I Never Dreamed Of Being An Imam – Then I Founded One Of The World's Only Female-Led Mosques

It was Ibn Arabi, the Islamic Sufi master and theologian, who once said: ‘the perfect man is a woman’. This is also typical of something my father would say. He was the first feminist I knew (as well as the first political activist) with a social democratic leaning to boot. He is one of my role models, and he gave me his sense of political activism and his taste for current events and debating ideas. 

My mother is a Finnish Christian and my father a Syrian Muslim. This rarely posed a problem for them, and when it did, my parents sought a point of convergence. Love is a process, an alloy of compromise and negotiation. I am the product of this wise philosophy. Half Finnish, half Syrian, my identity is an intersection. I am the East and the West. The village and the city. The refugee and the protected. I am a synthesis balanced on a tightrope. A product of Finland and Syria who came into existence in Denmark in 1974. Almost half a century later, they still form the strong and admirable couple who serve as an inspiring example for me.

Nothing predisposed me to becoming a woman imam. I never could have imagined such a destiny for myself. My father grew up in Damascus, in a house in the historic part of the city, twenty yards from the Great Umayyad Mosque. Before sunrise, my grandfather Naïm, married to Wajiha and father of six who worked hard to support his family, was a muezzin who would climb the thousand steps of the west minaret to call the faithful to prayer. I often imagined the voice of this man I never knew rising up in the warm…

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