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Religion IN BRIEF

Iran Lifts Ban on Woman-Led Prayers

August 05, 2000|From Times Wire Services

TEHRAN — Iranian religious leaders have lifted a ban on women leading congregational prayers for the first time in the history of Shiite Islam, the state news agency IRNA reported this week.

Six top Islamic jurists, or marjas, issued a ruling, known as a fatwa, authorizing women to lead worshipers of their own sex, the news agency said.

Until now, only male clerics were allowed to lead prayers.

The decree solves a major problem in all-girl schools, where women had not been allowed to lead prayers, the news agency quoted an education ministry official, Ali Asghar Nuri, as saying.

"The fatwa helps solve a problem in mass prayers in girls' schools. It is useful in persuading schoolgirls to pray," he said.

The move could also be seen as a triumph for feminist-inspired movements in the Islamic republic.

Some more progressive forces in the religious community have challenged traditional male privileges in the religious hierarchy, including the right to be clerics.

Muslims are required by their faith to pray five times a day and, if possible, to pray with a group of other Muslims.

The marjas are widely respected and emulated among the country's pious population.

There was no immediate indication of the reasons behind the landmark decision, but some clerics have complained of declining interest in religion among young people.

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