Women on Stage: more Quranic reciters and speakers

I listened to a woman recite Quran recently. I did a show at an all-girls college over the weekend, and like at many Islamic events, someone got up to recite Quran to start the event on a blessed note. But this time it was a girl (gasp! dun dun dunnnnnnnn!)

To say her recitation was melodic is the understatement of the century. She was reciting verses of the Quran talking about the importance of being charitable, and everyone in the room was so attentive and silent that you could even hear her on stage turning pages of the Quran. I literally could not move in my chair because even the muscles that control my body were focused on hearing her recite the beloved words of God.

No, I don’t have video of her recitation. Because everyone in the room was too busy living in the moment and letting the verses take over us. Not a single one of my brain cells was distracted with thoughts of “Omg I gotta record this and put it on Snapchat lulz.”

Never had a recitation moved me in every sense of the word. To the point that I went home after my show and spent all night reading the verses she recited over and over again.

I don’t understand Arabic well, so anytime I hear Quran recited, of course it always sounds beautiful to me, but the words don’t hit me to their full potential like they did that night. Normally when I’m at an event and hear Quran I’m like “Wow Mashallah,” and then I get back to eating the chicken on my plate. This night was truly special.

And don’t get it twisted, I mean nothing sexual or anything similarly absurd about this recitation. I don’t even remember anything about the person who recited the verses. It was just the way the words of Allah the almighty sounded in the room that night that still stay with me.

It was actually the first time I had ever heard a female recite Quran. Even my own mother who taught me how to read Quran as a child, I have never heard her properly recite.

It makes me wonder why its taken me so long to hear a woman recite Quran. It’s funny cuz on my Spotify playlist right now is a lot of music by Janelle Monae, Lana Del Ray and Adele. Yet how can I go to an Islamic event, see a female on stage and be like “Astagfirullah, nope.”

The conventional wisdom (and by conventional, I mean thinking from the 1800s) about a woman not being on stage at Islamic events is “Well a woman should not be on stage in front of a group of men, because it could be distracting to the men there.”

Ok if you get a boner from a woman talking on stage, that says a lot more about you homie. I’m sorry for being crass, but that argument is absurd.

(Oh and if you’re going to bring up the verse in the Quran about Allah telling the wives of the Prophet to not make their voices “soft” around the company of men, feel free to Google and read the dozens of scholarly articles debunking the interpretation of that verse).

I then started thinking about all the fantastic speeches I’ve heard this year, and I realized my list includes Linda Sarsour, Suzanne Barakat, Yasmin Mogahed andIngrid Mattson. But for all the Islamic events I go to, their names and so many other powerhouses do not headline the list.

As a matter of fact, ICNA, the Islamic Circle of North America, has a convention coming up and not a single female is mentioned on their 50+ person list of speakers.

In 2015, why is that? How can you have conventions addressing the issues of the community by ignoring 50 percent of the population? I’m not even trying to be politically correct by forcing each convention to add females to each session. I’m just trying to be correct. I want conventions that actually look like the community. That includes women, people of other races and cultures, and even people of different levels of faith to be on stage so that they can mirror the community.

Not politically correct, just correct.

Why is this so important? Don’t take my words, just listen. There’s a group called #addfemalespeakers Muslim Groups organized by some awesome women talking about this gender discrepancy. Read their frustrations. People are genuinely hurt and saddened by this, as they understandably should be. We have such a beautiful, multicultural and multigenerational faith, and I can only imagine as a woman how discouraging it is to be marginalized in every way possible at these events (let alone in their own communities!).

What I am writing may anger some of you. It may even invite a few people who literally have no idea who I am as a person and angrily write some things attacking my character. I genuinely ask those people, why does this issue anger you so much? What is making your heart burn with so much rage, and not to mention type with so many grammatical and spelling errors lol.

I think its time to put an end to sausagefest events. Because in Islam, sausage is haram.

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Aman Ali is an award winning storyteller in New York City and one of the most engaging social media personalities in the Muslim community today. He is also one of the only young American Muslims in the public spotlight today. He’s made appearances on dozens of media outlets such as theNew York Times, CNN, NBC News, HBO, BBC, and NPR to talk about the shenanigans of being born and raised in Ohio.


Photo Credit: MSNBC

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