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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, October 3, 2023

'Female Voices in the Quran' examines role of women, encourages religious dialogue

Amalia Teglas (middle), staff assistant in the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, speaks with two other women during the 'Female Voices in the Quran' event at the Tufts Interfaith Center on Oct. 6.

The Tufts University Chaplaincy and the Boston Islamic Seminary co-hosted “Female Voices in the Quran,” a workshop that examined female voices throughout the religious text, in the Tufts Interfaith Center on Oct. 6.The event, attended by about 25 people, explored "the values and virtues that Quranic female speech imparts and investigated how women's interactions with the divine and angelic realm compare and contrast to men's," according to a description of the event on the Chaplaincy website. The workshop was the culmination of a partnership between the Muslim Chaplaincy at Tufts and the continuing education program at the Boston Islamic Seminary, according to Celene Ibrahim, Muslim chaplain at the University Chaplaincy.Ibrahim led the workshop, which welcomed community members with all levels of familiarity with the Muslim faith.“The role that female figures play in the Quran is game-changing, high-stakes and incredibly important, but also subtle,” Ibrahim said.Ibrahim recited poetry to commence the workshop. She then invited participants to partake in a moment of reflection and prayer, called dhikr in Arabic.“Even in a state of lack, what we do have is each other and the sincerity of our hearts,” Ibrahim said.Ibrahim then shifted the conversation and identified major female figures in the Quran and the role they play in the verses. Ibrahim encouraged participants to ask questions and to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about the significance of these female roles."I grew to understand the variations in the roles that women mentioned in the Quran played and the small but key differences in the titles they are referred to by," Nuha Shaikh, a first-year who attended the event, told the Daily in an email. "There are so many words in the Quran's Arabic to describe their different titles."Later, the workshop focused on the specific speaking parts of women in the Quran. The participants broke into small groups to discuss the presence of female voice in distinct Quranic verses. The groups then reconvened to discuss women’s voices through the historical, political and social contexts of the Muslim faith."Slightly over a dozen different female figures have speech that is represented in Quranic verses," Ibrahim said after the discussion. "Taking into consideration all instances of female speech, we see that Quranic depictions of the female voice are consistently celebratory of the figure's intellect or virtue, or both."The event concluded with summative reflections and an opportunity for Asr prayer.Sophomore Najma Jama said the event allowed for all participants to interact with scripture in a meaningful way and provided an enjoyable space of growth and learning."The greatest lesson to absorb is the interconnected nature of Islam in regards to identity," Jama told the Daily in an email. "Women in the Quran serve a greater purpose beyond their person, as do all peoples of the Quran."