By: Liang Chen
The number of female imams, known locally as ahong, acting as spiritual leaders and teachers for Muslim women, is rising in China, especially in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. They have broken through taboos and barriers and won wide recognition among female believers. After learning doctrines and taking certification exam, more than 80 female imams in Ningxia have been licensed by the government. They lead Muslim women in prayer at mosques, teach them about the Koran and Islamic culture and offer religious services. They also mediate domestic disputes and enhance women’s awareness of their rights. Female imams are playing an increasingly essential role in improving gender equality, the quality of local women’s religious life and social harmony.