Outside the Box: A Beautiful Jumu’ah

Last Friday after my Penalty Box post was published, I went to salatul-jumu’ah at a hotel. The usual space was reduced by a third due to a scheduling conflict with another group’s event. On a normal jumu’ah we have three rooms, two for the brothers and one partitioned off for the sisters. This day with only two rooms, the brothers had one room and the second room was divided by some chairs with brothers in the front and sisters in the back. The partition was opened in the middle to allow the overflow of brothers to enter the second room and to provide the sisters with a view of the imam. Those sisters that desired more privacy could sit closer to the wall to be out of sight of the men.

I wish I had a better picture to show you because despite the impromptu nature of the setup, it was one of the best setups that I’ve ever experienced. I had intended to take more pictures after everyone left but I was only able to manage this one before a little girl grew fascinated with the slider capacity on my phone. By the time I regained control of my phone, the partition had been moved and the brothers were putting the rooms back in order.

I came early and took my seat in the back of the room against the wall to try to get into the ajr-filled last row but also in a spot where I would be able to have a clear view of the imam. The khutbah began with two beautiful reminders:

“None of you truly believes, until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you are thankful, I will give you more…” [Ibrahim 14:7]

I was struck by a few things that made my heart overflow with thankfulness and happiness and my eyes overflow with tears:

Like this?
Get more of our great articles.

1. I appreciated being able to clearly see the imam standing while delivering the khutbah. The sensory experience is quite different when able to see the full range of expression and verbal and nonverbal speech than simply listening or even watching on a monitor. I think I’m a fairly good listener and have become adept at listening without visuals. I am usually able to stay focused, yet I believe my attention and focus was greater with the direct line of sight to the speaker.

2. I didn’t mind being cramped and squeezing myself against the wall to make way for the other believers, as space was a genuine concern.

3. The imam is better able to lead the community when he can see them, all of them. He can ask the brothers to move up, or more fully utilize the open spaces, and can see what issues there are as they arise and help to immediately correct or rectify them. The imam acknowledged the presence of the sisters and showed care and concern for us, even saying that the sisters could move up the chairs if they needed more space.

4. Many times we hear the necessity for erecting a barrier to prevent the men and women from seeing each other, which could lead to fitna. Yet, it seems to me that while we are ostensibly lowering our gazes, even if you were to see someone that attracted you, the community and the environment would not allow for any improper interaction. And perhaps, if interested in marriage, one could then inquire in a proper fashion about that person. Do you know that brother with the handsome beard or black kufi? Or, do you know that sister with the green hijab or black niqab?

5. I love praying in congregation. It is rare with our Western concepts of personal space and distance that we sit and stand in such close proximity to complete strangers. Careful not to bump into or step on each other, regretful if we do, but not overly concerned because there is this mutual understanding that comes with knowing that we’re all just trying to perform our salah in the best way possible.

6. Listening to the reminders and recitation of the Quran is critical for one’s iman and the life of the heart. The imam recited Surah Ad-Duha in the first rak’ah. I remember my first time consciously listening to this surah: I was driving my car in the morning, behind a slower moving car, on the way to my first AlMaghrib class. As I passed the car, I realized the hijabi driving it was also probably going to the same class. I didn’t know then what the words meant as I was still relatively new in Islam, and I wondered if I would ever be able to learn that surah. At that time, those few lines seemed like a mountain. I remember racing home to read the translation and saying yes, indeed to those rhetorical questions. Those words are so powerful and so comforting:

3    Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor hates you.
4    And indeed the hereafter is better for you than the present.
5    And verily, your Lord will give you so that you shall be well-pleased.
6    Did He not find you an orphan and gave you a refuge?
7    And He found you unaware and guided you?
8    And He found you poor, and made you rich?

7. I’ve been blessed and am thankful to have grown up in my Islam in such a beautiful community.

8. Why do I love going to the masjid? As I said earlier, I love praying in congregation; it inculcates so many beautiful manners and characteristics within us. Parts of Islam are meant to be practiced communally. Coming from a family of non-Muslims, practicing Islam in my house is to practice Islam alone. To pray alone, to fast alone, to remember Allah alone, sometimes to eat alone, to celebrate alone all the while being surrounded by elements hostile to my Islam. Truly, I think all of my closest friends that I have met in Islam have been through my interactions at the masjid or Islamic events, mostly seminars.

I learned to read the Quran in the masjid starting with the Noorani Qaaidah and alif, ba, and ta. My Bengali teacher saw me struggling and asked a Saudi sister to help me out, and the sister whose name I’ve forgotten sat with me in the masjid and patiently worked with me. I owe both a huge debt of gratitude; I learned so much from their manners, and I hope that they are rewarded with each letter I recite. And the masjid is such a mini United Nations or like the Olympic Games in its diversity. I can glimpse the diversity of the Muslim world in the vibrancy of my own community, which makes me a little more accepting of others and differences and reminds me that I am not alone in my belief in Islam.

The second part of the khutbah focused on practical examples of implementing the two reminders given earlier. A few weeks ago, someone asked me for help and since I was able to help, I helped him. Last week, I was in need of help, and I won’t lie, shaytaan whispered to me for a split-second saying, “If only I hadn’t helped that person, I would be okay, I would have enough to be able to do this or that.” But recognizing that shaytaanic impulse, I pushed it away and out of my mind and said alhamdulillah and just like that someone came to my rescue and helped me out of the situation. And then shortly thereafter in many different ways culminating on this day of jumu’ah, Allah (subhanahu wa ta ala) resolved the entire situation for me in ways I never imagined with more than I could have imagined.

…And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him… [At-Talaq 65:2-3]

10. I am often asked by those that do not believe or are unsure of their belief in God, why I am so certain in my own belief in God. And I can say without any doubt that everything in my life and the world around me testifies to existence of Ar-Rahman, the Most-Merciful and for that blessing I am most thankful. Alhamdulillahi rabbil alameen.

71 / View Comments

71 responses to “Outside the Box: A Beautiful Jumu’ah”

  1. =’)

    Beautiful, SubhanAllah.

