London, Oct.18 : A female professor has become the first woman to lead a mixed congregation in Islamic prayer in Britain. Professor Amina Wadud gave a sermon at a centre in Oxford in what is being called a "leap forward" for equality in Islam.
According to The Telegraph, the sermon was controversial as tradition holds that Muslim religious leaders, called Imams, must always be men when there are services with both sexes. Some Muslims also believe it is against Islam for a woman to conduct such services.
Prof Wadud took the service, known as a khutbah, to mark the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College, Oxford.There's nothing in the Koran that prohibits it," she said.
"My own theological research into the essence of Islam indicates the necessity for us to be able to move away from the tradition that restricted women from the practice of leading prayer," she added. The move has angered many Muslims and a small group gathered outside the college to voice their opposition.
"Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here - it is a celebration."