Question: Is it authorized to appoint women Muqaddam in the Tidjaniya Tariqa?
Taqdim for women has indeed been the object of diverging opinions. Some forbid it, others allow it, although their role may be limited to women; however others authorize their role to include both women and men unconditionally.
This divergence is due to the fact that there does not seem to be any clear and precise example of a woman being appointed to this role at the time of Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret). However, an allusion is to be found in a letter from Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) written by Sidi Muhammad ibn Mechri (may ALLAH be pleased with him). In this letter, he greets a group of disciples from Fez, including a woman. Here is the relevant passage: “[…] Our words are addressed to our beloved, to those who are most dear to us, holders of pure qualities and enlightened states, our dear friend and sincere beloved Sidi Hajj Tayeb Qabab, his son, our beloved Abu AbdALLAH Sidi Muhammad and his children, and the pure, eminent and noble lady, The Muqaddima Fatima […]” (Kashf el Hijab - Sidi Hajj Tayeb Qabab)
Among the companions of Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret), Sidi Muhammad El Hafiz Shinguitti (may ALLAH be pleased with him) who had been educated in the palms of his noble hands for two consecutive years, was the only one to appoint his wife to the role of Muqqadam. She was a saintly woman, renowned for her spiritual opening, and she was among the ten Muqaddam that her husband was authorized to appoint. This does not mean that others did not do so, but there are no precise references. Sheikh Umar Futiyu (may ALLAH be pleased with him) appointed his eldest daughter, the pious knower of ALLAH, Fatima Madaniya to this position.
The renowned Alfa Hashim el Futi, who lived and died in Medina, was also among the scholars and luminaries who had nominated female Muqaddam. In the blessed and prophetic city of Medina, he appointed a woman known as “ALLAH HAYYU” because she repeated these words incessantly and this is mentioned in Kashf el Hijab.
In addition the Knower Sheikh Muhammad Fall nominated the saintly lady Khadija el Qara’at. There are other cases which are more or less known.
However, certain people, considering that these were exceptional cases for exceptional women, forbade this practice, arguing that a woman cannot take their responsibility of leading the prayers (Imama) and so, by analogy, they consider that it is not possible to appoint a woman to the role of Muqaddam.
Nonetheless, this analogy cannot be used in this particular case, because the role of Imam has nothing to do with the role of Muqaddam. Since there is neither restriction nor indication from Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) or from his companions, forbidding the role of Muqaddam to women or limiting it to men, we cannot, on our own initiative, decree that it is forbidden.
To this day, there is no mention, in the abundant literature written by the scholars of the Tariqa and the companions of Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) that the conditions for the taqdim are reserved for men and forbidden for women.
This role is accessible to any person possessing the requisite qualities to assume this responsibility be they man or woman. In one of his replies, Sidi Hajj Ahmed Sukeyrj (may ALLAH be pleased with him) said: “It is clearly established in our Tariqa that a woman can become Muqaddam and can give authorization for the litanies in compliance with Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) and his representatives […]” furthermore he added: “Certain women received absolute authorization to nominate both women and men endowed with the requisite qualities to the role of Muqaddam. This has been related by trustworthy people and we have been blessed to ascertain this fact in certain letters from Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret). The fact that in his letters, Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) called the noble Tidjani ladies by this title is sufficient proof of its validity. Consequently, we confirm that there is no condition limiting the title of Muqaddam to men. It is attributed to those having the requisite qualities, be they women or men, old or young, free or enslaved […]”
Others consider that it is permissible, but that women can only give transmission to other women in order to avoid promiscuity and temptation between the two sexes. Here again, it has been established, as stated by Sidi Arbi ibn Sa-ih (may ALLAH be pleased with him) in his Bughiya, that Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) himself transmitted the Tariqa to women (meeting the conditions of Shari’a that we will mention), and his companions did likewise. Therefore, given that men had already given transmission to women, we cannot use the argument of physical contact between men and women in order to limit the role of a female Muqaddam to women only.
Thus, it is clear that nothing prevents a woman from conveying to both women and men insofar as she has received authorization and her spiritual affiliation is authentic.
However, the conditions of the Sharia forbidding physical contact between people of opposite sexes (except if the person is a Muhram that is to say to whom one cannot be married such as a nephew, a son or an uncle) must be respected. It is in this way that Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) conducted himself. If he met a lady, he gave her the oral transmission without physical contact and placed her behind him, covering his own face with a part of his cloak. He answered their questions and taught them whatever they needed to know about the Tariqa.
Seyyidina Ahmed Tidjani (may ALLAH sanctify his precious secret) also stipulated in the conditions that he had given to one of his companions by the name of Abu Salim El Iyashi (may ALLAH be pleased with him) when he appointed him Muqaddem, not to touch the hand of the women to whom he transmitted authorization for the wird, with the exception of those who were Muhram.
Furthermore, women cannot lead or attend* the assembly of men of the wazifa and the heilalla. Apart from this, there is no obstacle for the transmission, the teaching and the learning of the Tariqa by a woman to men. Indeed, female scholars teaching the Quran, Hadiths and the varied knowledge of Islam, until this day, have always been a well-known part of Muslim history.
The companions and their followers (may ALLAH be pleased with him) have drawn knowledge as much from the men as from the women of their time. Renowned scholars such as Imam Shafi’I, Qatada, Al-Subki, Al-Dhahabi, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Asaker, Jalaleddine Suyuti and thousands of others have all had female teachers from whom they have received knowledge and authorization.
Examples of women who have achieved spiritual mastery and who have guided men on the path of God are numerous: the renowned Knower Ibn Arabi el Hatimi (may ALLAH be pleased with him) is among the disciples of these exemplary women.
These days, we know of certain cases of women who are appointed Muqaddam in our noble Tariqa. As far as we are concerned, if the conditions of the Sharia are respected and if the women satisfy the rigorous criteria required in order to acquire this title, as is the case for men, we see no objection.
Lastly, although it is lawful, it is preferable to avoid unnecessary controversy in a community which will vary according to context, custom and mentality from one country to another.
* Women may attend the Wazifa if two conditions are met:
- Being in separate places where men and women cannot see each other
- Women must not recite aloud (as for the five daily Prayers)
Zawiya Tidjaniya el Kubra in Lyon, France