    – Ameera

  2. Abuhafsa says:

    It is a sad state of affairs, when you decide to leave the actions that are more rewarding, to do something that is lesser in status, in terms of reward. May Allah guide us all to those actions that will please him.

    • Abdus Sabur says:

      I would like to know if you were brought up in a muslim family, surrounded my muslims daily, where Islam was the most influential environmental factor? If so, then you have no idea what isolation and alienation one feels converting to Islam when all of your so-called friends and family all of a sudden begin to look at you from a completely different perspective. The difficulties involved shedding off years of conditioning which is mostly antithetical to Islam is something you can’t possibly understand. One must learn this deen from others and it requires being in the environment of those practicing it. One should be patient and make excuses for our brothers and sisters because Allah knows what’s in the sister’s heart and we do not.

      Think of her as your own sister. That she feels alienated, alone and wants to please Allah and learn as much as possible. That she wants to be around others that reflect back to her that her faith is real, her love for Allah is real and that the guidance of Allah is the only true guidance. Would you send your sister off to a dangerous place where the environment could influence her to the point that you would fear that she would wander off the straight path? That she may become lax in her 5 daily prayers and because she feels so surrounded by fitnah that she no longer wears hijab and assimilates quite easily back into the patterns and habits that occurred over her entire life? I don’t know you brother but I think you would encourage your sister to get out and be among other muslims as much as possible by going to the masjid, seminars, social events etc. The sisters life and the life of the here after depends on it!

      I ask you akhi, look at it from the above described perspective. Be patient and empathetic. Also, please forgive me for anything I’ve said that has hurt or offended you. I only speak from my own perspective and of those that lives very far away from any muslims or a masjid. Alhamdulillah, may Allah give us taufiq and taqwa :)

      • Muslim Apple says:

        Ameen. I tried to offer in my post as you’ve so eloquently stated a little window into why I love praying in the masjid and being surrounded by other Muslims and why I’m not willing to give up on my community or the larger Muslim community even if accommodations are poor or not to my liking. I’ll still go the masjid to pray (although it’s about so much more than just the salah) and to seminars to learn because ultimately the goals and the benefits are much greater than my own personal comfort or discomfort. From one perspective, accepting Islam was easy but remaining in it is much harder.

      • Ahmed B. says:

        So glad you wrote this reply br. Abdus Sabur. JazechAllah khair.

      • True Muslim says:

        You’ve never heard of zikr? Huh? Do some zikr sister if you’re so bored and “alienated.”

    • UmmOusama says:

      Assalamu alaikum,

      Brother, how can you blame somebody who lives all day with kuffaar in the house, hearing music on the radio or on the TV, being surrounded by kufr 24 hours a day, maybe having drunk people in her house to want to seek refuge in the mosque? Where is she going to make Muslim friends? Were the women who went to the mosque at the time of Rasulullah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told off? We have one very lengthy hadeeth about the Dajjal because a woman sat in the mosque. Were they no men? Yet, that hadeeth was related by a woman and scholars have been so grateful for that hadeeth as it iincluded many details.

  3. F says:

    Brother, as an adult practicing Muslim who is responsible for her actions, she decided to choose between two options, both of which are perfectly halal.

    Feel free to make the women under your household do what you think is best. Respect her just like you’d respect your own sister or mother.

  4. Khan says:

    jazakAllahu khairan for sharing. Very moving indeed!

  5. Zulander says:

    Interesting post masha’Allah. Will this become more of a weekly series?

    • Muslim Apple says:

      No, I don’t think so, actually the next two potential posts that have been swirling in my head for quite awhile are not about the salah or prayer spaces at all. It’s just that with the intensity of the reactions to the Penalty Box post and with this beautiful experience at jumu’ah, I was humbled and my mind could not rest until I put some of these thoughts and experiences down on paper so to speak.

  6. […] Outside the Box: A Beautiful Jumu’ah Cross-posted on Muslim Matters. […]

  7. Elfatih says:

    Masha’allah, May Allah Bless you Eternally

  8. Faraz Omar says:

    Masha Allah. beautiful post! Jazaak Allah khair. may Allah instill in our hearts the love of masaajid. indeed the most beloved places to Allah on earth are the masaajid! :)

  9. iMuslim says:

    It kinda reads like a ‘happy ending’, even though it technically isn’t (i.e., the penalty box still exists!). Alhamdulillah ‘alaa kulli haal. :)

  10. Sayf says:

    Mash’Allah! Lovely article.

  11. Amatullah says:

    :) Baarak Allahu feeki.

  12. Muslim Rx says:

    Masha’Allah! What a beautiful article written by a truly beautiful person. I am blessed to have met you and to have you as a friend and pray Allah increases us in iman and in love for Him and His religion, and through it, each other. :)

    Jazak’Allah khair for these beautiful reminders!

  13. Muslim Apple says:

    Jazakum Allah khayran for all the kind words and dua.

  14. Abd- Allah says:

    JazakumAllah khayr sister Ify for sharing this experience with us. It really brought tears to my eyes, not sure why though. Perhaps it is part of the mercy that Allah puts in the hearts of His believing servants. May Allah purify our hearts.

  15. Umm Bilqis says:

    Masha’Allah very pretty Sister Ify, It touched my heart but no tears :D. I hope it gets published.

  16. Muslim Apple says:

    This post just reminded me of a time, a few years ago, after I had just started taking Arabic classes with Dr. Mamdouh (hafidhahullah), I prayed either maghrib or isha in the masjid and the imam gave a short dars after the salah. He mentioned the hadith of the man who killed 99 and then asked the abd and the aalim if he could repent. The strange thing was that I was able to grasp the meaning of the hadith as he related it in Arabic and didn’t have to wait for the requisite English translation, which followed. The same with listening to Quran in salah or while driving, I was able to grasp bits and pieces here and there and make sense of it, making my own rudimentary translations. Truly, another amazing and humbling experience.

