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Pray In Accordance to the Sunnah: Muslim Women Protest Against Marginalization


This past Monday, Fatima Thompson and I were interviewed for an article in the Muslim Link about the Pray In movement, which seeks to follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in his arrangement of prayer space and community participation.

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to meet and work with a diverse group of very intelligent, talented, committed, and passionate individuals as well as to participate in and or witness several pray-ins at local mosques. In writing about and discussing the issues surrounding Pray In and women’s access, space, and treatment within our Muslim communities, I’ve been met with varying responses. So I’d like to offer some of my own insight along with excerpts from a lecture delivered by Dr. Ingrid Mattson with whom I find myself agreeing on many issues to clarify and answer some of the common misconceptions and/or at times weak arguments used by those who often sit on the sidelines spewing invectives opposing the Pray In movement, complaining while doing nothing for worthy causes, which seems to be a bit of sport that Muslims excel in i.e. look at the reaction to Gaza.

What is Pray In? Pray In is a group founded by Fatima Thompson, an American convert to Islam to address the inequity and injustice we see in our Muslim communities, which so often relegate women to second-class or third-class believer status while happily repeating the mantra that “Islam elevated the status of women 1400 years ago.” And while that may be true, ever since the time of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and his early companions we have seen the inroads of cultural practices none too friendly to women erode those rights and that freedom, dignity, and respect once afforded to us in our religion and in our communities. This erosion is manifested in many ways from a lack of educational opportunities, disproportionately being blamed and bearing the burden of society’s ills, and exclusion from the masjid and the life of the community.

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How does Pray In seek to address these issues? Pray In attempts to engage our Muslim community in discussions relating to the access and treatment of women particularly in masajid and communal spaces as this is one of the most visible and potent manifestations of our community’s attitude towards women. Through engagement with community members and leaders, panel discussions, articles in a range of media outlets, and pray-in protests we seek to initiate discussion and positive action within our various communities. The issue is not simply getting safer, better-lit or more comfy accommodation (although that is important) but more importantly the concerns range from how women are treated, included or excluded, and valued or devalued in community life and participation within the Muslim community.

But there are so many other bigger issues in the community that we should worry about? Are there? Then put your money where your mouth is, get off the sidelines, and utilize your passion, talents and energy into taking leadership on an issue so that you can work to improve that situation. I may even support you. But don’t make your own weaknesses, insecurities, and inaction a cause to try to tear down and weaken the initiatives of others. That’s like saying to a person who recycles, why are you recycling when there is oil gushing into the waters off the Gulf Coast or the pollution from vehicles has more of an impact on the environment. That’s not a successful can-do attitude worthy of emulation but rather the can and will do nothing attitude of a loser. A quote from the anthropologist Margaret Mead comes to mind, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Will you step up or are you all talk and no action?

But we haven’t heard the women in our community complaining, in fact most of them like the setup and have asked for barriers and partitions? How does a woman excluded from coming to the masjid or relegated to the basement, balconies, separate rooms or behind partitions access the imam and leadership or participate in community discussions, which invariably take place on the men’s side amongst men?  How would she even recognize the imam if she can’t see him? For the most part, she doesn’t participate, she doesn’t speak up, her views are neither heard nor considered. She is rendered invisible and unimportant, certainly not deserving of respect, dignity, or even consultation and perhaps that is just the point. A woman given dignified space, access to the imam and leadership, and allowed to participate presents a challenge to a certain power structure and way of doing things. And it takes a real man and real leadership to be able to welcome the participation of women and to create meaningful access and opportunities to facilitate that communication and participation. Let’s take for example, Umar, the second caliph of the Muslims:

Ibn Jawzi narrates (Sh. Albani has classified this narration as weak): Umar forbade the people from paying excessive dowries and addressed them saying: “Don’t fix the dowries for women over forty ounces. If ever that is exceeded I shall deposit the excess amount in the public treasury.” As he descended from the pulpit, a flat-nosed lady stood up from among the women audience, and said: “It is not within your right.” Umar asked: “Why should this not be of my right?” she replied: “Because Allah has proclaimed: ‘even if you had given one of them (wives) a whole treasure for dowry take not the least bit back. Would you take it by false claim and a manifest sin.'” (Al Nisa, 20)

When he heard this, Umar said: “The woman is right and the man (Umar) is wrong. It seems that all people have deeper insight and wisdom than Umar.” Then he returned to the pulpit and declared: “O people, I had restricted the giving of more than four hundred dirhams in dowry. Whosoever of you wishes to give in dowry as much as he likes and finds satisfaction in so doing may do so.”

It’s so interesting that clearly there was no partition and the men and women were close enough to recognize each other and to hear each other. The women were allowed to speak and those in attendance listened to her, no one shouted her down that the voice is awrah or that she should remain in her home and not be seen. From what is apparent, the men and women were able to comport themselves appropriately.

Do some women ask for barriers? Yes, they do and others do not ask for barriers. Dr. Ingrid Mattson has an excellent lecture on the subject called Heaven’s Gate: How Muslim Women Open or Close Doors for Their Sisters, in which she addresses many controversial issues from women’s roles in society, the myth of the idealized Muslim woman, prayer space, true women’s solidarity and feminism, advocating for change, and the need for liberalism in order to move our communities forward today amongst other issues.

But the women might not be in proper hijab and the men might look at them? I responded to this argument here:

Lower your gaze brother, lower your gaze. If you weren’t so busy eyeballing the sisters and nitpicking their clothing choices you might have a better understanding of the obligation to not prevent women from coming to the masjid. If you just can’t help yourself, then maybe you should stay home or better yet maybe the brothers should assault you, slam the door of the masjid in your face when you try to enter, call the police to have you removed or serve you a banning notice.

Do you think that would be an appropriate response? Because, these are among the methods employed against women in our masajid.

In addition, why is it that the onus is always placed upon the sisters, did Allah not call men and women (and in this instance the men before the women) to control their behavior in order to protect their modesty, not to make weak excuses about being unable to control oneself from being distracted or aroused even though we do it every day. One sister said to me, “the brothers only use that they’ll be distracted line, when they can oppress us.”

So according to the logic of some, if men cannot restrain themselves from looking at women, women must be excluded or forced to stay at home, be placed behind partitions or in separate rooms, or in the back of a classroom. But why not demand of our brothers that they act like dignified human beings and not animals or demand that those who cannot control themselves remain at home themselves for the good of society or in a separate room or behind a partition? It’s easy to tell others to accept conditions, which we would never accept for ourselves. It’s similar to much of the discussion surrounding racial profiling and immigration, many of those who support these measures would themselves be exempt from scrutiny.

But the women are not obligated to come to the masjid, there’s are hadith stating their prayer is better at home or the best rows for them are the last ones. None of this negates that the command of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to not prevent the women from coming to the masjid or the examples we saw in his own time or the time of his closest companions. Many who like to make mention of the latter hadith to force women into the furthest row at the back of the room do not similarly use it against the men that come later and pray in the last row. Nor does the hadith imply a prohibition of praying in the first women’s row, which in some cases is also the only row therefore also the last and best row. Dr Mattson reminds us:

The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not prevent the maidservants of God from the mosques of God.” What we have to understand is that women are not prevented from praying in the mosque only by words. They also are prevented when they are not afforded reasonable access to the prayer space and the opportunity to join the congregation. The female companions of the Prophet Muhammad enjoyed this access during his lifetime; it cannot be anything other than disobedience to his teachings to deny such access. In order to open doors of spiritual opportunity for our sisters, it is, therefore, sometimes necessary to put aside our preferences.

The blogger Umm Zaid poignantly reminds us here and here of the pain and hostility women encounter when they venture out to some of our masajid in addition to the poor image of Islam conveyed not only to our non-Muslim friends and family that may accompany us to these houses of worship but also for us, the believers as well. And for many of us converts, we have chosen to enter and remain in Islam (although far too many turn their back on their communities and Islam in the process) not as Imam Johari AbdulMalik says because of the Muslims but despite our interactions with our fellow Muslims.

Umm Zaid:

I do think there is an underlying misogyny imported from wherever that goes into this. Is it Islamic? I don’t think so, given the clear hadith about women being allowed to go to the masjid. But I will tell you here, all you who read this, I have never felt so hated as a woman in Islam the day that I was locked IN to the masjid and the only way I could get out was to walk through this sort of maintenance hallway to the men’s area where I was stared at and screamed at. (Why? Because the man had locked me in — without checking to see if I was there — and then left, he could not hear me pounding on the door and calling for him to open it).

This is beyond “we will have dignity with separate yet equal prayer spaces,” and this is something that (a) will never be solved by those types of spaces and (b) largely prevents them from existing in the first place — even here… in America. I cannot make excuses for Muslim men anymore.

While the sisters may have some valid points, I don’t like their methodology, protesting, not following the rules in place for their own marginalization, talking to the media, they are creating fitna (discord). Sounds like more sitting on the fence complaining without any action but Dr. Mattson responds to this argument as well:

…Secondly, ‘A’isha was public in her corrections. Of course she corrected some people privately but she also corrected people in a public fashion when necessary. When she heard that someone was attributing to the Prophet Muhammad something she found reprehensible, she did not hold back. In doing so, she taught that it is perfectly acceptable and sometimes necessary to challenge power publicly.

It is because of the example that she set that we see her students demonstrating the same kind of strength and courage. For example, ‘A’isha bint Talha, who was one of ‘A’isha bint Abi Bakr’s students, is well known for very publicly refusing the demands of others that she cover her face in public. ‘A’isha bint Talha was the most beautiful woman of her age, but she was also a great scholar of hadith who learned religious knowledge from her aunt and had the same kind of confidence to articulate her convictions.


Certainly there is much value in respecting common norms of behavior and not acting counter-culturally simply to provoke a reaction. However, sometimes it is only outrageous behavior that will elicit a necessary reaction in the face of mindless complicity. Who is to judge when it is appropriate to sacrifice individuality for the sake of the common good and when it is necessary to fight for one’s rights, despite protests that one is creating discord (fitna)?

In the end, this is a judgment call that we can all make, but must not assume that any of our judgments are infallible. When it comes to women’s rights, we should not be so terrified of a backlash that we disown our sisters who take a more radical path. We might think that their behavior is outrageous, ridiculous, or over-the-line, and we can make that judgment. Still, we should support their right to be wrong.

Some say, if we don’t like or want to accept our own marginalization in a community, then we should build our own mosque. I haven’t heard this argument made with any evidence from the Quran or Sunnah and in contrast, we have explicit hadith mentioning not to break away from the congregation. Also, in the example quoted above with Umar and the woman who corrected him, her response to what she perceived as injustice was not to build her own masjid and start her own community, rather she stayed and tried to rectify her community by whatever means were at her disposal.

While building a mosque of one’s own may have certain appeal and immediate benefits, I also think the community may suffer in the long run. Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, the tiny downtown main street has a church on just about every corner, which I always found strange wondering what exactly separated all these different Christian denomination such that they did not feel they could work or worship together. I now live in Maryland, and within my community we have at least three Islamic schools within about a 10 mile radius and in one area 2 or 3 (depending on your theological beliefs) masajid within about 1 mile radius, none working together or cooperatively and in effect competing and dividing the resources of the community. This argument seems similar to those who tell others to “go back home” when they advocate for the rights and dignity supposedly guaranteed to us as citizens and residents in a certain land. But in this situation, I am home within the Muslim community, am not going anywhere, and intend to stay, speak up, write, engage, and protest to help my fellow Muslims whether we are oppressed or the oppressors.

Some say we should not invite non-Muslim media to cover these events because we “shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in front of non-Muslims.” Yet, the clothes are just as dirty, stink just as much, and are just as unfit for wearing regardless of who sees it or knows about it. It is still poor dawah to both Muslims and non-Muslims, when the public face we present to those inside and outside of the faith, is of penalty boxes and women’s exclusion and marginalization. Is it any wonder that no one believes us when we say our favored dawah slogan that “Islam elevated the status of women?”

Spend one day masjid-hopping as I have done many days across the U.S. and Canada, visiting women’s sections in various masajid or listening to the stories of hurt and pain, of disillusionment and discontent from Muslim women and from those who have left Islam unable to find any solace or a safe place in communities which rejected them, and which also reject and marginalize half of their congregation. A sister, a convert, once wrote to me from New Zealand, where upon encountering hostility and exclusion from the men at her local masjid, she and some others took to praying fajr outside on a mountaintop. According to a documentary by Channel Four, more than half of the masajid in Britain have no accommodation for women at all. Is that the Islam we are inviting others to?

I hear Pray In is a progressive group, full of media savvy progressive-type activists that want men and women to pray side by side and women imams? Pray In is a completely volunteer-based group, there is not litmus test for our volunteers that comprise a diverse group of women and men with varying viewpoints, which is not at all surprising considering how these issues of women’s access and participation in our communities are not limited to a single place, group, interpretation, or masjid. Despite the protestations of those with their heads in the sand, these are global ummah-wide issues.

Pray In has not yet articulated a mission statement but we are open and welcome to genuine participation from committed individuals of all stripes and colors and backgrounds. If you’d like to get in on shaping the organization, then join hands with us, and help forge the mission of the group. Our group is not weakened nor are the issues less true or important because you may disagree with the politics or views of one individual within the group. Many Muslims love when a non-Muslim writes something they perceive as positive about us, whether it’s about hijab or Palestine or unjust detentions and infringements of civil liberties. Is the cause any less just or or any less right because a non-Muslim is also standing for it? On issues that matter, we can work together to find common ground amongst liberals, conservatives, and moderates. I turn once again to the words of Dr. Mattson:

You might say that now I have adopted a typical liberal stance on rights, despite beginning my talk with a recommendation that a more conservative path of transformation should be considered. Certainly, I believe that when it comes to gender relations in Muslim religious communities, that an ethical transformation based on spirituality, and drawing upon diverse resources of classical Islam will yield positive results.

However, I also believe that this kind of transformation cannot occur today except in a social and political context in which the liberal notion of individual rights is upheld. Authoritarian and patriarchal tendencies run too deep in Muslim communities for any real transformation to occur without grounding our religious choices in a liberal political (in the small and large sense) framework.

Has there been violence or an assault? Yes, threats, intimidation, interrupting and breaking the salah of at least one of our supporters, and a physical altercation and assault. Some of our supporters have been banned officially or unofficially from a local masjid. I’m reminded of the hadith of the Bedouin who urinated in the masjid. The companions wanted to jump on him but the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) restrained them and spoke gently with the man. Or in the story of the slander of Aisha, her father Abu Bakr exemplified forgiveness, gentleness, and mercy to those who had slandered his daughter but in our day, we ban those who are assaulted rather than engaging in conversation or attempting any reconciliation. And the fact that many men and women who are opposed to any discussion of women’s access and participation, let alone the Pray In movement, are so hostile, ready to spew forth their vitriol and violence belies the claims that these issues from prayer space to the participation of women are not a real problem in our community. On the contrary, it demonstrates just how important these issues really are as people don’t usually get so worked up over non-issues.

Did you call the police? No, each time the police were called, it was by the masjid authorities.

Did you press charges? Yes, after some hesitation. Why? Because it’s not okay to assault anyone at anytime, we can disagree but just as we as a community have taken stands against domestic violence, we must also take a stand against the violence committed in public in our masajid. We’re open to dialogue and reconciliation but the case is still pending…

What does Pray In envision for the future? I can only speak for myself as Pray In is still in its formative stages but for me it is heartening to see other organic grassroots Pray In movements spring up across the country, people have contacted us asking how they can start their own Pray Ins in their local communities. Despite, the rumors, fear, insults, innuendo, intimidation, and red herrings utilized to discredit or marginalize us as a movement, we have been successful in initiating discussions and positive action on local level and have heard from concerned and interested parties internationally as well.

We’ve had a diverse group of women and men express their support that finally someone is taking up the cause and standing up to the forces of marginalization, which seek to silence, exclude, and render women and women’s voices invisible in our Muslim community. There have been success stories, some masajid fearing a Pray In at their doorstep have taken steps to participate in the dialogue or make changes to empower and support women in their communities from improved prayer space accommodation to creating real avenues to foster discussion where these issues can be raised and resolved and all that is a step in the right direction.

My take on the Muslim Link article: The Muslim Link: Biased Against Pray In

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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Ify Okoye is a Muslim woman, a convert, born and raised in the U.S. She is from New York and her parents are from Nigeria. Despite the petty hassles of work and school, Ify finds time to travel usually for AlMaghrib Institute seminars and to visit beautiful places. Pronunciation primer for her name, say it like this: E-fee O-coy-yeah!



  1. Farhan

    June 7, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    As-salaam ‘alaykum wa rahmat Allahi wa baraktahu,

    I’m currently reading through your article and there’s a lot that I agree with. May Allah increase your efforts and truly bring this equality that we should seek.

    Sister, I must make one respectful small point of disagreement. You wrote:

    For the most part, she doesn’t participate, she doesn’t speak up, her views are neither heard nor considered. She is rendered invisible and unimportant, certainly not deserving of respect, dignity, or even consultation and perhaps that is just the point. A woman given dignified space, access to the imam and leadership, and allowed to participate presents a challenge to a certain power structure and way of doing things.

    However, couldn’t the exact opposite charge be levied? When you say ‘women are invisible’, you are implying that the only visible place is where the men are. But, look at it from the other perspective. Perhaps the men are invisible – to the women!

    One could say “because the men are not in the same room as the women, they are not given dignity or respect”. This can go both ways.

    • Mombeam

      June 7, 2010 at 12:27 PM

      as-salaamu `alaykum

      In my mind this would only hold true if it were not the men who are the ones with the control and power over the situation. For example, I was reading something in which somebody argued that it doesn’t matter that there are white people who are racist because there are also black people who are racist, therefore the two cancel each other out. The problem with that argument is that it might if it wasn’t for the fact that white people are more often (and often overwhelmingly) in positions of power in which they can act upon their racism and institutionalize it. So since the men are the ones in control of our masaajid, they are in a position to institutionalize their neglect/forgetfulness/whatever you want to call it of women when the women are not seen as fully participating, fully present members of the community.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 6:44 PM

        Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah Farhan and Mombeam, lovely to hear from both of you. I’ve been away today but am glad to see the discussion progressing and Mombeam encapsulated my thoughts exactly, thank you.

      • noor

        July 3, 2010 at 1:16 PM

        Mombeam: MashaAllah, very well said.

  2. nahoma

    June 7, 2010 at 12:56 AM

    Aisha R.A. said in HER time, if the prophet SAW were to see how the women are now, he would forbid them from coming to the masjid.

    if that was during the time of the salaf…what about now?

    I think over 90% of muslim women now (at least in the west) do not even wear proper hijab…they may wear the khimar (head scarf) but not the hijab (this is because the vast majority are wearing pants and exposing the silhouette of the legs)

    Once they actually cover their awrah, then we can talk about coming to the masjid!

    as for the 10% of women who are proper, then May Allah reward them with firdaus and May allah perserve these sisters. For these 10% of sisters who wear proper hijab and dress modestly, then for sure this article applies to them. As aeisha R.A said, the women used to be like black crows in the masjid for fajr. No one could tell who was who. <– THAT is the sunnah. now a days women are more like peacocks with their bright colours which draws attention to them. and the clothing they wear is super skin tight. May allah guide us allah to the straight path.

