Q: What do you think of commingling of sexes at jummah, and women leading the prayer?
The Tailor [assuming cryptic, holier than thou tone]: The women should be either behind a curtain or else positioned at the back of the Mosque, because it is at the back of the Mosque that the impossible possibility of pure differentiation can sublimely manifest herself as the Real Muslima and receive/reflect/manifest the Nur of Submission within her perception/speech. This sublime manifestation is induced via the poetic misprison of the absolute myth that men even exist within a mosque, a myth that is embodied by the group prayer as a whole. It’s very straightforward.
Another way of saying this is: the issue is not whether a woman can lead a prayer in place of a man, but whether man exists at all in the space of prayer.
Q: Ah, but I see you mean this symbolically. You are saying that all Muslims, men and women, are “symbolically” female, in the sense that our perception is receptive to the Nur of Allah. Only a prophet is symbolically masculine, in this sense, because he is the conduit for the light to enter into our space of reading, via the Qur’an. And you are saying that, within the prayer, the women behind the veil or st the back of the mosque symbolise the position of the entire group.
I get the idea of reading traditional arrangement of prayer symbolically, but what are the practical implications of this? If the tradition regarding position of women in a mosque is symbolic, then what about the actual, physical way we are to perform group prayer? What does your symbolic reading have to say about that?
The Tailor: This isn’t meant to be just a symbolic reading as a static metaphor, it is meant to be a way of living life through directly encountering and embodying the ayat, the signs of Allah’s revelation. As such, if it managed to disseminate itself throughout Islam today, it could have the potential to revitalise the tradition.
Currently, most Muslims accept that women have always been behind in prayer (or behind a veil), presumably because God wants it so. Of course, there is embodiment of a practice, so this acceptance is actually far from “mere”.
But the time has come for this embodiment to become more, to become self-aware of the Body that is performing the embodying.
Being behind, silent, veiled in prayer – physically, living this symbolically – is a privileged station, because it is the physical embodiment of the sign of the entire group practice.
We are all “behind” and “veiled” in our prayer: prayer is the essential conjunction of reading symbols and physical, literal, living movement. Thus, to have the women of the group configured as to be behind – is to encode our nature as supplicants within supplication.
For me, being conscious of how the symbolic aspects of the prayer directly refer to our situation in prayer is a dhikr that brings us closer to God because through it we understand God is communicating directly to us by telling exactly what we are in relation to God.
The prayer is Divine because it has encoding the nature of its encoding within itself, as a sign of how the light gets to us.
To pray is to communicate to God, but to pray in self awareness of embodiment is to embody God communicating back to us. To pray in self awareness is to experience the certainty of a personal God speaking directly to us – via the exact configuration of those in jummah. The sisters are important here, because they denote us.
Such a self awareness could potentially vitalise a whole range of traditional practices – rather than merely accepting it is God’s will, we’d be hearing God’s personal speech to us. Pretty much all practices, because it works on them all.
But what about innovative physical practices? Clearly it vitalizes through dhikr a “traditional” mode of practice, of following the sunnah: but what does living symbolically have to say about an innovation, like women imams physically leading a mixed group? Actually, this way of viewing things could also benefit a woman who wanted to go against tradition and lead prayer, physically. We don’t necessarily oppose this, but it seems often the creation of a new form of prayer, new rituals are often mistimed. Why? Because no one is respecting the symbolism.
Assuming my way of reading became a power base within the discursive tradition of Islam (rather than the poor girl in rags at the back of the mosque, as she currently is), someone could draw upon it to come up with new, self aware configurations of prayer. This innovator, regardless of her good intentions, would have to be careful with the archetypes: a jummah designed to make a political/social “statement” is as blasphemous as, say, a hypothetical false dhikr where people prostrate to a corrupt Sufi guru. In both cases, the light within the signs is not respected, leading to a negative embodiment. In both cases, the Real Muslima would not, in fact, emerge from the prayer: the Feminine aspect of our collective mind would be neglected. In proposing an innovation, she’d have to find a way to retain the sign of veiled/behindness within the jummah – to ensure that we keep our jummahs female, rather than attempting to fill the mosque with men, or to turn herself into a male, or to turn the whole process into a genderless affair (God is genderless, our ultimate submission to God is genderless — but the process of reading and reading within prayer is gendered.)