  17. akhi says:

    Jazakillah khair! It was a very nice account

  18. Holly Garza says:

    MashaAllah!! awwww how truly inspiring to read! I love how your faith is strong and you are smart enough to not let biases and inadequacies of others waiver your eman. Beautiful post

  19. Arif Kabir says:

    Alhamdulillah, I was able to attend this Khutbah also, and it felt really good having the community so close and so many people together. The Khutbah itself, about helping those who are hurting, was really powerful also Masha’Allah :)

  20. Abdus Sabur says:

    After following this issue for a week or so now, it seems that in many communities sisters are unable to get any response from the imam of the masjids that subpar accommodations for the sisters. Also, the sisters are unable to address their desire to pray in the main space of the masjid. What is also missing from this dialogue are brothers that are married to these sisters, or their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers etc., standing up and addressing these issues directly with the iman or committee on the sisters behalf. Am I overlooking something? Are the sisters all alone on this issue with no brother(s) willing to assist them in addressing their valid grievances? If this is the case, this offers great insight into the condition we, as muslims, find ourselves in today. I hope I am wrong in my observations.

    • suhail says:

      Brother there needs to be a way to communicate with the people who are the organizers in the community. There are many masajids who have adequate requirements for the woman some not. It is not a general situation. It depends upon mosque to mosque. Also if you talk to the people in charge they will tell you many different things. Some masajids do not even have funds to operate. Other allocate those funds into woman area as my area masajids have since they had adequate funds.

      Sometimes like in Jummah prayer there are so many brothers that to have woman in the room with man is impossible. It is a delicate situation. It cannot be helped just by ranting against the organizers of the masajids.

      Still people would like to have different rooms for woman. May be some woman do not like it but some may. It is not good to generalize the situation.

      The best course is to talk to the woman in the masajid and try to see what there grievances are than resolve the issue by talking to the people in charge. Sometimes they may listen sometimes not. It is not the end of the world though. They are your brothers and sisters too so give them the same consideration as you are giving it to yourself. Things may not change today but may inshallah they may listen to your grievances in time. Sometimes we also need to reflect that we at least have some place to pray while there are many places in the US were u do not even have a room to pray.

  21. Abd- Allah says:

    Some people think that the Imam of the masjid has a say in things and might be able to help and change the situation if the sisters complain to him, while the reality is that in most masajid, the Imams are hired and have no say in the way things are run, and the people who run the masjid and decide on its affairs are the boards, so talk to the board members and complain to them about the issue if the sisters are facing problems. Most of the board members are also married, so talking to their wives is also a good idea. At home, a stubborn board member might be easily persuaded by his wife. lol

  22. Zahid says:

    Salams sister

    I appreciate what you wrote here but I can’t help but be very sad that you wrote about and indeed had your little protest as described in your Penalty Box post.

    Did you take any advice from your teachers and scholars, like from alMaghrib, before you did such an action of rebellion? You might have thought it small, but this is what it leads to:

    http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/muslim-women-protest-at-dc-mosque-022210

    I am embarrassed for you sister. Really. I am.

    By writing out about your experiences – right or wrong – you will take a share of the fitnah that comes from it.

    • Ify Okoye says:

      Zahid,

      I’m embarrassed by any community that treats its members poorly, whether men, women, or children. Abusing the rights of the most vulnerable simply because they can, I’ve never understood Islam to be for oppression of the weak ones rather I thought we were supposed to take care of them.

      The Islamic Center called the police to have the women arrested if they did not leave for simply praying dhuhr in the main hall outside the penalty box and you’re upset with the women? Sad that someone would dare to write or advocate for better conditions for the women and children in your own family and in the community? Pathetic. And what are you doing Zahid, to improve the situation? Rebuking those who are trying to do something positive rather than going to the imams and masjid leaders to advocate. Everyone has their role to play, some write, some organize, and others sit on the sidelines critiquing the methods of those who are courageous and brave enough to withstand the hostility to act. I almost attended the masjid that day but had some other prior commitments but I very well may have let them arrest me. Whatever one thinks of the issue, having sisters arrested for wishing to worship their Lord in a manner you disagree with is beyond words.

      • Amad says:

        I agree that calling the police was quite reprehensible. These are our sisters, and from the look of it, converts AND muhajjiba. They are not Asra Nomani or Pamela Taylor or one of the other charlatans trying to use our internal issues to promote their own feminist agendas against Islam.

        In this case, I really do believe all these sisters are genuinely sincere sisters who want to have better access to the Masajids. If you consider the issue from a convert’s perspective, from a sister’s perspective, someone who faces all the daily issues of life in a hijab, as a Muslim… all she wants is a sanctuary where she feels welcomed. I don’t think that is hard to understand.

        I remember that one of the first improvements that Shaykh Waleed pushed for in our little musalla in Texas, was to put up a glass barrier (see through from women’s side) so that they would feel more welcome, even though no one had complained. Even in as conservative a masjid as Sh. Adly’s in Carolina, I remember all the women would come in the main masjid to pray (even though had a separate space) because Sh. Adly believed the separation to be against sunnah. Can anyone suggest that he’s a progressive feminist??

        Finally, I would like to add in the end that what I find unfortunate (to be honest I can only blame the “conservative side” for it) is that Asra and Pamela are trying to hijack the issue for their own agenda. IF we, the “mainstream” Muslims could have taken care of the issue ourselves, then we wouldn’t leave this opening for these self-proclaimed spokespersons for Muslim women to use it as an opportunity to promote their own ugly agendas. That is why we support the agenda of “cleaner, better spaces for women with access to Imam”, NOT mixed prayer of course.

        • Abd- Allah says:

          Was this really a “protest” or did the sisters just pray in the main area without protesting? If this was a real protest, then I don’t think the sisters should have done so, but if the Islamic center really called the police to arrest the sisters just because they were praying in the main hall, then I think there is a more serious issue that needs to be addressed here. Not allowing them to pray in the main hall is one thing, but calling the police to arrest them!!! I’m speechless.

          • Ify Okoye says:

            There was no protest other than to pray dhuhr in the back of the main hall outside the penalty box. The sisters made it very clear on the Stand In Facebook page that they did not seek confrontation and were not going to engage in any verbal back-and-forth. There were no signs or placards. And when the police arrive to escort them out or arrest them, they left the masjid peacefully.

