As part of its series “Exploring Women and Faith,” the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit welcomes people of all faiths to an informal discussion about Women and Islam on Thursday, December 19 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Islamic Center of America. A panel of four local Muslim leaders will discuss how Muslim women balance and integrate the many different aspects of family, professional and communal/faith roles.
One of the panelists is Dr. Kristine Ajrouch, who dedicates her career unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s Disease as director of the Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD).
Ajrouch is professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University and adjunct research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Her research has focused on over 20 years on Arab Americans and her current work focuses on social aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease among Arab Americans. At the event, she will share what she has learned and how she is helping care for the Arab American community from youth to old age.
IFLC: Can you describe your own faith practice and how it enhances your life?
Ajrouch: My faith practice as a Muslim is private and spiritual. My religion is an important source of strength and meaning, that also provides a sense of community and identity.
IFLC: What do you feel are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings about women in Islam?
Ajrouch: The most common misconception about women in Islam is that Muslim women need saving.
There is a uniquely offensive narrative that describes Muslim women as oppressed and controlled. This narrative has the effect of homogenizing Muslim women and masking their different experiences while ostracizing them in a way that makes it difficult to see them as fellow human beings. This also creates a barrier to understanding other faiths.
IFLC: Are there mentions of prominent women in the Quoran, as there are in the Torah, the New Testament or scriptures of other faiths? If so, what is their narrative?
Ajrouch: There is an entire chapter on the virgin Mary (Maryam) in the Qur’an, that narrates her experience of becoming pregnant with Jesus. She is exalted as a pious and virtuous woman.
Most mentions of prominent women in Islam occur in Hadiths, a collection of traditions containing sayings of the Prophet Mohammad which, using examples of his daily life, is a source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Quran.
Prominent Muslim women include Khadija, the Prophet’s wife, who was older than he and a successful businesswoman. The Prophet had no sons, and so his daughter Fatima is the one through which his male legacy continued (grandsons Hassan and Hussein).
My personal favorite is Sakina, granddaughter of the prophet who I came to know through the work of the Morrocan sociologist Fatima Mernissi. She is described as a strong and intelligent woman who embodied a core tenant of Islam: there is no compulsion in religion.
The community is invited to this free educational program. Reservations are encouraged by contacting Wendy.IFLC@gmail.com or visiting www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com.