All you need to know about female Imam who got death threats for leading Friday prayer

Jamida Beevi is a determined lady who refuses to stop leading the prayers for a mixed congregation.

Here is all you need to know about the 34-year-old, who is popularly known as ‘Jamida Teacher’:

Origin story

Beevi was born in 1984 as the youngest of 13 children. Her parents are an Indian Army soldier and a housewife, in Konni, Pathanamthitta district.

Her journey to being the first female Imam began when she studied Arabic in Jamia Nadwiyya Arabic College in Malappuram in 1999.

She shares her experience in an interview with Scroll. She says, “I was an inquisitive student.I used to trouble my teachers with questions on Islam.

“My intention was to gain knowledge, but teachers misunderstood and called me a rebel. At times, teachers asked me not to enter the class as punishment. But I was adamant to know the truth. And my quest continues even now.”

The road to being a female Imam

Years after her education, Beevi had moved to Thiruvananthapuram. There, she taught Arabic to make some money, adding that she “also organized Quran classes free of cost.”

It was during her classes with schoolchildren that she earned a reputation for breaking rules.

Beevi says, “During a session for women in 2014, I said the Quran prohibited recital of the word ‘Amen’ during prayers. Amen is not an Arabic word. It means ‘so be it’. That made orthodox religious clerics angry. They called me an apostate and began to target me. They even tried to assault my daughter.”

From that period to 2016, “hate campaign” was so bad that she was forced to move to Kozhikode, where she joined the Khuran Sunnath Society and made a name for herself.

How Beevi made history as first female Imam in India

On Friday, January 26, 2017, the 34-year-old changed history when she led the prayers for a mixed-gender congregation at a public place.

The rule is that women can lead prayers for only female congregation not in mixed company.

Beevi disregarded this tradition by leading at least 30 men and women, not in a mosque, but inside a hall in Cherukode village, near Wandoor, in Kerala’s Malappuram district.

Reactions to Friday prayers

Afterwards, she told The Hindu that she did it “knowing well the consequences it is going to have.”

The Muslim scholar explains: “We follow the Koran. It addresses humankind as men and women and does not discriminate between them. Both men and women have an equal role in religion.

“We will continue the practice of women leading the prayers when it meets our convenience,” she adds about her group, the Quran Sunnath Society.

It was started by a radical Muslim scholar popular known as Chekannur Moulavi. He disappeared in 1993.

Concerning the motive, Beevi says, “We wanted to spread the message that Islam never prohibited women from leading prayers. We have decided to continue this practice.”

Her hope is that this move “will inspire more Muslim women to preside over prayers”.

It is important that this move has been met with a lot of resistance, with some going as far as sending death threats.

Still, Beevi insists that she is not backing down. In her words, “Plenty of messages have been circulating on social media alleging that I am a kafir, a non-believer.

“Last week, someone sent me an image with my head fixed to a dead body. I see it as a warning."

She adds, "I am not afraid of death. I am ready to die for the cause.”

Family life

Beevi got married after completing her studies at Jamia Nadwiyya Arabic College.

However, she says that was not her choice, revealing that she was forced into an arranged marriage by her family.

After 13 years of marriage, Beevi got a divorce. In her words, “I soon realized I could not live with him. “I wanted a divorce, but everyone in my family objected to that. They told me that Allah doesn’t like divorce.”

The union was blessed with two children.

Prior to Beevi, only one woman in recent memory had broken the prayer rules. Her name is Amina Wadud and she led the Friday prayer in New York in 2005.

She is an American Muslim who is a professor of religion and philosophy.

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