        • AsimG says:

          Should we not respect the wishes of the caretakers of the masjid?
          If they are so adamantly against women praying outside of the barrier then why push so hard?

          Is the barrier haraam or a bid’ah?
          Have any of the shuyookh you have studied under say the barrier is categorically wrong?

          Is supporting a physical prayer barrier considered a valid Islamic opinion?

          If these questions cannot be answered, and answered with confidence then there is no point for this whole debate.

          And I disagree that this is a position “mainstream” Muslims should have to take up for PR points. If the barrier is a valid opinion, then we say it as such. If it isn’t then we condemn it.

          It’s an either or situation.

          • Amad says:

            What is halal isn’t necessarily right. If there is more than one valid opinion, then the one that is suitable should be applied.

            It is also a valid Islamic opinion that you shouldn’t be in this country. But you chose to be here, right? The question is what is the “right” valid opinion because not all valid opinions are suitable for all times and all places.

            Your question should instead be is NOT having a barrier a valid opinion, and if the answer is yes, then it supports members of our community, and that valid opinion then becomes the “right” valid opinion.

          • AsimG says:

            Alhamdillah, I got owned. Masha’Allah good points.

            But still some other issues in my head:

            Whose rights take precedence at the masjid? The caretakers? The community?

            What if there are some sisters adamantly against all women praying outside of the barrier?

            And don’t we have to follow our leaders and people of knowledge?

            I.e. if I was living in a Muslim country that required full length beards then wouldn’t I have to grow it even if I didn’t think it was obligatory?

            I can understand if this was simply the decision of a bunch of uncles, but if the Imam supports then who are we to question it?

            Is there any shaykh you know of that will say it is not the right of the Imam to enforce the barrier even if some in the community are against it?

        • Salaamu alaikum, Br. Amad – you are right, the partition at that little musallah was a few shades from opaque, and thus better than solid wood, and I appreciate Sh. Waleed’s efforts. However, the truth is that I could not see the khatib on jummah, so if it wasn’t Sh. Waleed I had no idea who was speaking. But the more important aspect I don’t think the men considered much is that in order to reach “their” section, the women had to walk behind the building, essentially an alley where the sidewalk was broken, past dumpsters and out of sight of the public. I very rarely saw men accompany their wives, mothers, daughters, etc. to that back alley.

          In Sh. Waleed’s new masjid there is a partition that is completely clear from the women’s side, masha Allah, so you can see everything that’s going on. It is a breath of fresh air.

          • amad says:

            Ws
            Thank you for the correction. But you know the situation of the little musalla. It was rented space with barely good facilities for men, with only one door that went straight through the room (hardly a hall).

            Sh. Waleed did what was practical for what we had available. If men didn’t walk their wives, then you can’t blame the admin for that, right? The musalla was basically an attachment to a gas station for the employees. He would never turn away from sisters if they had any questions or complaints. That is a key point… even if you have poor facilities, lend a kind ear, discuss, and try what you can.

            Alhamdulilah, as you mentioned, when given the opportunity, the new masjid is the breath of fresh air for all concerned.

            I had to make sure to clarify because attitude and action are both important.

          • Yes, Br. Amad, I agree that it was the best that could be done with what was there, and I did not mean to criticize Sh. Waleed at all – the new masjid is a testament to his vision and his exemplary attitude toward women. I just wanted to point out that the semi-opaque divider didn’t entirely improve the women’s experience of the masjid, and from a social culture perspective I found it telling that it was considered a must for women to be invisible but not essential for women to be safe when entering the masjid. I personally didn’t go there often enough to make any complaint.

            And I think my criticism might have been overly harsh because I got carried away by my sentiments on this issue. I’m so glad Sr. Ify wrote this post. I apologize if I was out of line :)

          • amad says:

            Of course you were not out of line. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome… after all, you are one of the original MM founders (who I have been trying to attract back to MM for a long time :)!)

  23. Zahid says:

    Sister Ify Ofoke

    Please don’t allow the frank statements in this comment detract away from its core message as I mean no fitnah or personal attack whatsoever and Allah is my witness, wa kafa bihi Shaheeda.

    Why can’t you just answer the question?

    Name the scholars you consulted for YOUR action, and the actions of these sisters?

    Simple as that.

    Why are you asking me about what I do for sisters and for the sister’s section? This has nothing to do with what I do or not. You’re the one who has acted in a shameful way, and then worse, publicised it, and worse, you are proud of it.

    It is for this reason alone that I ask you again: which scholars did you consult for your peaceful protest of standing in the main hall despite the fact that the Masjid doesn’t want you to do so.

    Likewise, which scholar is backing the actions of this group of sisters who are “peacefully” protesting (I love the way peaceful is emphasised as if somehow they were going to jump the trustees and beat them with sticks and guns!)?

    I ask you this sister because I know you to be a well-grounded sister from Ahlus-Sunnah who respects the methodology and the importance of tradition and knowledge. I read your comments on the forums with respect and admiration due to your connection to the Ulama and the various classes they hold all over, mashallah.

    Let me help you sister Ify Okoye, despite the fact that on MM which has many of the leading AlMaghrib scholars writing for it and reading all of these 300 (yes, THREE HUNDRED!) comments, there is nothing but deafening silence. Not a SINGLE statement.

    Why? Because they know that they cannot possibly back your actions, neither the actions of this protest.

    Prove me wrong. Bring just one of them here on their site to say, “Well done sister Ify, you did a great service for our oppressed sisters by your actions, and by your inspiring and publicising the efforts of the sisters above.”

    Thanks.

    PS: please stick to the topic that you started. This is not about me and what I do or personally believe, this is all about you. You wanted the fame, you received for it much acclaim, now for this mess we must find out who’s to blame.

    • Ify Okoye says:

      Salaam alaykum Zahid,

      I try hard to spell and pronounce other people’s names correctly, perhaps you could try as well? Let me know, if you need a primer, I was thinking to add one to my bio page. I can only claim to speak for myself not for others.

