Magharebia (Washington DC)

18 October 2012

Mauritania Launches Courses for Female Clerics

Nouakchott — Women religious scholars will play a key role in consolidating the values of moderate Islam in the country.

For the first time in Mauritania, a training institution has launched special courses for women religious scholars.

The Mauritanian Scholar Training Centre, headed by Mohamed Hassan Ould Daw, started admissions on October 6th.

"The step, which is aimed at training women religious scholars in Islamic Sharia, is designed to train generations of women religious scholars and muftis over the next years, who would combine the traditional mahdhara training, which depends on memorisation and indoctrination, with the most important elements of modern education, which uses modern sciences methodology," said centre media official Mohamed Aly Ould Emmamma.

"In this way, they would strike a balance between two integrated approaches," he told Magharebia. "The ultimate goal of all this is to consolidate the values of moderation in the Muslim Mauritanian society through the training of women religious scholars after their religious studies were restricted to the traditional mahdhara education."

According to Ould Emmamma,"traditional education deprives those engaged in it from a balanced and objective view of current events", which may lead to issuing "deviant fatwas and even extremist fatwas at other times".

He expressed hope that parents would enrol their daughters in these classes to train based on a moderate approach.

Registration requirements for the new section include memorisation of at least one-quarter of the Qur'an, a master's degree in Sharia and linguistic sciences, or equivalent, and a recommendation from a known mahdhara sheikh showing the scientific level of the student, Ould Emmamma said.

Female activists welcomed this initiative.

"This is a huge work that would give women religious scholars a new vision of Islam and ability to explain it in view of contemporary developments, and to come up with a moderate speech that seeks to build and encourage positive dealing with the other," said Menina Mint Abdallah, a former ambassador and researcher in girl schooling.

"The creation of this new major is expected to give a new technical push that would help consolidate the abilities of women religious scholars in communicating information, and will also change their view of society in general," she told Magharebia.

In her turn, Fatima Mint Ibrahim, who plans to enrol for this major, explained her decision saying that Muslim women must take up their roles in "raising children at home and educating society".

"Mauritanian women are characterised by their ability to eradicate children's alphabetical literacy in a smooth and flexible way," she added. "These are traits that God has given them, as they are mothers and educators by nature, and this compels them to give much of their time to education. It's also known that women's nature is against violence, extremism and deviation."

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