Born in 1964, Jin Meihua belongs to the first generation of registered female imams in China's Ningxia Muslim Autonomous Region. Negotiating with the patriarchal tradition, Jin was determined to learn to read and write Arabic at the age of 32. Now she teaches around 50 female students at the Wunan Mosque, Wuzhong City. Through her interpretations of the Koran are from a gender perspective, Jin not only addresses women’s literacy, but also creates an unusual woman’s space in Chinese Muslim society.
Jin Meihua was able to study only up to primary school level because her family was too poor to support her through high school, despite her good performance. Disappointed, she questioned such injustice and it was this spirit of questioning that became the driving force for her to become a learner and a teacher. Negotiating with the patriarchal tradition, Jin was determined to learn to read and write Arabic, and did so when she turned 32. She was inspired by the sermons of a 60-year-old male imam. With his help she made an effort to learn the Arabic Koran. In 2001 she managed to qualify and got a license to practice from the Ningxia Islamic Association. The examination covered the Koran, Muslim law, and traditional sayings of Muhammad. Jin was overjoyed when she got the result. Jin belongs to the first generation of registered female imams in the Ningxia Muslim Autonomous Region. Now she teaches passages from the Koran, and practices religious rituals for women in the Wunan Mosque, Wuzhong City. Her sermons have earned her a fine reputation. “Women should have the same rights as men. I teach the Koran to illiterate women, and I hope they will keep an open mind, and learn to think,” she explains her mission of education through the Koran. In the process of self-learning, Jin negotiates with the patriarchal prejudices and she has fought to earn a right to social mobility. Her story well illustrates the mission of education: to transform the self and the world at the same time. Through her interpretations of the Koran from a gender perspective, Jin not only addresses women’s literacy, but also creates an unusual woman’s space in Muslim society.
Wunan Mosque, Wuzhong city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region