Before I answer this question, I
would like to point out that in this regard, the Sunnah set by the Prophet (sws)
is that the head of state and his representatives should deliver address and
lead the Friday prayers in the various mosques of an Islamic state. However, in
case of any legitimate plea on their part, some other person can address and
lead the Friday prayers as their authorized representative.
The implications of this Sunnah are very
clear: In Islam, mosques are meant to be the fountainhead of authority. Also,
there is a complete negation of theocracy. A person whom the Muslims choose as
their leader shall also lead them in worship, eliminating once and for all the
division between state and religion.
After the Prophet (sws), his Companions
solemnly adhered to this Sunnah in the Caliphate they established. However, in
later times when, owing to their own ill-ways, the Muslim rulers could not stand
face to face with the public, they themselves handed over the mosques to the
ulema. This was perhaps one of the most tragic incident in our history. The
result was that religion lost its grace and the state its grandeur.
Today religious scholars are forced to
assume charge of the mosques because of this sorry state of affairs.
In this situation, coming to your
question, I think no religious objection can be raised on a lady giving the
Friday Sermon. This is more like delivering a lecture. If a learned lady wants
to deliver a talk on some Islamic topic in the Friday Sermon, she should be
allowed to. There may be cultural hindrances to this -- but then, if they can be
overcome, I personally think that there is nothing wrong with it.
Leading the prayer congregation
consisting of men whether it be of Friday or of the other five prayers however,
in accordance with the established Sunnah of the Prophet (sws), is the
responsibility of men. Keeping in view the norms of modesty men, it seems, are
more suited for this task. Of course, if a woman leads a congregation of women
only, then this cannot be objected to.