      If you read my penalty box post, you might have picked up that the decision to pray outside the penalty box was taken on the spur of the moment that day. We needed somewhere to pray maghrib and stopped by the masjid. I don’t have numbers for imams on my speed dial. Generally, the best opportunity I get to ask questions to people of knowledge that I respect is in an AlMaghrib class. Even the imam on that day at the Islamic Center had I wanted to ask him for his opinion, how could I reach him, how would I even identify him, closed off in the penalty box?

      Though, I am a simple Muslim learning my deen, I know there has been considerable discussion amongst people of knowledge about salah and salah spaces. I know that it is permissible to pray with men in a single room and we see that in a number of masajid validated by the people of knowledge there including the best of humanity Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) in his own masjid. I know one of our teachers, Sh. Yaser Birjas taught us in his Fiqh of Salah class that he believes women have the right to see the imam. In the situation, in this post about jumu’ah, the khutbah was led by the local Imam, Safi Khan, who saw the space and did not seek to place women in a penalty box or to tell them they could not pray in rows behind the men. In many AlMaghrib seminars, I have attended, men and women pray in the same room without barriers, sometimes led in the salah by the instructors.

      You might be able to rhyme but you know nothing of my intentions, so stick to working on your own.

      • Zahid says:

        Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

        My sincerest apologies sister Ify Okoye – I mean that, because this was a poor mistake.I read your surname as something completely different.

        I’m afraid that again, you’ve avoided my simple question.

        This has nothing to do with the fiqhi position of the saff, the connection of the rows, the fact that the barrier is actually a bid’ah, etc etc. We know that Sh Abu Eesa and Sh Yaser Birjas teach the same as per the majority of the ‘Ulema and the Four Madha’hib; they teach that the Imam should be seen, teach the lines are to be continued, teach the ahadith of the delaying of the women in their Sajdah to not see the men in front and so on. Yes sister, we’ve studied Fiqh of Salah as well and yes we work hard to teach and educate Masjid committees on this issue and yes in our Masjid we have been successful in convincing the elders in allowing the sisters the best of conditions alhamdulillah.

        But this has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

        What YOU did was more than that. You decide to take unilateral action and go against those who are legally, politically and financially responsible for the Masjid. You made an emotional decision without Shar’i sanction.

        Worse though, you came back here to a site full of scholars and then wrote about it, supported your own actions, and fueled those who will celebrate and delight in your words, and cause fitnah which has already happened.

        Again sister Ify, do you still have no shame trying to defend yourself?

        Your intention might have been good, the evidences behind the mas’alah might have been on your side, but your actions were wrong, naive, divisive, and have caused fitnah.

        You should have carried on the struggle of the rest of the scholars and learned brothers and sisters of your generation, by educating, gaining influence at the committee level, proving your worth to the controlling often-ignorant elders, etc, guided every step of the way in your campaign by the ‘Ulema.

        So I just want a simple answer to my question: why is it that not a single scholar has supported your ACTIONS, your ARTICLE, your CONTINUAL INSISTENCE that you are right, and your final decisions?

        Not a single one from MM despite their plethora here (hafidhahumullah)?

        Or have you completed closed yourself off now and that’s it for you now? You don’t care anymore, whether support or not, you are your own woman right? Allahu a’lam.

        وَمَنْ يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

        “Whoever is given wisdom has truly been given much good, but only those with insight bear this in mind.”

        May Allah guide us all

        • Abd- Allah says:

          Akhi Zahid, we get your point. The sister might have made a mistake in the way she approached the situation and acted. No need to rub that in. I am sure every one has made mistakes in their life. You have made your point, so no need to keep pushing for an answer to your question. Perhaps it is part of that wisdom that you are calling for is to point out the mistake and then give people the time and space to think about their actions and reflect on them. They might arrive to the conclusion that they were wrong on their own. That is the point of making mistakes, is that you learn from them. I don’t really know what you want with your question. Do you simply want her to admit that she was wrong? would that make YOU feel better? Besides, she might not be wrong in what she did. Just because the shuyukh didn’t say anything doesn’t mean they don’t agree with or support what she did. It is a well known principle of fiqh that if something happens in the presence of the Prophet peace be upon him and he does not point out that it is wrong and if he does not reprimand the person who does it, then his silence is an indication that it is permissible. So perhaps the silence of the shuyukh here means that they do not have any objections to what is being mentioned, or else if they think that what the sister has done or said is wrong according to Islam, then it is their obligation to speak out and say so.

          Allah knows best.

        • Ify Okoye says:

          Zahid,

          Apology accepted, mistakes happen. I answered your questions out of courtesy not out of any obligation but it seems you did not like the answers so you continue to try to browbeat me or shame me into agreeing with you, which I do not. I am a not ashamed. What is shameful is the poor treatment of women and children in our communities manifested in such things as penalty boxes designed to exclude, minimize, and silence the voices and participation of women and children.

          As I said before, I can only speak for myself. My post was approved by the Muslim Matters shura, no one has asked me to take it down or edit it. Silence can be just as much a sign of approval despite your claiming it is the opposite. Not everyone comments on every post, does that mean automatic opposition? I think not. We’ve had some vigorous debates behind the scenes amongst some of us. For example, if you peruse the comments on the post Women and the Wall that I linked to at the end of post by former MM writer Ruth Nasrullah, Sh. YQ expressed his approval of her actions to sit in front of the barrier.

        • Amad says:

          Zahid,
          In general, any posts that have fiqhi issues have to be approved by our Shayookh, or at least one of them.

          Also, what you will find that the Shayookh will interject when they find something WRONG, not when they don’t have an issue with it. So, you will find their disagreements in other posts.

          In matters where there is a matter of approach, you have to PROVE that something is haraam, not the other way around. This isn’t a matter of worship that needs to be proven halal.

          I can assure you that even if the Shayookh disagreed with the approach (which they haven’t), this post wouldn’t have been up if we thought there was an Islamic issue that needed to be vetted by the Shayookh.

          We may be wrong, so we will ask them if they can make a comment or two, as their time permits.