    I know from the above post I probably sound like one of those male chauvanists, or just a sexist but in reality I 'm really not. I respect women. I don't think they shouldn't work or go to school, I think they have every right to. I don't mind at all if you don't wear proper hijab yet, that is between you and allah. I respect all of our sisters. but what ticks me off is when the women who don't even wear proper hijab yet, expect to come into the masjid in the same area as the brothers looking like a peacock and then saying…"well this is how the prophet SAW's masjid was!" I would love to go back to the way the prophet SAW's masjid was, but to do that you gotta dress like the women sahaba's were dressed…refer to Aeisha's statement I put in the beginning.

    If the facilities in your masjid are messed up..and you really want to pray in the masjid (even though its better to pray at home), then dress like Aeisha R.A was, a black crow, with no one being able to recognize her….then I would gladly have all the sisters like this praying with the men in the same room without any barrier or anything…Just like at the time of the Prophet SAW

    • Mombeam

      June 7, 2010 at 12:33 PM

      What masaajid are you going to?! I don’t see masaajid where women are showing up exposing their `awrah, and I’ve been to MANY all over the country. On the contrary, I see that even women who may not wear hijab outside of the masjid will cover themselves when coming to the masjid. Yes, some women show up in pants of half-falling-off hijabs. Don’t you see women like that (and worse) in the parking lot, in the street, at the store, at work? And in those cases they are standing in front of you, not behind you or to the side. Haven’t you already developed strategies for dealing with this issue in places other than the masjid? You must certainly have a way of avoiding looking at a jogger in a borderline bikini who runs by your car when you’re at a traffic light, so you can’t tell me that if a woman shows up at the masjid in a long-sleeved shirt, pants (even if not Shari`ah-compliant) and a scarf on her head, AND she is sittng or standing BEHIND YOU, that you can’t deal with that.

      I almost wonder if the main hall were open to men and women if there might even be more community pressure to dress properly….

      • Zulander

        June 7, 2010 at 2:13 PM

        “I don’t see masaajid where women are showing up exposing their `awrah, and I’ve been to MANY all over the country. On the contrary, I see that even women who may not wear hijab outside of the masjid will cover themselves when coming to the masjid. Yes, some women show up in pants of half-falling-off hijabs.”

        … You answered your own question.

        • Struggler

          June 8, 2010 at 9:10 PM

          Ya Akhi, Whenever, I have gone to the masjid I have always seen the sisters full Hijab covering their hair completely. Addtitionally, the vast majority of women come in abiyas.

          As for your comment about the 10% of women who actually wear proper Hijab then this articles applies to them – the people who wrote this article are the ones that take their deen seriously and it is these sisters who are concerned about the problem and most probably take their hijab seriously. I highly doubt you will find a sister who is not that religous and dresses inappropiately be concerned with affairs at the mosque.

          And Akhi, and what about the 90% of Muslim men who do not practice their deen in accordance with the sunnah. How many times have I seen our brothers honking their horns at each other, swearling at the ones who control traffic, and yelling at each other to get out of the masjid of Juma or Eid prayers? How should the masjid deal with these brothers? Should they still be allowed to the masjid? Of course. Then why are we banning our sisters and bellitling their issues?

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 9:54 AM

            Jazak’Allah khayr Struggler for the support. One of the saddest moments I’ve witnessed first hand was outside a masjid after jumu’ah on the first day of Ramadan some years back. We had just listened to the beautiful reminders and I was walking back to my car. The parking lot for the other jumu’ah services is HOV-3 and one man alone in his van tried to pull in for the second jumu’ah and the security brothers were politely telling him to park across the street because he didn’t meet the criteria and then he starting cursing at them and fisticuffs almost broke out. And all this in Ramadan, in the middle of the day, at the masjid, and while we were all supposed to be fasting. And this is the masjid from which I’m unofficially banned for taking pictures during the pray-in. May Allah guide us to that which pleases him. Ameen.

      • Aurangzeb Khan

        June 21, 2010 at 7:11 PM

        I don’t know what causes such arguments to into statements like, “Don’t you see women wearig much less in parking lots…”. We are talking about Masaajid here, and not parking lots. We are talking about Muslim women, not kuffaar. I have myself observed women coming to Jumaa prayers in clothings that even a good Karif woman would be hesitant to wear.

        Wake up and smell coffee.

        Women and men arguing over these things definitely do not seek to correct anything. From what appears, they seek authority, self projection, and fame. They would not even hesitate to cause a fitnah if they can.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 6:52 PM

      Nahoma, I enccourage you to read the transcript of Dr. Mattson’s lecture, she also addresses that very issue relating to the hadith of Aisha, which I did not include out of concerns for space.

      When I first converted to Islam, one of my biggest fears keeping me away from the masajid was not knowing how to act or dress as I’d never previously visited a masjid and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know any Muslims to ask save for the Muslim taxi drivers I met.

      People are at different places in their journeys and understandings of Islam and even if a person does not conform to our idealized version, the very fact that they are even coming to the masjid, facing the hostility is admirable and we should welcome them with open arms.

      I once brought my non-Muslim sister to jumu’ah with me and I can’t tell you the amount of nasty looks she got from sisters. She was in jeans but wore a jacket over her shirt and covered her hair, do you think she left with a good impression or would want to return? She’s non-Muslim, so what of other Muslims seeking to come closer to Allah? Do anyone of us want to be the one turning them away from the deen?

      • tariqislam

        June 7, 2010 at 7:18 PM

        Sr Ify,

        Your last paragraph brings to attention the failures of the women in the Muslim community not having good manners, not being gentle, and being generally unaccepting. Honestly I think that is one of the biggest obstacles for your movement, not the men.

        • AsimG

          June 8, 2010 at 2:19 AM

          We should be accommodating to non-Muslims and invite them to Islam in the best of ways, but as Tariq mentioned the issues you bring up have more to do with lack of adab then a separate area for women to pray in.

          We don’t need to misrepresent who we are by abandoning a scholarly accepted opinion of a separate prayer area in order to do daw’ah.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM

          Tariq & AsimG:

          Tariq, that’s one reason why I highlighted Dr. Mattson’s paper, even though some people thought I was dumping on the brothers, I’m not, women and men play significant roles in “opening or closing doors for Muslim women.” Just as in the seating debate, it was other sisters moreso than the brothers trying to remove choice from both men and women.

          Adab or the lack thereof is a universal issue, yet the accommodation and participation in the masjid seems very often to be decided by the men who run our communities moreso than the women. I’d like, as I believe you do as well, to see meaningful opportunities for women’s voices, participation, and inclusion in our communities.

        • Middle Ground

          June 8, 2010 at 4:06 PM


          And my standard reply to that is this: if women are not welcomed to the masjid by the men in the first place, how will the women learn the adab of the mosque?

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM

            Wa salaam alaykum Middle Ground (I love that name by the way), touché!

    • akhan

      June 8, 2010 at 12:06 PM

      Don’t we want the women not following the sunnah to come to the masjid? Where else will they learn? Obviously it is not being taught at home.

      What should we do when we see a brother come in with gold chains and sagging pants? Should we kick him out?

      The majority of Muslims hardly ever come to the masjid and only practice Islam during Ramadan, if at all. If a person is coming to the masjid, regardless of how practicing she seems, isn’t it a sign that he/she wants to become a better Muslim?

    • Mohammed

      June 10, 2010 at 9:48 PM

      Wow, Subhanallah. Your husband ( if you are married) is lucky. Mashallah sister, keep it up. Just beautiful response and explanation. There shall be lot of fitnah during end of times. May Allah protect all of us and guide all of us to the straight path.

    • Muslim Girl

      June 14, 2010 at 10:50 AM

      Well what about the Muslim woman who is slowly becoming strong in her deen and may currently wear what you deem “unfit”, but is working to better herself… should she still be banned from the mosque? So you’re saying that everyone who is not the 100% PERFECT MUSLIM should not be allowed in the mosque?

      How about brothers take care of lowering their gaze first and control themselves from looking at the “silhouette of legs” before THEY come to the masjid!

  3. abu Abdullah

    June 7, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    I felt If you would have left the previous personal attack unattended, instead of writing this article, to die its own death.

    faman Kanat uktbuhu ilallahi wa rasulihi, faktubahu ilallahi wa rasulihi…(plz correct transliteration if needed. i wish i be accepted in that dream program and be able to write these correctly without reluctance.)

    There are various mixed cultural taboos I have observed. Different masjid observe this ‘provide equal space to women differently’. Once I liked the one with glasses that women can see the imam and men are separated from glass in NJ. But sunnah dictates equal rules.

    I remember one of little mosque on the prairie episode in which women were divided whether to have a barrier between men and women; So half chose with the divider and the other half without it. Nevertheless, men must do their part i.e. provide equal facilities to the maidservents of Allah Ta’la as compared to men.

    barak Allah feek. walhamdulillah.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 6:57 PM

      May we both be accepted to the Dream program, although for me it will have to wait until I complete working on my current degree, insha’Allah. Are you going to Ilm Summit again this year? I appreciated your comments that’s why I included them, it made me think of something I had neglected and if I did not raise it in the post, I’m fairly certain it would have been raised here in the comments so it allowed me to get a bit of a pre-emptive strike, so may Allah reward you with all kinds of goodness.

    • abu Abdullah

      June 7, 2010 at 9:34 PM

      Ameen to the adiyya.

      Something is being misunderstood.

      I spoke In context of the hadith, where prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, urges all of us to stop arguing even iff you are right in return for a guarantee of jannah. (may Allaah make us among those who guard our tongues and keyboard hits whch do not benefit). So stop arguing people…

      Lots of uncle/ameers of the several masjd are aware of women’s rights but cultural baggage they brought and the mix culture in the masjid and the attitude of implementing only what I say types.

      I do not live in DC so not sure what huckus Live In is causing, but if you (Live In supporters) made your demands for the prayer area etc that you seemed close to sunnah and are not met with, keep Sabr. Unfortunately its not a very demanding alternative, but only that would actually work, isn’t it? So sister, take a step back and take heed from so many advices being offered. You don’t have to fight all of them.

      Zakir Naik jokes many times that its time for him to give a lecture on men’s rights in Islaam, so that we are aware of our rights too.

      I was wondering if there is any practical application, a masjid that practices a separate row behind men and ahead of women for children these days. What challenges could they face. Because as we see in the masjid children tend to mix with men rows so there is no barrier.

      Unfortunately the masjid I attend to , during jumua’ sisters stay long time , even after the salah talking at near the gate or contrary to that sometimes men go through sister’s entrance/exit causing them to feel embarrassed.

      Allahumma as’aluka Qalbun saleem, wama qarraba ilayha min qawlin aw ‘amal. allahumma ameen.


      PS No I am not going to ilmsummit and probably same will be the reason for going to dream program would remain a dream, inshallah.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 8, 2010 at 12:08 AM

        My mistake, I thought you were somone else, quite a few abu abdullahs here, I think.

  4. fatima

    June 7, 2010 at 2:54 AM

    I realize these aren’t your words, but I seriously fail to comprehend Dr. Mattson’s statement: “Still, we should support their right to be wrong.”

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 7:00 PM

      I think I understand her sentiment, leaving aside a bit of our own self-righteousness, being humble, and recognizing that even if we disagree with others, they may have a right to their opinion even if we think that opinion is wrong. For the most part, I like to be in the business of allowing for choice and not restricting it unnecessarily.

  5. Amad

    June 7, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    Dear Sr. Ify,
    While I sympathize with you for the need of clean, expansive spaces for sisters in masajid, I am greatly bothered by the following issues that would make personally stay away from supporting your group. The solid Muslim Link piece linked further highlights the challenges you will face in getting community support (and without support this will become just a source of infighting, not improvements):

    1) The presence and/or support of those whose actions have been very negative for the Muslim communities. Asra, for instance, has spoken of many communities in very negative terms, calling many radical or extremist, or for instance, in the case of Dar ul Hijrah, the “911 mosque”, etc. Just because a 911 hijacker prayed at Dar al-Hijrah makes it a “911 mosque”?! This is an insult and only someone who has regard for other Muslims’ honor can use such labels. Since the same hijackers lived in the state of Virginia, maybe we should call the state “911 State”? Such is Asra’s background of hateful and fear-mongering rhetoric, regardless of what kindness she shows in a few MM comments.

    Fatima is another person whose history makes the effort susceptible to questions. From the article:

    Although Fatima Thompson is affiliated with a progressive Muslim group – a homosexual man who calls himself an Imam accompanied the first pray-in protest in Washington DC

    As for Fatimah’s argument about Jewish protestors joining a Gaza protest and having no effect, that is nonsensical argument. For instance, if you had Thomas Friedman start a group called, “Justice for Gaza”, his history of hasbara-support would make us doubtful about his intentions. This isn’t just human instinct, it is justified doubt. What if someone like Benjamin Netanyahu joined the Gaza protest, would others take his presence as something to appreciate?

    2) The more I learn about this, the more I am confused to the actual purpose of this group. You mention that the goal is to address “concerns range from how women are treated, included or excluded, and valued or devalued in community life and participation with the Muslim community.”

    I thought your goal was to get better spaces? So, let me ask you if a masjid has a great, separate space for women already, is that not acceptable?

    3) The citing of strange fatwas (you can find any fatwa you want, but is it the mainstream one?) is another bothersome issue.

    Citing a fatwa on the issue, Fatima Thompson insists that not only are barriers un-Islamic, but a space larger than a few rows between the men and women invalidates the women’s congregational prayer.

    So, it isn’t about clean, separate spaces, it isn’t about praying in the SAME space as men, but it is now about leaving little space? How do you know how much space to leave? Which mainstream scholars accept this interpretation? Isn’t this prayer-creep going to eventually reach to the point of joint prayers, or prayers led by women?

    Can Fatima clearly unequivocally say that this is not about combined prayers or women leading prayers and that she disagrees with both formats? I know you do, but I want to hear from the group’s leader.

    And I am sorry, with regards to barriers being bida’h, I would say that is probably the strangest excuse I have heard. Accepting homosexuality as a Muslim is not a bidah? I mean if the group’s leader and supporters were following 100% sunnah, it would be one thing, but to pick on this one fiqhi issue (that has ikhtilaf) because it supports their position is weird, to say the least.

    4) The fact that there is a unanimous dislike of the group’s modus operandi should make one rethink strategy, esp. if the goal is to improve things. Again, the Gaza example, Israel claims to be helping its own people by blockading Gaza, but it is losing world support. Is Israel really helping itself? And no, I am NOT equating Israel with your group… just using the analogy as Fatima chose to use it (since the gaza issue is fresh).

    Muslim leaders of masajid in Maryland and Northern Virginia were roundly critical, even upset, that Pray-In is making what one board member called a “big drama” out of barriers in the masjid.

    5) If I went into a poor black neighborhood, in a desire to better the lives of blacks in the community, while never actually harmonizing with the community’s leaders or EVEN talking the folks, do you think that this operation will be successful? No. So, how does Pray In expect to solve women issues without even talking to the women (surveys, etc.) to figure out what the wider concerns are, let alone harmonizing with the Imams? How would you judge what the majority of women in that mosque want? What if the majority of sisters didn’t agree with you on your concerns? Would you leave the Masjid alone then? Would that democratic solution be acceptable?

    At one Maryland masjid, women heard about the Pray-In group but were not interested. “We don’t know them. They don’t come here. Our needs are being met [at our masjid] … we have classes and a lot of activities, some with the brothers, and some just for sisters. We have needy, single mothers [in our communities] who don’t have money to feed their kids [properly]. And these sisters are worried about prayer barriers? They need to get over it,” said one sister on her way to a weekend class.

    As for the rest of the women in the area masajid, the Pray-In movement doesn’t really know how the majority of them feel about the prayer accommodations. Asked if they ever presented a petition of local women to a masjid board or Imam, they said no. The women, they said, are probably too intimidated by the men to sign any petition.

    I really hope inshallah that you all see the challenges your group is facing concerning both your intentions and actions on the ground. Ingrid Mattson is an example of a sister who reached all the way to the top of Muslim leadership, so its not all that dark out there for our sisters. The question is how to improve the situation so others can also emulate Ingrid, without fracturing the community any more than it already is.

    • Ahmad AlFarsi

      June 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM

      Spot on analysis, bro. Where’s the +1 button when you need it?

      • abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

        June 7, 2010 at 4:25 PM

        +10, tabaarakAllah

        • Arif Kabir

          June 7, 2010 at 7:51 PM

          +1 Very solid arguments Masha’Allah.

    • another white brother

      June 7, 2010 at 1:33 PM

      I was almost on board with the whole DC saudi masjid sit-in thing. In all fairness, I have heard the women’s section is subpar and that masjid has other issues…

      However, being from WV originally and seeing what Asra Nomani has done to Islam in the state in general and Morgantown in particular, I stayed as far away from the thing as possible.

      Is it really sunnah that is seeking to be implemented? Or is it just 3rd wave feminism peppered with some ayat and ahaadith to make it seem “Islamic”?

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 7:14 PM

        Yes, really the sunnah, from me, all the evidences for Pray In are firmly grounded with Quran and Sunnah.

        • Yaqeen needed

          June 29, 2010 at 11:28 PM

          Masjid hopping is also from the sunnah, right?

    • Yus from the Nati

      June 7, 2010 at 3:41 PM

      Wow ما ساء الله. my sentiments exactly. I was just too lazy to write it out.

      Main thing I’m confused about NOW (before was a little confused), is what is the goal?

      What is the MAIN focus and goal, micro and macroscopically?

      • Abu Ibrahim

        June 7, 2010 at 4:12 PM

        MashaAllah this is a very very very good response. May Allah azza wa jal reward you akhi Amad.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 7:18 PM

        Macro Goal: A return to the example as Imam Safi says “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam where women are truly valued, included, and full participating members in our communities.

        Micro Goal: Equitable prayer space with the arrangement “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and doing away with forcing women into marginalized places and spaces. If women choose their own marginalization or what they perceive as preferable so be it.

        • AsimG

          June 8, 2010 at 12:33 AM

          Choose their own marginalization? A little prejudicial way to phrase their Islamically correct stance

          • elham

            June 8, 2010 at 8:50 AM

            that just sounds like how Non-Muslims refer to the hijab as being oppressive and looking down on them for choosing to live in ”oppression”

        • Yaqeen needed

          June 29, 2010 at 11:42 PM

          Barakallahu feek.

