female imam

Imam Du Shuzheng rebelled against her family more than 50 years ago to become a female imam in China. She has trained more than 70 women to become imams, but now there are few girls who want to enter the profession because of its low pay. Chinese Muslims have an age old tradition of female imams and female-only mosques run by women for women as spiritual, social, and charitable centers.

Women’s mosques began as a Quranic school for girls. These sprang up in the late 17th century in central China, including Shanxi and Shandong provinces. They morphed into women’s mosques about 100 years ago, starting in Henan province.

Chinese Female Muslim Imam Leads Women Of The Hui Minority

Caption:QINYANG CITY, CHINA - JULY 22: Hui Muslim female Imam Yonghua Zheng smiles as her in-laws see her off from the family home as she leaves for prayers at a women’s only mosque on July 22, 2014 in Qinyang City, Henan Province, China. As part of a tradition dating back to the late 19th century and unique to China’s 10 million Hui Muslims, Zheng is one of hundreds of female Imams leading all female congregations in the women’s only mosques of northwest China. Though able to teach and lead prayers for women, they are forbidden from overseeing funeral rituals or washing male corpses before burial.

Photos by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images