  24. Zahid says:

    Actually brother Abdullah I’m not pushing for sister Ify to just admit that she’s wrong, because I know that she’s wrong and I know that the ‘Ulema hold what she has written and said to be wrong, and her manners to be wrong, and her continual slogan about penalty boxes and the miskeen women and children of the entire world being oppressed and slaughtered and Allah knows what else, in the way that she so eloquently does.

    No actually I was after something else, and that has now finally been answered by sister Ify.

    I wanted to know that the scholars of MM have supported her in her actions, and as she has now just said that there was a shura behind the scenes before she posted and that they backed her, including the scholars of that shura body such as Sheikh Yasir and the others, then I now know where MM stands.

    This is based upon the fact that surely our sister Ify wouldn’t mind going against other normal members of the MM Shura, but she’d never dare go against the ‘Ulema on the Shura, which means that they must be okay with her right? And as she also said, “Silence is approval sometimes.” just in case they didn’t actually physically approve, but gave their tacit approval instead, as some of you like to apply the principles of ta’deel in mustallah al-hadith to current affairs!

    That was very important to me on a completely selfish level simply because I know that what Ify has done was against what all of our ‘Ulema have told us to do, namely to act in such a rebellious fashion and feed the fantasies of the progressives and liberals. I’m as convinced as that as she is convinced that she is right, so that’s fine.

    But now we finally know the position of the MM ‘Ulema supporting her and that’s made me reflect upon my position and give a second thought to the authority of MM and what the senior scholars would make of such opinions.

    Alhamdulillah ‘alaa kulli haal, and Allah knows best.

    • AsimG says:

      What?!

      Sister Ify quoted what Shaykh Yasir said in a previous article about a specific incident. There is nothing written by any of the shuyookh, that I know of, supporting or negating her recent articles.

      If you want to question their “authority” then ask them directly for their opinion or stay quiet.

      Having read the major problems this masjid has faced in the past (and continues to face), I think the “penalty box” is the least of their issues. And as Shaykh Yasir has said, there is no need to comment on everything.

      Arresting the imam and breaking the jamm’ah > sisters not being able to see the Imam.

      Read more here: http://www.islamiccenterdc.com/whathappened.htm

    • That’s just a tad over dramatic, don’t you think?

      Look, this is a group blog, and we invite our authors to offer either their expertise or their perspectives on issues they wish to speak of. We certainly don’t let everything through the door, but we also don’t shut down articles because we don’t necessarily agree with the message. I tend toward messages that bring fresh perspectives on issues in which there is legitimate disagreement.

      If you asked me personally what I thought, from my own readings, experiences, and discussions with teachers, I think a “barrier” (one way mirror, balcony, opaque wall w/quality tv, etc) is good for our situation because the normal preventative gender segregation etiquettes are not properly observed (dress code, mingling, women leaving immediately, men waiting for the women to leave before turning around, etc). On the issue of “calling out” masjid boards, I’m like you, I think even if we disagree on some aspects of policy, overall we should bring about our grievances in the best manner possible within the community.

      But this is all very general and theoretical – what happens when the rubber hits the road, and venues of non-fitnah protest are exhausted, and the area allocated for sisters is deplorable? Then I can see the merit in other action.

      The sister wrote an article about a situation which occurred, and her dislike of the situation. I believe she’s allowed to do that – if there is evidence that states a person who has been wronged cannot complain to the community, please show it.

      Secondly, sister Ify didn’t actually organize the protest, and whether it was sparked by her post or not is irrelevant. I think what is especially troubling is an administration which calls the non-mahram police to arrest and take away in squad cars our muhajjiba Muslim sisters.

      Finally, not all issues are black and white, such that a fatwa must be dispensed from the teachers, scholars, etc on this site. In many cases, they are busy with their own communities, studies, and such, and simply don’t have the requisite information or time to give definitive answers. I disagree with any who would say that their silence implies implicit agreement, and I agree with you, it would be ludicrous to make such assumptions.

      Siraaj

      • Abd- Allah says:

        if there is evidence that states a person who has been wronged cannot complain to the community, please show it.

        In fact, the evidence from the sunnah shows otherwise. Abu Hurairah radiyAllahu anhu mentions that a man said to the Prophet peace be upon him: “Messenger of Allah, I have a neighbor who causes me harm.” The Prophet said: “Go and take your things out into the road.” The man did as the Prophet had suggested. People gathered around him asking him what was the matter with him. He told them that he had a neighbor who caused him harm and that he complained to the Prophet who told him to go and put his things out into the road. The people started to curse his neighbor. The neighbor was informed of what happened. He came directly and said to the man: “Go back to your house. By Allah, I will cause you no harm whatsoever.” (Related by Abu Dawood and Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, classed as hasan by Al-Albani).

        Of course one might argue the differences between the two situations, but I will leave that for some one else to do.

        • Siraaj says:

          Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks as though he announced to the whole community his issue after telling the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam. Maybe I missed the point – could you re-clarify please?

          Siraaj

          • Abd- Allah says:

            No akhi Siraaj, you got the point. Maybe I should have been more clear. This incident is proof that a person who has been wronged has the right to complain to the community.

          • Ify Okoye says:

            One interesting point from that hadith is that the man had access to the leader such that he was able to present his grievance. How does a woman relegated to a penalty box petition anyone? She neither has access to the area close to the leader nor would she be able to identify him, which is exactly the case here. Even when sisters called and left messages, emailed, and hand-delivered a letter they were ignored by the leadership, which may be the point. We can marginalize women because they are not valued by the community, they are not supposed to speak, not supposed to question, and not supposed to challenge. Who cares if their accommodations are poor, unsafe, and unclean? Who cares if they cannot follow in salah, hear or see, actively participate in learning, or are alienated from their faith? The message sent is that no one cares because women don’t matter any way. That’s the dawah we receive in many communities.

          • Abdus Sabur says:

            Ify wrote- “We can marginalize women because they are not valued by the community, they are not supposed to speak, not supposed to question, and not supposed to challenge. Who cares if their accommodations are poor, unsafe, and unclean? Who cares if they cannot follow in salah, hear or see, actively participate in learning, or are alienated from their faith? The message sent is that no one cares because women don’t matter any way. That’s the dawah we receive in many communities.”

