History made: India’s first female Imam

The pioneer woman Imam is receiving backlash from fundamentalists, and is being accused of going against Islam.

Compiled by Bhagyasri Chaudhury

As 34-year-old Jamida K, popularly known as ‘Jamida Teacher’, led a group of 50 odd men and women to the Friday prayers on January 26 at Wandoor Cherukod in Malappuram district of Kerala, she was demolishing a male bastion as well as setting a record as the first woman to lead jumma prayers in the country.

Some even believe she is the first Asian woman to lead namaaz as the Imam (leader) and deliver a Qutuba (sermon). Though women were allowed to lead prayers for other women, delivering a Qutuba was almost impossible.

Soon after her 20-minute Qutuba on gender justice and the namaaz, a small crowd who were on their way to nearby mosques for the Friday prayers, reached the Central Committee office of the Quran Sunnat Society (QSS) where she performed the jumma.

Jamida narrates how many were left shocked and refused to accept the change.

“This is the beginning of the end of the world, said one while another added that all the societies which had women leaders, were doomed. Most of them were in shock and agitated. However, it did not turn violent, maybe because of the media presence,” Jamida told News18.


In 2005, when Professor Amina Wadud, a professor of Religion and Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, decided to lead the ritualistic Friday prayers for a Muslim congregation, it became the first time a woman Imam (prayer leader) would lead the Jumu’ah Namaz (Friday Prayer). In doing so, she broke Islamic laws, which allows only male Imams to lead the prayer.


“I did it knowing well the consequences it is going to have,” Ms. Jamida told The Hindu.


Prof Wadud’s actions were supported by Muslim academics all over the globe, but it wasn’t all praises, and Prof Wadud received tons of criticism and even death threats. But, her decision paved the way for many voices of women to be heard, and after nearly a decade, Jamida followed her example.


“A woman is not expected to deliver the Qutuba, the customary speech of the sermon. Moreover, men and women also do not take part in the jumma prayers together. This is historical and will lead to gender equality in the Muslim community. Jamida Teacher is bold and I stand by her,” said Mohiyuddin Nadukkandiyil Karassery, a renowned scholar and social critic.

Mohiyuddin said that Jamida has been threatened on two occasions and the response from the ‘believers’ has not been quite heartening.

“I am receiving phone calls from mosque committees that I have defied Islam. There are people who are speaking against me on social media too, saying I am trying to destroy the religion,” said Jamida, who is also the general secretary of QSS.

Founded by scholar Chekannur P K Mohammed Abul Hassan Maulavi, better known as Chekannur Maulavi, QSS follows the Quran and discards the Hadith (sayings and acts of Prophet Muhammad).

The Maulavi, who himself has received threats from religious extremists, went missing under mysterious circumstances some 24 years ago. Incidentally, Karassery in his Facebook post, referred to Jamida as ‘Vanitha Chekannoor’, which means ‘Lady Chekannoor’.

Jamida points out that the Quran doesn’t stop a woman from being an Imam and that the holy text is usually interpreted according to the convenience of the men, only to discriminate against women.

“The Quran is divine while the Hadith is human. The Quran is not discriminatory towards women as it addresses both men and women as ‘believers’. Hadith was written almost 200 years after the the Quran emerged,” explained Jamida, whose source of inspiration is the US-based scholar Amina Wadud, the first Muslim woman in the world to have led the jumma prayers.


“People who threaten me are cowards. They want to keep women under veils and treat them as second-class citizens. I don’t even mind getting killed for a cause,” said the mother of two.

Jamida, whose name was until now limited to the community, has reached the mainstream with the debates on triple talaq and love jihad.

After a bitter marriage, the mother of two kids, a boy and a girl, moved towards the north of Kerala. She started working with the QSS as she found its ideals close to hers.

“The religious heads usually treat women as second grade citizens while the Holy Quran considers both men and women as equals. A transformation will not come instantly but gradually. Allah enjoins justice and right judgment in all matters, and devotion to doing good, and generosity towards relatives,” she stated.

Jamida’s support to Ashokan, father of Hadiya alias Akhila, who entered a controversial deadlock after being converted to Islam, however, raised many eyebrows.


“I have evidence to prove that there are marriages with vested interests. They are taking women from their husbands and parents by misleading them about Islam. The government should ban such religious conversions,” she said.

Declaring that the Left parties did not support her cause, she alleged that they lack a stance.


“The Kerala government did not submit their opinion on triple talaq while their counterparts in Tripura did. The state government is having a policy of Sikhandis,” she criticised.


Born in Konni in Pathanamthitta as the youngest among 13 children of Shahul Hameed, a former soldier, Jamida graduated in Arabic (Afzal-Ul-Ulama).

“I have faced several death threats in the past and I am sure that this move of mine has upset the high and mighty. Yet, I do not fear for my life,” said Jamida.