Edina Lekovic was the first female khateeba on Friday, at The Women’s Mosque of America inaugural Jummah prayer. Her Khutba, or Friday sermon, instilled an empowering search for beauty within Islam by enforcing the need for work in the cause of God.
I come from a Muslim community where women are well-respected and have a strong voice. In my time as a college student in Southern California, however, my experiences with Muslim Student groups have left me disappointed. The thought of female leadership is just an illusion in many of these spaces, disallowing women from feeling any kind of need or motivation to strive to take on these kinds of positions.
One organization has never had a female president in its entire history, and gender segregation resulted in having an environment with a deep level of disregard for its female members. I had a conversation with a female student once, about this particular Muslim group having a female president and her shock was palpable “But Marwa, who would lead prayer? Who would make the Athan (call to prayer)? And Marwa, nobody would listen to her. The male voice is loud and demanding, and a girl would never be able to call a group’s attention.” The fact that there is a fundamental, underlying ideology that women are somehow incapable of being leaders is one that must change. And yesterday’s Jummuah, or Friday prayer, was an incredible beginning.
Now, more than ever, we are witnessing a shift. Muslim American women are leading their communities in an infinite number of ways. They are increasingly taking up board positions at their local mosques, speaking to the media about the perception of Muslims in America, and meeting with government officials to see how much of an impact Muslims can have on policy-making.
Today’s women are leading the way for tomorrow’s daughters to have a major impact on society. In Ramadan of 2014, for the first time ever, the Islamic Center of Southern California created a platform for female scholars of the Qur’an to give commentary before Taraweeh prayers. Friday was another remarkable milestone. Edina Lekovic, a good friend and coworker from Muslim Public Affairs Council, paved a long and beautiful path that Muslim women will now be able to pour their hearts and minds into.
“The way I viewed the Qur’an changed when I read the words of the Qur’an as if they were revealed to me,” said Lekovic. She spoke about the verse in the Qur’an from Surat At-Tawbah that many overlook: “Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah . That is better for you, if you only knew.” The very essence of this verse speaks to us women who live in a society where we are brushed off to the side in so many ways. Lekovic herself felt incapable of giving this Khutba when she was initially invited to speak. But this verse rang in her head louder than ever, telling her that she must take his step. That whether or not she is “light or heavy,” equipped or unequipped, self-sustaining or in need of support, she had to give this khutba “if [she] only knew.”
I left The Women’s Mosque of America on Friday afternoon with goosebumps that till now have not gone away. I was shaken by Lekovic’s words. The sweet sound of her beautiful voice as she recited Qur’an during the prayers left a sense of serenity and hope unlike anything I have ever felt before. The voice of a woman, the voices of the other half of this world, were reflected in her today. And soon, they will be reflected across the globe.