            All of these issues or problems are a result of a misogynistic culture that people, for whatever reason have woven into Islam and promote it as Islam. The fact is, this is not Islam. We hear muslims criticizing western or American culture when in fact they are practicing and perpetuating equally faulty ways of life that have no place in the pristine culture of Islam, the way of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

            If we follow the ways of our forefathers we are going to fail! All cultures, ways of life,and systems are devoid of perfection, except Islam. On some level we all know this or we at least speak it with our tongues, but living it is an entirely different thing. Do we actually feel this on a visceral level? Do we contemplate this? Do we ask Allah to separate us from the way we live that is not Islam? Do we continually dilute ourselves into thinking that we are doing our best to rid ourselves of habits that are contrary to the way of perfection? We have the solution, we know the solution but we don’t live the solution, completely.

  25. Abd- Allah says:

    One interesting point from that hadeeth is that the man had access to the leader such that he was able to present his grievance.

    This issue is much worse than that. In the past, anyone and everyone had access to the Prophet peace be upon him. Anyone who wanted to talk to him or see him could do so without taking appointments or being turned down or waiting to ask their question or voice their concern. Now many of the shuyukh don’t even give their email addresses out to the public! So there is no way of even getting in touch with them. Even if you do some how get their “public” email and send them a question, they don’t even reply. I understand that the shuyukh might want their privacy or might be busy and have other things to do in their lives, but having this disconnection between the people of knowledge and the rest of the Muslims is a big problem that needs to be solved. Many people opt out for a fatwa from shaykh google or imam yahoo because they are so accessible and they can easily get an answer to their question, where as a real human shaykh is so hard to even get in contact with that there is a big chance that you might die waiting before your question gets answered. So this issue of having access to the shuyukh in general is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    Allah knows best.

    • Abdus Sabur says:

      One thing that should be noted is that in the time of the Prophet (SAW) they did not waste his time with inane questions. I’m sure this is the case today where people ask questions of irrelevance and waste their time. After a time this must be frustrating for them so they may tend to make themselves less accessible.

      The other hand, in some instances, it is probably a case of “celebrity” or “rock star” syndrome where they are only accessible to a select few. If you’re not on the VIP list forget it. Scholars are not immune to this type of human fault so please refrain from getting defensive.

      • Abd- Allah says:

        One thing that should be noted is that in the time of the Prophet (SAW) they did not waste his time with inane questions.

        That isn’t very accurate akhi. If you go through the seerah, you will see plenty of incidents where a Bedouin comes to the Prophet peace be upon him and asks a silly question or does something irrational, yet the Prophet peace be upon him always answered the people’s questions and addressed their issues and concerns, he even tended to the needs of little kids and the servants! This is part of the duties of the people of knowledge, and while I do understand that it might not be easy for them to do so, but it is still an obligation upon them to address people’s concerns and answer their questions. This is simply part of the obligations that a person knows he is responsible for because he chose to take that path of seeking knowledge, and an important role of the people of knowledge is to benefit the people using that knowledge which Allah has bestowed upon them. You don’t seek knowledge for the fame or status and respect that might come with it, but rather to remove the ignorance from yourself and from the people.

        Here are but a few questions which have been asked to the Prophet peace be upon him, yet he always answered the questions and addressed people’s concerns regardless of how silly or pointless the question might seem to us:

        A Bedouin came and asked the Prophet peace be upon him whether he kissed his kids.

        A Bedouin came and related to the Prophet peace be upon him his dream in which his (the Bedouin’s) head was knocked off and started rolling on the ground and the Bedouin started chasing after it.

        A Bedouin asked the Prophet peace be upon him how come when a sick camel enters among his healthy camels and mixes with them that they all get sick.

        One Bedouin even asked if there are fruits in heaven!

        I can go on with examples from the seerah, but I think my point is clear, and so it is not an excuse that the people of knowledge are not easily accessible to the common Muslim just because the people might waste their time or ask irrelevant questions. This gap between the people of knowledge and the average Muslim should be bridged so that it is easier for the Muslims to access knowledge and learn their deen to practice properly, or else why would we blame some one who doesn’t practice Islam properly or doesn’t have the correct beliefs if he or she doesn’t even have access to knowledge like they should.

        • Abdus Sabur says:

          As-salamu alaikum Abd-Allah,

          Jazakallahu khair for illuminating my ignorance on this subject. I made an assumption that was incorrect and I should have researched it prior to commenting. Insha-Allah, I will learn from this mistake and not repeat it again.

          Was-salamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
          Abdus-Sabur

  26. Umm Bilqis says:

    My dear Ify, Assalamu aliakum wa Rahmatullah.
    To wish to pray with better accommodations or even outside the box within the boundaries that the (Prophet sallalahu alahi was salaam) gave is commendable.

    “The best row for men is the first row and the best row for women is the last”
    This is a right that Allah has given the women of Islam and all should promote and work towards it.

    However to promote someone who has admitted to following a different ideology and who is upon misguidance and who is openly introducing bidah to our beloved faith this is lamentable!
    This is not progress.
    She wishes to be the imaam and also prepare the khutbah.
    Therefore she does not recognize the authority of the beloved Prophet or Allah Taala on this matter.
    Changing the religion is a grievous matter sister.
    It is hypocrisy and blasphemy to believe in Allah and to change his religion.
    We can not exclude the judgment of Allah on earth and the sunnah of Rasullah Allayhi al salat wa salam.
    Let us not open the door to her exploitation of worthy issues with her agenda.
    We do not wish for our destruction! We will follow the Prophet Muhammad Allayhi Al sallati was Salaam!

    • Ify Okoye says:

      Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh Umm Bilqis,

      I’m not exactly sure who you are referring to but I think I may have a good idea. As I speak about the issues surrounding the treatment of women and children in our communities I am not endorsing or promoting specific individuals. My goal is foster discussion and work towards achieving and implementing more equitable treatment. To that end, I am willing to join hands with people working towards that goal even if we have disagreements. If people approach me with warmth, sincerity, openness, and kindness then I will deal with them on that basis and return that same kindness. I don’t believe it is my place to try to open the hearts of people to judge them and their intentions, I’m not the grand inquisitor.

