call to prayer – was sung in a clear, feminine voice.
A little bit of history was made in Copenhagen this week with the first Friday prayers led by two female imams, marking the official opening of the first female-led mosque in Scandinavia, and one of only a handful worldwide outside China.
More than 60 women crammed into the Mariam mosque above a fast-food outlet in a city centre street. Volunteers had worked late into Thursday night to put the final touches on the premises’ refurbishment. Cream curtains with a subtle mosaic-motif trim had been hung, a calligraphed verse from the Qur’an displayed, flowers and candles arranged.
Sherin Khankan and Saliha Marie Fetteh, the mosque’s two imams, shared the ceremony. Khankan sang the adhan and made an opening speech, and Fetteh delivered the khutbah, or sermon, on the theme of “women and Islam in a modern world”.
Only a passing mention was made of burkinis. To laughter, Fetteh told the worshippers that, according to newspaper reports, there was not one burkini to be found in shops across Europe, after a series of bans in French cities and resorts had prompted Muslim and non-Muslim women to buy them in acts of solidarity.
After the khutbah came the prayer itself. Rows of women, perhaps half of them of other faiths or no faith but invited to take part in the mosque’s opening ceremony, bowed, knelt and touched their foreheads to the ground – a remarkably rare sight.
In many mosques, women are encouraged to pray at home or in private. Where women’s sections exist, they are usually small, uninviting and accessed through back entrances. Mosques are traditionally seen as places where men gather for collective prayer and discussion.
The Mariam mosque opened informally in February, and it took six months of further preparation before the first Friday prayers could be held. “We’re still in a process of learning. We’re on a journey and we’ve only taken the first step,” said Khankan.
Reblogged this on Matthews' Blog.