Cross-posted with permission from wood turtle.

We've all been there at least once. In the corner of a dusty and briyani-debris ridden floor. In the windowless basement. On the second floor, inaccessible balcony with frosted viewing windows. In the front room of a house, with boarded up windows and a tv projection. In a barren false room with a tv projection. Behind a curtain. Under the stairs next to the janitorial closet. Behind a wall. In the room across from the morgue. In the back, past the garbage collector, up the fire escape, down a long hallway, up the narrow stairs, and finally into a room that doubles as a classroom and has 20 screaming Sunday school kids with an overworked male Arabic teacher who expects you to wait outside until he completes the lesson.

And some of us have just been turned away at the door.

Navigating terrible, inhospitable, and downright hostile space for women in the mosque is nothing new. There's even a movie on the subject. Not every mosque is like this, but a good majority are.

Constructing woman-friendly spaces depends on whether or not women sit on mosque administration boards, is sometimes hindered by spacing issues when constrained buildings are converted into mosques, and is largely ignored as an important issue because of a convenient belief that it is better for women to pray at home.

Despite the fact that Islam is a communal religion — a brother and sisterhood — making women feel unwelcome at the mosque is endemic in the Muslim world.

Back in the summer, I wrote a post on the exclusion of children in our mosques. Particularly, how many mosque prayer spaces are not child-friendly, and when they are, the onus is placed on mothers to take care of the children while the men are free to worship. Naturally, when children are excluded, it really means that women are excluded from religious, communal worship.

Some great dialogue was generated from that post, and one commenter asked for my take on this belief that the “best place for a woman to pray is in her home.”

Let me begin by saying categorically, that Islam does NOT forbid women from going to the mosque. In fact, it was encouraged by the Prophet when he said, “'Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from going to the mosque…” (Muslim, Abu Dawud). The mosque is the center of the community, of access to Islamic education, and is key to fulfilling certain religious rites. So why then are some women barred outright by male family members? Why is there a global adherence to this belief that's also being maintained by scholars, laypeople and by women themselves?

The Qur'an does not say where Muslims should pray. There are verses that say simply for worshipers to turn towards Mecca (2:149), and to not build a house of worship upon deceit, opposition or disbelief, but that it is better to build one's faith on a foundation of love and piety (9:107-110). Unless referring to the mosque at Mecca, the Qur'an is silent on where Muslims need to congregate.

The traditions of the Prophet tell us that any place on Earth is suitable for prayer — any place except anything blatantly inappropriate. Like a bathroom, sewage drain, or bar serving baby back ribs wrapped in bacon and sauteed in a nice brandy sauce (well even so, I know a NYC Muslim liquor store owner who prays in the back).

It's also in these traditions however, and particularly in the subsequent centuries of predominantly male interpretations of these traditions, that we find support for a whole slew of places for women to pray: behind men, above men in balconies, beneath men in mosque basements, or just not being allowed in the mosque.

Now, the most oft-quoted tradition supporting women praying at home states, “It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house” (Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi). In context, this saying was related to the people after the Prophet had announced that men gain more reward when they pray in congregation at the mosque. Nonplussed by this announcement, a woman approached him and said, “but I'm at home with the kids and the housework. I can't get to the mosque — that's not very fair, is it?” The Prophet agreed, but explained it in terms of a woman's responsibility in the private sphere: In context, the tradition is saying that while men get more reward by going to the mosque, women who have responsibilities at home get the same reward when they pray at home.

I've already discussed the issue of women maintaining the private sphere here. And for some mothers (myself included) this saying makes sense. Hubby and I both work to maintain the home — but let's face it, it's easier for him to get to the mosque. When I couldn't attend evening prayers at the mosque because they were held during Eryn's bedtime, I prayed at home. Apparently, I received more reward doing that, than if I had actually gone to the mosque.

But here's the thing that bothers me: when this tradition is misused to discourage women from the mosque, people are told that it's because women beautify themselves when going out, and cause fitna or religious strife in the community by “showing off their nakedness.” Because, you know, men are COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of ignoring their sexual urges. So ladies, put down that makeup and perfume and put on that burqa — the men are coming.

This has nothing to do with familial responsibility and everything to do with the subjugation of women.

This interpretation sets women up for failure. When women are relegated to the back, on a balcony, in the basement, and are forbidden from attending, we are effectively removed from the community. When women are removed, we're forgotten. When we're forgotten, it's normal to construct a small women's prayer space as an afterthought. It's not very welcoming to be an afterthought. It becomes disused. Women stop coming. People internalize. Children are brought up not attending mosque. Women believe they don't have to attend mosque. Male interpretation reinforces this. More mosques are built without prayer space for women. And to top everything off, the justification for kicking women out is linked to her body and men's inability to deal with their own two bits.

Really? Is that how low the scholars think of humanity?

Let's revisit for a moment: Tradition holds that women should be encouraged to attend the mosque, but for women who have responsibilities in the home, they'll get the same reward when they pray at home. Not everyone has responsibilities. Some have maids. Some share responsibilities with their husbands. Some don't have families. Some are converts looking for support. Some are students looking for Islamic education. Some are female scholars looking to educate other women. Some are looking for charity. Some are abused women looking for community support. None of them will get what they need from the mosque if as a global community we truly believe that the “best” place for a woman is to pray in her home.

I started this post painting a pretty bleak picture of our mosques. On one hand, I will go out of my way to avoid the mosques in which I don't feel welcome. If Hubby, Eryn and I are out for the day and the closest mosque is “unfriendly,” I actually start feeling a little sick to my stomach thinking of praying there. I will actively refuse to pray and wait for Hubby to finish, convince him to just pray with me at home, or we'll drive further until we come cross a “friendly” mosque.

On the other hand, there are beautiful, women friendly mosques that inspire me and expose me to leaders and scholars that help empower women and allow me to become acquainted with others (women AND men). Together we strive for the betterment of our community, which is what Islam is all about. I jump up excitedly when we go.

I wonder though if I should be attending the mosques that make me uncomfortable. A clean prayer place for women, or not having to use the back entrance shouldn't be a surprise. It should be the norm. Women need to demand equal space and treatment in the mosque, and not pray in a “penalty box.” The more women become involved in the mosque culture and demand to be representatives on administration boards, the better the situation can become.

But that can never happen as long as women (and men) believe that it's better for them not to attend the mosque.

145 Responses

  1. Muslim

    Not very interesting, your whole take on the subject was very condescending. If you expect to be taken seriously, and be seen voicing a well balanced thought out opinion on the topic, you might want to avoid such demeaning verbatim. May Allah guide us all, and curse those who knowingly manipulate the religion.

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    • A sister

      It’s interesting that your comment follows the exact method which you claim is incorrect…and include a duaa which specifically mentions cursing people who knowingly manipulate the religion. May Allah guide us all, forgive us all and accept from us all. Allahuma, tahir golubana

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  2. AnonyMouse

    While I understand the intent of the article, I disagree with the writer’s method of trying to get her point across.
    Yes, the situation of women-unfriendly masaajid is deplorable – I myself hate going to masjids where I have to climb three flights of stairs to pray in a smelly attic – but as they say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
    So rather than being aggressive and equally ‘unfriendly’ to the attitudes that are responsible for the marginilization (sp?) of Muslim women and children in the masaajid, perhaps a better approach would be to firm, polite, and armed with Islamic knowledge wielded in the right way.

    For example, instead of insulting the interpretations of Islamic scholars, rather point out that in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), women were active masjid-goers and men were ordered to respect their presence (by not moving from their places after the final tasleem, in order to give the women a chance to leave the masjid undisturbed and unmolested).

    Furthermore, one cannot brush off the issue of women beautifying themselves in public; this is something clearly mentioned in the Sunnah and we cannot tell men that they just have to control themselves – the responsibility is on both men and women here, in that women should not be wearing makeup and perfume, and that men are to lower their gazes and reign in their urges.

    I still agree that masaajid should be a lot more women-friendly, though :)
    As very involved and active members of my old Islamic center and masjid, my family used to spend a great deal of time organizing events and lectures for both men and women, with a lot of focus on getting women and children involved. Although the space available wasn’t much, we did our best to make it welcoming: vacuumed regularly, polished surfaces, perfumed the carpets, and tidied up the kid’s play area.
    A couple small rooms in a cramped house can still make a beautiful prayer place, if you just put in some love and effort :)

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    • WoodTurtle

      Thanks for your comment :) My intent was not to insult the scholars. I’ve come across the “beautification” and “men’s weakness” arguments by non-scholars, usually used in tandem, to reason that women should stay at home. While they are mentioned as well by scholarly sources, they are not a sole focus when discussing women and mosque attendance (when encouraged), which is why the answer is, “no, the scholars don’t think that lowly of humanity.”

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    • Fa3elKhair

      I agree. I have 2 Masajid within 15 min from my place. One is a large masjid where women usually pray in the back of the prayer hall except on Jum’ah prayer (they pray upstairs in the actual women’s section). This is good and bad. On one hand, we are following the sunnah as this was the way it was done in the masjid of the Prophet Muhammad (s). It also assures that the sisters can see and hear the Imam during Salah and during short lectures after Salah. However, there are several issues with this setup. Although the space between the men and the women is usually plenty, the issue of some women coming to the masjid improperly dressed is significant and cannot be ignored. I, as a man, find it disturbing that even when I go to the house of Allah, where I can be far away and safe from the greatest fitnah men have to face, my quraan recitation, memorization, supplication or thikr is interrupted by the sight of a girl in tight clothes and make up walking across the masjid. Another issue is especially apparent during Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan, all Ramadan, EVERY Ramadan… Women (at least the ones in my community) can’t seem to stop talking… During prayer. It is extremely annoying and it continues to happen every night regardless of the announcements begging women to grow up and just be quiet or leave. The same holds with the children with the women. To solve this issue, the masjid hired a baby sitter but women refuse to use the service and just have the kids creating a chaos between the lines of prayer. The masjid also seems too lazy to unlock both designated entrances for men and women. So they keep one entrance unlocked, and as a result, quite a bit of mixing happens there (issue of immodestly dressed girls is magnified here).

      The other masjid is on the other end; “unwelcoming” to women if you will. Both times my wife came with me to this masjid for Isha, we had to ask for help to unlock the women’s section (a hall between the classrooms of the masjid) or had her pray in the back (not designated for women) where she said she “got some looks”. Needless to say, my wife, although she acknowledges the issues with the first masjid, she prefers going there and believes things could be done to fix those issues.

      I believe the two masjids are at two extremes. What we need is a middle ground where women are more than welcome to the masjid but where the community is thoroughly educated and rules are strictly enforced on modest attire and keeping noise to a minimum. The best way to do this is to follow the example of the masjid of the Prophet (s) like AnonyMouse just mentioned above.

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      • Farhat-il-Faariha

        Birmingham By Any Chance..?!?!?
        :)

        Because As A Sister Living There.. I Face Similar Problems At 2 Masaajid Within Close Range..
        Neither Are Really Considered Much When It Comes To Looking For A Peaceful Salaah…

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    • Tr

      I dont see where the author was aggressive. Upset yes, and we all are. We get tired of being patient, tolerant, we come armed with our proofs and we get turned away for the very reasons you mentioned: some imaginary orgy that will supposedly erupt in the masjid.

      As far as insulting interpretations, some interpretations are insulting themselves, and if you read Arabic (or even not) you can dig and find many. Scholars are humans. They are also subject to the cultures they live in, including negative views of women. We need to stop idealizing scholars—and this is advice I heard from a scholar once!

      To the author: I, for one, will not nitpick and find fault in what is an overwhelmingly true assessment of our mosques. And noone can question our experiences.; we have lived them. We know how it feels.

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  3. seghni

    I can relate to this..when I first reverted I asked some sisters I knew to take me to the mosque..it was a lovely brand new building that the local Muslim community had raised the money for.When the three of us arrived it caused a great panic-somebody had to frantically search for the key for the women’s entrance because apparently no women ever came to use it !

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  4. ssa

    What abt Omar (RA) banning women in the mosque because they were making too much noise? Not that I am saying this is what I believe but often times, people use this as evidence,

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    • Soil

      ssa, please dont quote instances that cannot be verified and checked up on, especially when speaking about our beloved Sahaba.

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      • Muzzammil

        Regarding the question: Did the Commander of the Believers `Umar ibn al-Khattab – Allah be well-pleased with him – prevent women from attending the mosque? The answer is: Yes, but only those who stayed there for loitering/relaxation (istirwah), not those attending fard Salat.

        Khawla bint Qays said: “We were women, in the Mosque [in Madina al-Munawwara], who may have mixed with the men at times and perhaps even flirted (ghazalna) and even harmed themselves in this intermixing; so `Umar said: ‘I swear I shall make free women of you again.’ So he brought us out (akhrajana) of the Mosque.” Kanz al-`Ummal #23131 from Ibn Sa`d’s Tabaqat.

        `Umar (RA) never prevented nor forbade women from attending the mosque for the five obligatory prayers nor Tarawih.

        This general permission and conditional prohibition is how he understood the meaning of the hadith of the Prophet : “Do not forbid the bondswomen of Allah from [going to] the mosques of Allah.”

        It is also related that he allowed them to pray Tarawih prayers in the Mosque at Madina far from the men and ordered Sulayman ibn Abi Hatma to be Imam for them, at the far end of the Mosque. Al-Muhalla (3:139).

        In fact `Umar himself narrated that the Prophet said more explicitly, “If your women ask permission to go out to Salat, do not forbid them!” Musnad Ahmad (1:40).

        To that end `Umar made sure they had a separate entrance and exit to the Mosque, which he forbade men from using, and separate ablution facilities. Al-Muhalla (3:131 and 4:119).

        Yes, `Umar *disliked* for women to go the mosque.

        `Atika bint Zayd the wife of `Umar would ask `Umar permission to go to Salat in the Masjid and he would remain silent. She would continue, “I swear I will go out unless you forbid me.” She used to go out for Salat al-`Isha and Salat al-Fajr. She was asked once: “Why do you go out like that, knowing how jealous he is?” She replied: “And what prevents him from forbidding us?” Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba (1:106).

        `Umar once said to her: “I swear that you know very well I dislike it.” She said: “By Allah! I shall not stop until you forbid me.” `Umar replied: “I truly do not forbid you.” And the day `Umar was stabbed to death in the mosque, she was present. Al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm (3:139).

        It is `A’isha – Allah be well-pleased with her – that tended to forbid the women from going to the mosques, including for the five prescribed prayers let alone Tarawih. She gave her reason in the famous statement: “If the Messenger of Allah had seen what the women of our time do, he would have forbidden them to go to the mosques just as the Israelite women were forbidden.” Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and the books of Sunan.

        The majority of the Ulema if not their Consensus agree – and Allah knows best – that if women go to mosques – for obligatory prayers or otherwise – then there should be (1) a separate entrance for them and (2) space for prayer and facilities they can use in isolation from mixing with and view by the men. And Allah knows best.

        In conclusion: You are right that in the time of the Prophet there was no curtain separating men from women. The men prayed directly behind the Prophet , then the boys, then the women starting behind the last row of the boys. But not having a curtain in the mosque today in not a sunna in the sense of “something not obligatory but carrying reward, the leaving which does not constitute sin.”

        Furthermore, the curtain is not against the Sunna but on the contrary is a way to prevent fitna, which prevention is fard and a pre-requisite of obligatory and recommended practices. There is a basic principle that “the prevention of evil take precedence over the obtainment of good.” Such prevention, in other words, applies before everything.

        In view of this, the Prophet said that the best place for a woman’s Salat is in the privacy of her house, and in another narration: in the privacy of her room. If something approaching the function and purposes of this private space can be reduplicated in the mosque, it should be welcome as something close to Wajib, not fought.

        So the curtain should be accepted, allowing men and women to pray on alternate sides if space does not allow front rows for men and back rows for women, which is a better arrangement. Together with this there should be separate facilities and, if possible, separate entrances.

        This conclusion reunites the basic stipulations of the texts on the issue of women praying in the Mosque, not on the allegation that “`Umar banned women from the mosque” but in order that believing men and women can obtain the benefits of Jama`a without Shaytan interfering with them. Wallahu a`lam.

        Hajj Gibril
        Fatwa taken from LivingIslam.com

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      • Mansoor Ansari

        Jazak’Allah Khair for this post. Helps us understand this issue much better. But I doubt those on the two extremes really care abt anything other than their own emotions.

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      • Fa3elKhair

        Jazak Allah Khairan… I honestly learned and benefited more from your comment than I did from the article.

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      • Amatullah

        Salamualiakum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh..

        JazakAllah Khair Alf ! it was really beneficial!

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      • HadithCheck

        Assalam Alaikum

        The source of this fatwa does not seem to be very credible.

        This narration is weak as Ibn Rajab stated in Fath Albaari that it has a weak chain of narration:

        Khawla bint Qays said: “We were women, in the Mosque [in Madina al-Munawwara], who may have mixed with the men at times and perhaps even flirted (ghazalna) and even harmed themselves in this intermixing; so `Umar said: ‘I swear I shall make free women of you again.’ So he brought us out (akhrajana) of the Mosque.” Kanz al-`Ummal #23131 from Ibn Sa`d’s Tabaqat.

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      • africana

        Jazak Allahu kairan for posting this article. It really helped clarfiy the issue, ma sha Allah.

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  5. Bizzle

    I feel with you sister, but you cant expect everyone and every situation to be perfect. Just look for a community that provides nice accommodations. Dont expect anything ideal though. Its almost like looking for a husband..or wife… the only ideal is in paradise…

    p.s. I must include…these little problems are important..everything concerning Islam and out akhira is important, but there are things more important..for example, the lack of dawah and cooperation between mosques

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    • A frustrated woman!!!

      are you a sister???? subhan Allah these issues are so pertinent!!! why are so many not seeing that?

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    • Tr

      Sorry, don’t prioritize what you feel is more important over what others feel is necessary. Alienating people from their house of worship is VERY important. Take care of those already in the house, before you focus on calling those outside it (dawa)!

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  6. Arif

    Excellent… Thanks for the article… While one cannot ignore the hadiths which talk about women going out beautifying themselves and the reward for women when praying inside their homes, Using these hadiths to simply isolate and kick out the women from mosque and public spaces is gross unjustified and illogical… and This article has very clearly brought up this point.

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  7. aycheetoo

    I think making your husband drive round till you find a suitanble mosque or make him pray with you at home a tad selfish.i agree that womens areas tend to be more uncomfortable and mismanaged but encourage the authorities to have them cleaned.
    I am a woman, and a feminist to a cerain degree but i know my limits within Islam.
    In every rule that Allah makes you find wisdom.
    Women are encouraged to come and pray in the masjid but are told praying in their inner chambers is better for them. Why?
    The way i see it, older women and those without young children are more welcome.
    I find it inconsiderate to have children who run around , cry , play and cause more distraction and havoc during prayer.Once in a while like in a family outing its ok, n=but not every singlke day.
    Wouldnt it be better to have children from the age of 7( the age when kids are enjoined to start praying) to start coming to the mosque?
    Allah knows best.

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    • WoodTurtle

      It may seem selfish, but where I live alhamdulillah, there’s practically a masjid every five blocks. So we really don’t have to go far.

      My daughter is 15 months and holds her hands up for dua’a, makes takbir and puts her head down in sujood. When I get ready to pray, she “asks” for her hijab to be put on her head. And when we go to the masjid, she is very content to sit and play close to me and slowly she is learning not to make noise during the Qur’anic recitation. This wouldn’t necessarily happen if we hadn’t exposed her to prayer and the mosque from day one. But I don’t have a 7 year old (yet), so I really don’t know how they would react to suddenly be taken to the mosque every Friday/Weekend school — it would be interesting to hear other perspectives and experiences on this.

      I think kids of any age can come to the mosque and gain benefit — we just need more understanding mosque administrations and dual-parent involvement. And I also feel that “noisy kids” are also used as an excuse to keep women away from mosques, since they tend to be the primary caregiver.

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  8. Charles

    This post makes me think more on Meena Malik’s post, In His Eyes: A Reflection on Beauty. That is, we should seek what is beautiful according to Allah, on the outside and on the inside, and the mosque should be the reflection of our seeking what is beautiful.

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  9. Eye

    Salaams wood turtle. I’ve posted this comment on your personal site, but wanted to to join the conversation here too.

    I love the way you have addressed the issue, and how you use your own example of taking care of your daughter to show the wisdom behind the above mentioned hadith of ‘the best place for women to pray’. In fact, it kind of reminds me of the Adhan (call to prayer). When a person makes the call to prayer – imagine the sound emanating from a minaret, for example – he is said to receive the reward of the people who hear him and proceed in prayer. Some companions approached the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) and said that it is unfair that only the one who calls to prayer is able to receive such a reward while others cannot…after all, in one specific mosque, at one specific time, only one person can make the call to prayer. The Prophet said that what people should do is to repeat the words of the Adhan after the one who calls to prayer – and when you do that, it is as if you have made the call to prayer and you too will receive the reward of those who pray. This applies to both men and women.

    Similarly, for those women who want to go to the mosque and pray, but cannot, God is saying that praying at home is perfectly fine, and even better for you because you are sacrificing going to the mosque as a result of the duties that you are taking care of. At the same time, it allows women who may be unable to attend the mosque, for whatever reason, to not feel guilty. Beautiful.

    Personally, I love to pray in mosques and its hard for me to reach the same level of concentration at home. When I hear people tell me its better for me to pray at home, it upsets me – those people do not know what is in my heart when I pray in either place and I know what makes me feel closer to God.

    But, in line with the first half of your post – I’ll never forget this one mosque that I prayed in (I’d rather not pinpoint as I am hopeful that changes have been made). You could smell urine. The carpets were stained. And the area felt wet. I have never prayed so upset before…and I certainly didn’t have khushoo in my prayer – only dismay. We do need women on boards to have our voices heard, but we also need men who have their eyes, ears and hearts open to the needs of women (and children) too to speak out as well.

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  10. ummousama

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Despite the fact that Islam is a communal religion — a brother and sisterhood — making women feel unwelcome at the mosque is endemic in the Muslim world.

    I can tell you that here in Cairo, women are welcome at the mosque and so are children. My husband takes my two younger ones (aged 3 and 7) with him to pray the normal prayer and, when he doesn’t take them, he is asked: “Where are they?” Yes, the women’s area might be upstairs sometimes, yet, it is in the same state as the men’s mosque.

    . In fact, it was encouraged by the Prophet when he said, “‘Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from going to the mosque…” (Muslim, Abu Dawud).

    I am not sure the interpretation the scholars give to this hadeeth but, for me, there is a difference between not preventing and encouraging.

    So why then are some women barred outright by male family members? Why is there a global adherence to this belief that’s also being maintained by scholars, laypeople and by women themselves?

    It’s also in these traditions however, and particularly in the subsequent centuries of predominantly male interpretations of these traditions, that we find support for a whole slew of places for women to pray: behind men, above men in balconies, beneath men in mosque basements, or just not being allowed in the mosqu

    Please respect our scholars. So you, a English-speaking women, can interpret the Quran and the ahadeeth on issues pertaining to women better than the male scholars who know Arabic and have learned Islam for years? The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. You cannot dismis their interpretations just like that.

    that can never happen as long as women (and men) believe that it’s better for them not to attend the mosque.

    There is a huge difference between believing it is better to pray in the house and believing that women shouldn’t attend the mosque. I believe in the first one but I have all my life gone to the mosque for lessons and talks.

    Women need to demand equal space and treatment in the mosque, and not pray in a “penalty box.” The more women become involved in the mosque culture and demand to be representatives on administration boards, the better the situation can become.

    Is this your solution? You will achieve very little like that.

    First of all, the state of women’s place in the mosque is a symptom and not the disease itself. The disease is that the Sunnah is not followed. I have never attended one of the shuyukh of Al-Maghrib’s institute’s mosque. However, if the place for women is well-maintained, then alhamdulillah. If it is not, then you have to take issue with them first.

    Secondly, let your husband participate in mosques’ committees and start to convince people of bettering things for women.

    Thirdly, take up this issue with the shuyukh like those of Al-maghrib’s institute. Ask them to push for that issue with ISNA. That would be much more powerful. When I mentioned in a comment a while ago that women married to shuyukh should be available for their local community, I was told that this is not always possible. Sorry, but I’ve never seen a president or a minister or a leader of a community whose wife is not involved. Would it be alright if we never saw Michele Obama? No, it wouldn’t. So is it for community leaders.

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    • Daughter of Adam (AS)

      I love that you brought up the importance of the wives of community leaders. I realize they are often very busy, but for them to be involved is, just as you stated, is completely essential. may Allah help all of us!

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      • Sister

        I absolutely agree. May Allaah swt reward our sisters and make it easy for them….

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  11. WoodTurtle

    Wa ‘alaikum as salaam — thank you for your detailed comment.

    I think it’s important that we hear positive experiences like yours. As I mention in the article, there are indeed some wonderful masaajid. Even in Kuwait I’ve visited one mosque with ample, beautiful space for women, and that welcomed children of all ages. But it wasn’t the standard.

    What’s missing from the current dialogue on this issue are female voices. Male-centric interpretations of these traditional sources do not have to originate from the scholars themselves — but from culture as well as politics. Historically women were carriers and interpreters of the ahadeeth and many of our esteemed male scholars were educated by female ‘alimah. So yes, I really do believe that women have the agency to interpret the Qur’an and the ahadeeth.

    In the past I have sat with other women on mosque administrations, and some of the mosques that are most sensitive to women’s needs have women on the board. And until recently, ISNA was headed by a woman. You have a better understanding of how things could work in Egypt — and if it begins with having men sympathetic to the rights of women elected to mosque boards, then wonderful.

    I’m not sure in what context your other comment was made, but I agree, it should be possible for women to have access to male scholars and their wives. As an executive member of an Islamic group who regularly organizes Deen Intensives, I regularly hear complaints from female attendees who cannot gain access to the scholars. When they’re not being pushed out of the way by throngs of male attendees who surround our shuyukh after sessions, they’re being denied one-on-one access because of traditional seating arrangements in mosque settings (ie: on a balcony, behind a curtain, etc). Occasionally we’ve provided “sisters’ only sessions”, but even then sometimes the shuyukh have community responsibilities that supersede attending a secondary lecture. So they send their wives in their place.

    And while the knowledge from these women is invaluable, important to celebrate and engage with, I still hear complaints from women who feel that they are not important enough to have direct access to the shuyukh.

    From a mosque perspective, even if a scholar’s / imam’s wife is active in the community, she may not have any decision making power for the direction of the mosque — just like in some areas an imam is accountable to the mosque administration or to the political state, as well as the congregation.

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    • Hassan

      What’s missing from the current dialogue on this issue are female voices. Male-centric interpretations of these traditional sources do not have to originate from the scholars themselves — but from culture as well as politics. Historically women were carriers and interpreters of the ahadeeth and many of our esteemed male scholars were educated by female ‘alimah. So yes, I really do believe that women have the agency to interpret the Qur’an and the ahadeeth.

      Qualified people whether men or women should interpret Quran and Sunnah, I think that is what sister you were responding to meant. Also you can not disregard a statement on the issue just if it is given by male (or female). It seems you are suggesting that male scholars should not talk about it?

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    • Muzzammil

      What’s missing from the current dialogue on this issue are female voices. Male-centric interpretations of these traditional sources do not have to originate from the scholars themselves — but from culture as well as politics. Historically women were carriers and interpreters of the ahadeeth and many of our esteemed male scholars were educated by female ‘alimah. So yes, I really do believe that women have the agency to interpret the Qur’an and the ahadeeth.

      I don’t think you want to go that route sister, because as the male scholars in this ummah, have never prevented women from coming to the masaajid (in most cases,) however there are examples of women scholars/muhadditheens who did not allow women to go to the masjid. The most prominent example is the mother of the believers, Aisha (Radiyallahu’ anha) who said (taken from fatwa on LivingIslam.com which talked about whether or not Umar (Radiyallahu’anhu) forbade women from the masaajid, and coming to the answer “no, he just disliked it…”)

      “It is `A’isha – Allah be well-pleased with her – that tended to forbid the women from going to the mosques, including for the five prescribed prayers let alone Tarawih. She gave her reason in the famous statement: “If the Messenger of Allah had seen what the women of our time do, he would have forbidden them to go to the mosques just as the Israelite women were forbidden.” Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and the books of Sunan.”

      See that is the female voice which we are missing; and it is from the greatest woman scholar this ummah has even seen, and ever will know. Male-Centric interpretation tends to look down upon women going to the masjid, but female centric interpretations forbid it, due to how “low class” as Aisha (Radiyallahu’ anha) said that the muslim women had become! And this was at the time of the Tabi’in. The Second best!!!! Now today we see the complete moral decay of women who come to the masjid where I attend. And Wallahi I am not talking about those 4 or 5 women, that wear niqaab, and no scent, and are quiet etc. Almost all the women at my masjid, in Ohio, USA come in wearing tight jeans, sometimes EVEN TO THE KNEES!! Astaghfarullahul adheem, and they do not wear hijaab, and we can smell “Victoria Secret” from far away,etc. Is it then wrong to prevent these women from coming to the masjid, when they clearly disobey the Laws set by Rasool Ullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam who used to send women back home if he smelled perfume on them, and told them to come back only after removing it….Is it really nescessary to integrate these women into the society? It will no doubt create many fitnah’s when the male and female are talking about masjid policies, and the man is only thinking about the tight clothing shaping the woman’s breasts, or how her hair looks so pretty, or how great she smells,etc….We are living today in the stage where Rasool Ullah Salllallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam stated in the famous hadeeth

      It was reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are two types of the people of Hell that I have not seen yet: men with whips like the tails of cattle, with which they strike the people, and women who are clothed yet naked, walking with an enticing gait, with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels, leaning to one side. They will never enter Paradise or even smell its fragrance, although its fragrance can be detected from such and such a distance.” (Narrated by Ahmad and by Muslim in al-Saheeh).

      The tafseer of the woman part of this hadeeth goes such as

      The second type is “women who are clothed yet naked, walking with an enticing gait, with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels, leaning to one side.” Al-Nawawi said concerning the meaning of this passage: al-kaasiyaat al-‘aariyaat (translated here as “clothed yet naked”) means that they will uncover part of their bodies to show their beauty, so they will be clothed yet naked. And it was said that they will wear thin clothes which shows what is beneath them, so they will be clothed yet virtually naked. With regard to the phrase Maa’ilaat mumeelaat (translated here as “walking with an enticing gait”), it was said that it means: deviating from obedience to Allaah and from the commandment to guard their chastity, etc. Mumeelaat means, teaching others to do what they do. And it was said that Maa’ilaat means walking with an enticing gait and mumeelaat means moving their shoulders. And it was said that it means that they try to tempt men by means of showing their adornments.

      With regard to the phrase Ru’oosahunna ka asnimat il-bukht (translated here as “with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels”), this may mean that they make their heads look bigger with veils and turbans, which are wrapped around the head, so that they look like the humps of camels. This is the well-known interpretation. Al-Maaziri said: it may be that what is meant is that they will not lower their gaze in the presence of men, rather they will look directly at them.

      Sharh al-Nawawi ‘ala Saheeh Muslim, 17/191.

      Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: The phrase “clothed yet naked” has been interpreted to mean that they wear short clothes that do not cover the ‘awrah that must be covered. And it has been interpreted as meaning that they wear light, thin clothes that do not prevent others from seeing the woman’s skin underneath. And it has been interpreted as meaning that they wear tight clothes that conceal the skin from sight but still show off the woman’s charms.

      Fataawa al-Shaykh Muhamamd ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 2/825.

      And Wallahi this is true today in my masjid, and even the Christian and Jew women who come on a weekly basis to the masjid to learn about Islam put these women to shame by covering completely and wearing loose garments, and no make up, perfume, etc.When we talk to these woman when telling them about Islam (from behind a veil of course) we feel more in the company of God fearing women, than when we sit down with muslim women, who try to look you straight in the eye and command you to do this and that, and they themselves are the living embodiment of Rasool Ullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam’s hadeeth. May Allah protect us from this fitnah, this fitnah which all the men in the ulema have allowed because of the hadeeth “do not prevent the women from going to the masjid…,” but Aisha Radiyallahu’Anha, Ummul Mu’mineen, one of the greatest of Ulema, who could be stacked against many male scholars (sahaba’s at that), and make them look like laymen…..SHE FORBADE women from going to the masaajid, due to how they were looking, acting etc. This is not my opinion but that of Aisha (Radiyallahu Anha)…

      What I am trying to say is that the 4 or 5 women who wear niqaab and still come to the masjid, and keep their voices down, and do not waste time, but are true slaves of Allah, we need to respect them, and make sure that they have a good place to pray, accommodate them, and make them feel welcome, because after all, women are the moral fibers of society, when a woman becomes corrupt, the society becomes corrupt. Which brings me to my next point which is that unless there is a hope that by bring the other type of women in the masjid helps them to come closer to Islam (which it clearly has not for the past 15 years at our masjid) then we should RECOMMEND that they should stay home, and this is because of the opinion of a woman, Aisha Radiyallahu Anha, with whom I agree, that to protect the men in the masjids from (those women’s) fitnah, and the most harmful of fitnah’s left by Rasool Ullah to this ummah. Now Aisha Radiyallahu Anha forbade women from coming; We cannot outright do that in our society, but we take the middle course for thsese women, we recommend they stay home, and if they do decide to come, then they must follow the etiquette of a muslim woman, and Allah knows best….may Allah protect the righteous men and the righteous women from those women about whom Rasool Ullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said “They will never even smell the fragrance of Jannah.”

      Historically women were carriers and interpreters of the ahadeeth and many of our esteemed male scholars were educated by female ‘alimah. So yes, I really do believe that women have the agency to interpret the Qur’an and the ahadeeth.

      True. Very true. However the woman that carried the most hadeeth, and related and taught the most hadeeth, from whom the greatest of men got educated from; do you really want her interpretation of the Qur’aan and Sunnah, which are in most aspects the stricter one? She is after all, not only a woman schlar, but one of the best OF the Scholars.

      Wallahi if those women of the sahaba, or even the hoor al ayn were to see us in the sad state we are today, the men would be like boys to her, shameful and debased, honorless, and disgraced, slaves to our own desires and to women, filthy garbage to this Glorious Deen and Ummah, and if they were to see the women, they would think of them as prostitutes, selling herself to Shaitan, and his army the western concept of beauty, they would think of the women today, as one of the clothed but unclothed woman, they would stay away from her, and as Aisha (Radiyallahu Anha) once saw Romans on a trip, and that their women were walking around topless, she said “By Allah let them enjoy the glances of men in this world, we will enjoy something far better in Jannah (paraphrasing, I dont know the exact quote)”

      And Allah knows best….

      forgive me where you see me wrong; my purpose was not to offend, but to elucidate my own opinion from my experiences. I am not saying I am right, this is merely my opinion.

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      • BM

        Mashallah brother. May Allah reward you manifold.

        To be honest, this post and previous post, in my humble opinion, can actually be the period for this discussion. In my previous post, I really wanted to say this, but could not, as I am not as articulate as you, and the demand for allowing male and female to pray without any separation angered me.

        It is actually pointless to continue discussion with people who will never value our fear of fitnah that may arise from allowing men and women praying together in mosques. In Arab countries, women are allowed to attend the mosque only in Taraweeh and Eid prayers. Yes, every mosque has separate arrangement for females, yet fitnah enters the mosque in the following ways:

        01. In many mosques, where females prays behind a partition or in upstairs, we can smell the perfume they have put. It will be almost impossible to make sure that each and every women will come to the mosque without wearing perfume. However, putting perfume when going outside is strictly prohibited. During the time of the prophet, a women was told to bath before going outside because her husband smelled perfume from her.

        I do not want to generalize, but from my experience, I have seen that most Muslim women now a days find it extremely difficult to observe this prohibition while going outside. I have even smelled strong perfume from women observing proper niqab and hijaab even from a very good distance in market place, in my university, and in many other places.

        02. During the time of the prophet, the male companions never ever looked into the back of their rows until all the females emptied the mosque. Similarly, the male companions never ever rushed to go out of the mosque until all the women left the mosque. Now, in our times, does such patience and forbearance exist? It exists, but only among very few men and women. Al Hamdulillah, I have been praying in mosque since I was 12-13 years, and my observation says that about 60% of the Muslims males now a days do not even have the patience to observe the dhikr that the Messenger of Allah has prescribed and encouraged after fard prayers. Most people now a days have shortened salah to such an extent that many does not observe the sunnah prayers that are known as sunna al muakkadah. Those prayers have been made optional. Therefore, as soon as the imam says, “Assalamualikum was rahmatullah”, people starts rushing to the door of the mosque.

        The demonstration of lack of patience becomes clear after the Jumah salah. The mosque remains full, but some men do not even have the decency to allow some time for the back rows empty. Many starts going over the shoulders to reach the door, which is a great violation of the adab of the mosque, and some even walks in front of other people in salah, which is even greater sin.

        Since our state of imaan and patience has reached such low, how can one even think of allowing men and women to pray together?

        03. Because of the lack of patience in Muslims, after taraweeh, men and women ususally come out together. Then men see women and women see men outside the mosque. This mingling cause fitnah, because not all men lower their gaze and not all women maintain proper hijab, especially the 13-14 years daughters, majority of whom come in tight fit clothes and just with scarf in the head.

        04. Sometimes women come to the mosque with children and they create a lot of noise. It created unnecessary distraction in salaah. Almost everyday this Ramadan, the imam had to request the sisters to take care of the children.

        05. 90% of women gossip in the mosque. This Ramadan my mom attended the qiyam prayers only and I learned it from her. Most of often after four rakahs or so, most women would go the back of their row and start chatting. Then when the imam would say takbeer to go to ruku’ in the fifth rakah, they would run from the back and join the salah. The cycle repeats at the beginning of 7th rakah. Now, is mosque a place of gathering? Certainly it is not. On top of that, it is strictly forbidden to talk about any worldly matters in the mosque.

        06. As some sisters mentioned in the comments area, some sisters want to make friends in the mosque. This is another fitnah because mosque is not a place for socialization. I have been praying in mosque for years but I never went their with the intention of meeting new people and making friends.

        One negative is enough to cancel all the positives. And here the negative is the fear of fitnah.

        While discussion is always good, this discussion resulted in the following negative:

        Some people talked in a derogatory tone about Ummul Mumeeneen Aisha (ra) and the Umar (ra). I can name the posters if you want. Sometimes in the course of discussion, some posters show such zeal that it seems they have better understanding of Islam than people who lived their life with the Messenger of Allah. That Aisha (ra) and Umar (ra) disliked women going to the mosque their times means they had fear of fitanh and their fear was genuine. But let alone respecting their opinion, they outright dismiss it.

        I agree that the Messenger of Allah did not forbid women from going to mosque, but he preferred them to pray in their own room. Now, the prohibition here cannot be greater than his preferrence. Like Allah did not forbid divorce, that does not mean that Allah prefers divorce. Rather, despite being allowed, divorce is something that is most hated by Allah among the halaal things.

        For women who are asking how they will learn about the deen if they do not go to mosque, they will first learn it from their parents. Then they will lean it from their husbands, then from other sisters, then from books, cds, and various others resources.

        I understand that sisters who intend to go to mosque has good intention, but at the same time, I wish that they understand our intention too. I hope that they understand that we dislike their going to mosque not out of the intention to subjugate them, but rather out of the intention to prevent the fitnah of oppotite gender. This fitnah has entered every sphere of our lives except mosques, so let us protect the sanctity of our mosques.

        May Allah guide all of us.

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      • :-/

        “Sometimes women come to the mosque with children and they create a lot of noise. It created unnecessary distraction in salaah. Almost everyday this Ramadan, the imam had to request the sisters to take care of the children.”

        So would it be appropriate, then, to ban both women and children from mosques?

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      • BM

        BTW sister, you do not have to feel bad for my would-be wife either. Before I marry, I would make clear my viewpoints to women. I personally believe that I will be a great father and a loving husband, and I am not a person who will seek power in a family, but thus I will make sure that I marry a girl who has the same opinion like me about some issues. Like

        01. I do not want women to work. Now, I cannot say that it is wrong, or haraam, but personally I think the co-existence of women everywhere have created a lot of fitnah. Thus I will try my household from stepping into such fitnah or being the cause of such fitnah.

        02. I do not want women to attend mosque. The reason is same: I am afraid of fitnah.

        Now, I do not believe in forcing my opinions on others. Everyone has the right to hold whatever opinion they want to hold. If I do not ever find a girl whose opinion is compatible with that of mine, I will probably not marry.

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      • Salam

        As-salamu Alaykum BM,
        I think you are quite young and may eventually change your views on some points. I had to smile a bit when I read that you have never made a friend in the mosque. I mean, what do you think the point of praying in congregation is? Why do you think Allah SWT brings Muslims together five times a day every day if not to know each other and form friendships/relationships? It is obviously wrong to socialize DURING the prayer or DURING a lecture, but there is nothing wrong with making friends in the mosque. Most good (lifelong, religious) friends I have were made at the mosque.

        I am surprised the men are so disturbed by women’s perfume (which I fully acknowledge is haram to wear outside) when men themselves tend to wear so much cologne to the masjid. Are you really able to distinguish between the two odors?

        I have to ask: What kind of fitnah are you afraid your future wife will be involved in at the mosque? If she is properly covered (as I assume your mom is) and knows how to lower her gaze (as I assume your mom does) and avoids the women who talk/gossip during prayers (as I assume your mom does), then I think you have nothing to worry about as she will certainly enjoy the great feelings of happiness one experiences praying at the mosque. You did mention your mom goes there, right? Why does your mom go there at all if it is so bad? Is your mom the only one who knows how to behave there? Maybe she can help educate those who don’t know how to behave.

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      • africana

        Assalamu Alaikum,

        I am very much in agreemet witht ehfact that women should avoid perfume and the like, I just wanted to point out that, as a convert, attending the mosque brings me into contact with Muslim women committed to learning their deen. As much of the Muslim community tend to be somewhat reserved and most socialisation is limited to those within their family circles, it’s very difficult for a western convert, such as myself, to make the acquaintance of other Muslim women.

        Some degree of social interraction is good for one’s well being and I think that if one is going to forbid women fromattending the mosque, one has to consider that there are women lke myself who have no Muslim family and few opportunities to actually meet and get together with other Muslims.

        In the community here in Glasgow, whilst women don’t attend the deobandi mosque for prayers, there are classes for women in the adjoining school on a Friday evening which, as well as being very informative, bring me into contact with Muslim sisters.

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  12. anonymous

    I don’t think it should be made into such a big issue in regards to women not being able to come to the masajid. Rather, I think it’s about how they come and why they come. Many women in the masajid come to socialize or do so after the prayer in ways that the men can hear them. They wear make-up and perfume claim they are just trying to be “presentable” in public. All this does cause fitnah I believe. Aisha (R) said that if the Prophet (SAW) had seen how the women started coming to the masjid (after his death), he (SAW) would have prohibited them from coming. Aisha (R) was a wise woman. What would make her say such a thing? Surely, she knew the women were wrong. In today’s times, I think it is the womens’ fault more than the men. Allah made men more inclined to their desires and so they have to lower their gazes. Women are also told to lower their gazes but they have to cover. Women these days don’t cover properly and men also don’t lower their gazes the way they’re supposed to. So my question to the women is that are they more concerned abt coming to the masajid and “being an active part of the community” or abt guarding their modesty?
    In other countries, the situation of women not being able to go to masajid should be addressed. I would completely agree with what you’re saying if you were talking about other places. I have seen places where women are forbidden to come to the masjid and it was ridiculous. BUT, in America, okay, I understand, there are some bad masjid facilities for women (I witnessed it myself) but if majority of the women started coming to the masajid properly dressed, then maybe someone would start encouraging them to come rather than shunning them completely. Also, the men today are not so pious and righteous as were the Sahabahs. I have never seen the men waiting until the women leave as was the case when the Prophet (SAW) was alive and he told the Sahabahs to wait until all the women were gone. And during that time, Aisha (R) relates a hadith in which she says that the women would go to Fajr prayer all wrapped up in their cloaks and no one would recognize them because of the darkness. Women are rarely cover like that these days and the ones that do have to suffer the consequences of the doings of the ones that don’t. There is a lot of fitnah in the masajid and both women and men should correct themselves before the women can start coming actively to the masajid and this offers more protection for the women anyway- it is in their best interest.

    I’m a woman myself and I do feel the pain when women are shunned from the masajid but as Allah (SWT) said in the Qur’an, “…Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is within themselves” (Ar-Ra’ad 13:11). So the community has to reform, the women have to understand their fault and fix it before Allah will give them their rights. We have to deserve it, and right now, many women don’t.
    And when you said that the hadith about women praying in their homes refers to women with responsibilities, and what about working women and women are looking for Islamic education, etc.? Then I have to say that yes, you have a point but when I heard that hadith from a shaykh, he didn’t put it in that context that it only refers to women with responsibilities. and plus, the hadith talks about prayer only, not about coming to the masjid for education. Anyway, the basic point I’m trying to make is that women should know both their RIGHTS AND their RESPONSIBILITIES before coming to the masajid. Ranting about their rights all the time won’t do anything or benefit anyone if everyone does not fix themselves.

    I apologize if I was too blunt or rude and I ask Allah to guide us all and make us all successful in this Ummah. Ameen.

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  13. Salam

    As-salamu Alaykum,

    Here in Jordan, I find that the mosques are clean and well-maintained for women. You will find some mosques that have very few women attending (due to location) and are thus locked at certain times of the day but this is not because women are unwelcome. You can usually find the person with the key and enter the women’s section, which is usually spacious and clean. Although these areas are separate from the men’s areas, technology is used to overcome any problems such as not being able to hear the imam. All mosques I have been to in Jordan use a speaker system and have adequate audio in the women’s sections.

    Some of the worst maintained mosques I have seen are in the United States so people should not assume this problem is universal across the Muslim world. In the Muslim countries mosques are generally maintained by the government and so there are specific standards each mosque must adhere to. The Arab Gulf countries in particular have some very beautifully maintained mosques. In the U.S., it is each Muslim community scraping together funds on their own to put together a mosque. Some of the older mosques were hastily put together to serve male students or immigrants and did not take into account what the situation would be in the future as these people settled, married, etc, and the community grew. Other communities had to purchase old buildings and facilities that did not have a logical/welcoming space for women. While one can sympathize with these types of situations I would say that these days there is no excuse for sub-standard facilities. If a community is raising funds for a mosque, they absolutely need to think about how women will be accommodated.

    Regarding the other points about “where” a woman should pray…I think people forget that women are sometimes in genuine need of a place to pray outside. A woman may be out travelling, visiting the doctor, or undertaking any number of legitimate activities outside the home. When the time for prayer comes, she should not be forced to pray in her car or on the sidewalk. Yes, women need to maintain proper hijab and adab but they can learn about this at the mosque if they don’t already know (through lessons and contact with other Muslims). There was a time when I did not maintain proper hijab but it was because I was ignorant and not due to any bad intentions on my part. If I wasn’t allowed in the mosque, how would I grow and learn? Please do not say that women are the reason for the poorly maintained mosques or the reason women are an afterthought in some mosques. This makes very little sense to me.

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  14. Siraaj

    Welcome woodturtle :) I’m not convinced by the interpretation of context you provided about praying at home. There are other versions that further elaborate it as being better to pray in the room, or even a smaller space in the home, as I recall.

    Abu Dawood (567) narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosques, although their houses are better for them.”

    the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said: “A woman’s prayer in her house is better than her prayer in her courtyard, and her prayer in her bedroom is better than her prayer in her house.” (Reported by Abu Dawud in al-Sunan, Baab maa jaa’a fee khurooj al-nisaa’ ilaa’l-masjid. See also Saheeh al-Jaami‘, no. 3833)

    Umm Humayd, the wife of Abu Humayd al-Saa‘idi reported that she came to the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I love to pray with you.” He said: “I know that you love to pray with me, but praying in your house is better for you than praying in your courtyard, and praying in your courtyard is better for you than praying in the mosque of your people, and praying in the mosque of your people is better for you than praying in my mosque.” So she ordered that a prayer-place be built for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she always prayed there until she met Allaah (i.e., until she died). (Reported by Imaam Ahmad; the men of its isnaad are thiqaat (trustworthy))

    I also don’t think it’s wise to rebuff the difficulties men face regarding women:

    The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “I have not left behind me any fitnah that is more harmful to men than women.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4808; Muslim, 2704

    Having posted all that, I don’t think it is in any way a justification or excuse to prevent sisters from the masjid or to shove them into shoddily constructed broom closets.

    I agree with you, and as well with sister Ify, that for cultural reasons, women have been marginalized in the masjid, and I would also add that some of the issue is bureaucratic incompetence more than subjugation, and a lack of understanding of what women experience in those “penalty boxes” (hence the need for more female representatives to bring these issues up on the board, a great suggestion).

    But I also think your argument would be made stronger if you acknowledged the concerns of those who were less on the cultural and incompetence side of the equation, and more on the “religious concerns” side of the equation – what can proactive women such as yourself and others do to address those concerns as well so that this negotiation of ideas is not a one-sided affair? How can we create a standard where, at least at the masjid, women understand the dos and don’ts for attire, makeup, and perfume. How can we create a standard whereby if we had women directly behind the men, they would know to stand up and leave to another area (maybe in the community center) after the prayer concludes, as was done in the Prophet’s (SAW) masjid?

    I believe you and others of sisters have very valid concerns that have to be addressed. I think there are issues on the other side that have to also be addressed, but “buck up and deal with it” is good for rah-rahing supporters, but not winning over those on other side who have real concerns. There are many of us among the “conservative” side that want sisters to have equal or better amenities than even we have, but we need the voices for change to embody more balance and understanding, to seek first to understand before being understood, and together synthesizing a win-win solution, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

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    • Charles

      Assalamu alaikum,

      You made some excellent points. Yet, with respect to your last sentence, I would say that it is more incumbent on leaders and on those who have the power to make changes “to embody more balance and understanding, to seek first to understand before being understood.” That is simply what leaders do. Without being asked, they seek the welfare of all members of the ummah, and they correct wrongs.

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      • Siraaj

        Agreed, but since we don’t have that, then let’s at least get that from our up and coming leaders among this generation. We are all already leaders in one way or another, and perhaps today’s up and coming blogger is tomorrow’s sister on the board :)

        We must expect it from ourselves first before we expect it from others. I consider myself on the side of those who want it prayer areas and accommodations for sisters which is why I say “from ourselves” and not “from those sisters”, with the intention of fulfilling the sunnah of allowing sisters into the masjid, allowing them the ability to participate in a reasonable capacity, and of being best to our womenfolk (sorry if that comes off as chauvinistic, it’s not meant to be).

        However, let it not be conflated with others in this camp with ulterior motives, such as Asra Nomani who wants to take advantage of certain aspects of the Sunnah to further a progressive agenda / secular agenda, of female imams leading men and giving the khutbah – that’s complete and utter nonsense, and we do have to be careful not to conflate one agenda with the other.

        Siraaj

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      • Abdullah

        Exactly. Excellent points, Siraaj. These are points that much need to be made.

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    • Tr

      “what can proactive women such as yourself and others do to address those concerns as well so that this negotiation of ideas is not a one-sided affair? How can we create a standard where, at least at the masjid, women understand the dos and don’ts for attire, makeup, and perfume”

      Siraaj I appreciate your balanced responses but you are putting a heavy burden on the women. The men enter and can *expect* a clean, quiet place to contemplate. But before we can even ask for the same we must engage on a campaign to tell other women to not wear perfume or indecent clothes? I mean, wow. We are dealing with enough. I’m not going to take on all the sisters, in addition to all the men. Why is there not an equal pressure upon the men to observe adab? And even if they dont, sincee it’s compulsory for you there isnt the spector waved over your head of being told not to come because of it. But when my sisters mess up, I am threatened in the process.

      Those of us raised in the West, do any of us REALLY have the same problem some foreigners seem to have of seeing a woman or smelling a faint scent and swooning over in an uncontrollable sexual state? I think we are assimilating Eastern ills. If Allah has spared us from being hypersexual (as is the case in Saudi Arabia, where ironically, women are completely covered), why pretend as if we are hypersexual when in reality, we were raised in a culture where interacting with the gender was commonplace, not a titillating experience.

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      • Salam

        As-salamu Alaykum,

        As I mentioned in a previous comment, I think we WANT these women in the masjid so that they can benefit from study groups and contact with women who can teach them more about proper dress/behavior in the masjid and all social spheres. Excluding them from the masjid means pushing them further away from this information.

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  15. Mezba

    Looks like men do matter and women are the anti-matter, going by some of the comments here. Two cannot exist in the same place!!!

    What is amusing, and actually sad, is to hear the constant ridiculous excuse that women wear perfume, makeup and come to the mosque only to chat and therefore are a fitnah to men. I find this, as a man, insulting that people think men cannot control their urges.

    Men coexist with women at work, at the stadium, at the groceries, at the community centers etc. It’s complete idiocy to think when these same men meet some women, who are now MORE conservatively dressed (they ARE in a mosque) he will suddenly become uncontrollable.

    And shame on the women who think like that. Perhaps those women should stay at home.

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    • DelightedMuslimah

      asalam aleikum,
      agree with you brother. and it is encouraging to hear muslim men speak out against that kind of thinking, mashallah.

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    • Mehdi Sheikh

      “I find this, as a man, insulting that people think men cannot control their urges.” – Mezba

      No one here is saying that men lose control of their urges when confronted by women, but no one can deny that they can be an unwelcome distraction when all you want to do is perform worship. Your statement that “Men co-exist with women at work, etc” does not mean that due to the situation that we are forced into that we consider them either ideal or even good situations. A masjid is a place of worship, and in non-muslim countries often a place to socialize as well, but there are etiquettes that need to be maintained by both men and women.

      We shouldn’t try to rationalize or justify issues just because in other instances we tolerate unislamic situations. Our guidance comes strictly from the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Maybe you should study those more instead of social situations?

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      • africana

        I agree with you, Mehdi.

        Sexual stimuli (such as perfume, women’s laughter) can in some men lead to ejaculation and/ or the release of prostatic fluid. This would necessitate that he break off his prayers and perform ghusl in the case of the former,and wudu in the case of the latter.

        I have heard of men who have ejaculated into their undergarments on giving in to societal pressure to shake hands with women. Whilst that must be hugely inconvenient, not to mention embarrassing, if ejaculation occured, in response to sexual stimuli in the masjid, it would be even more so since it would mean the man being unable to benefit from his attendance, there.

        I think women, if they attend the masjid, (and I am in favour of attendance for classes etc,) really need to show empathy for their brothers in faith.

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      • Anne

        Salaam Sister,

        so if there is fear men will ejaculate upon smelling the perfume of women (again unlikely as the men are bathed in the stuff), she should be conscious not to wear it.

        What do these men do all day? Where we live it is hot and the ladies are often quite near naked – Are men just spontaneously ejaculating all day long? I think the reality is most men do just fine (many crossing the boundary in the other direction though) in dealing with the ladies outside of the Mosque – women who are naked and made-up and perfumed. They do not ejaculate or climb on them or lose the ability to do their day to day activities. So why would they lose it when a women in hijab (even tight clothes) is pushed against the back wall?

        At my old Mosque, the most ardent fighter for total segregation of women (fitna fitna) would have parties at his house where he would freely mingle with women and even shake their hands. His wife would not be tucked away but out in the middle of it all serving and what not. The complaint many women (and the men who support them) have stems largely from this former attitude coupled with the latter behavior. When in the Mosque, I must put on this certain pious face, but outside I shall carry on however I please regardless of how it affects others.

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  16. DelightedMuslimah

    Asalam aleikum,

    Thank you so much for speaking out about this….

    I have had similar experiences as you describe, and have had several discussion with other muslims about it.
    the men are nonchalant about it, while some women agree and others feel that its a helpless situation to correct.
    i was really moved, and thoroughly enjoyed praying in masjids when i visited istanbul. The masjids are very women friendly MASHALLAH!……its so nice to be able to make ibaddah in a nice clean airy spacious place.
    For people who think you are perhaps too strong, I think they should take a step back and try to understand where women are coming from, what our needs are, and see how to practically meet our needs…instead of always brandishing hadeeth and ayats left right and centre, with a slap on our wrists for ‘daring’ to speak out about some things.
    islam is progressive….and just as the Rasul (saw) used to listen to the complaints of women and take them into consideration, the committees at our masjids, and religious leaders should not see themselves above the actions of the Prophet (saw).
    it will not make them less of men to listen to the needs of muslim women.
    So please sister, continue to SPEAK OUT.

    waasalam.

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    • WoodTurtle

      Actually, I also had a great experience in Turkey as well — in Istanbul and Izmir. Open and airy is exactly how I remember them. The communities were also very welcoming. Even the Great Mosque in Paris is beautiful and women-friendly.

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  17. chemaatah

    I’m all for women being on their absolute best behavior at the masjid, and following all the rules. For no other reason than that it pleases Allah.
    That being said, I’d like to hear more emphasis placed on demanding that men be on their absolute best behavior there too. They need to earn the right to be there, same as any female. It’s only right-if they are going to be receiving the rewards of obeying the order to pray in congregation, then they need to earn it. Not just by showing up, and putting in an appearance, but by displaying exemplary behavior. Dressed properly, keeping their eyes and ears limited to themselves and other brothers, regardless of what any female looks like or smells like around them, and not being doused in enough cologne themselves to peel paint from the walls. This is the bare minimum.

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    • aisha

      Dressed properly, keeping their eyes and ears limited to themselves and other brothers, regardless of what any female looks like or smells like around them

      It’s impossible not to smell perfume, though and some men, with certain autistic spectrum conditions actually have highly sensitive olofactory glands. A man may experience unwanted sexual arousal in the presence of a perfumed sister. Whilst he’s hardly likely to act on his desire, it would prove an incredible distraction at a time when he’s trying to focus on spiritual matters.

      Women, on the whole, do not experience sexual arousal on viewing men’s bodies, and so often can’t appreciate how distracting the presence of women can be.

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      • ummousama

        Assalamu alaikum,

        I agree with you. Rasulullah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told us (in the meaning):

        “The woman who perfumes herself and passes through a gathering is an adulteress.” (Reported by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi) This hadith has also been reported by an-Nasa’i, Ibn Khuzaymah, and Ibn Hibban in the following words: “Any woman who perfumes herself and passes by a group of people so that her scent reaches them is an adulteress.” Al-Hakim also reported this hadith and said that it has sound transmitters.

        This comment is for women: “Surely, if Rasulullah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) compared a woman wearing perfume to an adulteress, surely, that means that it does affect men greatly. A man who lowers his gaze might not see the make-up the woman is wearing, but he will smell the perfume so should the brothers close their noses too when going to the mosque ;) I think that by educating the women to AT THE VERY LEAST stop using perfume using the previous two hadeeth.

        I have just come accross an article entitled “Where should Women Pray?”. It is written by a man but is much more balanced than the above article.

        http://www.themuslimwoman.com/herprayer/whereshallipray.htm

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      • chemaatah

        Like I said previously, I’m all for women being on their best behavior, and following all the rules. The masjid without separate women’s areas and entrances isn’t the place to be doused in perfume. I have no idea what anyone with autism spectrum conditions has to do with this issue, or why you would mention them. Scent can affect anyone. Male and female.

        The world is full of perfumed women, and Muslim men must navigate that world all of the time, without succumbing to distraction from the tasks at hand. One can train oneself to maintain full focus on the task at hand regardless of smells around them, good or bad. Surgeons, nurses, and medical techs all work in some of the most horrid smelling circumstances imaginable sometimes, when all of their involuntary body responses compel them to be sick and flee the scene immediately-they all train themselves to buck up, ignore it, and get what needs to be done, done. There’s no more important activity than prayer, and staying focused on the act-it has more value and merit than any medical procedure. And we’re supposed to believe that all that can be pushed aside with a whiff of perfume?

        As well, it would be best to speak for yourself only when it comes to denying that females feel anything at the sight of men’s bodies. Many, many women do feel attracted to that sight, to the point of distraction, and find it very, very difficult to keep their eyes averted. Their smell affects women’s hormone levels as well-androstadienone, present in men’s sweat, has been shown to raise women’s cortisol levels, a hormone that affects arousal. Colognes can intensify that effect. So the onus hardly lies with women and women alone. Men’s natural smells, along with colognes they use, can have a big effect on women around them. Additionally, there may be men and women present who suffer from allergies, asthma and the like, and strong, heavy cologne on men can be very detrimental to their health and prayer experience if they have to pray next to, or behind a man doused in scent. It’s important for men to be considerate of that possibility.

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      • pious

        Sorry but, have none of you ever squealed in delight when Sami Yusuf sings? Or when mashallah, there’s a wonderful azan given by a brother who has a really, really mashallah beautiful voice? Have you never swooned or blushed thinking about the owner of that voice?

        Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve appreciated a guy when his Eid thobe is neatly pressed and he looks handsome. We shouldn’t fall into blanket statements. Just because you don’t seem to get aroused by the sight of a man, doesn’t mean that others won’t. When it’s time for prayer these thoughts gets shoved aside anyway. At least they should.

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      • aisha

        But it’s an entirely different to that which a man experiences. What women feel is a strong emotional connection (a sense of being in love with him, almost and wanting that man to whisper sweet nothings in her ear kind of thing) whilst for a man the thoughts that arise on seeing a woman whom he finds alluring are more overtly sexual.

        Wome need an emotional connection before they can consider sexual intimacy with a man whilst a man needs not be in love in order to engage in sexual intimacy. Do women buy sex in the same way that some men do? Where are all the the women picking up men from crusing grounds?

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      • chemaatah

        Again, not universally true across the board. For many, many women, it’s simply sexual attraction. Being “in love” or having an emotional connection is not always required, or always a precursor to women finding someone sexually attractive. Women can and do just think about sex sometimes. And plenty of them engage in intimacy without emotional connections, and don’t want any emotional connections.
        And yes, some of them even pay for it.

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  18. Ify Okoye

    Keep on truckin, Wood Turtle! Don’t be discouraged, you speak for so many of us that have been silent or silenced by hostility. I’ve had the “joy” of some Muslims telling me to convert out of Islam among other statements for questioning the status quo of exclusion and marginalization. It’s good and heartening to hear of more people in more places speaking up for what’s right. Suhaib Webb mentioned this issue in one of his recent talks, the audio is available here.

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  19. madam

    All this assumptions about how women are. and their nature, is embarrassing and not at all what I would expect from Muslims.

    Some of the comments made here about women, clearly lumps all women under a stereotype. It is insulting.

    1. The greatest mosque in Mecca, has no boundaries, no ugly corners for women, no women are excluded from that mosque.

    2. I generally believe that as long as long as you are a person who can contribute, you have to contribute and must contribute to all aspects of community. Don’t limit yourselves simply because people have prejudicial assumptions about you and your kind. For example, I don’t expect Muslims to only be ulamas, and tariqas, I aspect them to be doctors, involved in the legal system, financial system and politics. All the same for women. Everybody’s input into society is important, not just because of who you are but this is the essence of a community. A strong Muslim community is a community made of all kinds of individuals furthering Allah’s cause together.

    If a woman has the ability, expertise and knowledge to further take the Muslim community to greater heights, whatever that may be..why not use her talents. If a man can cook great food, why prevent him from cooking?
    I would rather eat the food cooked by a man who can cook very well, although traditionally, cooking is a role of a woman.

    3. Now if a woman has to pray. Wherever it is. Whatever it is. She has to pray. Same as a man. A man has to pray, he has to pray. If it is within the setting of a mosque, then we just follow the Islamic protocols expected. It has been laid out. So we follow it. I personally feel that the general architecture of a mosque has always been designed to be very dynamic. An open space, one direction, no rooms, no upper levels, lower levels. no clutter, no chandeliers, just an open space. The first mosque was designed in the same manner. If women had to pray, there has never been an issue of women praying in the women’s section, or under the male, above the male. The original mosque was extremely low maintenance and fuss free.

    4. For me the real message has been lost into a whole women vs. men thing. Women’s perspective vs. chauvinist male perspective. The problem here is dignity. You do not treat others the way you do not want to be treated. So if you would not pray in a space that is dinghy, and smelly. Do not expect others to pray in such an area too, and confine them to that area only for that matter. Like one has no shame nor pride. And another, why is the House of Allah s.w.t, in the first place dirty and disgusting? Even if it is modest, it should never be disgusting. A place of worship is holy. If you do not expect others to barr you, from entering because they have not considered that you would or may be involved in a mosque or Islamic community affairs, then do not do the same to others.

    I thought the general attitude towards mosques should be anyone will come, so be prepared. And hence the simplistic design.

    5. A mosque in my humble opinion should be always open to all people. But if resources is constraint, especially during Friday prayers where they may not be enough space. I would expect women to have the consideration to give in, and allow the men to occupy the space, because Allah has made it compulsory for them to attend Friday prayers.

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  20. Huda

    Great post. Reading through the comments, I am not surprised by the response. It seems too many people (probably the males) focus on the stereotypical muslim female and her reasons for going to mosque. Yes, I have seen women dress up and go to mosque, but I have also seen them meet up with men outside instead of praying. Whatever her reasons for dressing up, remember that it takes two to tango. While I am sick of hearing about the Western world go on and on about how muslim women are looked down upon and have no voice, at the same time, we do no need to give them ammunition. There is most definitely a discrepancy and until you have actually experienced how much trouble to average female goes to to find prayer space in a mosque, you have no room to speak.

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    • WoodTurtle

      …until you have actually experienced how much trouble to average female goes to to find prayer space…

      Yes. This exactly.

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  21. WoodTurtle

    Thank you everyone for your positive comments and for your constructive criticism.

    I think this dialogue is important because it generates a lot of excellent ideas and exposes people to the lived experiences of women in mosques around the world.

    It is also interesting to see continued stereotypes and assumptions about the “natural makeup” of both men and women being reflected in the comments. Muslim men are capable of controlling themselves. I would seriously hate to think anything less of my father in law. Muslim women are capable of more than eyeliner and socializing. Certainly, there are exceptions to every rule — but we do not have to be defined by these characterizations, nor should they be used to reason women’s exclusion.

    Not every mosque excludes women, but there are many that don’t have the facilities, or who just aren’t welcoming — because of cultural misappropriation of the traditional sources, a lack of female representation on decision making boards, or simply due to a physical lack of space. And those mosques that do have wonderful programming, space and facilities for women also have a flourishing community.

    As mentioned by madam in the comments above, women have to pray and when we attend the mosque, we should be able to pray with dignity. Women’s space in the mosque is not only related to worship — it’s also directly related to our Islamic education and access to religious leaders. I’m not necessarily saying that mosques without facilities have a less flourishing community — but I have experienced both, and communities where women have direct involvement (through leadership, programming, mosque administration, religious education, etc), also seem to have more community involvement overall: more children becoming hafidh, more inter-faith dialogue, more community open houses and volunteering, more programming (traditional knowledge, as well as rights-education, single-parenting supports, spousal counseling), more resources to tap for “Friday School,” and more fundraising. When there is dignity for both women and men and participation of both at the community level we all benefit.

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  22. BM

    Could not agree with this article at all.

    First of all, no prayer could be better than a prayer behind the Messenger of Allah. Yet when Umm Humayd (RA) expressed her yearning to pray behind the Prophet, the Messenger of Allah still ordered Umm Humayd to pray in her home.

    Second, after the death of the Messenger of Allah, Ummul Mumeeneen Ayesh (RA) quoted:

    “If the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had lived to see how women have started to behave, he would have prevented them [from going to the mosque] as the women of the Children of Israel were prevented.” I said, to ‘Umrah, “Were they prevented?” He said, “Yes.”

    If this was the condition of women right after the death of the Messenger of Allah, and if Ummul Mumeneen herself feared fitnah during her time, how can one in our time advocate women praying in mosques?

    With all due respect to the writer of this article, it seemed to me that the overall tone of the article clearly disrespected the scholars of Islam. Actually this is not something new, especially among the general Muslims living in the West. Most people there too OFTEN and with disdain discredits an edict given by a Saudi scholar, saying they do not know a thing about outside world (which is not true in most cases).

    The Messenger of Allah said that we will have to judge people by what they reveal outside, as we do not know what is there in there heart. However, I can clearly hear western feminine tone in this article and this is what scares me. Because of such attitude, history witnessed a female imam leading prayer in America.

    For more information regarding women praying in mosque:

    http://islamqa.com/en/ref/8868/women%20pray%20in%20mosques

    (And I know for sure that this Saudi scholar will be mocked)

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    • Mezba

      A woman imam leading the prayers in America was not due to women demanding rights to pray in the mosque but due to the other extreme – women not allowed to participate in the mosque AT ALL.

      Extremism (as represented by this opinion you hold) breeds extremism.

      The Prophet (in all his wisdom) did NOT prohibit women from the mosque. What Aisha (ra) with all due respect to her said does not matter because Allah knows the future and the past and Allah did not (through the agency of Prophet Muhammad) prohibit the women from going to the mosque. In fact there is hadith asking us NOT to do so, because Allah knew in the future there would be muslims who would hold this backward opinion.

      Go to Bangladesh and see the conditions of the mosques where women are not even allowed to enter. Backwardness, outdated opinions that make you cringe, extremism, fitnah breeds there like a disease. And then go to the vibrant mosques of the West where women are allowed (one example, though it is not perfect, would be the Islamic Foundation of Toronto) and see how muslims love their mosque and the mosque in turn contributes to the community (including non-Muslims). Then even hold a soup kitchen every week where 600 poor people (even non-Muslims) are welcome.

      Practice the sunnah. Allow the women into the mosque in full capacity. Anyone who has another opinion is committing a bidah.

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    • Tr

      You cant use Aisha’s words to forbid women from mosques. She was expressing her opinion. Even she herself did not consider her own words as forbidding it. Honestly bro, your comment saddens me. You could not feel sympathy for even one thing said in the article? Very sad.

      Also, why the extraordinary emphasis on “saudi” scholars, is a saudi scholar somehow more accurate a scholar from elsewhere? Also to disagree with a scholar is not disrespect. Blind imitation is disliked. Scholars end their opinions with “Allahu alam” for a reason. Your statement that Western Muslims are somehow more likely to disrespect scholars than Muslims in other places is simply slander. Please use words more carefully, and try to have some sympathy with your sisters. The Prophet also used to go and admonish the women, but we see less of this today. So let us stop finding the most restricting historical texts to use for women, when we do not even have in place the most basic situation that was in place in the past: education of women.

      Telling a woman to go home and listen to an audio or watch a scholar on a TV screen is dehumaniziing. What did women do before the Internet, huh? There is a human interaction which is an element of this deen. How do you think the science of isnad was kept alive? Through TV or the Internet? Why is it that in Mauritania and many other places in the Muslim world, scholars teach women without any curtain and recite Quran in front of men? It is more blameworthy to limit our source of islam to one country (Saudi Arabia), and blame all others if they dont do the same.

      Saying there’s no excuse for wanting learning because a woman can learn from her husband assumes she has a husband. Hello??!!! Most converts don’t have Muslim family members, let alone a Muslim husband yet! And Im sorry, but I see sisters much more educated than their husbands…assuming their marriages even survive and dont end up in divorce!

      Many of the biggest scholars were taught by women. Now the women have disappeared. Why is this not part of your historical summary?

      I converted to Islam because I felt Islam respected women. Sometimes I get very tired of this discussion. It depresses me. I only want to go to the masjid occasionally and have a decent clean place to pray that isn’t noisy, and where I can see the imam, *just like the time of the prophet.* IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

      We are bearing and raising your children. One of us (Aisha) preserved thousands of ahadith and taught others. Many of us feel disconnected sitting in our homes searching for knowledge from Sheikh Google. We want to be part of this tradition as we were in the past. Again IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

      Fear Allah with your selective usage of the past. Use common sense and listen, I mean LISTEN to what your sisters are telling you…before you lose them.

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  23. Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    I’ve been in masjids where women were welcomed and represented a vital part of the community, and I can tell you that the difference is startling. Masjids that welcome and involve women are more Islamically active, gain more converts, put on more community events, see more healthy Muslim marriages, have more khutbahs addressing important family issues, and have much more of a family feel to them. Rather than simply being places to pray, they become true centers of the community.

    Women represent half of humanity. By excluding them, you automatically cut your community in half. You get half as many good ideas, half as much community involvement, half the volunteers for masjid needs.

    Speaking of volunteers, looking at men-only masjids, one thing I notice is that the level of volunteership is often low. Jobs like website management, security and cleaning have to be contracted to non-Muslim outsiders.

    On the other hand, looking back at the true community masjids I have attended where women were welcomed, all these jobs tended to be handled by the community. I’m not saying that the women were used to clean, not at all. Men and women volunteered and took care of all the tasks of the community. There was more of a love for the masjid, a sense of belonging and community identity.

    Then there is the issue of Islamic education. Masjids that welcome women tend to have Islamic study classes for women, and “sisterhood” groups. This helps the women in the community to be better educated Islamically, have more of an Islamic spirit, and develop good friendships with other sisters. And I’ve noticed that women who are active in that way tend to have children who are also Islamically educated and aware.

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    • ummousama

      Assalamu alaikum,

      Yes, the best mosques are those who welcome women because those mosques are those that are upon the Sunnah. This is why I see the lack of proper accomodation for women as a symptom more than a disease itself. If you educate people on the Sunnah (and in many cases, if not all cases, there are much more important matters to deal with first), then this issue will be much more readily accepted. But, if you want to ask people who don’t know their deen, to give a smart place to women, they will speak according to their customs. This is why it is better to go through the route of the scholars or ISNA to change the attitude of people.

      We HAD a wonderful mosque in London. Although no women sat on the committee, the director’s wife and the imam’s wife were both in agreement with their husbands, were both active members of the community and any woman could suggest anything through these two women. This is why a woman sitting in a committee means that either the other people are not married OR they don’t have good communication with their wives and the wives are NOT doing their jobs. It amazes me that, in Asia, politics are a FAMILY affair (as you can see politics going from father to daughter to husband or something similar) but being an Imam is not necessarily a FAMILY affair.

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    • Tr

      Thank you Wael, and all the brothers who view women as their helpers (Quran says it not me) rather than constant source of fitna.. I observe the same thing; mosques that dont treat women in a paranoid way tend to have a healthier environment where the “walls” are internal walls of taqwa, not some barrier-enforced false taqwa. I cant believe people can become so sidetracked by the possibility of perfume wafting to their nose. With all the non-Muslims you see in the street and at work, you should be desensitized to this by now. If not, then there is a disease in your heart and you need to work on THIS rather than focus on what the women are doing way back behind you–with all due respect.

      The context of Umar and Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them, was that of a Muslim-majority community.

      I have never seen a man and woman jump on each other or start kissing and chatting in the masjid. Never. We should have the best opinion of our fellow Muslims. If you are going to call for walls, then you should also call for walls in the markets, in the schools etc. Why only the mosque? I find it interesting.

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  24. ASADLONELYSISTER

    Assalamu Alaykom

    I am not sure in what direction the majority of the comments went, as I stopped reading after the fourth one, but I’d like to say that I agree with the author of this article.

    When I first converted to Islam I held Muslims in such high regard that it has left me disappointed again and again. It has gotten to the point where I am terrified to be around a group of Muslims. This is especially due to my own personal experiences. Aside from the issue presented in the case of this article, I will add also the unfriendly nature of the majority of Muslims I’ve come in contact with.

    Let me tell you I recently moved to the town I am in now. I attended the Masjid here for the first time last Eid Al Fitra and NOT ONE PERSON gave me a salam. The woman’s area was a small claustrophobic smelly room that was HOT and filled to the brim with Muslimahs. After squeezing my way in, I was looked at with the worst looks. I was stared at and when I returned their stares with a smile and nod, they looked away in disgust. Was I that revolting? Me– a woman in an abaya, no make-up, covered properly and praying properly– was apparently a disgusting thing for them. I suppose had I been wearing the brightest and prettiest thing I could find and had my nails painted in the brightest color to celebrate the occasion I might have ‘fit in’ This same scene happened the next 5 visits. I decided that since it was so heartbreaking for me to enter into this Masjid –in this town where I am practically alone with no friends and family–I will no longer go. I cannot tell you how insulting and demeaning this treatment is. The men there come and go as they please. All smiles and socializing and the women? Well, let’s just say that there must be some initiation process that I failed to learn about in order to be allowed a simple assalamu aleikom from another woman.

    Now this is where I will get trampled on. My words you will read next will sound as if I am totally contradicting myself, but I assure you, there is a point and it is in fact tied into this article.

    Perhaps this is the reason some men and some scholars and even some women have taken this stance about women praying at home. Perhaps this attitude that comes across to innocent people are the main reason men do not like to deal with women. It is drama. It is unnecessary and uncalled for. It doesn’t happen in the men’s section. They get there, pray, give salams and leave. That simple. Women on the other hand have to check out every person that enters and leaves. GIve nasty looks if the person is new or a convert or doesn’t fit into their cultural circle. They have to check out what they’re wearing…who is right, who is wrong in their manner of dress. etc etc etc. It is elementary school all over again–the movie mean girls comes to my mind at this moment. And most of all, it is SAD. Very pathetic that Muslims act like this. I wonder if any of those women know that I am a convert–since my looks tend to blend in with so many nationalities. I could be Pakistani, Arab, Spanish and so on. I wonder if any of them know that I have NEVER had a Muslim friend. I wonder if any of them know that I struggle with my Iman and long for that contact of a Muslim friend. I wonder if any of those women know that I am quiet, nice, and kind. I wonder if any of them know how bad I want them to come up to me and just say hi, offer a smile or a helping hand. Perhaps I need some guidance? I wonder if any of them ever thought any of those things when seeing me. I doubt it. I really doubt it.

    How does this tie into the article…easy…if this is the perception that I, as a woman, as Muslim, get from my fellow Sisters, then how can we Sisters demand respect from our Brothers at the masjid when our behavior alone to others does not reflect that of a serious, just want my rights as a Muslimah in the masjid, kind of Muslim. How can we stand and complain about being shoved in a tight smelly place that barely has enough oxygen to keep 4 people alive much less 40. How can we stand and say we have the right to be on boards and active members of what goes on in the masjid when we do not even give on the most basic of respect to each other as women? How can we sit and complain about this treatment when we women have the worst of worst attitudes towards each other? How can we expect our Brothers to treat us with respect and dignity, acknowledge our basic Islamic rights when our whole manner towards each other is very unislamic.

    We cannot stand up and complain about this and that, demean each other, withhold the basics of a assalamu alaykom from each other and expect change to come at the snap of a finger. Am I saying we must EARN this respect and these rights that are already there for us? NO, what I am saying is, we would get further in our fight for our basic rights if we ourselves are following the proper way. To me, in the case of my masjid and the Muslims I have come in contact with, I cannot see the board of my masjid listening to the women there and agreeing that they must make all these changes, spend all this money to accommodate these gossiping mean girls that want to come in and strut the latest fashion. How can I expect them to want to have lectures to the men in my masjid about their behavior when the women themselves do not even act as if they are Muslim women. How can I expect them to make the changes so desperately needed when the only thing they will do is complain for more and more and still treat any new member the way that I have been treated.

    I have a feeling that my words will be misunderstood, and for that I apologize and want you to know that I am not grouping EVERY Muslim Brother and SIster in the same boat nor am I saying that this treatment that seems to dominate in our community is rightly deserved because SOME women are this way…what I am trying to convey is…there is a right and a wrong way of going about things–change. But we must remember that change comes from US first. WE–each and every one of us–must make an effort to be better Muslims and uphold the sunnah and that way, inshaAllah, we will start to see these basic rights women have more prevalent in our communities. We must stand up and make that change in ourselves BEFORE we start to demand the change in others.

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    • Abdullah

      Assalamu alaykum. This is one benefit my wife notes to women praying behind the men in the same room with no barrier. She insists that the behavior of women toward each other is better in this circumstance than when women are separated visually from the men or are in a separate room/balcony. It’s a fascinating point and an argument I had never heard before. Without going into detail, there have been instances in the masjid we attend which support this observation and other sisters have confirmed that they feel sheltered from distracting behaviors on the part of other sisters during khutbahs. The presence of men and women in the same room, all under view of the imam/khateeb, seems to have a restraining influence on certain disruptive behaviors. Yet another argument in support of men and women praying in the same room.

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    • Maryam

      I’m so sorry you have dealt with this :( Please know that there are other sisters who would be honored to have you in our communities inshaAllah <3<3<3

      May Allah always bless you

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    • WoodTurtle

      Salaams, thank you for sharing your experience. You’re right, it’s not as simple as walking up to a mosque board and demanding representation (although that might be a start!) — you can’t demand respect if you don’t deal it.

      As for your experience, I think a lot of converts feel the same — and I had similar experiences when I first converted too.

      It’s particularly hard upon learning that Islam is a communal religion, celebrating the ummah, that it’s not always practiced. I can’t excuse how people have reacted to and treated you, but I have learned that there are many reasons why fellow Muslims may overlook a newcomer.

      For some women the mosque is their only outlet for socializing. Especially in diaspora communities where finding families from “back home” may be difficult. Coming to the mosque may be the only time they’ll have an opportunity to meet with other women from their personal cultural background. And they’ll use that time to connect. Cliques are formed and sometimes it’s very difficult for an outsider to join in.

      While a few comments have said that women coming to the mosque just to chat and socialize, is a reason to keep women at home, I feel it’s an unfair conclusion to make. The mosque is supposed to be the cultural, communal centre of the Muslim community. Unfortunately some of our mosques in North America don’t have the facilities to have a musallah/prayer space and a community hall. So annoying as it is to have people speaking during lessons or sermons, this seriously might be a woman’s only time to reach out to another woman. Also, Abdullah makes an excellent point. Women are less likely to chat it up when we see the Imam. It’s not necessarily out of disrespect, but a symptom of being forgotten at the mosque. When we’re behind a barrier, in a separate room, on a balcony, it sends a loud and clear message: you are not equal–you can be forgotten. Even if women don’t take this sentiment to heart, it really is easier to talk amongst ourselves when we’re obviously not made a part of the congregation.

      This being said, it does not excuse anyone from not giving salaams or at the very least smiling or being kind.

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    • aisha

      Salam Alaikum.
      @ASADLONELYSISTER,

      The treatment you have received is lamentable. What you will find is that, at Eid prayers and at tarawih paryers whilst there will be women of good character amongst those in attendance, you always find that at such occasions women (and men) who do not normally pray will turn up. Some of these women you’ve encountered are deeply unhappy with their lives and/or superficial and/or depressed (because they are not truly committed to Allah) and take their frustrations out on others unconnected to their family circles-who woudn’t normally stand for such treatment. Think yourself lucky that they are giving you the cold shoulder. They are there in the mosque because they treat it principally as a social event and outing, hence the gaudy clothes and make-up.

      I think that your best option, if you’re looking to connect with more religiously inclined sisters is to attend classes or circles(in English) that usually run weekly or sometimes more often in many Muslim communities. If there is nothing of the sort in your town/city, you might find something of the sort on the nearest university campus.

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  25. Mansoor Ansari

    When sisters demand a clean place to pray, they have every right to demand this.

    But I do have issues when they complain abt limited space. The mosque that I used to go abt 5 yrs back was located in a poor neighbourhood, max capacity 70 ppl, the sisters section had space for 20 ppl. During regular prayers this was fine but during Jumuah when many men who worked in the area came for prayers, the sisters were asked not to come. It’s obligatory for men to pray Jumuah in the mosque but the same ruling doesn’t apply to sisters. Even with the men praying in the sisters section, some had to pray in shoes section and some times on the stairs. The men were told to inform their wives, sisters, mothers of the issue during Jumuah as requested them not to attend, all other prayers they were welcome. But there were always couple of sisters who would insist on praying Jumuah in the mosque, that meant loosing 20 spaces for men. These women were never found attending other prayers when there was ample space for them. When there is a space crunch and they can’t anything abt it, sisters need to understand the difference between what is obligatory & what is not.

    Now I go to a different mosque, where alhmd the space is much better except on Eid days & weekend iftars during Ramadan. The masjid is packed and the complains abt there is not enough space for women start coming in. When the fact is that even the men’s section completely packed.

    Sometimes the complaints are justified but in the cases I have seen they were not.

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  26. Charles

    A few comments have been made on the ability of men and women to control themselves, and a few others have been made on respecting others.

    On self-control, it’s not a trivial point, but it’s not the most important point. Rather, Is something distracting a person from their prayers in the mosque? There are quite a few hadith on not eating garlic and going to the mosque. Garlic has a strong smell that distracts. So, whether it’s smells or clothes or something else, distractions at the mosque should be avoided. This is not justification for preventing women from going to the mosque. Rather, it’s a guideline that both men and women should consider when at the mosque and elsewhere. We don’t want to become obstacles to others increasing their practice and their faith.

    Respecting others, actually loving others, is crucial to belief, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “You will not believe as long as you do not love one another” (Muslim 1:96) and “No man is a true believer unless he wants for his brother that which he wants for himself” (Bukhari 1:12).

    Without respect and love, we resist belief and we are not submitting to Allah. We become obstacles to ourselves.

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  27. Sidiq

    Just a general word of advice in light of this post as I have actually read quite of a few of this nature here on MM. When an author speaks in what seems a rather degrading and aggressive tone, it is only natural that we become less sympathetic and attentive to the points they are trying to convey. This post-in my opinion- is a good example of how not to attempt to argue a point. The underlying argument is valid and should be debated, the manner is it is being put forward really does not do any justice to it, it’s on the verge of a joke really, with scholar-bashing and trying to make a mockery of valid interpretations of major ulema and madhaahib and ahaadeeth. The only post I’ve seen more despicably-toned is ironically the “penalty box” one. No one should take this to heart really, I mean if I made a mistake, I’d expect someone to tell me just how bad things are.

    Having said that though, I do credit this post and many others for pointing things out that are usually brushed under the carpet by so many (rightly or wrongly), whilst this post may not be to everyone’s liking, it certainly makes us sit up and take notice.

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    • sayyid

      and this is exactly why i think this post is very good. for too long the Muslim women’s voice has been silenced, and these issues get brushed aside as unimportant or of no consequence. people need to start to take notice.

      the points in this article are well argued actually, and provide a level of insight into how women feel that we rarely get to see. I feel that this is the precise intent behind the “tone” of the article – not to mock, but to justifiably question and argue the age-old misrepresentations and blind following of our practise. its about time.

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  28. Abdullah

    I think what has not been addressed is the fundamental issue underlying so many of these discussions. The point is that in general, not in each and every case, but in general women and girls are undervalued. And this is true globally. It is true in non-Muslim lands and in Muslim lands. The undervaluation of girls and women manifests differently in different societies, but it is just there. And “undervalued” is the least emotionally charged word I have been able to come up with. I feel certain that the issue of where women pray would not generate the emotions or quantity of discussion that it does if contemporary Muslim communities faced up to the undervaluation of women present in such large measure in our own communities.

    Each community (and individual, family) needs to decide where to begin. It could begin by bringing down the wall in the masjid (or mirrored glass, latticework, etc. ). And, with full respect for the different understandings of fiqh here, the wall does need to come down. But the wall may also come down eventually through beginning somewhere else. Muslim communities may decide to begin by addressing violence against women, violence against children, abuse and/or neglect of the elderly, anger management, neglect of homeless mothers and children. A community may decide to invite a speaker to detail how it is that by some estimates 50 – 100 million women and girls have literally been “undervalued” to death over the last 50 years — a number greater than the estimated total deaths from all wars over the last 100 years. A community may decide to support or even learn about programs that seek to rescue women and girls who have been forced into what is too politely termed slavery. And so on.

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  29. Abdullah ibn Muhammad

    Salaam

    “The best guidance is the guidance of RasoolAllah (saw)”

    1.) The women were advised to Pray at home.
    2.) It is not haraam for the women to pray in the Masjid, but Mustahab for them to pray at home.
    3.) For men the prayer in the Masjid is better. Mustahab, some may even say Fard.

    Conclusion: Our wise elders (may Allah swt reward them) said “let’s build big enough spaces for Men, and hey let’s consider women and make them a space” as well” in case they decide to come to the Masjid, even though…refer to points 1 and 2.

    Be thankful dear sisters.

    I don’t get why this is a big deal?!

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    • Salam

      As-salamu Alaykum,
      It is a big deal for many reasons:

      1. There are times when women NEED to pray outside the home. Would it be better for women to pray in the car or on the sidewalk or even to miss her prayer?

      2. Many women do not have contact with Muslims at ALL unless it is at the masjid. Where should these women go to form friendships? Where should they go to study their religion or learn Qur’an?

      3. Even if the space is small, there is no excuse for it being dirty or poorly maintained. It is a house of worship and women should not be subjected to this just because people think they don’t “need” to be at the masjid.

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      • Abdullah ibn Muhammad

        2.) This isn’t the case for men. It’s not like brothers make friends at the Masjid or they go to socialize. There are many other places this can take place.

        3.) If you think the place for women is dirty, you should take a look at the place for men lol…at least the womens area doesn’t smell like socks.

        I’m not saying that the women can’t come to the masjid. I’m saying try to understand the dynamic here. Most of the older masaajid (built 70s-90s) did not think the amount of sisters showing up to the Masjid would be this great AND still made something for them. To call it a “penalty box” is very offensive and cheap.

        From what I see most of the newer masaajid are building big spaces for women. But the fact that sisters want all the older masaajid to reconstruct everything is a bit unfair.

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      • KM

        2) This is because, in Muslim communities, many women don’t work or socialize very much outside of the home. This is especially true of immigrant families. In the US, the masjid functions not just as a place of prayer, but, in many instances, as a community center, as well.

        3) Have you ever been to the women’s area of a masjid? Many men defend the women’s section, saying it can’t be that bad, without ever having been there. Guess what: in many instances, it is that bad.

        I agree with your point that it isn’t necessarily practical for every older masjid to undergo some sort of complete renovation. However, as Abdullah said earlier, there are small and easy solutions that would allow many masjids to address this problem: simply removing a curtain, or a wall, or two-way glass, and allowing us to pray in the same way that the Prophet SAW prayed: without a barrier, without sequestering women in to some room with a TV screen. Speaking of which, I’m surprised no one has brought up the validity of women praying behind a TV screen. There is a masjid in my town where the women’s area is not even behind the imam, but off to the side and slightly in front of the main prayer hall. Women pray behind a 32 in television screen, relying on a sound system that (more often than not) doesn’t work. If the men were put into that situation, I don’t doubt that steps would be taken to resolve it immediately. But that’s not the case when it’s the women.

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  30. Asiah

    GREAT Article! Mashallah. May Allah reward you sis for continue to shine light on this dark spot on the ummah, ameen.

    I def can relate to you. That clash between the “sick feeling” I feel when I am confronted with praying in “unfriendly” masajid and the thought that maybe I should force myself to do so to better the conditions there.

    I’m actually kinda shocked at some of the negative comments. But it just goes to show how right you are about how it the “women at home” position is so ingrained in the Muslim psyche. Inshallah we are in a time of Islamic renaissance which will see the rebirth of true Islamic scholarship. These definitions of “mustahab,” wajib etc are opinions. And this opinion that a women is better in her house is not applicable anymore. We need to help our mosques and our rulings be sister friendly.

    And for those who don’t think that this issue is important, consider that as the author said, women are the source of leadership for their children. If the women are separated from the mosques, from the community, so are the children. And you wonder why we have a bunch of youth today wandering around, outside of the mosque community, taking the radical path. It is because their mothers had no place to take them to teach them differently.

    Women’s space in the community and in the mosque is VITAL to Islam’s success in the West. May Allah guide us all, ameen.

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  31. Tr

    Respected brothers and sisters,

    IT’S VERY SIMPLE!!!!!

    We don’t need to bring a million hadiths and talk about Umar (ra) etc. Umar did an ijtihad based on what was happening in those circumstances.

    If you wish to truly follow Umar, then look to your own circumstances.

    YOU LIVE IN A NON-MUSLIM COUNTRY. YOUR WIVES, SISTERS, MOMS NEED THAT ENVIRONMENT WHICH THEY DONT FIND SITTING AT HOME. HAVE SOME MERCY, FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH!

    This is not a complicated issue. As a CONVERT the mosque was my ONLY source of learning, feeling of community with other Muslims, and social place where I met others. You have NO RIGHT to tell us how the masjid should function in our lives.

    Walk a mile in my shoes, before you speak. Jazakum Allah khair.

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    • africana

      “YOU LIVE IN A NON-MUSLIM COUNTRY. YOUR WIVES, SISTERS, MOMS NEED THAT ENVIRONMENT WHICH THEY DONT FIND SITTING AT HOME. HAVE SOME MERCY, FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH”

      This is exactly it. Excellent point, ma sha Allah.

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  32. Mezba

    I was reading one of the tafsirs of Surah 60 for my blog, written by an Arab scholar (it’s available online) and it goes like this.

    Generally, the bai’ah taken from men was about Faith and Islam. Their pledge did not contain the details of injunctions of Shari’ah, unlike the pledge of women, which contained the details that are forthcoming. The difference between the two pledge is that men’s pledging for faith and obedience secures an undertaking to practice the entire system of Shari’ah and religion, and therefore there was no need for details. Women, on the other hand, are generally less intelligent than men. Therefore, details were thought to be necessary. This is the bai’ah that started with women, but later on was not confined to them. As time went on, the same detailed bai’ah was taken from men as well. Prophetic Traditions confirm this. [Emphasis mine]

    As one can see here the respected scholar let his bias show up here. Women are less intelligent therefore they needed more details. Later on, men also got a more detailed bayah, so does that mean the men became dumber?

    Second, don’t such opinions insult the women Sahabah, saying they were dumber then the men Sahaba? This is the attitude that is now present in some of the comments.

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    • Tr

      Thank you Mezba. And there is much more like this. We need to stop thinking the scholars were born in a vacuum and have no biases. When it comes to religion we should be very careful how we take our sources. This is our deen, not a plaything. This is not a matter of disrespecting scholars. It is a matter of recognizing that there is an element of human error. Even 1% of error is too much when it comes to deen. So we should expand our sources and be critical.

      Imam al Qarafi said that it is possible for a scholar to be affected by his own local custom and culture and pass it on through his rulings. He called this a form of oppression. (This is obvious, of course.)

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    • Sidiq

      I really do not understand where the problem is. The fact that women are less religious and less intelligent than men is very well-known, pick up any copy of Riyad-us saaliheen and the hadeeth is there clear as day and authenticated. If the Prophet (SAWS) came to you and personally told you that women are less intelligent, what would you have said to him then?! Similarly, when scholars say something like this you have to verify the matter before attempting to find flaws which more often than not do not exist. It’s a fact of life that women are less intelligent. Men also cannot control their desires and have been urged to fast often etc. There’s no point tying these true and factual statements to the wider issue of the undervaluing of women, it just won’t work because you can’t out-think the Messenger of Allah (SAWS).

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      • Tr

        Sidiq: How do you define intelligence? And why is it that women are known to score consistently higher than men on verbal parts of tests? Honestly, I have never understood that hadith despite all the questions I have asked about it, but I can tell you one thing…the Prophet would never want men using his own words as insults or as part of their argument that they should not be in the mosque.

        besides, you missed the whole point sidiq. which is that scholars are humans who have bias. that man was biased. can you answer mezba’s question: “Women are less intelligent therefore they needed more details. Later on, men also got a more detailed bayah, so does that mean the men became dumber?Second, don’t such opinions insult the women Sahabah, saying they were dumber then the men Sahaba?”

        Since you are a muhaddith, perhaps you can answer.

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      • africana

        There are different types of intelligence…emotional, physical as well as aptitude for more dry academic disciplines. Being able to determine exactly what yourself and others are feeling is to be emotionally intelligent and should not be undervalued…after all, the polar opposite is to be a psychopath.

        And Sidiq, would you speak to your mother in that way?

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      • Sidiq

        Let me spell it out for you:

        a) I’m not a Muhaddith, don’t patronize people who refer to Allah’s Messenger (SAWS).

        b) Who cares how I define intelligence? It’s all about what the Prophet said, there’s explicit evidence that women are less wise than men and less religious. Do not turn this into debate because it’s not up for one, you either accept the Messenger or reject him. Sorry to be so blunt but I feel it’s highly necessary so that we can put this issue to bed and deal with the very problem of women being unfairly and unjustly treated. You do not have to give up your iman and reject statements by the Prophet to be a women liberator, you should understand that Tr, because I do and so should we.

        c) You’re setting up a strawman, never have I claimed or shown sympathy to those who use hadeeth for their own selfish motives or to commit injustice.

        d) If you have a question with regards to the comments of a particular scholar then you should ask him yourself or ask the learned scholars of Islam for clarification. But it won’t change the fact that women are less intelligent than men, which is what I previously stated.

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      • Tr

        how are women less religious than men? because they have a period and cannot pray ? i have never understood that. to be sure, if i make it to al jannah I will definitely ask the prophet in a divine halaqa insha allah.

        Allah created you with a period, then said you cannot pray on it. How am I less religious because of something I cannot control? And arent I obeying Allah by not praying during those times? And being religious is more than just the ritual prayer, there is duaa, dhikr, reading quran, and the everyday acts of being wives and mothers in this umma.

        furthermore there was not one woman who was found to have fabricated ahadith, but hundreds of men who did. if women are “less religious” then why is this?

        just one question–are you south asian, sidiq?

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      • Mezba

        Sidiq, can you give the hadith where the prophet said women are dumber then men and also include context etc.? Otherwise please stop saying the prophet said it.

        Remember, it must say women are dumber than men. Also that women are less religious than men.

        Remember, you are not proving much intelligence when you say men are a) more religious b) smarter and c) find it hard to control their emotions.

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    • Sidiq

      First let me define for you a fallacy which occurs more often than not in Internet discussions. It may also help you in future debates.

      A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. (Wikipedia)

      Example: Person A: We should liberalize the laws on beer.
      Person B: No, any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.

      The proposal was to relax laws on beer. Person B has exaggerated this to a position harder to defend, i.e., “unrestricted access to intoxicants”.

      The hadeeth itself that you asked for I have seen in slight different wordings, i don’t know whether this particular one is from Riyadhus saaliheen but the wording is the same. “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell- fire were you [women].” They asked, “Why is it so, Messenger of God?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “What is deficient in our intelligence and religion, Messenger of God?” He answered, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in your intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. “This is the deficiency in her religion,” he said. In th riyadhus saaliheen copy I have, it does not mention the continuous response of the women but the wording is otherwise the same.

      I did not say women are dumber, I said they are less wise/intelligent and less religious. By ridiculing my previous despite me making myself very clear that it is from hadeeth, this is nothing more than a mockery of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) himself and a general lack of disrespect towards the faith, don’t be so reckless towards a person who does not speak for himself next time.

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  33. Olivia

    I think it was soundly put that we need to revisit these issues and make ijtihad. Umar, or other great scholar, or Aisha, may have found that a barrier or some partition served a beneficial function in their community during their time, thus it was implemented despite the fact that it wasn’t the “sunnah.” Does that mean that what they did to prevent fitna is the best thing to do now, since there is more fitna? ie more fitna=more separation?

    that’s a very simple-minded and lay-person way to view things. a+b=c….always.

    whatever was done during Umar or Aisha’s time was done for the greater benefit of the community, a principle in Shariah called Maslaha Mursala. the fact that they did it was a testament to the application of this principle. As you know, principles are upheld over the specific conclusions (fatwas) that are derived from them, which are time, place, and culture-sensitive.

    The principle is upholding the well-being/benefit of the community, so we really do need to apply ijtihad since we live in an entirely different time, place, and culture. That’s not to say that there isn’t benefit or example in the sayings of the sahaba and ulema, but if at the end of the day what they did doesn’t uphold a principle of shariah in our case, it’s time, with all due respect to, to move on dot org (and i say this not in reference to the originators of these statements, but to our brothers and sisters who tend to be overly-dogmatic).

    So we need only ask ourselves if such accomodations are upholding the benefit of the community? There may be competing interests, like that of men avoiding fitna and women and children being isolated and uneducated. An accomodation needs to be reached that takes everyone’s needs into account and is fair to everyone. Likely, both sides will have to relent a little to find a happy balance. And also, it may be that different communities cross-country will find that different accomodations work for them. There is not one cookie-cutter answer for all masajid in the U.S., let alone the world.

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  34. harun

    from reading some of the commits by some of the men to try to justify suppressing women is sicking. i am not going to go into the quoting which sabhab or the wife of the rasullah who said this or that, that’s their opinion they are not ALLAH. But I will say if ALLAH wanted to ban women from the majid he would have period. If the our rasullah wanted to ban women from going to the majid he would have period. Some of you men come off as repressed homosexuals or believe that women are inferior to men. Its ashame that a muslim women have more freedom to practice deen in a kufir country than a muslim because of some silly justification of repressing women. These same men who I believe are repressed homosexuals or misogynistic are so quick to defend Islam when its convenient base upon their point of view. If Allah or the Rasullah made something law its not open for discussion so why is this? The reality is women are not ban from going to the majid. If a woman want to go who are you (men) to question her intent or make the majid unfriendly. Are you ALLAH? Plus much as many of you so-called men try to justify women not coming to the majid your acting like just like Jews. We are suppose to do the opposite of what they do, right? Jewish women are not really allowed to go to the synagogue for religious services but many of them go because this so-called ban is not in the Torah nor is it a commandment from ALLAH its made by man. Getting back to my point if ALLAH wanted to ban women he would have, period. A lot of you so-called men need to grow up and stop looking at women as inferior and stop hating them (repressed homosexuals). May Allah protects us from this foolishness and guide this ummah to proper understanding of this deen and make us closer to ALLAH.

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  35. ibnabeeomar

    i haven’t read the (88) comments on this article, but after reading this article itself i feel that it’s of extremely low quality and makes unfounded and abundant leaps in logic.

    firstly, id like to know the authors background in interpreting all these texts, especially given the seeming distaste for “male dominated” interpretations. has the author read the narrations and their accompanying commentaries in any classical scholarly work? i dont see any compelling reason to accept all these assertions made

    secondly, praying behind men or in another room seems to be a cop out for the bigger problem of “being forgotten” – in my own personal experience, the location of a woman’s prayer space has no bearing on the involvement of sisters in the community or masaajid. that’s something that comes down to those individuals themselves. just because some majids have inadequate prayer spaces doesn’t mean it should be made into a scapegoat for larger problems. the fact that its being made into such a scapegoat, and based on unfounded assumptions indicates, to me, that people facing these issues are unwilling to put the work required into fixing them.

    thirdly, this whole argument of women’s prayer spaces in my opinion is extremely convoluted. people are missing the bigger picture. if the women’s prayer space is inadequate, then get it changed through the proper means. and also make sure its accompanied with the proper education. unfortunately, many women don’t even come to the masjid wearing a basic/proper version of hijab. and despite the authors sensationalized sexualization of this point, it does not take away from its validity. women prayed in the back of the musalla at the prophet(s) time, but they also came covered, and the men waited for them to leave before even turning around.

    fourthly, id like to see if there’s actually a specific commandment from the prophet(s) indicating that there is a specific way the women’s prayer hall HAS to be. if not, then at best you’re trying to implement something that is sunnah (and not fard).

    issues of hijab, and proper gender interaction then would take higher priority. put the work into whats higher on the scale rather than a pet issue.

    and lastly, this type of ranting/raving is just more fuel for progressive movements. these types of articles, and this type of discourse dont and have not created any positive changes in our community. rather, all they do is create fitnah. and i fear for other aspects of our religion, should our texts be so easily discarded with the type of “analysis” offered above.

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    • Tr

      ibnabeeomar: actually the burden is on those who arguing for a bid’a such as a wall to provide proof. the wall prevents women from learning, from connecting to the imam…from even seeing who it is that is speaking to them so that they might ask a question or disagree with them later! i have been in prayers where the imam went down in sujud and we couldnt hear him say “allahu akbar” so our prayers became out of sync and confused. and for what? so a brother like you cant spot us from the corner of your eye. oh please!

      have some adab and compassion for your sisters, instead of dismissing an experience you as a man, do not have access too. shame on you.

      there are sisters leaving islam over the alienation and second class way we are treated in the masjid. ibn abee omar, i would love for you to visit me and my husband in st louis missouri, so i can tell u firsthand what its like as a western female entering a mosque and seeing how vastly different u feel than in a church (used to be christian). you would be crying rather than issuing lengthy refutations on what are in fact, irrefutable feelings people have.

      subhanallah, we can be taught everything, but if we are deprived of mercy, then as the prophet said, there is nothing i can do to put it back into your heart

      imam suhaib webb has spoken about this, as someone noted before:

      http://www.suhaibwebb.com/multimedia/suhaib-webb/freedom-of-religion-minority-rights-and-the-american-constitution/comment-page-1/#comment-22763

      such condescension towards women and unwillingness to validate their experience is a sign that I think some of our brothers have mommy issues. I honestly dont understand how some men can lack such a basic human aspect as empathy.

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      • Tr

        p.s. stop dismissing every woman’s complaint as feminism. It is simplistic, inaccurate, and deprives us of the ability to say when there is something wrong with how we are treated. let us be a bit more intellectual, and not so simple-minded. not everything is islam versus the west, or feminism versus islam.

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  36. ibnabeeomar

    btw just to clarfiy one point: i am 100% in favor of women having a properly made prayer space, equal to (if not better than) the mens’ side.

    my primary disagreement is the manner in which its trying to be corrected. every masjid/community has channels for making change. the way that this article is written i feel just creates more problems then it solves, and im personally quite saddened to see it posted here.

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    • Ify Okoye

      I’ve seen communities respond positively to articles that have raised these issues. Truly, the way women are marginalized in many of communities is a problem and it’s not because one person writes about it, in a way you dislike that’s created the problem or is making worse. Our own actions in our communities are the best or worst dawah to Muslims and non-Muslims and fuel for people coming toward or leaving Islam.

      I’m heartened when women (and men) are given a platform to speak about issues that are so rarely raised but that carry such profound meaning. Disheartening, is the state of many of our masajid in their treatment of women and that those who claim to be our biggest supporters are often those who perpetuate the mistreatment by their silence, acquiesce or opposition to those who want to improve the situation within the realm of the shariah. If we truly, loved for our fellow Muslim what we love for ourselves, we’d see it action in the prayer spaces in the house of Allah and in these comment sections.

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      • ibnabeeomar

        my later comment says: “ive personally organized programs in very “conservative” masjids where women pray on another floor and enter on the opposite side of the building, but in order to accommodate equal access and questions to the imam etc, we changed the setup during the class for women to sit in the main musalla area.”

        and you’ve highlighted my primary disagreement with the approach of the article. i cant disagree with the APPROACH taken without being told that im complicit in the mistreatment of women. and you’ve also highlighted my secondary point of disagreement which is, this is a microcosm of a larger issue of “mistreatment” and “being forgotten” and “being silenced” – a logical approach would seek out the multitude of factors contributing to it and try to prioritize and address them. i think this prayer spaces thing has just turned into a pet issue that ignores a larger context [part of which is unintended ramifications of the approach taken]

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      • Ify Okoye

        I read all of your comments before responding and I wasn’t singling you out but speaking in generalities. You can disagree with the approach and yes a multitude of ways can be utilized to rectify the situation. You do your bit, I’ll do mine, and wood turtle and others will do theirs and insha’Allah, we’ll end up with something better than the current status quo. But if one chooses to doing nothing, in that which they are able, then yes that is a form of complicity.

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  37. ibnabeeomar

    TR – all the issues you mentioned can be solved without taking the negative approach of the original article.

    ive personally organized programs in very “conservative” masjids where women pray on another floor and enter on the opposite side of the building, but in order to accommodate equal access and questions to the imam etc, we changed the setup during the class for women to sit in the main musalla area.

    i mention this as proof to the point: there is a way of solving the problems mentioned without this sensational approach that seeks to undermine islamic values and scholarship.

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    • Tr

      I didnt find her sensational. she is not issuing a fatwa or dissertation. it is an editorial. I suggest you walk a mile in our shoes. if this article embarasses you then do soemthing about it rather than ask us to be quiet and suffer. for a lot of women, reading this article made them feel they were not alone. there is much pressure for us to shut up and not sound feminist. of course, brothers like you and your comment above are part of the problem. :o)

      its very simple, men pray in front, women in the same room in back. lower your gaze, mind your business. noone can talk about the fitna that would happen until they actually tried this set-up in the first place. this obsession with women’s sexuality must end.

      im very depressed about the prospects for change. i have started to stay home and google my religion. google is not a good place to learn. my husband does his best but he cant be everything to me. i need my community. i need the mosque. i have been in mosques where things were according to the sunnah and where there was litle to no barrier. i never felt better than in those mosques, nor better respected by the men there. it is usually the men in the separated mosques who feel most threatened by my presence because they are insecure and afraid of women. thank you for listening.

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      • WoodTurtle

        im very depressed about the prospects for change. i have started to stay home and google my religion. google is not a good place to learn. my husband does his best but he cant be everything to me. i need my community. i need the mosque.

        And this is precisely why women being banned / barred / removed / made uncomfortable / refused access / put in basements or balconies / prevented from *direct access* to our scholars, imams, and teachers / encouraged to stay home / effectively forgotten is such a problem. I know too many muslimahs (myself included) who feel the same. It’s not just one or two — it’s 20 or 30.

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  38. harun

    women are less intelligent and less religious than men? men cant control their desires. dude your an idiot. we wouldnt have half the hadiths if it wasn’t for aisha. the first martyr was a women. the person who believe the rasullah was a women when no one believed and support him first. men can’t control their desire sound like you have so deep rooted issues. i am not a dog or animal, which mean i can control myself. plus you dont speak for all men anyway. silly statements like this is the reason why muslim sisters are leaving the deen. the repression has to stop and sisters you need to started demanding your rights. stop marrying these low intelligent, insecure sophomoric boys who try to pass themselves off as men. also sadiq do you think your mother is less intelligent? when you make states like these your talking about your mother, grandmother and the mothers of believes are included in that blanket statement. i will say it again some of these man are repressed homosexuals. most men who hate women or have low regards for women are repressed homosexuals or have mommy issues.

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  39. Abdullah Brown

    My fellow brothers:

    Again, with full respect for the fiqh discussion and many of the points made, what I feel I can guarantee any brother is that he will feel little lasting peace until he gets past some of the stuff posted here, acknowledges the rampant suffering of women, and just does something, almost anything about it. Just start somewhere and move on. Don’t worry about those pushing an agenda inconsistent with Islam, and, as for the mistaken or angry comments made by some sisters in the heat of discussion, just seek to understand or pass over them.

    There is just not going to be much of any peace until we man up and address the suffering of women. As for the rest, just cool it. So long as we take care of this, the rest is going to fall into place very nicely indeed.

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  40. Olivia

    I agree with Ibn Abee Omar about there being a greater issue at hand. I don’t agree that the prayer space is a pet issue. It’s hard to deduce with immediacy what the greater issue is, but I think the post above tried to summarize it as “addressing the suffering of women.” Maybe just “addressing the needs of women” would be adequate. Over all, something has happened in the Muslim world where women have become repressed. But I think over all that as long as societies leave the pure teachings of our faith, they will revert back to old, jahil habits. The same thing happens in just about any person–unless they learn controlled, calm ways of behavior for example, and exert the will-power to implement them, they regress to knee-jerk, easy, childish behavior. Really, as Muslims when we started turning away from the higher-level of behavior that our religion calls us to, we regressed into whatever low-level behavior was latently there in our societies. In general the Muslim world originates from societies where this regression has led them to chauvinism and oppression of women, because that’s the low-level jahil-cultural-tribal baggage that has latently been there since before Islam found them and called them to suck it up and be strong. This is all just my theory, take it or leave it.

    That being said I don’t think this should be viewed as a pet issue. You have thousands of different problems that are the offspring of this one huge issue of neglecting women’s well being. You have domestic violence, you have limited access to education, you have crazy extreme stuff like honor-killings, and you have dirty, dank prayer spaces. Yet in order to remove that one huge mother-problem, you really have no way of doing it accept to undo all the little (and not so little) problems that have spawned from it. Tackling all these little “pet” issues is the only way to lift the damage and call to something else. You can’t simply exclaim that women need better treatment *crickets chirping*. I do think that it would be nice to see men and women work together on this problem, and see it as something that needs the work of a joint-task force for the sake of making our umma a happier and healther one over all, rather than us seeing it as an “us vs. them” problem (mars vs. venus/venus vs. mars). the polarization is really part of the initial problem.

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  41. Abdullah ibn Muhammad

    I love how we are ready to take an action of the way the Prophet (saw) and the Sahaba prayed (in one room) and try to dismiss the hadith of women praying at home is better for them.

    Do you think the Sahabiyaat dressed the way some sisters do today, who come to the masjid wa iyadhubillah? Do you think the men would turn around and look at the sisters praying at that time? And also, do you think they had the luxury of building additional rooms? I don’t think so.

    Let’s try not to use just that one example of them praying in one room, and disregard the hundreds of examples, where barriers were emphsized.

    wAllahi I’m afraid that the Masaajid would turn into nightclubs if EVERY masjid had the men and women praying in the same room, with no divider, etc.

    May Allah (swt) protect our men and our women.

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    • Salam

      As-salamu Alaykum,
      Despite all the comments I have made in support of women having the right to pray at the mosque, I would like to emphasize that I am totally against having men and women pray in the same room (without barriers). I have been in mosques like this and feel there is real potential for problems with this set-up. There are ways to make the women’s section separate without making the women feel separate/isolated. Design and technology can solve these issues. Most mosques in the Middle East are separate but one does not feel isolated like one might in a basement. I, for one, enjoy my privacy in the mosque and do not want the added pressure of men in the same room. I just want a clean space to pray in and the freedom to enter the mosque when needed/desired.

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  42. An Example of the Sensationalizaiton

    as-salamu ‘alaikum

    This is the example of the Sensationalization and harm it has caused to turning to news outlets and bringing in people such as Asra Nomani of all people.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-17/showdown-at-the-mosque/

    May Allah guide you all.

    What kind of sense is it to cause a major problem and a negative image to be spread of communities to establish something that is at best MUSTAHAB, by doing something that at the very least can be described as MAKRUH (causing differences in the community).

    You can talk about your legitimate claim to education in masajid and equal opportunity in a MUCH better way than what is being currently done in terms of inviting the press to write such articles.

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  43. africana

    If a dedicated, wheelchair accesible room, with a separate entrance were to be provided for womenfolk- and their classes were arranged at such a time that they didn’t clash with the prayers- I can’t really see why it would be a cause for concern.

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  44. Anne

    Every Jummah time my children and I sit in our car and wait for Poppa to finish. We listen to Science Friday on NPR. We watch the menfolk wander in late, with their pants falling off or my personal favorite – parting from their girlfriend at the door of the Mosque (She goes elsewhere of course.)

    My kids, who are bombarded with Turkeys and Santas at school and on the street, sit in the car being enlighted by the fine folks of NPR while we sit looking at the Mosque instead of participating in it. How do you think these two will fare in the future? My only friend in town is a Unitarian, thus their playmate is also a Unitarian. This is because I have no way to meet other Muslim women. Perhaps I should spend more time trolling the mall.

    But we aren’t making men uncomfortable at the Mosque – so yea! I am not a fitna

    I don’t think many men or women (who tend to be the larger oppressors of other women) appreciate how hard it is to be Muslim all by yourself – just you and your little family with zero support/interaction from other Muslims. This is one of the reasons there are so many who abandon the faith, because of the lack of support. I know that makes them bad and weak people for leaving, but if you tried the psychology of isolation for a while I think you would see.

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  45. africana

    Salam Alaikum,

    I completely agree with you, Anne. I am in a very similar situation to you, as a convert.

    My mentioning of the difficulties some men might experience was only to emphasise the importance of correct conduct for those women attending the mosque. Sure, i could attend social groups in the town in which I live but I would much rather make the acquaintanceof women with whom I share a common faith and worldview…after all a gathering in which the name of Allah is not mentioned is hardly the same as one in which the angels descend.

    May Allah make your situation easier.

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    • An Example of the Sensationalizaiton

      Africana and Anne –

      I think any SENSIBLE person out there agrees with the foundations of this entire discussion – women and family need a place in EVERY masjid in the U.S that is suitable and catering and fulfills their needs.

      The entire opposition here isn’t to THAT, rather it is in HOW it’s being done at this point.

      I mean the least of which is inviting people like ASRA NOMANI to write an article and take pictures and “SELF-INTERPRET” facets of the religion to cater to the views they wish people to feel they’re being demonized – blinded by the fact the way they’re going about it is WRONG.

      I think there can be a healthier discussion in HOW we can go about making that change rather than what currently is going on in this sensationalization of Women HAVING to impress upon the masjid board, the press, non muslims and muslims alike – shouting and raving.. this isn’t the right steps to go about this. That’s all we’ve seen people try to sense and reason out with this movement. WHERE are the scholars being quoted? I mean for the love of Allah, Khalid Abu Fadl was quoted as a source… لا حول Ùˆ لا قوة إلا بالله

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  46. africana

    I think the answer proabably lies in women establishing their own centres to cater for their religious and social needs. We shouldn’t have to do this but it’s far better than these endless debates which end up further hardening attitudes.

    Anyway, it worked in Glasgow with Al-Meezan centre for women in Glasgow, so it could work elsewhere, inshaAllah.

    ‘Al-Meezan is a non-profit, non-political organisation dedicated to the promotion and development of Islamic learning for women, children and youth.

    Established in 1998 by a small team of dedicated individuals, today Al-Meezan provides Islamic education to over 600 women, children and teenagers in Glasgow and surrounding areas.’

    http://www.almeezan.co.uk/index.php?go=about&id=2

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    • An Example of the Sensationalizaiton

      But i don’t think further ISOLATING isn’t the answer. Rather we need sisters to educate themselves so we can revive our tradition of raising a generation of serious seekers of knowledge whom are women..

      One really nice endeavour I came across was Al-Mu’minaat by Tayyibun Institute from UK.

      http://www.almuminaat.com/

      Which is an amazing endeavour masha’Allah to teach women BY women who are qualified (i.e. have studied in the traditional and proper methods under scholars).

      I think with center’s the issue is – if we don’t FIX the problem at home it’s just like what has happened in the 90s in the U.S. between ‘rival masajid.’

      One uncle doesn’t like what’s going on in masjid A, so he and his buddies go to build another masjid.

      All we’re saying is YES let’s talk about the issue, let’s hold think tanks, make recommendations, officially gather du’aat from the West to talk about it, make websites dedicated it to the issue, hold releases that can be given to masjid boards that gather signatures of reputable people in the scholarly community for them to do something to change the current situation…

      but as far as bad press, infringing and using force.. how is this any kind of sane answer?

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  47. africana

    Jazk Allahu khair for the link.

    The “Living Islam” article mentions that the prevention of harm should precede the obtainment of good. This ties in with your own point about doing that which is makruh(causing divison in the community) in order to perform a deed that is more greatly rewarded when performed at home.

    That being said, women should have access to the mosque or its related buildings on a regular basis.
    I used to live in the north east of England and attended a couple of events run by a group of Muslim sisters. The islamic circles were held in the community hall of a converted terraced house run by a Christian charity whilst the charity Eid bazaar, organised by this same group of sisters, was held some distance away in a church hall. I found it really sad that, in spite of there being three large mosques (one of which is Newcastle central mosque) in the area in which we lived, we were forced to turn to the church,about 25 minutes walk away, to accomodate an event which could have been easily been run between prayer times at the mosque, or in the mosque hall.

    Al Meezan and the oorganisation to which you linked are doiung commendable work, ma sha Allah, however as I don’t have access to a car and dislike using public transport, the Al Meezan centre is somewhat out of reach. Ideally, centres of women’s Islamic education should be located within the communities that they serve, just as the mosques are.

    Iam also of the view that if there is just one mosque with women’s access visiting scholars have to put aside their sectarian differences and make sure that it is to that mosque that they visit.

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  48. Muhammad Sani

    Please sister you should understand that even at the time of the prophet ladies and the men don’t mingle whyl praying or at the entrance. It is less distracting for ladies to have their space at the back with their entrance also away from that of the men. You never know what shaytan could do. In my country almost all the mosques have no provision as to where ladies will pray. Thank you.

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