In China’s Yellow River Valley, where the Song Dynasty had its capital 1,000 years ago, is a surprising sect of Muslims that allow female prayer leaders and female imams. In Kaifeng, the capital of Henan province, are women-only mosques, the main one of which is directly across from the men’s mosque in an alley filled with food stalls. According to the BBC, the mosques have been a central part of Islamic practice in this part of China for a long time.
The prayer leader of the main women’s mosque, Guo Jingfang, told the BBC in an interview that the unique practice of women prayer leaders and female mosques were a Chinese tradition, dating to a revival of Islamic culture in the 16th century when male leaders of the religion realized how important women could be preserving and transmitting the religion. Female schools came first, followed by dedicated mosques. “When our mothers were girls it was the only place where poor Muslim women could receive an education: the women did it together, women supporting women,” a local woman at the mosque told the reporter.
Read the full story at the BBC.