      I work in the healthcare field and I work on team that includes many different people all with the goal of fostering positive outcomes for our clients. We are not all the same and do not agree on every issue, do not share the same religions, and we may not even like each other but we can put those things aside to work towards a greater common goal. And Allah knows best.

      • Umm Bilqis says:

        Wa alaikum alsalaamu wa Rahmatullah:

        Sr. Ify poison can be put in between layers of fat and we should be able to decipher and refute anyone who speaks with kindness but is offering a recipe of corruption.
        Do you know that the prophet Allahi al Salaam will not give anyone who adds to or changes this religion any water from Al kauthar? On a day that everyone will wish they had water? This is a serious thing for all those who promote misguidance.

        As good as someone sounds if they are for bidah I will abstain from dealing with them.
        Likewise if someone is as strong or as harsh as Umar radiallhu anhu was purported to be, May Allah have mercy upon him. Our Khalif Umar had much good and we love him for this very characteristic.
        The cause is a good one as long as it is within the boundaries set by the sunnah.
        Basically, we should join hands with those who are and want to be upon the guidance and the methodology of Prophet Muhammad Allayhi as Salaatu Wasallam.

        • Umm Bilqis says:

          Assalamu Alaikum Sr. Ify, Another point, a naseeha which I hope you will take with the compassion I hope I am giving it with. Insha”Allah.

          As an Activist you must always differentiate between a genuine helper by examining the expressed methodology and belief system of others.(Nothing about opening hearts they do talk you know)
          Do not go under the umbrella with others who might have sinister agendas. You will only gain from practicing caution in your choice of ansar and inform yourself to the hilt about the nature of these people and their worth as potential allies.

          It is always good to research their backgrounds and ask the question >who does this person work for and who finances their ventures?

          What is their agenda? Is she/he trying to exploit worthy causes in the hopes of eventually changing the nature of certain aspects of Islam. Is she/he discrediting our beloved religion?
          Is she/he involved in shaping the opinions of Muslims through means of intellectual trickery and dishonesty?
          Is she/he a promoter of corruption? These are the questions we must ask and ask again lest we become collaborators in spreading corruption throughout the land.

  27. AsimG says:

    AFP: In US, Muslim women challenge mosque separation

    Looks like the international press has caught onto to this incident in the above article, which once again affirms what a mistake all of this was. I am really saddened that the sisters are allowing this minor cause to be hijacked and turned into a major incident and in shock that no one has tried to correct their tactics.

    Where are the real Muslim feminists? The ones who don’t sacrifice izzah for removing a wooden barrier in a mosque controlled by international entities

    • Ify Okoye says:

      AsimG, press coverage is not an indication of the worthiness or correctness of an issue. What would you claim are the correct tactics in the face of an administration that refuses any meaningful discussion? Perhaps, you would say if the women don’t like it, they should go back home? Perhaps, we should also say to the men that this is America and that they should also return to their home countries? Do you believe that women should be forced to pray inside the penalty box? Do you believe women have a right to assert the rights given to them by Allah and the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam through Islam to attend the masajid and pray in the main prayer space behind the men? Do you support the usurpation of those rights by the masjid administration (which refuses to engage in any meaningful discussion) who then call in police officers to forcibly expel sisters from the masjid?

      The issue, is not “minor” as you term it but is much greater than a single mosque and a single barrier. If the issue was so “minor” why would the masjid administration feel the need to repeatedly invoke the power of the police to prevent sisters from praying or interrupt those already praying, without concern whether men and women with their police boots tramp around the masjid? Where is the gheerah of these men supposedly the maintainers and protectors of women that they allow non-Muslim male police officers to grab and push and prod and poke sisters praying? Wal Muthana, indeed.

      On a happier note, the community in Maryland that used to pray in the hotel highlighted in this post with partitions has moved perhaps temporarily to a space without barriers. Only a line of chairs separates the men from the women.

      • AsimG says:

        Ukhti, such rhetoric does not work with me and I’m really surprised that you continue to invoke such weak straw man arguments.
        It cannot be said either you believe the barrier is wrong or you hate women and want to beat them until they accept their oppressed position.

        Such desperate emotional appeal rhetoric might work on the stomping grounds of secular feminists, but not in Islamic discourse.

        As mentioned before, the attempted arrests of the Muslimahs is nothing when you consider this is the administration that arrested the Imam and 50 other Muslims during Eid!
        http://www.islamiccenterdc.com/whathappened.htm

        This is administration (who are ambassadors from countries like Saudi Arabia) has split the jam’ah and now there are 2 jummah prayers being held at the same time with the “ousted group” praying just outside the mosque for decades.

        Surely you understand these are much more significant issues and are more deserving of coverage by MM and interviews to international news agencies?
        I guess “progressives” (whoever they are) have more important things to worry about.

        And if you say this is not only about a single mosque, then bring your proof. Find the masaajid who have the funds and intentionally have horrendous female sections and let’s talk to the administrations (preferably ones that are not run foreign governments) and see what they have to say. I’ll personally email every single one you mention insha’Allah.

        And masha’Allah I’m glad to hear things are going so well in Maryland.

        • Ify Okoye says:

          There is no straw man argument. I’ve never offered an either you are with us or against us. I think we agree more than we disagree. I’m glad you are with us, if you are on Facebook, join the Stand In group. The cause is right and just, and we are open to having more men and women from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. We don’t all agree on every issue but on this issue we agree so glad to see you onboard.

          Where do you live? You could start by a survey of the masajid in your locality, let us know what the circumstances and setups are in your community. Let us see you working toward rectifying unsafe or inequitable treatment. I’m working in my community, getting masajid to comply with fire codes by not chaining doors on the sisters’ side and working to talk to other sisters in the community and masajid leadership that are open to dialogue as well as stand-ins, and working on a photoblog. I make dua, volunteer my time, my wealth, and my words and photos towards improving the situation for others. I hope you and others will do more than just talk and offer whatever unique talents you may have towards the effort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *