Meihua Jin – China

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “Women should have the same rights as men. I teach the Koran to illiterate women, and I hope they will keep an open mind, and learn to think”.

Meihua Jin - China rogne.jpg.

Meihua Jin – China

She works for ther Wunan Mosque, Wuzhong city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Jin Meihua was born in 1964. She was able to complete only her primary school education. Her family was too poor to support her to go to high school, even though she got a good result. She was very disappointed at this injustice and kept asking why it was so. This power of questioning became the driving force behind her desire to be a learner and a teacher.

Jin got married when she was only eighteen. She has two daughters and one son. Jin worked very hard to be a responsible wife and mother. She did farm work, took care of the children, cooked meals and washed clothes. Yet, she found that women and men were not equal in reality, although women’s rights were laid down in the Chinese Constitution. The traditional patriarchal concepts still operated in daily life. For example, her husband required her to stay at home and to give up any plan for further studies, but Jin firmly made up her mind: “I want to learn and women should have the same rights as men.”

Jin was determined to learn to read and write Arabic when she turned 32 years. In the past, she had learned only Chinese at school. She was inspired by the sermons of a 60-year-old male imam. She made a great effort to learn the Arabic Koran. Jin was an indefatigable self-learner. After heavy household work, Jin spent at least one hour on studying the Koran every night. Whenever she came across any difficulty, she asked the old imam for help. He was very impressed by her determination and persistence. Jin was his first female student. She said: “I felt I couldn’t be a true Muslim if I didn’t understand Islam. I craved for learning, so I went to the imam and asked his permission to study in the mosque. There were only men there and no mosque for the women. He said it would be hard but after about a year of study, I got support from the other Imams and the community.”

Her husband did not support her decision. Her village also shared the idea that it was not necessary for women to learn to read and write. However, Jin refused to accept this view. She argued with her husband and urged him to understand her dreams, to appreciate the fact that she had not shirked in her duty as a wife.

In 2001, Jin ultimately passed the examination and got a licence to practice, from the Ningxia Islamic Association. The examination covered the Koran, Muslim law, and traditional sayings of Muhammad. Jin could not help crying when she received the result. Female imams are unusual in most Muslim societies. Ningxia Muslim Autonomous Region, where one-third of the Muslim minority lives, has 5000 registered imams, only 30 of whom are women. Jin Meihua is one of the eight female imams in Wuzhong City. Now Jin runs a mosque exclusively for women. She teaches passages from the Koran, and practices religious rituals for women in Wunan Mosque, Wuzhong City. Her sermons have earned her a fine reputation, and her achievements are appreciated by the people in her village. She is often invited to conduct prayers in the mosques of different villages.

According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, female imams are a revitalization of the Muslim tradition of women jurists, and “that’s a good thing, as it means that perhaps from the margins of Islam the great tradition of women jurists might be rekindled.” Jin explains her mission of education through the Koran: “women should have the same rights as men. I teach the Koran to illiterate women, and I hope they will keep an open mind, and learn to think.”

Jin thinks that a woman should learn to be a literate and useful person who can make contribution to society. Now, Jin has around 50 female students. One of them talked about the advantages of literacy: “it opened my eyes and broadened my horizons. It helped my family and gives me a moral framework for educating my children.” According to Jin’s interpretations of the Koran, women enjoy the same status as men: “a woman is a man’s clothing; and likewise, a man is a woman’s clothing”. This means that women or men should have mutual respect, and they should live in harmony and in peace. There should be no any hatred or jealousy. Every person has her/his own living pattern, so it is wrong to occupy the other’s place or property.”

In response to the international current affairs, Jin strongly criticized the USA’s occupation of Iraq. In the process of self-learning, Jin negotiates with patriarchal prejudices and earns a right to social mobility. Her story well illustrates the mission of education: to transform the self and the world at the same time. Through her interpretations of the Koran from a gender perspective, Jin not only addresses women’s literacy, but also creates an unusual woman’s space in the Muslim society. That is what she strives for. (1000PeaceWomen).

Female imams: But Muslims in the province are pushing forward the barriers of faith – with unique results. Jin Meihua is at the forefront of those changes. Her head covered with a lilac scarf, she teaches passages from the Koran to other women. The 40-year-old wife and mother is one of a handful of Chinese female imams … (full text on BBC).

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