          This seems to be totology

          Closest to the sunnah means prefering to stay at home and pray. And the last time I checked, the sahabiyyaat were not practising masjid hopping et al. The beloved daughter of mustafa- alaehi salam- was busy at home with home chores and was not even given a maid to help her. She was given adhkar to do. Now thats the sunnah if you really are sincere about getting sunnah-ed up sis

          • Ify Okoye

            June 30, 2010 at 5:14 AM

            I don’t agree, going to the masajid, visiting the Muslims, and taking a concern in their affairs is from the sunnah. I do chores and my adkhar and work and go to school and whole lot more all without the help of a maid. If you want and can stay at home, do so but recognize not everyone has that luxury.

          • Yus from the Nati

            June 30, 2010 at 11:41 PM

            Yaqeen Needed:

            Not everyone is in that position to follow what you term as “following the Sunnah”. There are societal/psychological ramifications that we’re not taking into account. Especially within certain sectors of American Muslims. Some women have to work, some NEED some kind of Muslimhood to be around, etc. Following the sunnah would also entail doing what is “more rewarding”. Is it POSSIBLE, that it may be MORE rewarding for a sister to pray in a Masjid given a specific circumstance? (recent convert, a Muslimah moved to the area who knows no one, prayer comes in that’s close to her work, etc). List can be a mile long. I’m talking about the overall benefit of keeping a Muslim sane and on the deen versus a possibility/likelihood of apostasy as an example.

    • Brother

      June 7, 2010 at 5:22 PM

      Barakallah Feek Brother Amad. You explained it perfectly. This group expects women to automatically agree with them without even consulting them or even getting their opinions first. It’s a failed attempt from the start.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 7:19 PM

        No Brother, we don’t, try to learn a bit before making untrue statements and passing false judgment.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 7:12 PM

      The Muslim Link piece was full of bias and untruths, I did a full breakdown on my blog, check it out: The Muslim Link: Biased Against Pray In.

      I thought your goal was to get better spaces? So, let me ask you if a masjid has a great, separate space for women already, is that not acceptable?

      I don’t like to engage in hypotheticals, give me a real example so that I can make a real and informed opinion. In prayer space issues, we must always keep in mind can the women see the imam, not on a tv screen as that causes all sorts of fitna within the salah, can they communicate with the imam, can the imam see and hear them so that he knows if a child is crying or some other issue has arisen requiring his attention.

      If you want to ask Fatima questions, please direct them to her but I can say that is not the goal of Pray In.

      As for the bidah argument, it is not my argument, which I addressed on my blog.

      There is not unanimous iktilaf at all, again addressed on my blog.

      I am not trying to force anyone out from behind a barrier but by the same token, do not try to force me behind one. We are working within communities with the leadership and community members through diverse processes at present we are in consultation with at least 3 masajid.

      Pointing to tokens like Dr. Mattson or President Obama really doesn’t say much because they are tokens and not the norm, something again addressed on my blog post. So feel free to read and join the conversation over there if you’d like.

      • Amad

        June 8, 2010 at 2:19 AM

        If you want to ask Fatima questions, please direct them to her but I can say that is not the goal of Pray In.

        The questions directed for Fatima is something that you should be aware of as well.

        If I was on a mission to Gaza (this analogy keeps giving :)), I would want to know where the Captain is heading and what his intentions are. Wouldn’t you?

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 4:04 PM

          Your questions are nothing new as I addressed them in a post published before you even asked them. I don’t think you have a good understanding of Pray In, it’s more than anything a group effort that operates by shura, we don’t all agree on everything and we don’t need to but in certain areas we agree and it from that basis that we work together and move forward and in that sense it’s kind of like MM :)

          • Amad

            June 8, 2010 at 4:22 PM

            I don’t think you have a good understanding of Pray In

            You sure are right about that. I think many others are in the same boat. To be honest, and I don’t mean any disrespect, I don’t think the members of pray-in really have a good understanding of what they hope to achieve. There are ideas and thoughts, and ambiguous action propelling from therein. Yeah, sometimes things can work out starting from ambiguity, but that’s exactly the time you don’t want to be locked out of the conversation. Kind of what’s happening now.

            in certain areas we agree and it from that basis that we work together and move forward and in that sense it’s kind of like MM

            Ahem… we do have an official vision and mission now :) … took a while but its there. An interesting lesson is that we were far more careful in the beginning when we weren’t quite sure of where we are heading. We concentrated on building bridges, reaching consensus and getting the best minds out there (like our outreach to you). That’s what I meant… it’s okay to start without a concrete charter, but only tepidly and gently.

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      June 7, 2010 at 10:49 PM


      good discussion points to begin with.

    • ibnabeeomar

      June 8, 2010 at 10:28 AM

      good analysis [so much so that this is my first comment on MM in months :)]

      • Amad

        June 8, 2010 at 11:59 AM

        So shall this moment be recorded in MM’s recent history when one of our founders took a break to honor us :) We are all waiting anxiously for your return to full duties :)

      • abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

        June 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM

        Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhaban bik. :) Oh yeah, you helped build this house, Omar. ;)

    • Yus from the Nati

      June 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM

      Which mainstream scholars accept this interpretation?

      I would be interested in seeing the insight from Imam Suhaib on this subject since he is an actual Imam who interacts with masaajid/people (not just from an academic point of view) as well as being a convert himself.

      There could be a possibility of no matter which men of knowledge one brings, that they may still be blind to the intricacies of the women as a whole (on this subject) so would be imperative for one of them to be asked, to thoroughly research it (from a sociological point of view) as well.

  6. iMuslim

    June 7, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    Salam Ify

    I’ve remained quiet on this issue, mostly because I am not sure what to say.

    I feel the barrier issue is a red herring in and of itself. I believe that the most important thing that women need is access to the mosque; a clean, safe place to pray, learn, and socialize; and also, access to the imam, and a say in how the masjid is run to ensure that it benefits all members of the community. The presence or absence of a prayer space barrier shouldn’t make a difference to the availability of the above.

    The argument against the barrier is more symbolic than anything. It’s removal will not necessarily guarantee any better treatment, and unfortunately, due to the sickness in the hearts of many men and women, will probably cause more problems than it would solve, at this time.

    The only change to the barrier I would suggest, is to make it so that women can see the imam/male congregation – even just for the most basic need of ensuring that they are following the salat correctly.

    Otherwise, in terms of real change, the removal of mental and social barriers is far more urgently required than of any physical barriers within the masjid itself. The achievement of the latter would actually be a hollow victory, that may lead to the demise of the Pray In movement, as many within it would think that the job had been completed, when it hasn’t even begun.

    The barrier issue actually reminds me of the hadith about prohibitions, narrated by Aisha, radiallahu anha, where she mentions that if Allah had revealed the verses about intoxicants and fornication first, the people would never have given them up. Rather, He first revealed the verses about His nature, Paradise, and Hellfire. Thereafter the people’s hearts became soft, so that when eventually the verses on prohibitions were revealed, they ran to obey them.

    I strongly suggest that this be the strategy of the Pray In movement. The mistreatment of women is a symptom of a greater disease – that the hearts of the believers are not soft from the remembrance of Allah, and are void of the mercy that this wonderful way of life is built upon. We need to work together to re-instill that mercy into the hearts of men and women.

    However, only mercy begets mercy. Likewise, confrontation will only beget more confrontation. To paraphrase what Allah most High says in the Qur’an, choosing the path of good treatment will turn your worst enemy into your best friend. Therefore the Pray In movement – especially those who are really seeking to fulfill the Sunnah – need to ensure that mercy is at the heart of any future action.

    With much love and respect.


    • MW_M

      June 7, 2010 at 7:42 AM

      At our masjid, we utilize a one way mirror, the sisters can see through to the imam but the brothers who look back can only see their reflections. The sisters have been satisfied with it and we’ve never heard any complaints about barriers.

      • Yus from the Nati

        June 7, 2010 at 3:47 PM

        I’ve always wondered why masaajid don’t use this…. I used to have this type of tint on one of my old cars and it was pretty good.

        • another white brother

          June 7, 2010 at 5:52 PM

          The best setup I’ve ever seen was in IANT in Dallas (the one with Imam Yusuf, the Turkish shaikh).

          Separate floors with two way glass on top for the sisters AND rooms with clear, soundproof glass for parents with children to pray.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 7, 2010 at 7:28 PM

            And were there also rooms for women who are not praying? Also, how does a sister approach the imam or ask a question from the second floor enclosed space?

          • Arif Kabir

            June 7, 2010 at 7:49 PM

            Sr. Ify, your group is called Pray In. The questions that were posed by you to the commenter had nothing to do with praying in.

            If someone wants to approach the Imam, they don’t need to do so during prayer time. They can either call up the Imam or his wife, or go to his office when he is in.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM

            Arif, which commenter, another white brother? I was simply asking for more information since many people tend to think that sort of setup is ideal but in my mind it raises a few questions, which I think someone who’s been to a particular masjid can answer. And from my own experience in the Muslim community, accessing an imam, of course outside of salah, is one of the most challenging aspects for a sister like me.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 7:27 PM


        I visited a masjid in New Jersey a few times and they employ a one way mirror but due to the fact some brothers might be able to see shadows or blurry outlines, they also cover the mirror with drapes, and the women are forced to pray in the dark in their own completely separate part of the musallah. So here the issue isn’t even one of “proper hijab”, it’s simply when is enough enough. People often like to say that women are encouraged to come to the masjid but we need four levels of barriers to ensure they are rendered completely invisible?

        Not being from there and not knowing how to lodge a complaint expressing disapproval, I’m sure the masjid admins over there will say the same that they’ve never heard any complaints from the sisters even though I have heard complaints from sisters who live there and frequent that masjid.

        A few questions come to mind: If a sister has a question during a lecture can she raise her hand an be seen, how is her voice heard, can the imam hear the children crying in the women’s section, can the imam hear a sister taking her shahadah to know if he is going to fast and needs to slow down, if she stumbled or mispronounced something?

        • MW_M

          June 8, 2010 at 3:40 PM

          I can’t speak for the masjid in New Jersey, we don’t hang any drapes on our barrier and no brother has ever complained about shadows to my knoweldge. The point being, it is a viable alternative which this group is dismissing completely unnecessarily.

          Our one way mirrors are sliding glass framed by wood on the bottom half and from the wood to the ceiling on top. The higher portion is sliding glass , so during lectures they’re opened so sisters can ask questions if need be.

          There’s no need for a sister to raise her hand, the imam speaking makes sure to ask if there are any questions on the sister’s side, and then they ask. Some sisters, not brothers, don’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of men so they write them on a notecard and send them to the men’s side.

          The imam can easily hear children crying on the women’s side and has numerous times hastened the salah because of it. The doors separating the men and women’s side are easy enough to open that children (little children obviously) regularly go between sides during salah.

          When a sister is taking her shahadah (alhamdulillah, it has occurred many times) she takes it in the activity room downstairs which has a foldable wall. The wall is opened and the sister takes her shahadah sitting right across the imam. We’ve never had any overzealous brother or sister complain about this either.

          The point of all this being, there are many masjids which have successfully managed to separate brothers and sisters modestly while still letting each feel that they’re a part of the community. In our masjid, there have never been, to my knowledge, any complaints by the sisters about their accommodation other than an occasional microphone failure.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 4:17 PM

            MW_M: Thank you for the thorough response, allow to clarify, I do not speak for all of Pray In, we are a diverse group and issues are decided by shura but I can say for myself, I’m not a big fan of the two-way mirror as I’ve seen it implemented at the masjid in NJ but I’d be interested to see how it’s implemented in your community. So don’t think I’m rejecting all solutions outright, I’m rejecting particular ones that I’ve seen and experienced. And it’s good to know that such care is taken with the shahadah experience in your community.

          • Striving

            December 25, 2013 at 8:35 AM

            Dear brother, I wish to thank you for your remarks atleast now the pray In knows that just as there are sisters who do not wear proper dressing to be allowed into masjids there are also masjids that have been modeled in such a way that sisters who are properly dressed do not fill marginalised in anyway. The new advocacy you (pray In) should be starting is to have masjids just like the above described and ways of getting funds Insha Allah am sure there are many muslims out there who will donate whole heartedly.
            May Allah grant us with goodness.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 7:20 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum Mehzabeen,

      I disagree with the barrier issue being a red herring, I see it more like the canary in the coal mine. A community, which does not value its women as full and participating members is more than likely to have that reflected as its public face when it comes to prayer space accommodation. So for me, the two issues are intertwined.

      The fact that our community is so caught up in its supposed need for barriers is such a sad state of affairs. How do these same people function at all in the wider society at work and at school? In the comments to one of my other posts about prayer spaces issues a sister mentioned how the two masajid most resistant to allowing women or even excluding women from services were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps, coincidence, but you know what those same men who so adamantly opposed women’s inclusion moved on to the remaining masajid, which include women and the world did not fall apart.

      While I agree that like in anything coming closer to Allah makes his obedience preferable to his disobedience, I’m also quite cognizant of the fact that some people will need to be brought along kicking and screaming or simply by being forced to deal. Just like with the fight against apartheid, Jim Crow laws, miscegenation laws, women’s suffrage, etc these gains were not truly won by waiting for all the people to agree, many did not and still do not agree, violent confrontations ensued but in the end the judges, leaders, or the community took a stand against hate and marginalization. And I believe it’s high time that the Muslim community also took a stand against the marginalization of half of our community in order to remain faithful to values we claim to uphold.

      • Abu Abdurrahman

        June 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM

        Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,

        Mashallah this is definitaly an interesting discussion and some excellent points have been raised.

        1) I think it’s unfortunate that parts of hadeeth that are congenial to the argument have been cited, while omitting other potentially quite relevant text.

        “Do not prevent the female servants from attending the masajid..” –

        should ideally be followed by the remainder from his (sallahu alayhi wa sallam’s ) words

        “..and their houses are better for them” –

        which was emphasised in a separate further by explaining that the prayer in her private room in her house is better than her open rooms in her house which is better than her salah in her courtguard..

        So my dear sister, may Allah reward you and us for our efforts. I feel that at least an element of our discourse is pervaded by the sense that presence equates to being valued, and a lack of visibility implies being undervalued.

        You’ve set the standard for quantifying ‘being valued’ by a bar which I personally am not convinced is reflected in the texts of Islam. In fact all it does is to give primacy to *agency* (‘can do’s) as the measure of value of being a human being — not what a person ‘can be’. And that approach is posited on basically challenging an established order of privelage, by listing ‘can do’s’ – and then trying to win them over! That’s surely is not Islam?

        2) In terms of some of the other personalities who seem to be spear heading the initiative (ie. I’m not referring to our honourable sister in the following point, but to the Asra’s):

        The question ‘if men can do Z, then why can’t women?’ to have its own amusing irony. The question is NEVER put the other way around. ‘ If women can Z, why can’t men?‘ Instead it’s almost taken as a given that the traditional domain of the woman is some how inferior: so running a home, and bringing up children are menial chores, unpaid in money or prstige, not a calling. So the women should struggle to take personal control in the traditionally male domains (from the time of the Prohet peace be upon him till very recently, earning , competing for economic and political power, committtees etc.) ..and the domain of family life – no matter how important it may be – must be squeexed in somewhere between the public domain commitments of the man and woman.

        Allah knows best

        Thank you for providing the inspiration for this discussion, and jazakum Allahu khairan Amad for your observations.

        Wassalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah

        • Amad

          June 8, 2010 at 3:42 PM

          love your manners in your comment, even more than the content. Bravo mashallah!

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 4:29 PM

          Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah Abu Abdurrahman,

          Pray In is a diverse group, it makes decisions by consultation and shura, we do not all always agree and the views of some cannot be said to the views of all. I’m not really focused on trying to compete with others or emulate them but a twist on your question was asked in my post. Why is that so often when there is a question of space or “proper dress” the emphasis is on punishing the sisters by kicking them out or by putting them behind barriers and not the other way around? I’ve been to a number of masajid, where sisters were completely kicked out the masjid during special events not even for the fard salah. If I was in an organization, I’d try to honor and respect those who have chosen to attend, be it the salah or an event, rather than trying to discourage them.

          The wording of the hadith you highlighted has been used by many to exclude women, which I do not believe was the intent behind it. Many hadith indicate something may be better but that doesn’t necessarily imply a prohibition, and for many of us, we are away from our homes for much of the day and jump at the chance to pray with the Muslims in a masjid.

          And Allah knows best.

          • Yaqeen needed

            June 30, 2010 at 12:11 AM

            The hadith indicates that it is PREFERABLE and MORE REWARDABLE to make your salat at home and NOT in the masjid. Why fight to chase something less rewarding? Beats me.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 30, 2010 at 5:10 AM

            We are not always in our homes and the benefits of praying in the masjid are numerous, if can’t or don’t want to understand too bad for you.

          • Yaqeen needed

            June 30, 2010 at 10:53 PM

            “We are not always in our homes and the benefits of praying in the masjid are numerous” Hmmm

            Firstly, the best and most rewarding place for the sincere Allah fearing muslim lady to pray is in her home. As such those numerous benefits are in her home. NOT in the masjid.

            Where should the true sincere muslimah always and often be? Outside or in her home? The clear answer is in her home. That is if we are following true Islam and not Americanised or a tushed up version that fits our desires just as the Xtians have done to the noble way of life and message brought by Jesus- Isa alaehi salam.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 30, 2010 at 11:23 PM

            You seem to have missed the boat yaqeen, reality, practicality and pragmatism are also needed. In order to pay for my home yaqeen, I need to work and go to school. Likewise to learn my religion to shore up my faith, develop Muslim companionship, or even look for a spouse I’ve had to do it outside of my house. A healthy dose of reality is needed otherwise the supposed claim to yaqeen is simply an empty and hollow shell devoid of meaning and full of harm for yourself and for those who might take you seriously.

            I am reminded of the story of the man who sustained a serious head injury and when he asked his companions if there was any rukhsah for him to make tayammum instead of ghusl they said no. The man made ghusl and he died. When the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was informed of the incident, he cursed those people by saying “they killed him, may Allah cause their death.” Be careful yaqeen before jumping in to speak of that which you have no or very little knowledge, the world and every situation is not all black and white. Fear a day when we will be returned the Knower of seen and the unseen and He will inform you of what you used to do.

        • Sureyya

          June 26, 2010 at 11:30 AM

          Asssalamua Alaikum,

          First, I find many of the points opposing women in the masjid to be weak. You cannot quote that men are prohibited from keeping women from the mosque and then justify the violating behavior by quoting that their houses are better for them. Anyone who prohibits women from the mosque is violating the Quran and sunnah. It is better to pray at home, but that is the woman’s choice and situationally affected. Better refers to modesty, humility and issues which Allah has not revealed. But we do not know Allah’s judgement for a woman who allows children to go untaught, converts to go untaught, women and children oppressed, all with the excuse that it is better to be at home. That may well be Shaytan using the limitation of better prayer to swallow the rule that forbids men from prohibitting women swallowing and the entire spirit, and Quranic verses, of Islam that once included women in the community.

          As for the brothers that talk about dress, the Quran and Sunnah which forbids them from prohibiting the women from the Masjid does not say , “unless any Muslim man finds anything immodest about their dress, behavior or comments.” That is innovation justified by inappropriate exageration of Aisha’ s statement of what the Prohet would do if he saw the way women dressed. That was Aisha’s statement, a hypothetical, not a hadith of the Prophet, p.b.u.h..

          The brothers are self-important and need to lower their eyes and be modest instead of justify their sins by pointing to women’s dress and behavior. Stop nit-picking because none of you can stand up to that criteria–it is hypocrasy. Sisters should dress extremely modestly–and brothers should stop looking hard for a shadow under loose, thick pants with long shirts–that is HIS sin–jor shadows behind one way glass!

    • Arif Kabir

      June 7, 2010 at 7:38 PM

      The only change to the barrier I would suggest, is to make it so that women can see the imam/male congregation – even just for the most basic need of ensuring that they are following the salat correctly.

      That is already the case, iMuslim. Dar-al-Hijrah is the best Masjid out of all of the DC Masaajid in this regard; the sisters pray on the second floor and there is a tinted window in which they can view the Imam below, as well as TV screens that show the congregation below. When I was younger and used to attend Dar-al-Hijrah’s school, I used to wonder how come they had a better arrangement (lol, imagine the media hoopla if brothers carried around signs saying ‘Give us our rights’ and tried praying up top).

      Very smart of the Pray In group to pick Dar-al-Hijrah out of all the Masjid. They actually had a point with Islamic Center, DC, but with Dar-al-Hijrah, this is just a very unnecessary ruckus that they caused.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 8, 2010 at 4:32 PM

        Arif, we were invited to pray behind the men at DAH by the Imam at a panel discussion he attended, hosted by Pray In, on the issues of women and the masjid, we were responding to the invitation.

  7. africana

    June 7, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    assalamu alaikum,

    i visited a mosque a couple of days back. it’s very rarely that i do go. the women’s section is up on a balcony overlooking the mens’s section and so cannot be viewed by the men.

    this has its advatages, of course, but one thing i noticed is that the behaviour of some of the “children”, some of which were boys as old as 11 (and shouldn’t have even been up there) was utterly delorable, racing up and down the length of the women’s section, sliding on the carpet making it difficult to hear anything. One boy almost ran over my feet as i was standing in prayer in spite of the women’s section being practically empty.

    The boys in the men ‘s section however displayed none of this behaviour and sat respectfully listenig to the imam.

    i couldn’t help thinking it was the fact of the women’s section beig so out of view that had led to this behaviour. I am not saying that the masjid shouldn’t be organised in this way however i really think that attendees need to make sure their children know that the women’s section is as much part of the mosque as the men’s section.

    i think it might in part be the women whose behaviour is not much better-staring each other down with the dirtiest of looks, talking idly and snacking all the while that the talk was on.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 7:34 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum africana, I’ve had similar experiences, it’s great at one local masjid’s off-site jumu’ah location, there is no partition other than a row of chairs to delineate the spaces. The imam can see everyone and everyone can see him and if the children are noisy they disturb not just the sisters but the whole congregation but for the most part, things are quiet and I’ve actually seen a couple of fathers come and pick up their kids that were making noise or running around.

      It’s amazing how cohesive the community can be and how well we can behave towards each other in the same space. I sometimes think that by abandoning ourselves to these secluded spaces we absolve ourselves of the responsibility to comport ourselves properly.

  8. Abdullah

    June 7, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    Assalam uAlaikum

    Sister, I agree with many of your points but I do not agree with your tone. Why must the article be so condescending and even rude in connotation? Kindness never enters anything but it beautifies it and never leaves anything but it leaves it tainted. I’m not trying to be male chauvinist, sexist, feminist, whatever here but why lay all the blame on the men if the barrier is removed? Don’t you think women have the duty to dress properly and proactively and take the necessary steps to steer clear just like men?

    If men and women are mixing outside of the masjid chatting freely and casually without the barrier you don’t think the same will happen once the barrier is removed inside? Also, the examples of the salaf don’t relate here in my opinion. Their taqwa and restraint at even avoiding the littlest of sins was much greater than ours. I completely agree that voices should be heard, respect should be given, proper accommodations should be made, etc but not by removing barriers and allowing mixing directly or indirectly. As imuslims said, the problem is of the hearts and not of physical objects.

    • Person

      June 7, 2010 at 3:56 PM

      I completely agree with you. I agree with what they’re trying to do, but the message feels way too condescending.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 7:41 PM

      Abdullah & Person, perhaps my tone could have been different so I’ll take that as an advice. Yet, until you’ve walked in my shoes or the shoes of some of our sisters you might find it hard to understand what it’s like to face hostility and even to be assaulted by our brothers, to have your salah interrupted, to come to the masjid only to find it locked or to be told you cannot pray there or do not belong there because you were blessed by Allah to be born of a different gender, to be cursed and have false accusations laid at your door by anonymous internet cowards and so on… so make excuses for your sister, bro. Our masajid have become places of danger and harm, spiritually, verbally, emotionally, and at times physically, I’ve seen far too many good people turn away from them. If Allah did not make me so steadfast in my iman, some of my interactions there might have also turned me away. May Allah protect us all.

      I’m not asking for mixing but I am asking not to be punished because of the behavior, proper or improper, of others. One of the things I loved about Islam when I was first learning was that it didn’t have the concept of original sin or Eve as the temptress and that each person was responsible for his or her own sins. I am hoping to see reflected in our communities the truth of the statement that “Islam elevated the status of women 1400 years ago.”

      • Abdullah

        June 8, 2010 at 7:14 AM


        You are very right. The things that you describe are wrong actions on the brothers’ part and of course they shouldn’t be allowed. Then again, I turn around and ask, why do some brothers do these things and prevent their sisters from going to the masjid when the Prophet (saw) specifically said, more or less not to prevent the women folk from going to the masaajid?

        There even comes a story in my mind about this about Abdullah Ibn Umar. He quoted the this hadith and his son said something to the effect “The women and times these days are different.” Abdullah Ibn Umar got so angry and thought that his son was objecting to the hadith that he vowed never to talk to him again and from what I read/heard he never did till the end of his life.

        • Abdullah

          June 8, 2010 at 8:12 AM

          After reading much of the comments I have to agree with one thing:

          1. There is no CLEAR goal of that this movement wants to achieve I Mean seriously, what do you want to achieve? What is your goal?

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 4:37 PM

            Salaam alaykum Abdullah,

            That’s such a powerful narration, that a father, a man of Ibn Umar’s status never spoke to one of his sons because of a statement he made contradicting the hadith of Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. I wrote this in another comment:

            Macro Goal: A return to the example “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam where women are truly valued, included, and full participating members in our communities.

            Micro Goal: Equitable prayer space with the arrangement “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and doing away with forcing women into marginalized places and spaces. If women choose their own marginalization or what they perceive as preferable so be it.

      • a khan

        June 8, 2010 at 10:29 AM

        interesting to see that very few women themselves have the same experiences that you do. I wonder why the masajid mistreat you and your group (as you said) so much?

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 4:39 PM

          Keep reading, a khan, you might learn something, have you read the stories from Mombeam or Olivia or Africana or Umm Zaid, did you read the penalty box post, open your heart and your eyes, the stories are there, you just need to read and listen to them.

  9. abdullah

    June 7, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    @ Nahoma, well said, Jazakallahukhayr

  10. darthvaider

    June 7, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    Asalamualaykum wa rahmat Allahi wa barakaatuhu Sr. Ify,

    Let me preface the following by saying that as a brother, I sympathize with a lot of the problems that sisters have to go through and don’t know if I can fully appreciate the difficulties that you all experience in some communities. The masjid I regularly attend has no partition and has active female participation within every sector of the community and Alhamdulillah over time I’ve come to appreciate the prayer arrangement along with the community model that encourages sisters to be a part of the masjid.

    All of that said, I can’t help but feel an uneasiness with the approach of the pray-in group, the negative tone continually being articulated, and the arguments being used to justify what appear to be actions that go against the spirit of the sunnah.

    Let me ask: if there was a community that provided adequate educational opportunities for sisters, allowed sisters to participate in the community, gave them access to the imam, and allowed the sisters to see the imam in a separate, clean, and spacious section, would the pray-in group still object? For example, there are communities that have two-way mirrors and others have a number of televisions that broadcast what is taking place in the mens section.

    The argument that a barrier renders a sister as invisible to the community is only true if the community is being defined as brothers. Arent the other sisters who attend the masjid a part of the community? And depending on the community, isn’t that invisibility mainly during prayer times? I have been told that in Dar Al Hijrah they hold classes regularly where both sisters and brothers are in the same room without partition, but when it comes to prayer time, they both return to the designated sections. Most Masjids have many activities aside from prayer including weekend/weekday Islamic schools, evening classes, karate/tae kwon do, potlucks, interfaith activities, and other community events.

    The argument about Aisha bint Talha- I’d be interested in hearing some of our shuyukh comment on this. I didn’t see a narration mentioned and even though Dr. Mattson said it is ‘well known,’ I’m always more comfortable when the narration has a book that it can be traced back to along with scholarly interpretation.

    Antagonism and general mean-spiritedness: demanding that men act like dignified human beings and not animals? Telling a brother: “If you weren’t so busy eyeballing the sisters and nitpicking their clothing choices you might have a better understanding of the obligation to not prevent women from coming to the masjid.”? You speak of the gentleness of Abu Bakr radi Allahu anh and the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, but shouldn’t gentleness be afforded to those who you disagree with?

    Dr. Sherman Jackson once said that as human beings, we have a tendency to assume our own experiences/cultural realities as universal truths. We lose site of the fact that we can’t superimpose our own values on the rest of the world, and that rather than trying to create uniformity, we should respect- and expect- pluralistic religious expressions.

    Perhaps a more noble effort would be to go to many of the same communities you mentioned, communities where sisters are not provided adequate educational opportunities or equivalent prayer spaces, and tackle those issues. If a sisters space is small and dirty, demand the masjid invest into a larger space and that the masjid provide upkeep. If the sisters don’t have regular access to the imam, try to create a program where after a certain prayer every day, the imam comes to the sisters section to address any questions they have. If sisters are not being educated, organize halaqaat and request the masjid to provide access to existing masjid classes. These are all accommodations I could very easily see masjids relenting to, and all of those accomplishments are significant.

    Comparitively, I see very little that can be accomplished by way of standing in mens sections and calling the media other than hostilities, racking up restraining orders, and community in-fighting.

    And Allah Knows Best.

    p.s. I was hoping you could expand a bit about your mentioning that muslims have made a sport out of complaining and not doing anything. Gaza was the example mentioned….what do you think Muslims should have done? From what I can tell, muslims protested, signed petitions, made dua, wrote letters to congressman, have created organizations that lobby for Palestinian rights, etc.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 8:56 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh darthvaider,

      I know your community and it is far from the norm in our area or in other areas I have visited, a model in some ways for quite a few things including arrangement of prayer space with the most choice possible. It is my understanding that one barrier wall or glass partition was removed from the original design? In my community, we went from no barrier to side by side partitions to once again no barriers at the off-site location. I asked the imam if we could perhaps have a situation like the one in your community, which affords the most real choice possible and he indicated that that may be likely in the future. A setup like the one in your community would work for me and truly I believe affords everyone the most choice and treats individuals as dignified human beings worthy of respect.

      Tvs and two-way mirrors and completely enclosed off upstairs balconies or downstairs basements present a whole host of issues. One of the saddest scenes repeatedly played out during taraweeh and qiyam is waiting after the second rakah to “see” (or closer to reality hear) how the imam will pray, either ending with tasleem or standing for the third rakah. Do you know why? Because there is invariably a pull towards an upward motion of the heads of some sisters towards the monitor, which can only be said to be a loss of khushu and certainly not from the sunnah of looking towards the place of prostration and perhaps coming close to the prohibition to look up and here and there within the salah.

      Another sad story came from a sister in one beautiful new masjid in Atlanta, which I’ve also visited. The sister’s section is an enclosed upstairs balcony with glass so you can look down from the first row towards the imam and the men’s section. It’s spacious, comfortable, well-lit, might even have an elevator for accessibility but one day the imam was giving a new Muslimah her shahadah, he was down below on the mic and she above completely cut off from him, he said the words to fast for her but he how could he know it was too fast and that she was struggling and stumbling and falling behind in this one of the most important moments for any new Muslim? Sadly, he didn’t and she couldn’t tell him.

      Yes, I used to be a regular at DAH, and attended classes in classrooms sans partition and salah in the balcony.

      The invisibility comes when the Imam is only visible and available to one part of the community and more often than not in the majority of prayers and lectures I’ve attended at masajid, there was no visual cue or access to the imam. Occasionally, a mic might be passed over to the sisters, usually after some discussion of whether the voice of a woman can be considered awrah and despite the khateebs assuring the men it was not, a perception was left the “good Muslim women” or the idealized version, is one who is most silent even during Q&A. I can’t tell you how many years it took me to regain my voice after my conversion or even dare to sit near the front of a classroom or raise my hand to answer or ask a question because I became socialized and sensitive to conform to the silent and invisible and unquestioning “idealized” version of femininity, which is very prevalent.

      Most certainly gentleness should be afforded to all, I can always take that as a reminder, jazak’Allah khayr. Yet, harshness can sometimes be met justly met with harshness in return. Those words were for a certain type of brother all too comfortable being harsh with our sisters, judging and bashing them, ignoring his own duties to lower his gaze and so on. We’ve all heard it, sisters should do x, y, and z and the reminders for the brothers who are not doing x,y, and z are all too often missing or lagging far behind.

      I’m sure you are well aware that a commonly used argument for women’s exclusion from the masjid or partitions or relegating sisters to the back of a classroom is that men will lust after them, not be able to focus, not be able to lower their gaze, in effect not be able to control themselves. Yet, Allah has commanded them before the women to exercise control and self-restraint because they are dignified human beings, Islam dignifies us so that we are not like animals. But the argument seems to suggest that men are animals unable to control themselves in the least thus their Muslim sisters are a great danger from them even though their non-Muslim classmates, co-workers, and neighbors, or women walking down the street are not?

      The ways of tackling issues are varied and I’m open to suggestions and may even take on or have already been implementing your suggestions but one thing to remember is that many masajid are not open to any discussion of these issues at all. And many have no real public and effective avenue for such discussions to take place. Pray In utilizes a variety of methods, the first one is always searching for opportunities to engage in meaningful discussion and action, the protests are utilized as a last resort or in the case of DAH upon the invitation of the Imam.

      As for Gaza, I wrote another post about that a year ago, which was republished last week. The general point is how it amazes me that some people can mobilize against issues even issues they claim to care about but when you ask them to show positive action, to build and participate in real and actual hard work on the ground rather than complain or backbite and make excuses for doing nothing, so often they flee away.

      • darthvaider

        June 8, 2010 at 9:20 AM

        Asalamualaykum wa rahmat Allahi wa barakaatuhu,

        Jazaaki Allah khayr Sr. Ify for the respectful feedback.

        Quite a few people have told me that our community is not the norm in our region. I’ve been around it pretty much my whole life, and Alhamdulillah it’s a blessing from Allah to have a community that you enjoy going to.

        The original design of the current facility never had a partition planned; the original design had only planned for the main upstairs musallah and behind it a library. What happened was that the main musallah area started getting overcrowded and the sisters used to pray in the back of the musallah with a curtain stretching behind their space and to their side. Due to a growing prayer crowd, the administration decided to dedicate the entire front part of the musallah to the men and the library to the sisters, and there was a glass window which separated the two. When the move was made, the glass was promptly removed and that’s what you see today.

        As for the sad stories- for the first one, I’m not entirely sure that the problem would be mitigated if everyone was in the same musallah. If it’s the second rakah and you’re unsure, wouldn’t you still have to look up for a second? I guess my point is that it’s not really a huge tragedy…brothers have to do it sometimes too :)

        Regarding the second one, I think if a community is separated, they have to institute some common sense in those situations. Why didn’t they just ask a sister to give her shahadah? Or perhaps the imam could have gone to the sisters side with a wireless mic to give the shahadah rather than attempting to do the conversion remotely.

        Most of the problems that we experience aren’t necessarily an issue of physical arrangements as much as they are attitudes. Adults getting upset at kids for wearing shorts to the masjid (even when they are long), or our inability to communicate with Non-Muslims in a masjid environment. I remember a close friend of mine who took his shahadah in college once took his old girlfriend to a masjid to teach her about islam, only to see her get treated very poorly; Sadly, when he told me where they went, I almost expected her to have that type of experience, and it took her a while to open up to the idea of being Muslim again…she eventually converted Alhamdulillah and they got married mashaAllah.

        Invisibility- I agree with you here, and think that communities that separate have a larger weight on their shoulders than others when it comes to ensuring that sisters feel welcome and involved in the masjid. It is within your right as a sister to request that the imam do regular visits with the sisters to ensure that their spiritual needs are being met, and I think some of the mentality you mentioned is going to take time to change. Be patient inshaAllah. The only point I’ll add is that even attempting to gain greater access to the imam might need to be carefully planned.

        Gentleness reminder- wa eeyaki.

        Harshness can be met with harshness, but should it? One time Abu Bakr, radi Allahu anh, was being verbally abused and the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam smiled at him as Abu Bakr sat silently. When Abu Bakr, radi Allahu anh, decided to respond, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam left, later telling Abu Bakr that when he was silent, the angels responded for him, but when he spoke, the angels left and shaytan took his place and he didn’t want to sit in a location where shaytan was sitting. There are so many ayaat and ahadith in the same vein- getting a home in paradise for avoiding arguments when you’re right, responding to people of ignorance with salams, and keeping peace and good relations with people being more virtuous than charity, fasting, and prayer. Allah will judge those brothers the same way he’ll judge us, and we’ll all answer for what we’ve said. May Allah protect us from resorting to harshness unjustifiably. Ameen.

        I’ve heard the argument you’ve mentioned as well, and I think perhaps you’re extending people’s sentiments too far. When individuals voice concern about the way that genders interact in the masjid or how the sisters/brothers dress in the masjid, I take it as a genuine feeling from many that the masjid should be treated with sanctity; it is not the same as going to school, work, or walking down the street. It’s the house of Allah, and the same way that Allah commands us to be dignified when dealing with one another, the masjid should have an environment that reflects the dignity owed to Allah Azza wa Jal because masajid are referred to as His House.

        My understanding has always been that the pro-partition crowd strives to create an atmosphere in the masjid that cultivates modesty between the genders and strives to institute a modus operandi of mutual respect that doesn’t exist outside the masjid walls. In our society, women are routinely objectified and are subject to social pressure that tells them that our faith preaches antediluvian constructs of how to live- hijab and loose clothing being amongst the most commonly attacked today. Partition-seekers simply try to institute social pressure in the opposite direction, attempting to create an environment where people who dress immodestly will feel the need to conform to a dress that is more pleasing to Allah and when they see groups like pray-in, they feel that you all are trying to reverse that effort. That also explains why the arguments typically revolve around clothing.

        I think in time we’ll see more masjids without partitions, but there’ll always be a segment of our community that will ardently stick to a partition, and rather than seeing that as backwards or gender repressive, we should welcome it as a sign of our diversity. The larger issues have been mentioned, and it appears that everyone agrees with you on them- access to the imam, greater educational opportunities, etc.

        Protests will invariably make your group media sweethearts, because it confirms all of the negative stereotypes that people love to associate with Islam. I’m sure you can appreciate how that would make muslims on the outside of pray-in feel, especially those who regularly attend communities you all are so intent on publicly humiliating.

        As for the Gaza point, I think the generalization is a bit unfair. There are a ton of coalitions out there, muslims continue to donate to relief agencies, and we are making strides in affecting public opinion. InshaAllah this weekend there’s a prayer in front of the White House for the victims of the Flotilla incident being led by a Jewish groups. Muslims reps will also be in attendance. These are all steps, and inshaAllah one day we’ll see an amicable resolution that allows dignity and security for both the Palestinians and Israelis.

        And Allah Knows Best.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 4:50 PM

          Many excellent points to reflect and ponder upon for some time, jazak’Allah khayr and thanks for clearing up that misconception about the original design or early use issues in your community.

          • darthvaider

            June 8, 2010 at 5:23 PM

            wa eeyaki, and jazaaki Allah khayr for taking the time to track all the comments and giving them thought. May Allah guide us all to what pleases Him, Azza wa Jal. Ameen.

  11. Hassan Adnan

    June 7, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    Assalam O Alikum,
    Sister Ify Okoye, I agree with the importance of women attendance at the House of Allah. For women should need to know about the Islamic knowledge that is atleast fard for her to know. In this regard the House of Allah needs to revive as the center of Islamic knowledge and its propagation.
    I came across an article by Sheikh Imran Hosein named WOMEN IN THE HOUSE OF ALLAH. Which emphasizes on such Women needs.
    But in regards to your dealing with the how men are affecting the granting of equal position to the women interms of their participation is a little distort of the matter. There can be many settlements that can be reached in order for women participation other than a strong visual place. Because it is to be understood that the aim behind her attendance is to gain knowledge and to have a congregational opportunity among other sisters. And not to herald upon a personal presence at the mosque and at a point of available visibilty to everyone. We should have Fear of Allah in this regard.
    It is most agreeable that men should lower their gazes in the situation where women are granted equal visible position, but as Amad in his comment pointed out it will only put impurity in the essence of the gathering at the mosque which and would call for Fitna (Trial) among both sexes. This is gathering is not to be taken as a means of judging Taqwa, but we should rather hold to preserve the dignity of the place more important. And thus women in this regard to take responsibility in keeping the fitna to the minimum by taking a place most suitable.
    I therefore request that the goals of this Organization of your to be very carefully crafted in this special regards. Rest it is a wonderful idea in terms of having such a women platform for putting forward women issues to the community.
    JazakAllah khair.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 8:59 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum Br. Hassan,

      As one often relegated to the less favorable space and behind the partition, I can tell you there is much fitna contained therein as well. Men and women come to the masjid for many reasons, not only to seek knowledge and not only for prayer. How about both women and men take responsibility for keeping fitna to a minimum?

      • Hassan Adnan

        June 8, 2010 at 12:13 AM

        Assalam O Alikum, JazakAllah for your reply.
        Just Follow the Sunnah in regards to the congregational praying for men and women. And donot bring other innovations above it, even if it doesnt satisfies anybody else or yourself. “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those of you [Muslims] who are in authority; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.”
        [Surah An-Nisa (4), Ayah 59.]

        “But no, by your Lord they cannot have faith untill they make you (Muhammad) judge in all disputes among themselves and find themselves in no resistance against your decision and accept them with full submission.” [Surah An-Nisa (4), Ayah 65.]”
        Momin are those who say“We, hear, and we obey,” Surah Al-Baqarah (2), Ayah 285. And use Hikmah in minimizing the Fitna. And you have a great responsibilty in being the Caller to this matter, so donot follow any vain desires but the Sunnah. And its better to come to common terms than enforcing personal point of views.
        The fact that I am from Pakistan and not a part of your community limits me in taking a detailed account, I can only advice. JazakAllah khair.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 4:52 PM

          Wa salaam alaykum,

          Wa iyakkum. How are is the situation for women in the masajid in Pakistan?

          • Hassan Adnan

            June 9, 2010 at 10:51 AM

            Assalam O Alikum,
            You dont want to know about that! I would call women at your place blessed interms of being atleast granted what Islam has for them. Here things are more of culturally enforced rather than enforced by religion. It is almost a taboo that women visit the Mosque, only exception is the Eid, which too happens only in two or three big Mosques. Pray that things come in alignment to what Allah and His Messenger likes. Pray Allah SWT changes the hearts of the people here. JazakAllah khair.

  12. Mezba

    June 7, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    Perhaps those who are complaining about the company sister Ify’s organization is keeping should look to themselves. One has made the requirement that woman should dress like black crows before being allowed into the mosque. That apparently is the sunnah. I did not know the Prophet dressed like a black crow. Another has said a one way mirror is fine (apparently that too was there in the time of the Prophet). While another has said the men not speaking to the women is an insult to the men (the mind boggles).

    • Amad

      June 7, 2010 at 10:22 AM

      It is interesting you have nitpicked only few of the “spicy” blurbs and ignored most of the very reasonable questions and comments. Do you want to try to answer the questions or issues raised or are you here just to mock others beliefs?

      • Zulander

        June 7, 2010 at 11:11 AM

        I agree with Amad. It’s also interesting to hear how you don’t believe Aisha radiAllahu ‘anha (the Prophets salAllahu alayhi wasalam wife) statement of how women dressed. No one said that the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wasalamdressed like a crow. In case you missed it, the analogy was given because women during the lifetime of the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wasalam dressed in dark clothing covering their entire awrah.

      • Mezba

        June 7, 2010 at 1:40 PM

        Why are they ‘spicy’? They are how it seems a sizable portion of the population sadly thinks here.

        Yes, the belief that women must be dressed as ‘black crows’ and only then can they be allowed entry to the mosque has to be mocked. Mocked such that no one even sports such a ridiculous idea again.

        As for the reasonable questions and comments, that is for the author of the post to rebut.

        • Zulander

          June 7, 2010 at 2:16 PM

          So the statement of the Prophet’s wife should be mocked? No one here stated that women need to dress like that, someone was making a reference to how the salaf dressed. And even if someone did use it as proof, at least they referenced the proof with evidence (unlike your statements).

        • Ahmad AlFarsi

          June 7, 2010 at 5:45 PM

          Yes, the belief that women must be dressed as ‘black crows’ and only then can they be allowed entry to the mosque has to be mocked. Mocked such that no one even sports such a ridiculous idea again.

          I find mockery to be the least intellectual, most destructive way of responding to anything. Not that I, or anyone on this post, has espoused the idea that women must be dressed that way (as another brother pointed out, that was simply a description of the women at the time of the Prophet SAWS). But to even hint at mocking the statement of one of the Prophet’s wives (may Allah be pleased with them all) speaks volumes about one who would do so. The wives of the Prophet are the mothers of the believers…

          • Ify Okoye

            June 7, 2010 at 9:04 PM

            Might I add, as a sister, I have heard that manner of dress repeatedly praised as being optimal or the only correct way to dress from minbars, in classrooms, in-person, online, in books, etc. And many men and women do take that as the gospel.

          • Ahmad AlFarsi

            June 8, 2010 at 12:05 PM

            Allow me to clarify, I meant to say that no one here said that “women should be dressed to look like black crows otherwise, they will not be allowed to go to the masajid.”

            I was not intending to discuss the obligation of jilbab (which the evidence indeed indicates its obligatory nature) nor did I intend to discuss the preference in covering with a larger abaya.

            If the mother of the believers regarded that way of dressing as praiseworthy, then perhaps that should give us reason to reflect on the optimality of such a manner of dress.

    • MW_M

      June 7, 2010 at 2:54 PM

      Another has said a one way mirror is fine (apparently that too was there in the time of the Prophet).

      No, I believe these were invented much later, I think in the 20th century actually. Perhaps you can show me where you found that they had them at the time of the Prophet (Sallahu ‘Alayhi wa Salaam)?

      Sr. Naseeba’s post sums it up pretty well

      The curtain or separate area actually does fulfill the wisdom of the sunnah in
      – demarcating dedicated space for women to pray (i.e. not only not preventing females from the masjid but affirmatively marking off permanent space for them),
      – by providing physical space separation,
      – by providing sight separation,
      – providing women’s anonymity,
      – and additionally allowing flexibility and ease in the matter of timing so both genders can move at their own pace while leaving the masjid without mixing.

      The sisters I’ve dealt with prefer the one way mirror for a myriad of reasons, especially the last two Sr. Naseeba pointed out.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 9:06 PM

        MW_M: I dislike the two-way mirror barrier for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned already in the comments and in other posts so now you can add me to the sisters you’ve dealt with category, insha Allah.

        • Just passing by

          June 7, 2010 at 9:28 PM

          It seems that people have offered many ideas and suggestions (second floor, one-way glass, second rooms, set aside time women can meet with the Imam, etc.), and most of them have been rejected or you dislike them.

          Is this methodology from the Sunnah?

          Did Allah, All-Knowing, not create a methodology of gradual change?

          Why now shall we have it my way or the highway? Don’t we want constructive discussion? It seems you have taken a lot of time, sister Ify, to respond to many of these points but I think it is time to also take a step back (as opposed to debating) and consider that not all communities are at the same level, not all at the same place, not all having the same discussions and therefore for some the second floor is a great move forward so that women have a space. And, that may not be the same for another masjid. This, I believe, is a method with wisdom and gradual change we are taught in the Sunnah. And, Allah knows best.

          However, it seems clear at this point the style of the responses are not constructive but are in the manner of a debate – do you feel that is the best way to raise this issue?

          All the best.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 12:11 AM

            I think you’ve misunderstood, I don’t have a problem with setting aside time with the imam nor am I opposed to gradual change, what I am opposed to criticism without action. Claiming to care or support the issues is of little use when we help perpetuate them or at least are not even open to discussion.

  13. Zulander

    June 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    assalaamu alaikum,

    Can we please get the daleel that if a sister prays more than a few lines away from the men her salaah isn’t acceptable? Logistically this isn’t very pragmatic. Many lines are completed after the salah has begun, so what should the brothers do if the sisters are in their lines? Pray behind them?

    Also, I don’t see how women’s dress isn’t a valid criticism. Have you seen the way sisters dress? Sure you can tell me to lower my gaze and that’s something that has to happen for sure, but just as you ask me to lower my gaze I ask that women dress properly. Women’s dress usually plays a huge role in whether or not people are actually lowering their gaze.

    I understand why the request to remove these barriers comes from, but if a masjid such as Dar al-Hijrah has had them for over 15 years and can’t feasibly reconstruct the masjid for such a request then just leave it be. Why must every masjid be held hostage to these requests?

    Lastly you mention prayer in accordance to the “Sunnah”. Prayer according to the Sunnah for women has been recorded as ‘The best mosque for the women is the inside of her home’ (Musnad Ahmad: vol. VI, p. 297). You also mentioned the sunnah with regards to what lines the sisters should pray in as well. However it is also from the Sunnah to grant access to women who chose to pray at the masjid. If you really wanted to pray in accordance to the sunnah, then one must ask why aren’t you? For some reason it seems like the agenda for such a movement really isn’t about praying in accordance to the sunnah.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 9:20 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum Zulander,

      While I do not subscribe to the view of the issue for which you are requesting daleel, Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui said as much in his fatwa republished in the latest edition of the Muslim Link and also available on Islam-Online.

      Have you seen the way men dress? Do we put these men behind barriers or in separate rooms or exclude from coming to the masjid. I addressed the issue of women’s dress in one of the earlier comments and Dr. Mattson addresses the hadith of Aisha in her lecture, you may want to read it.

      As for DAH, the imam invited the women to pray behind the men, it’s on videotape at a Pray In panel discussion, he was informed the women intended to take him up on his offer and he consented but when they showed up, previous unknown stipulations quickly sprouted up. The masajid are not being being held hostage, that’s a bit too dramatic, even for me, rather we are asking to engage in discussion.

      I’m not always in my home, in my penalty box post, I was just leaving the botanical gardens as the time of maghrib approached on a very cold day, otherwise I would have prayed outside as I find the conditions at the Islamic Center detestable. But since, we are not to be prevented from the masjid and the prayer in the masjid has many intangible benefits, my primary reason to learn to drive when I moved here was so that I could attend the masajid to learn my religion and meet other Muslims, form friendships, and practice my faith with others as my family isn’t Muslim. I was very regular in attending to my five salawat in the masjid as much as possible and even moved twice within walking distance from the masjid so that I could have easier access. Let’s ask ourselves, why would you want to turn someone away from the masjid, if as you have said, you’ve seen how women dress, have you not also seen how our society has a corrupting effect on the hearts? Salah in the masjid and being with the believers is a treasure that many of us neglect even for those upon whom it is obligatory.

  14. Man

    June 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    We have Masjid where the sisters have their own separate large nice hall behind the brothers area, and they can also pray in the back of the brothers area, and there are small knee high symbolic “barriers” for this. They almost invariable choose to pray in their own room, I think they appreciate the privacy.

    The important part isn’t sharing the area, but providing a spacious, clean and welcoming women’s area, which alhamdolilah is true for most masajid I have seen

  15. Siraaj

    June 7, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Unfortunately, this article suffers from being a hodge-podge of emotionally-charged rebuttals based on the author’s perspective and not the Pray In group’s agenda (which is yet to be fully articulated).

    I don’t think you need a new masjid – I think you need a new group representing the views you’ve presented minus the progressives and right-leaning media outlets they brown-nose.

    You also need to acknowledge the arguments that are legitimate from “the other side” – yes, men need to lower their gaze, and if everyone in every masjid did so, the women still need to dress properly before entering, and therefore I would encourage the group to not only work on fixing the issue on the “male” side of the equation, but on the “female” side of the equation as well – I suspect many of your far left members will balk at being told to wear a hijab.

    Finally, you may like to check the authenticity of the story you quoted about ‘Umar – I recall there being some weakness in this story (or one similar) from a reading many years ago (and so I don’t have or remember the reference, sorry).


    • Justin

      June 7, 2010 at 1:55 PM

      I agree. The story of Umar being corrected by a women is mentioned in the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir in the verses about dowry. As far as I know it is authentic and it is a good story because it shows Umar was humble enough to accept the truth from a woman, even though he was Caliph. Which 7th century pope would defer his judgment to a woman?

      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        June 7, 2010 at 3:27 PM

        Justin, do not assume that because someone questions the authenticity of a narration that they have a problem with its meaning. That is obviously the methodology of progressive Muslims, who quote ayah and hadith when they think they like their meaning but reject them when they do not like their meaning. That is not what Siraaj was doing. Of course the story has a good meaning, that’s why it is such a famous story, but that doesn’t make it authentic necessarily.

        I don’t know the details of its origins at all, but according to these notes which are posted on Salim Morgan’s website and are from the Fiqh of Marriage class from American Open University and are written by Shaykh Jamal Zarabozo, the incident with Umar being corrected by the woman regarding mahr is indeed NOT authentic.

        If Shaykh Yasir Qadhi reads this thread, maybe he can let us know the details of this issue (the authenticity of this narration.)

        Allaah knows best.

        • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

          June 7, 2010 at 3:32 PM

          And Justin you are also right that Ibn Kathir not only includes this narration but explicitly says it is authentic.

          Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la recorded that Masruq said, “`Umar bin Al-Khattab stood up on the Minbar of the Messenger of Allah and said, `O people! Why do you exaggerate concerning the dowry given to women The Messenger of Allah and his Companions used to pay up to four hundred Dirhams for a dowry, or less than that. Had paying more for a dowry been a part of Taqwa or an honor, you would not have led them in this practice. Therefore, I do not want to hear about a man who pays more than four hundred Dirhams for a dowry.’ He then went down the Minbar, but a woman from Quraysh said to him, `O Leader of the Faithful! You prohibited people from paying more than four hundred Dirhams in a dowry for women’ He said, `Yes.’ She said, `Have you not heard what Allah sent down in the Qur’an’ He said, `Which part of it’ She said, `Have you not heard Allah’s statement,

          [وَءَاتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنْطَاراً]

          (And you have given one of them a Qintar)’ He said, `O Allah! Forgive me…’ He then went back and stood up on the Minbar saying, `I had prohibited you from paying more than four hundred Dirhams in a dowry for women. So, let everyone pay what he likes from his money.”’ The chain of narration for this Hadith is strong.

          And Allaah Knows Best.

          • Justin

            June 7, 2010 at 3:57 PM

            Thank you for the link to the notes. I am certainly not a hadith expert so I have no ability to judge the chain. Ibn Kathir seems to accept the narration and it is a famous hadith, so for that reason I accept the tradition.

            I think the confusion is over definitions and terminology. Different madhab have different terms (i.e. is it daeef, hasan, hasan sahih, sahih hasan, or sahih?). I think what we agree upon is that Omar did NOT prohibit a man from paying more for the dowry if he wanted to. He was merely advising them to not consider a high dowry as part of taqwa. The high dowry in our times causes great hardship for people. Giving more in charity is one thing, but demanding a high dowry is NOT taqwa. That seems to be the point of the narration. Second, I like this tradition because it shows that Omar had great respect for women and their point of view. I think, in that sense, it is very relevant to the topic we are discussing.

            I am also skeptical of so-called “progressive” movements because they often lack a foundation in traditional Islamic sciences. I think some of their concerns are legitimate but their methods can be harmful (i.e. soaking up negative media attention).

            Allah knows best.

            (It looks like the frequency of your comments is triggering a WP spam filter, Justin. So, please continue to be patient in case your comments do not appear immediately. Jazak Allah khayr — MM)

    • Zulander

      June 7, 2010 at 2:20 PM

      Very well said masha’Allah.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 9:28 PM

      Siraaj: I don’t think we need a new group but were we to start one, would you join in? I’ve actually found women to be most amenable to observing what others consider proper hijab for them and the brothers to be the least amenable to having anyone ask them or tell them about their dress. I have a few examples in mind but am not sure I could find a way to share them in an anonymous way.

      Dr. Mattson quoted the story in her lecture, if you find anything to substantiate your statement let me know, yet the point still stands there was no partition and men and women did see each other and were able to not commit zina openly in the masjid as often seems to be the implication that our brothers will simply not be able to control themselves if women are present.

      • Siraaj

        June 7, 2010 at 10:14 PM

        If the sisters want no wall as in the time of the Prophet, then they need to dress as the women did in that time as well. If they will not shield themselves either due to ignorance or stubbornness, then it becomes a simple game of fiqh-and-choose for the sake of convenience.

        There’s a conservative Imam in South Carolina who holds that the partition is a bid’ah. When I asked him, how do you deal with sisters who don’t come dressed properly, he said the first time it happens, they are told the proper way to dress, and the second time it happens, they are forbidden from the premises until they get it right.

        I’m happy to tell brothers to tear down the wall if you’ll be just as adamant in telling the sisters to put on their clothes and wipe off the make-up.


      • Siraaj

        June 8, 2010 at 6:05 AM

        Regarding the story, here is what I found online from something attributed to Shaykh JZ:

        The speaker said that Umar was presenting a bill for legislation that would limit the dowry paid to women and a woman came and told Umar that he was mistaken and Umar admitted his mistake. This report was recorded by Al-Baihaqi who said, “Its chain is broken.” Furthermore, it is narrated by Mujaalid ibn Saeed who is not a strong narrator. Abdul Razzaq also narrated it with a different chain in his al-Musannaf but its chain has two problems: First, the chain is broken. Second, Qais ibn al-Rabeeah, one of the narrators, has a poor memory.

        (al-Albani, Irwa al-Ghaleel, vol 6, pp. 247-8)

        If someone can verify the references, would be greatly appreciated :)


        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 5:11 PM

          Alhamdulillah and jazak’Allah khayr for the reference. Although, I don’t know about this masjid bouncer position, Siraaj. Our obligations and sunnahs are important but as many of us here agree, it requires hikmah. For me, the issue is complicated because I know I’ve seen good brothers and sisters that were seeking to come closer to Allah be turned away from their communities over relatively “minor” issues like that of dress and some of them left Islam. And when I first converted, my conception or implementation of what I considered for myself to be “proper hijab” or the best I could do is not the same as my conception or implementation today.

          People are on journeys of submission in this life. Just as Allah revealed the verses of hijab and alcohol after the hearts were fortified, I too do not believe in beating people over the head about their dress before even getting to know them. I’ve seen many sisters take on full hijab and niqab and abayah and fall out of Islam. So of what use was the clothing when there no firm iman in the heart. I don’t mind telling people what I have learned and consider to be proper dress for men or women but I’m not sure I buy the argument that that is essentially tied to ability to come to, have adequate and decent space, and participation in the masjid.

          • Abd- Allah

            June 8, 2010 at 9:59 PM

            Yes, that story about Umar may Allah be pleased with him being corrected in public by that woman is NOT authentic, and Shaykh al-Albani rahimahullah has shown that in this article, and indicated that it is not authentic.

            Sister Ify, if you can please take this story out from your post so that people don’t end up spreading it around when it isn’t authentic, and also taking it out doesn’t really take away from the post itself. I would really appreciate it, thank you!

            As for the pray in movement, my advice would be to re-organize things whereby you have a well defined set of realistic goals as well as have one person who is in charge of leading this group, this way it is more efficient and affective in achieving things. Having a shura system is good, but there has to be one leader (such as a credible shaykh) for the group in order for it to be efficient and get support from the community. The other important thing is to have a well defined set of goals which the group aims to achieve, this way it will be easier for people to decide whether they support what this group stands for or not. The fact that the goals so far are very general and are thus prone to being abused by certain types of people who have their own agenda makes some people skeptical of what this group really is about and who is running things. The goals are general and don’t mention specifically what mode of action or approach will be taken and what are the specific ways that will be used in order to achieve those goals. So to get support from the community, the group needs a credible leader as well as well defined goals which can’t be abused by some people or hijacked for their own motives. The goals set now sound great, but they are very general and leave much room for them to be abused by certain types of people. I would suggest that the goals are narrowed down as much as possible and made very specific so that they aren’t abused for other agendas, and this way those who are in this group for other motives than what you have stated, they will not have room to further their own agenda, and are thus less likely to be part of the group to begin with. This way more people will support the group if it is well defined because now people are cautious not to support anything which is vague or very general and could be taken in any direction.

            The other thing is that aside from the prayer area and the facilities at the masaajid for women which need to be addressed, but the issue of being marginalized and not included in the discussions and decision-making of the community is not something that only women face. Men are also marginalized in that sense, and the decisions and plans are all made by very few people who run the masaajid such as the board members. I have been praying at my local masjid on a regular basis for years but I have never participated in, nor even seen, these community discussions which you want women to take part in. Most of the times, these discussions and the community decisions are made by few people in their private meetings behind doors. So in a way, men overall need to be included in these discussions as well and be included in the “community” (or lack of a community thereof). This issue faces our entire community and not just the sisters who are being excluded from the community. It applies to men, women, children, the youth, and every single person because they all are not being included because of the way our communities are set up, and this is not something limited to the sisters only. So perhaps a more general approach and a more inclusive one whereby the issue of the community being inclusive to everyone whereby all the members of the community participate and voice their opinion is addressed, and not limit it to being inclusive of the women, because the brothers who aren’t being included in the community can do nothing about the fact that sisters aren’t being included either.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 10:32 AM

            Br Abd-Allah: Excellent points, we’ve been working to come up with a focused and detailed mission and vision statement, it’s a work in progress, insha’Allah.

            I posted today in the News & Views category a commentary by a sister regarding a study conducted in England rating masajid on their “women-friendliness,” very interesting initiative. And yes, it’s true men and women are both sometimes excluded or disenfranchised from our communities. I guess I should say I’d love to see not just women-friendly mosques but community-friendly ones as well.

            I’m not sure I’ll delete that narration from the post but I have no problem adding a disclaimer that it has been classified as a weak tradition because even narrations with some weakness can be narrated if the points don’t contradict the Quran and Sunnah.

            And Allah knows best.

  16. Mombeam

    June 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    as-salaamu `alaykum, some thoughts

    I find it very disheartening that no matter what, when this issue comes up, people want to raise the issue of “well, the Sunnah is for women to pray at home, see that’s what the Hadeeth says”. I really would like to see a scholar address this issue, as I heard many years ago from a scholar that there are actually TWO authentic versions of that Hadeeth, one which says “mar’ah” (women) and the other says “mar’ ” (man/human being).

    That said, I can’t believe it needs to be said again that trying to force women to accept either total segregation or staying at home as the only two options is dangerous. Some of you need to step back and realize what women are asking for here– not money, not dunya, not a change in the basic fundamental rules of our deen, but the right to pray and gain knowledge in the most serious and fully participating way possible. Would you all rather see women totally disinterested in praying and seeking knowledge? Is that your ideal “Sunnah society” where the men get together at the masjid and the women all stay home and do what now….? Watch TV? Obsess over their clothes and makeup? Cook? Do the benefits of praying in jam`aah and attending classes of deeni knowledge not apply to women? Are you men all interested in being the ones to volunteer YOUR home when you’ve just come home from work and your wife wants to host a jam`aah or a halaqah or whatever in the home and wants to kick you out to protect the modesty of those women who will enter YOUR home? I’m sure you will all decline. Or are we now talking about the idea of women having their own masjids? Would you pay for that? Probably not. So we’re back to where we started.

    If you truly want women to pray at home or in total segregation, are you prepared for the “exodus” (as I think Umm Zaid had put it in one of the links above) of people from the masjid and maybe even Islam (na`uudhu bi l-laah) because of such a harsh policy? I know of people who have left Islam just so they could go to a church, stand in the back and pray. Not in front of the men, not with them, behind them, in the same room. They also wanted to be able to work on church activities and charitable organizations– not the “women’s one” but the *community one”. I have also had difficulty getting non-Muslim friends interested in becoming Muslim because they do not want to leave the community in their church where they feel like they are part of the greater group.

    No the issue is not about simply having a clean space only. It is not about being able only to see the Imam through a barrier. It is about being able to FEEL like a part of a COMMUNITY that worships Allah together. It is about not having to rely on an electrical system with all its potential failures to know at what point the congregation is in the prayer. It is about being able to interact with speakers when necessary. It is about (as another commenter pointed out) the need to keep the CHILDREN (because the women aren’t the only ones back there) aware of the importance of the masjid and to teach them to also fully participate and respect. It is also about respect– if the barrier was removed, the women who sit in the back and talk wouldn’t be able to do it as easily. It is about not feeling like you have to listen to and participate in the Friday prayer without feeling like you’re not really there, you’re in a cage or a box somewhere else.

    Balconies are not a solution, either. Kids run up and down the stairs and act like crazy people upstairs. The elderly and sick can’t access it easily. Since the kids mess around with the elevator (if availble) it is usually locked and difficult to access. And even up in the balcony, because of the sense of separateness many women still start to talk. I have seen everything I just mentioned at Dar al-Hijrah by the way. I have especially watched elderly, crippled women struggling up the stairs (which are often littered with shoes and thus that much more dangerous) because the elevator is out of order or locked or whatever.

    Finally, I do not necessarily support the group being mentioned here for the reasons others have stated. I think that the presence of Asra Nomani in that group, considering the things she has written about Dar Al-Hijrah for example make her both a liability and a stain on the group’s credibility. I also don’t support their methodology because it is not from within the community. When somebody comes from outside the particular community it will only serve to antagonize things. Although I would LOVE to see the barrier come down at my mosque (and I know others in our community who feel the same), I know that it may take another generation before there are enough people in the community who can form a sizeable majority who would wish to see things changed. I don’t want somebody like this group coming in, making a scene, and then forever tarnishing the idea of women praying in the main hall without a barrier to such an extent that it will probably delay the removal of that barrier by a good decade longer than it will already take.

    • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      June 7, 2010 at 3:41 PM


      It is natural that if those opposing partitions present their arguments as being “the sunnah,” people will mention the hadith about prayer for women being better at home.

      Other than that, I found your comments very beautiful. May Allaah reward you. I think we have to be creative in finding solutions. For big masajid that have the resources to build such masajid I had always thought that balconies were a good solution, but you are right that it is not perfect.

      I think if people are united in the desire to have both men and women able to pray comfortably in the mosque with the imam while still observing gender separation than we can work together to find another solution. I do think that one thing that holds us back is when people feel that others in the discussion have separate agendas either to put down or exclude women or to move towards having women lead the prayer or eliminate gender separation. When one doesn’t trust that others really have the same agenda, it can be hard to work together.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 9:47 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum Mombeam, excellent points overall, I must correct one thing. We were not trying to change DAH but rather we were invited there by the Imam at one of our Pray In panel discussion in April. I’ve also seen elderly and disable women struggling to make it up the stairs at many masajid including DAH. I was just there the week before the Pray In and I spent about 15 minutes with an elderly Arab woman as she tried to access the women’s section. For years, I was a regular at DAH, even as I was living in Maryland, not minding the commute up and down the beltway and invariably getting stuck in traffic on the way there and on the way back.

      I, too know people who left Islam or declined to enter Islam for reasons relating to women’s treatment in our communities.

      In all of the other communities, our first recourse is to seek dialogue with those within the community. We are currently talking to several communities, all of which we frequent and have met with varying results. Although, I don’t necessarily think that because a person is not considered “from” a community, I mean what differentiates that, that they cannot have a say or a voice. Yes, it may be more effective coming from a regular attendee and who knows what that is as many love to tell us we should only pray at home.

      I’m part of a number of groups not because I like or agree with every single person within the group but because the issues are right and I believe in working to rectify the issues.

  17. Naureen

    June 7, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    I dont have any problem with women praying in the same prayer space as the men.

    What *strikes* me is the following:

    -the tone of the article and mostly of the people who try to do something ‘new’, is usually very condescending, while they talk about the sunnah.The sunnah is to be gentle. cuz one person is ‘violent’ evveryone having the same view is violent as well?

    -Why is it that we are picking and choosing the sunnahs?
    *It is sunnah to not have partition
    *It is sunnah to have separate entrances for women and men to the masjid
    *It is sunnah that women leave the prayer space first before the men(logically w/ the cleansed hearts of the beleivers in our day we will end up with mixing in about 5 seconds).
    *It is sunnah that the women be covered like dark crows and (were not recognized)

    If the hearts of the people of this organization are yearning to follow the SUNNAH, they will be happy to do the above.

    However, I FEAR that the issue isn’t really about women having a clean equal-access space. The real underlying issue is that women feel they wana be just like men in all ways to feel they are treated equal because men and women both have made the treatment of men to be the ‘standard’ unfortunately.

    So while yes, we can DEFINITELY do much to IMPROVE the women’s prayer space, I fear that if the hearts are not sincere, they will NOT BE SATISFIED W/ THE SUNNAH.

    Sorry for the caps.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 9:52 PM

      Naureen, okay about the tone, but honestly to be in this business in our communities, one has to be a bit tough otherwise you will not be able to handle the insults, curses, and abuse from the haterade brigade. And we all pick and choose sunnah, is it not sunnah to begin your comment with a salam? And no, it is not our agenda to be just like men, we like being women but we don’t believe being a woman means being relegated to basements and balconies and behind partitions that enshrine our exclusion from participating in the life of the community.

      • Naureen

        June 8, 2010 at 2:56 AM

        Ify, thankyou for your reminder for starting my comment with a salam.
        Assalama’laykum. (As a side note, one should assume their brother/sister in islam forgot and you don’t have to be so direct. In all honesty I just forgot. Perhaps this is the mistake. You guys are assuming you have to be so ‘tough’. The Prophet changed ALOT but he wasn’t tough to the point of rudeness with people.) I think you may end up loosing supports because of the methods you all are employing in this movement.

        I feel that you didn’t really respond to my comment. I think its totaly cool that women and men pray together because as you said this is the sunnah and this is what the pray in movement wants. I’m cool w/ that. Its sunnah.

        My point was that if the issue is to follow the sunnah, then all the sunnahs around that issue need to be followed otherwise what you will get is a very different result from what Islam seeks. This is what I would like to know your views on.

        On a completely different note, I was very involved in dawah work in certains organizations during my college years, and I noticed with my very own two eyes the weird tendency for sisters to get SO worked up emotionally over issues that they literally could not see reason anymore and instead of using brothers as their supporters in the cause, they basically alienated the brothers with their rudeness while al the while thinking that they were the victims.

        I think there’s a lot of similarity between my experience and what i’m seeing here. A person who really believes in their cause and its right does not need to get rude, condenscending, defensive. Instead cool respectful resolve, dua, and working with other people cooperatively using effective communication methods could solve an issue like this. Honestly this simply isn’t an issue of such magnitude that it has to be dealt with in the MANNER its being treated.

        I think there’s something really weird and sneaky about saying its sunnah to have one prayer space and then when ppl say its also sunnah to dress modestly and have separate entrances to the musallah, to turn around and say ‘u just want to have women not come to the masjid and prevent them’. the response is like ‘um excuse me. yur the one who wanted to follow the sunnah’. so what’s the issue now?

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 5:25 PM

          Wa salaam alaykum Naureen,

          Commenting on forums and blogs is a slightly unusual format so I don’t make a big issue of the salam but since you mentioned how we should be all following all the sunnahs, I thought it relevant to the discussion just to answer your point with a clear example. It wasn’t meant to embarrass or humiliate you, simply this is the medium of discourse here.

          You’d like my views on observing all of the sunnahs relating to praying in the masjid? The question seems overly broad so I’m not sure what you are asking exactly from saying the dua when walking or driving to the masjid to praying 2 rakah of tahiyyutal masjid to women praying behind men to….? Or something more specific? I like the sunnah and try to implement many of them on a daily basis.

          Naureen, I have heard many people try to belittle these issues because they may not be important to them but they are important to me, I’d invite you to read some of my other writings on the subject or those linked to in the article from Umm Zaid and the sister Fiona in New Zealand who found no place at all in her local masjid thus she prayed fajr outside on a mountaintop. While it may not be important to you, I’m pretty sure if you are willing to read and listen with an open mind and heart, you’ll have a better understanding of why these issues are vital important to some of us. I think we’d all do well (including me) by making fewer assumptions.

          And for the record, I don’t have a problem with separate equitable entrances or modest dress.

        • Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

          June 8, 2010 at 10:37 PM

          My point was that if the issue is to follow the sunnah, then all the sunnahs around that issue need to be followed otherwise what you will get is a very different result from what Islam seeks.

          Excellent point.

          Ify, her point is regarding all of the sunnah’s regarding women praying in the mosque. She mentioned some very pertinent examples such as women being covered and men waiting for them to leave before they get up themselves. Is Pray In pushing for those sunnah’s as well, or just the barrier issue?

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 10:58 AM

            Salaam Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî,

            I answered this question in a response to a similar question posed by Siraaj, yesterday, just as a matter of time, do you think you can do a search for his name here in the comments to find it? Otherwise, I can try to dig it up and repost for you, insha Allah.

  18. AsimG

    June 7, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    People who are much smarter than me have expressed my opinions in a more articulate matter.

    …This tends to happen a lot

    • Sayf

      June 7, 2010 at 2:39 PM

      You just expressed my opinion in a more articulate manner!

  19. Justin

    June 7, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    As-Salaamu Alaykum,

    I really empathize with women who are not given their full rights in Islam. However, I think it is a very bad idea to go to the media. Anyone who is paying attention to the media will know that the issue of Islam and women is, other than violence, the most important issue used to demonize and stereotype the Muslim community. When you go to the media in this way, it reinforces this stereotype about Islam and Muslims, i.e. that Islam is inherently cruel and unfair to women. This has the potential to do greater damage to our community than you think. I believe it would be better to be patient and to lobby for change in a way that does not attract negative attention to the community. Please consider this point.

    • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      June 7, 2010 at 3:45 PM

      I agree with this comment Justin.

      Also beyond the notion of airing dirty laundry, organizers of this or any other desire to bring change in our communities should ask how will this lead to the goal I am trying to accomplish?

      The watchers of mainstream media, whether right wing or otherwise, are not making decisions in the mosque. How will appealing to them help one’s cause. Is the idea that such people, largely non-Muslim will pressure the imams or boards of mosques to change their policies?

      • Justin

        June 7, 2010 at 4:06 PM

        Abu Noor,

        This is an excellent point. I do not see how grabbing media attention does anything to further the goal of helping women get their rights. The media are only looking for sensational stories that they can sell; in general, they are not interested in helping reform the Muslim community or any other community. They are a profit-driven business. While there are many good-hearted and fair journalists, the business itself is about profit, so in that sense it is inherently biased. Stories are picked for their impact, not the betterment of society.

        I think it would be better for them to write letters, organize lectures, collect petitions, etc. all low-key grassroots events which could help change people’s minds “on the ground.” Most importantly, we have to maintain our Islamic manners and etiquette. Certainly, it is not good character to bring accusations, name-calling, and “dirty laundry” to the attention of the media. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever covers the faults of a Muslim, Allah will cover his faults on the Day of Judgment.”

        I hope the author of this article will consider some of the constructive criticism put forth in these posts.

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 10:02 PM

        Abu Noor & Justin, honestly it is only because of media attention that this issue has garnered so much interest in my community as of late and it has opened many doors of discussions previously closed to us with masjid leadership or regular people in the community. Previously, it was very difficult to even get a meeting or appointment to talk, now people are coming to us asking to talk or telling us what they’ve recently decided to improve conditions. Media attention has made a world of difference, why? I’m not sure, I don’t think they fear non-Muslim pressure although maybe they do but they certainly weren’t feeling any pressure to respond beforehand.

        And allow me to inform you Justin but we have utilized numerous methods of engagement but the only one that gets wide attention is obviously the pray-in protests. We have had countless discussions with people in different communities, written articles i.e. this one here is an example and many more examples on my blog or the Facebook group, had a panel discussion about the issues, etc.

        • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

          June 7, 2010 at 10:26 PM

          Again Ify, if there was a masjid where you or any sister was regularly attending and helping out at the masjid and you asked to meet with the board or imam and they refused to meet with you then that is a major problem which goes far beyond even the important issue of women’s prayer space.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 12:05 AM

            Yes, and that has happened to me and to other sisters within Pray in, repeatedly.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 9:58 PM

      Wa salaam alaykum Justin,

      I hear you, yet I also know the pain of encountering the lie of how women are really treated in our community despite what is the texts and our history, the current state of affairs is enough to turn away all but the most ardent. Pretending like it doesn’t exist or it doesn’t matter or not doing anything to try to rectify the situation has caused me immense spiritual harm over the years until I finally found and regained my voice and my courage.

      I wrote this in a post debunking the Muslim Link article on my blog:

      When I was thinking about converting to Islam, I had a friend online that was also interested in Islam, we learned together and shared materials but while I converted, he did not. Why? Because, he couldn’t separate his belief in the truth of Islam from the way Muslims claim to manifest their religion through things like the Taliban preventing women from obtaining an education or penalty boxes, etc.

  20. Naseebah

    June 7, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    The sunnah shows the means used to separate men and women in the salaat were various:
    – by women praying at home,
    -by physical spacing (women behind men),
    -by separating barrier (children),
    – by sight (women don’t look up until men have stood back up after the sujood, men and women looking down at place of sujood throughout the prayer),
    – by women’s anonymity (in hadith of women arriving to prayer at fajr by dark so they are not recognized, women dressing as dark crows),
    – and by timing (women leaving immediately after the salaat and before men get up to leave).

    The intent was clearly to separate men and women in the salaat through a variety of means.

    The curtain or separate area actually does fulfill the wisdom of the sunnah in
    – demarcating dedicated space for women to pray (i.e. not only not preventing females from the masjid but affirmatively marking off permanent space for them),
    – by providing physical space separation,
    – by providing sight separation,
    – providing women’s anonymity,
    – and additionally allowing flexibility and ease in the matter of timing so both genders can move at their own pace while leaving the masjid without mixing.

    The curtain and/or barrier are added forms that achieve the sunnah — like a microphone used to call the adhan or make the khutbah heard throughout the masjid. The microphone was not in the prophet’s (pbuh) time, was it?

    Are some sisters going to rip the microphone out of the khatib’s hand?

    It does not make sense to 1) cause a community fitnah and spread the fitnah through the media around the globe, 2) disobey the prayer imam and shout at the imam of the masjid after adhan has been called, and perhaps most importantly, 3) disrupt the fard salah in the house of Allah in order to implement a sunnah whose intent is already being fulfilled, or perhaps worse yet, 4) all to make a symbolic, theoretical point about women’s general ill treatment throughout the world and lack of access to leadership.

    The fact of protesting around the salaat itself- arguing and disobeying the imam in the fard salaat in congregation in the masjid at the prayer’s appointed time, when the adhan or even iqamah has been called and all the believers are awaiting the opening “Allahu Akbar” to worship their Creator — is not just a tactical difference. This is not an acceptable wrong sisters.

    My sincere naseehah -your group needs to please stand down from this tactic.

    • Middle Ground

      June 7, 2010 at 4:55 PM


      How about giving naseehah to the men who force the issue in the first place? Or are they exempt from getting naseehah?

      • Naseebah

        June 7, 2010 at 5:26 PM

        No one is forcing these women to actively organize public disruptions of the fard salaah in the masajid which are then broadcast around the world.

        To the men is what they are earning, and to the women is what they are earning.

        • Middle Ground

          June 7, 2010 at 5:31 PM


          You miss my point. When the first wrong thing happens, it will lead to a reaction. yet no-one seems to think that the people at the root of the problem should be addressed.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 10:13 PM

      Salaam alaykum Naseebah,

      I have not denied there should be a separation between women and men nor did I call it an innovation but I do reject some of the ways that separation is implemented. I believe Dr. Mattson aptly answered the charge of creating “fitna”.

      I don’t believe anyone shouted at the imam but if voices were raised it was most probably due to the distance between them in order like the microphone to facilitate hearing. The salah was not disrupted but we have had masjid admins and non-Muslim police officers try to and effectively and enthisuatically interrupt the salah of a woman.

      No one disobeyed the imam in the salah, he was followed, except for the masjid security brothers who decided rather than join the salah, that the optimum thing to do would be to assault one of our members even though the Imam had explicitly ordered the men to not do so.

      • Naseebah

        June 8, 2010 at 11:08 AM

        Assalaamu alaikum,

        You are part of a group now, and members of your group have called curtains, barriers, and other forms of separation an innovation. Not only an innovation, but compared the practice to apartheid. But maybe you didn’t refer to it as apartheid.

        That is part of the strength of a diverse coalition, is that one member can deny having made a statement or holding a particular point of view, while another member does make that statement. Makes your arguments constantly morphing and slippery.

        I’m curious about the “no one wants to dialogue with us” charge. Didn’t the imam of DAH engage in a panel discussion on this topic? Didn’t he welcome in the protestors to the main hall and ask them where to stand? Or maybe you didn’t make that charge, someone else in your group did. Or it wasn’t enough. Or it wasn’t the right kind of dialogue. Or the dialogue didn’t achieve what we wanted.

        (Anyway, since you’ve quoted/refer to Dr. Mattson so extensively, I wonder if she has joined Pray In, and whether ISNA has taken official positions on all your group’s diverse stances and methodologies.)

        But really, you did disobey the imam and you did disrupt the fard salah in the masjid. No, you did not stop it from eventually happening — but I think you are making that very narrow distinction a justification in your mind for what you have done.

        Your group intentionally refuses the directions of the imam and masjid authorities in the establishment of the salaah, knows there will be resistance so brings along the media, all the while planning the use of the fard salaah as a tool for your group’s political objectives. And then you use the ruckus you provoke as more ammunition for your cause. And so on.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 5:49 PM

          Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah Naseebah, just about all of the major Muslim organizations in North America including Dr. Mattson and ISNA signed on to a document called Women Friendly Mosques, you may want to read it because that document sets out goals even in its title that we as members of Pray In largely agree to. A certain army major once attended DAH, shall we assume everyone at DAH subscribes to his views, I think not, if we can understand this distinction, I think we can afford Pray In the same level of understanding or maybe not as the case may be.

          I mentioned in my post debunking the Muslim Link article as well as here in the comments that I do not subscribe to the view of partitions as an innovation so if you want to argue the point with someone, it might be better to do so with someone who actually holds that opinion. If you’d like I could probably put you in touch with someone who does believe that.

          As for your curiosity, the Imam did participate in one of our panel discussions at which he then said he “invites the women to pray behind the men” and so he was called in the week leading up to the pray-in and informed women would take him up on his offer to which he said, “go right ahead.” The women were not invited into the main hall on the Saturday, when they arrived, they were treated hostility even while out in the parking lot before the salah by some brothers. The Imam did not “ask” them where they wanted to stand.

          I did not disobey the Imam at all and it amazes me why you continue to make that untrue accusation, perhaps because you really have no idea what went on at all. I remained outside the main hall until the salah commenced, and before the salah, I actually took one of our members around to the sisters’ side as she felt the tension and hostility in the main hall was too much for her liking. After the salah commenced close to the last rakah three men, some associated in an official capacity with the masjid entered the musallah and rather than join the salah, they decided to disobey the imam and harass and assault one of our members.

          I haven’t given you all the details because the case is still pending but call me or email me and I’ll give you a fuller and more accurate picture of the events as they unfolded because I had one of the best vantage points in the masjid on that day certainly better than whoever you’re getting your (mis)information from.

          • Mohammad Sabah

            June 8, 2010 at 6:09 PM

            Assalam alaykum.

            I don’t know the details of the incident that happened but it seems to me that the confrontation could have been avoided with more wisdom and application from both sides. This is exactly the kind of thing that I had alluded to earlier in a different comment on this article when I said that what is important is to look at the greater good and make sure that the situation does not become one of more fitnah. Based on what I have read above in the article, I would advise the sisters who support this organization (pray in?) to take a long, hard look at themselves and their objectives and activities, and find out wise avenues to bring up their case. What I don’t want to happen is for this thing to blow out of proportion and people get emotional and lose focus on what it is that they really set out to achieve. I would advise you and all people who support pray in to be careful that it doesn’t cause more fitnah that it has already. Many of the issues that have been raised (e.g. women’s prayer areas, women’s involvement in community) are known and important problems that have to be addressed – no one is denying that. However where wisdom is needed is how you approach them. I cannot overemphasize the point that you should look at the greater good of the Ummah. Many of these issues are best resolved locally by taking up the matter privately with the local Imam – not by carrying out ‘protests’ and disobeying the Imam, bringing in media and so on. Also we should not be deluded into thinking that one-size-fits-all – like a fatwa on a topic differs depending on the place and time, similarly we should be flexible and not expect all masajids to have the same setup and facilities. There are other important factors that contribute to this e.g. funds, community support.

            May Allah guide us all to learn His Beautiful deen of Islam, and grant us wisdom to apply it in our lives.


          • Abdul-Malik Ryan

            June 8, 2010 at 7:13 PM

            A certain army major once attended DAH, shall we assume everyone at DAH subscribes to his views, I think not,

            According to your friend and comrade in this campaign Asra Nomani, apparently that is just what you should do. Not only should you assume other individuals think the same, you should actually take the largest house of Allaah (swt) in a major Metroplitan Area, a place where thousands of people regularly pray to their Lord, contribute and distribute charity, learn about the deen, break their fast in the month of Ramadan, etc. and you should label the entire masjid with insulting names meant to inspire hatred and fear in that place among the general public in a way such that Daniel Pipes or Steven Emerson would be impressed.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 11:12 AM

            Salaam alaykum,

            Mohammad Sabah: I know there are many comments but within them, I’ve mentioned I could support a number of situations, not looking for a one-size-fits-all approach but am not as so naïve to think as many people have stated that these issues can simply be resolved by talking to the imam or board who are not always even accessible at all. On social issues, conversations such as these often flourish for a long time in through various media (books, newspapers, radio, television, blogs, surveys, etc) before long and ardently held positions shift.

            Abu Noor, guilt by association? Try showing me my words and my actions and not those of others. I remember when I first joined MM someone tried to bash me because something another MM’er had written. I could show you some words by our colleagues, which I don’t support at all, yet we still work together here.

          • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

            June 9, 2010 at 4:04 PM

            Ify, it’s not about “guilt by association” — my critique is of the Pray in Movement as a a whole, not of you personally. So there would be no reason to limit my observations to only things that you have done or said. This is not a personal disagreement.

    • mathbooh

      June 9, 2010 at 3:29 PM

      slm sister.

      excellent point.

      was salaam

  21. Middle Ground

    June 7, 2010 at 2:52 PM


    Well as I see it, when you get to the point where you basically tell the women to sod off out of the masjid, this kind of thing is going to happen. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Islam is a balanced deen, when the balance tips one way too much, you are asking for trouble. In this case, it starts with the totally unislamic attitude from many muslim men that a woman should basically have nothing to do with Islam, other than obey her husband, and tell other women to obey their husbands. Wallahi, I once met a desi who was the Amir of a masjid, where the women prayed downstairs, and he gave a jumma khutba saying that women were not welcome in the masjid.

    • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      June 7, 2010 at 4:04 PM

      I agree that one could only expect (and actually hope) that the oppression of women in many of our masajid and communities would be met with a reaction or response. And I also agree that its hard for those who are responding to hear people criticizing the way they are responding or who they are working with when it doesn’t seem like those people critiquing this method are doing anything on their own.

      But that shouldn’t stop you, Sister Ify, or those who agree with you, from thinking long and hard about whether what you are doing will really lead to the solution you are looking for (as I’m sure you have).

      One thing I think should be really highlighted in this thinking process is that less emphasis should be placed on the symptom and more placed on the underlying causes. Addressing symptoms is important but should not be the priority when one is in as critical a condition as the American Muslim community — especially many of our masajid.

      It seems that having women involved in the life of our mosques, having an ability to learn and have services which meet their needs, including social, human services, etc. is the deeper issue. Regardless of what we try inshAllah to implement in our own lives, for the vast vast majority of Muslims in America, men and women, a place for the daily salah is not the primary function or importance of the mosque to their lives.

      I sometimes wonder when I hear sister Ify talking about being cut off from the imam, if she or others think that the majority of brothers are just palling around with the imam all the time. Most Muslim men feel just as cut off from their communities as anyone else, especially if they are not part of the inner circle, which for many of us especially if we are converts or from an ethnic group which is not the majority in the community, can be very mysterious. Most mosques have boards that do not function very well and at least to me are not perceived to be the real source of decision making at the mosque. Few mosques are actually really run by the imams.

      Most people choose not to be involved in the running of the mosque and prefer to leave it to others. For those who do seek to be part of decision making it can be difficult to figure out how to do that…but most of our masajid are not so large or wealthy that they don’t need a lot of help. If one gets involved deeply in the masjid through volunteering and doing the work no one else wants to do, I think in most cases your opinion on issues will be sought after. If for some reason one who is contributing greatly with time and energy to the mosque still is not listened to, then there is a deeper issue at stake, but at least if it is your community and you are there regularly contributing you’ll know exactly what the problem is and inshAllah you can figure out the most appropriate way to address it. It seems unlikely to me that a sit in would be the answer, but perhaps it would.

      The two biggest question marks in my mind about this pray-in movement are the clear progressive leadership and involvement (which raises questions about how one can state the goal is prayer according to the sunnah) and the perception I get (perhaps totally wrong) that the major actions so far have been a bunch of women showing up at a masjid which is not their regular mosque, that they are not part of the community, have not contributed, are not known by the people, and choosing to create a demonstration for the media. If a large group of women staged such an action at a mosque they had been regularly praying and volunteering at for a period of time….I would surely pay attention to that!

      • Justin

        June 7, 2010 at 4:10 PM

        Is it really true that these demonstrations are being held by people outside of the regular masjid community? Are these people going to mosques that they do not belong to and causing disturbance?

      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 10:35 PM

        Br Abu Noor,

        Let me correct you since you only seem to know the media spin. Pray In, always seeks first to engage in dialogue no media attention necessary and we’ve held a panel discussion the issue, also not well reported in the media to educate and hear differing perspectives. Pray In protests are used as a means of last resort or in the case of one masjid after the invitation of the Imam to pray behind the men.

        I have been deeply involved with a number of masajid for years and still not had any voice or a receptive ear to simple inquiries and requests like can we not have the exit doors locked and chained shut in clear violation of fire codes. Even a request like this was met with hostility. Are these the clear progressive goals and leadership you are talking about? That my life not put in danger simply for being a woman that desires to pray in the masjid? The word “progressive” is simple a red herring, it has no real meaning, and is only used mostly as an insult to refer to a couple of our higher-profile members. There are also those so-called good and idealized women and men who fit into conservative definitions of, oh what is the preferred term, orthodox, sunni, traditional or whatever who attend the preferred institutes, have the preferred aqeedah, listen to the preferred speakers, and read and agree with many of the preferred opinions, books, and websites.

        I don’t think the brothers are all palling around with the imam and it wouldn’t matter to me if they were, yet I’m pretty sure if I had any visual at all to the imam I would be able to at least recognize him. I can’t tell you the number of masajid I’ve been to, attending regularly for years and had no idea what the imam looked like because in classes, lectures, and for salah there were simply no visuals and this is the guy people tell me should be my wali and will look out for my interests better than my own father when he doesn’t even know me and I don’t him.

        And please do tell me, what is a “member” of mosque, what is “regular attendance” for women who are so often reminded that we should prefer to only pray in our homes and that our attendance is predicated on fulfilling the ideas others have for us?

        • AsimG

          June 8, 2010 at 2:51 AM

          A “member” is someone who has a vested long-term interest in the masjid and has devoted time and/or money to back that interest and knows a few people in the community and gained their trust.

          At an active masjid there are plenty of social and Islamic events to volunteer or take part in with usually a few aunties (the Imam’s wife, Ameer’s wife, super active Muslimah, etc) at the head who recognize other “member” sisters of the community.

          Their opinions naturally have more weight as they have seen more and done more for the masjid.

        • Abdul-Malik Ryan

          June 8, 2010 at 7:32 PM


          It is simply not true that I only know the media spin about this issue. I have read your articles as well as email discussions you have had with others about these issues. Actually, the it is rather silly that you refer to “media spin” as if it is against you since the mainstream coverage of these issues has all been engineered by and in some cases written by members of the movement.

          I know that you, Fatima Thompson, and Asra Nomani are not regular attending and contributing members to the 2 communities at which you have held your pray ins. My suggestion was that you should have had the protests in the communities in which you are regular contributing members of the community and that if such a protest needs to be held at Dar ul Hijrah it should be conceived, led and organized by sisters active in the community. I am not saying they would automatically get everything they want, but they would get a different reaction.

          The word “progressive” does have a meaning. If you don’t know what it means I could explain it to you. Or you can read from Shaykh Yasir’s writings on the subject. Or you could ask Fatima Thompson or Asra Nomani since both have written about the movement and both obviously embrace it. I find it odd that you ridicule the idea that there is an orthodox Islam since communicating the perspective of orthodox Muslims is part of the central mission of this website. I am not saying you have to agree with everyone on the website since obviously encouraging political involvement is another aspect of most of the writers for this site and I have not hesitated to express my problems and disagreements with that.

          The only place I have any influence over is the musallah at the college where I serve as chaplain. There is no purdah or barrier there and it is a relatively small space. I understand the arguments on both sides regarding barriers. But having chose to not have one, do you think I have a lot of respect for someone who shows up one day and is not a regular contributor to the community and demands that there should be a barrier. InshAllah I hope to treat anyone who comes to me with nasiha with respect but I give the advice of someone like just about zero weight.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 11:23 AM

            Simply not true Abu Noor, we have not “engineered all of the mainstream coverage” at all.

            I used to be a regular attending and contributing member at DAH for years. And at DAH, we were invited to pray-in by the Imam who attended one of our panel discussions on these issues. So we took him up on his offer, you don’t have to be a regular member to pray in a mosque nor to respond to an invitation, we were not trying to change it. In the communities that we frequent most often we are in discussions with people there and even communities that we do not frequent have reached out to us recently, in large part due to raised profile in the media. Of course, long-lasting and organic change generally is most effective from within but I believe there is a role to play from without as well just like in cases appealed to and decided by a higher court of appeals.

            I’m not ridiculing the idea of an orthodox expression of Islam, yet orthodoxy means different things to different people and there is a spectrum of orthodoxy as there is of any movement or group including progressivism. Who is to say who is orthodox, it’s largely a subjective measure. Do you intend to say you are more orthodox than I am?

          • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

            June 9, 2010 at 4:17 PM

            Perhaps you are understanding the term “engineered” differently than I am using it. The mainstream media coverage has not come from masajid or others opposed to the movement, it has come as a result of protest actions designed to draw media attention. Some of the mainstream coverage has been written by people like Asra Nomani, who seem to consider themselves both participants in the movement and journalists covering the movement. I think (correct me if I am wrong) that you have made similar comments where some events you are there as a participant and sometimes as a journalist.

            I have never questioned whether anyone should be able to pray at any masjid. You have mentioned several times that the event at DAH was in response to an invitation. I have never heard of responding to an invitation and then deciding that you don’t like where you are asked to sit/pray and deciding that extra conditions can’t be added to the invitation (?) If you were simply responding to the imams invitation then you should have prayed where he suggested, if you wanted to protest for the right to pray somewhere where he asked that you not, then don’t keep claiming that you were only responding to an invitation.

            There is a difference between progressive and orthodox understandings of Islam. Sure people can differ about what exactly those terms mean, but that in no way means that the terms have no meaning. It is quite odd that you reject the application of the term progressive to those like Fatima Thompson and Asra Nomani, who not only clear fit the term if one examines their approach to Islamic issues, but who both actually embrace the term themselves.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 12, 2010 at 7:57 AM

            Salaam Abu Noor,

            Yes, I have been in dual roles, as a participant and as an observer.

            If you invited me to your masjid indicating that I could pray behind the men, and then started adding previous unmentioned stipulations, which would end up by forcing me into a darkened corner, I’d probably have an issue with that for a number of reasons.

            The words progressive and orthodox have meanings, yet they are also rather fluid. It’s not that I reject the terms applied to certain individuals if they themselves have embraced the term. Yet, I know Fatima’s approach to Islam pretty well and she’s rather orthodox in most issues. My issue is that these words are often thrown out lazily (not in your case) and hence lose all meaning. A number of people have called Pray In progressive almost in terms of orthodoxy being regressive or as though an orthodox person would not support Pray In. Mombeam (mentioned on my blog) and I both believe that our support for women’s inclusion including the ability to pray without a barrier stems directly from our orthodoxy whereas others will say it stems from a progressive tendency. That is what I was trying to convey.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 10:17 PM

      Salaam alaykum Middle Ground,

      Sad to say but I’ve heard similar things from the minbar such a cognitive dissonance and spiritual violence.

  22. abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    June 7, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    Alhamdolillah, because I agree with so much of what was written in the comments, especially with Amad and Siraaj, I will confine my comments to the part of the article that was a response to an earlier criticism I made elsewhere.

    I do believe that if “Pray In” believes strongly that it has a better way to run a masjid than the communities that have been running their own masajid for the past few decades, then it would be better for it to open their own masjid than to continue its current tactics.

    Every one of us who has read the Qur’an or read its interpretation in other languages, and every person who has studied the seerah of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam in Madinah has heard or knows the story of the “masjid” of the munaafiqeen, the masjid built as a haven for hypocrisy by hypocrites, the masjid that the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam destroyed because of the reason it was founded. It is equally true and evident that Muslim communities all over the US (and perhaps all over the world) have faced strong and even heated divisions over the running of masajid, sometimes over partitions in the masjid, sometimes over whether to support Tablighi Jamat, sometimes over mawlid, sometimes over opening hifdh schools, and sometimes over truly trivial administrative and personality issues.

    Sometimes those differences in a locality or in a single masjid become so irreconcilable that a new masjid is opened by the dissenters. Alhamdolillah alaa kulli haal. It is why some say that ISB is the parent community of DAT, DAS, and a host of other masajid across MD (Maryland). It is why ISGH is the biggest Muslim organization in Houston, but there are so many other strong jamat there, too. Muhammad Alshareef alluded to the “benefit” that Allah decrees despite the divisions because where one musallah enjoyed 200 people regularly, now 2 musallah may enjoy 400 people regularly (his numbers were different than, but this is just an illustration). Houston has some 100 masajid now, and it is a barakat for the city, truly.

    It would be both dangerous and intellectually irresponsible to suggest, as the article’s author does, that all new masajid are like the one the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam destroyed.

    That is in part because we do not see into the hearts of the people who found our masajid. Because none of us here is qualified to do takfir of them, and none of us should even want that authority because it should be terrifying to want to pass judgment on the soul of anyone else when we all need the Mercy of Allah for ourselves.

    And opening masajid is a relatively peaceful means of testing the administrative concerns of Pray In. Ultimately they are concerned with how masajid are run, aren’t they? So let them put their theories, their interpretation of sunnah, to the real test. Let them put their money where their mouths and protest signs are, and let them demonstrate how much better a masjid would be under their administrative procedures. How much more utopian. How much closer to the sunnah. At least according to them. And if the people who found that masjid are righteous and if the people who flock to it are righteous, Allah will give them barakat in this life and in the next, just as He has done for communities all over the US already. (The same communities that Pray In vilifies.)

    So I say again to Pray In, open a masjid. The hadith of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam is “man banaa lillahi masjidan, banAllaho lahu baytan fil Jannat” (and may Allah forgive me any error in my memory) — “whoever builds for Allah a masjid, Allah will build for them a house in jannat.” So seek that house.

    If instead Pray In had or demonstrated a degree of sabr, if they had the least patience, I would counsel them instead to organize meetings with the women of those communities in which they protest and ask about conditions there.

    But in their demonstrations this group’s members have been more interested in dictating than listening. If they met with the women of the masajid, the women who regularly attend those masajid, they would more than likely try to shout them down, or cudgel them with the same kind of harsh generalizations, the same confrontational rhetoric that permeates the article above.

    My wife was at a masjid attending a sister’s halaqa there, a regular halaqa in which the sisters alone have access to the shaykh of the masjid. She goes there on her own, alhamdolillah, and has been doing so since before we married. The sisters were in halaqa when the Pray In group staged its publicity attack on Dar al Hijrah. The woman of her masjid discussed the attack and how they would respond. They were opposed to the tactics and would not welcome such tactics in their own masjid.

    Why poison your own agenda if your intentions are sincere? Why use hateful tactics that by their very use turn away the very women you hope to help and the men who are literally the other half of the community in which you say you want to live? If you cannot work for peaceful change, then open your own masjid. Prove all your critics wrong.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 10:45 PM

      Tariq, you’ve clearly not done your research so let me give you one example of a demonstration of sabr sufficient to refute much of what you have said. I’ve been in a community for nearly 8 years and it was after 7 years of volunteering, regularly attending salah and classes and meeting the right people in the know that I worked up the courage because it does take courage to speak up for what is right in the face of as Dr. Mattson put it “mindless complacency” and hostility to ask not demand for an explanation or reasoning why a certain fire hazard was allowed to persist, which from day one I knew was not only illegal, a serious fire code violation, and dangerous, the responses I was met with by those in charge was not encouraging to say the least and it took almost one whole year to finally get a straight answer that the practice has now since ceased. But according to your build your own masjid argument, do you think I should have allowed it to persist, not engaged, not questioned, not advocated, and perhaps allowed in the case of an emergency for women and children to burn to death, die of smoke inhalation, or perhaps be crushed to death?

      • AsimG

        June 8, 2010 at 1:04 AM

        A little over-dramatic. How many masaajid in the world even have a single fire exit?

        Yes, the practice was bad and it should have been changed earlier (although I don’t see how something like this escaped “all” available communication channels) , but using outrageous emotional appeals (over and over and over) of children being crushed or burned to death will only enforce the most-hated stereotype of women as being too emotional and place the “Pray-In” group as an extreme Nomani organization more insistent on attention and infamy rather than actual change.

        You have to be able to temper your responses and be academic in your approach if you want change. It’s not enough to “start a conversation” and this is now the 4-5 article on this blog and it seems the responses are becoming more negative from people representing different segments of the Muslim population.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 5:55 PM

          AsimG, not at all over-dramatic, alhamdulillah there was no fire here but have we forgotten about our sisters burned to death in their school, locked in from the inside? Asra Nomani participates in Pray In, it doesn’t make it a” Nomani organization” anymore than you commenting on MM or attending AlMaghrib classes makes those AsimG organizations. The hyperbole seems to be a two-way street, don’t you think?

          • AsimG

            June 10, 2010 at 4:06 PM

            Asra Nomani in Pray-in is not equivalent to me as a no-name and unknown Al Maghrib student amongst the tens of thousands.

            She has written articles advocating for you in mainstream media and her name has become synonymous with your organization. And rather than anyone in your group making it clear that she holds no official capacity or that there is no affiliation with her, she has been wholly embraced while Fatima seems to have made statements that follow “progressive Islam” (Or Nomani-Islam if definitions are necessary).

            Let’s be clear, Nomani is not fighting to “follow the sunnah” or any of these other one-liners that Pray-in is employing to oversimplify the issue.

            No matter how inclusive and tolerant your organization is, if proggies are major players in your organization and questionable methods are continually being used then you do not have my support, you will not get the support of many non-progressives and you will continue to find masjid administrations hostile to your group.

            Sorry for being so blunt, but so many people are saying the same thing in different ways (300+ comments plus hundreds more on previous articles) and your responses are almost always defensive or dismissive (i.e. Siraaj gave you many positive ideas for your organization and the one you spoke of to dismiss his entire post was fundraising.).

            No organization can ever survive if it cannot take off its defensive gloves, listen to some constructive criticism and make the necessary changes for success.

            As I’ve said before, I think proper access and facilities for the sisters in the masjid is a noble cause and the “idea” of your organization is awesome and insha’Allah the organization will free itself from proggie-shackles that keep you in the court-room fighting Muslims rather than in the masjid building up the community and changing hearts.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 12, 2010 at 7:27 AM

            Salaam alaykum AsimG,

            Fatima addressed this issue here in the comments, which one could be forgiven for missing, and I’ve addressed it elsewhere. Pray In is a volunteer org and so those willing to volunteer do so, we don’t shun them or give them litmus test questions before they are allowed to participate. We share our vision so that each individual can decide whether to sign on or not or in which capacity he or she would like to assist.

            Clearly, you have not read all of my responses, on quite a few that offered constructive criticism I accepted it or indicated it was food for further thought. I remember Siraaj suggested 1. to instruct women to conform to some notion of “proper hijab” and 2. to fundraise. And I explained my views on both. Simply not liking or agreeing with my responses does not make them necessarily defensive at all.

      • abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

        June 8, 2010 at 4:51 PM

        Honestly, Sister Ify, while I respect the enormous amount of time you have spent just in replying to comments on your article, I am at a loss to understand how your response to my one comment here is anything more than tangential at best.

        If you mean that my post does not demonstrate knowledge of the experiences that shaped your views, I think you have only torn out the heart of your own article: document for us please what you have done to research the experiences that shaped the individual masajid attacked by Pray In publicity stunts? The experiences of the founders of those masajid, of the early days of those masajid, of the men and of the women in those masajid, etc.

        I find it hard to imagine that you mean to imply that the experience you cited in your reply, of one instance of a fire code violation is enough to legitimize every publicity attack by Pray In. That would be beyond the pale, sister.

        Indeed, fire codes and other municipal codes should be complied with by every masjid, bi’idhnillah, or variances sought when the codes have been promulgated or enforced with the intent of harming a masjid or group of Muslims. I myself know of masajid in many cities that face threats from fire marshals just because some brothers and sisters (and children, and their parents) refuse to put shoes on shoe racks. The charge is that the doors might jam if a fire broke out during salat. The concerns are legitimate or not depending on individual circumstances, but that is only one example.

        Another example, a masjid that Pray In despicably attacked with a publicity stunt, Dar ul Hijrah has had decades of problems with its neighbors. I remember from the mid-1990’s when parking when restricted to deter Muslims from parking in front of homes and even in driveways of masjid neighbors. And I know first hand examples from greater Los Angeles, too.

        But in most of these cases, when a person looks closely one notices a few facts about the sources of problems. In Dar al Hijrah, there are (or at least were in the 1990s) so many Muslims who have diplomatic plates who cared not a whit about parking laws, etc. And in the LA example that comes to mind, the worse offenders were regular attendees at Friday who were certain that leaving their cars for a “few minutes” in front of neighbors could not be a problem. All those people were wrong, of course, but they all took a casual attitude towards their obligations as Muslims (1) to protect the masjid as a house of Allah, and its reputation, and (2) to be good neighbors to those around the masjid.

        I do not think Pray In satisfies either of those obligations. Undermining the masajid with publicity attacks and giving the masjid’s neighbors more reasons to dislike it are not deeds I would want in my book.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 6:09 PM

          If people are willing to read and comment about my writing, I feel I should at least return the favor and engage them in the comments. I mean that’s what blogs are for, aren’t they? And besides, there have been some amazing gems and I learn so much from the criticism and praise and from the stories and experiences of others.

          Br. Tariq, I don’t subscribe at all to your “build your own masjid” argument, I don’t think it has any solid basis from the sunnah nor as a practical means to resolve issues, it sows more division and weakens the ummah, dividing our resources. But to each his own.

          I do not agree with your characterization of pray-ins as attacks although I do know I was physically assaulted at both the Islamic Center and Dar al-Hijrah.

          The example of the fire code hazard was given as a refutation to those who say we are “demanding immediate change” are working “from outside the community” or that we “lack sabr.”

          As for the DAH example, the Imam attended one of panel discussion (which belies the claim that we are only seeking publicity, we seek real and meaningful discussion, education, and dialogue) and publicly on video stated that he allows women to pray behind the men at his mosque. He was informed that we intended to take him up on his offer and his response was encouraging until the day we actually showed up and then previously unheard stipulations and qualifications and equivocations began to be added last-minute. We were not trying to change DAH but rather responding to an invitation by one of their Imams.

          At the Islamic Center and at various other masajid, our first recourse is always to seek dialogue and engagement, it is only when met when complete rejection and hostility and an unwillingness to even acknowledge the desire for dialogue that official pray-ins have been held.

          Why so concerned about the neighbors, are we not also even more concerned about our fellow Muslims within the fold of Islam attending the masajid? I’d be more concerned with taking care of my own family before worrying about keeping up with the Joneses or what the neighbors might think. Are we concerned about what impression of Islam is conveyed by substandard and dangerous conditions or penalty boxes? Are we worried that our neighbors will not believe all of our favorite dawah slogans when they see the reality in our communities, which belie the values we claim to uphold?

          • abuabdAllah Tariq Ahmed

            June 9, 2010 at 1:35 PM

            Jazak Allah khayr sister Ify for giving details about the Pray In encounters with Dar al Hijrah.

            One of my earliest complaints with your article was that it gave few (or no) facts about any incident but instead used generalizations to attack all Muslims who disagree with you. Only when you allege specific facts do your complaints come off as less than unfair.

            As for the veracity and fairness of the picture you paint at Dar al Hijrah, the fact is that your perspective of those who disagree with you is so negative, so defensive, and so caustic that I cannot take your characterizations at face value.

            For example, look at how unfairly you interpret what I wrote:

            Why so concerned about the neighbors… I’d be more concerned with taking care of my own family before worrying about keeping up with the Joneses or what the neighbors might think.

            SubhanAllah. Sister, all of my responses have been for the benefit of protecting masajid and Muslims — it is a contemptible rhetorical device you use to suggest otherwise.

            On the other hand, your actions demonstrate you are willing to see the masajid and Muslims with whom you wish to “dialogue” destroyed in the media and vilified publicly by anyone who wants to put down Muslims. It is an acceptable risk to you because those masajid and Muslims dare to run their own affairs without bowing to your demands. (Again, instead of attacking them, use peaceful dialogue, and if you have no sabr to put up with them, then open your own masjid — it will be less harmful than your current tactics.)

            Why do masajid, especially the ones I referred to, need good relations with their neighbors? First, because Allah requires it. Second, because these particular neighbors have fought the masajid once relations soured: fighting the masjid in Greater LA even before construction was completed so that the masjid had to change its construction plans. Fighting Dar al Hijrah with restrictive parking ordinances that made life much more difficult for those seeking to pray there. Calling police to complain about noise and parking at a masjid in Houston, to the point that plans to expand the masjid or increase its facilities were jeopardized.

            And your attacks on these masajid and communities do exactly the same kind of harm as every man or woman who parks his car illegally and then walks into the masjid to pray with khushoo. Like that irresponsible person, you are too confident in your reasons — you should be bothered by the impact of your methods even more than the person who parked illegally because you deliberately employ mass media to attack the masjid, so the harm is much more widespread and longlasting.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 4:42 PM

            Tariq, I believe your arguments are mistaken and full of mischaracterizations and misrepresentations, which is your right. One reason, I have not revealed all the details of the incident at DAH was simply because the case is still pending, we have a court date set, and then afterward I’ll most likely write about the incident in full, insha’Allah

  23. Farhan

    June 7, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    On a side note, I just went for an interview and on the way back stopped by Dar al-Hijrah. I recognized the picture from the front :-)

  24. Maryam

    June 7, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Mombeam related my beliefs and I agree with you 100%. I do it find it quite silly and hypocritical how some of our Muslim brothers are conditioning the sisters to dress properly and be of the caliber of the mother of the believers (Aisha RA) in order to have access to the masjid. I don’t think anyone of you who hold these believes are near the caliber of the male companions like Ali or Umar RA and expecting sisters to be is very hypocritical not to mention many of you living in the West work and interact with Non-Muslim women on a daily basis, so kindly put that ignorant belief to rest. And further how exactly pushing sisters away particularly the impressionable minds of young sisters who will be the future leaders and mothers of future leaders of our ummah away from the masjid or keeping them in a box behind a barrier as is reality across many masjids in the US effective? Its dangerous and destructive and something must be done to an end of this.

    • Siraaj

      June 7, 2010 at 5:41 PM

      You may be conflating discussions – an argument for the barrier (not outright prevention) is that women attending the masjid no longer dress correctly. While it is true that men have to lower their gaze, it is also incumbent upon the women to dress properly and not make a display of themselves, otherwise the complementary nature of men lowering their gaze and women dressing modestly is broken.

      My personal philosophy is before you tell others to fix themselves, you fix yourself first. You can’t complain about a barrier and yet not acknowledge the problem caused by improperly dressed women. It is en vogue for Western Muslim speakers and da’ees to rail against brothers, and this is simply overcompensating for the constant media attack against Muslims on women’s issues.

      We need neither eastern chauvinists nor western feminists (or vice versa), be they male or female – what we need are balanced pragmatists who are willing to acknowledge the manner in which Allah has created the male and the female and separate out the religious issues for what they are, the competence issues for what they are, the cultural (both eastern and western) issues for what they are, and logistical / resource constraint issues for what they are, and seek to reconcile them into win-win situations.

      Would the sisters in charge of the Pray In movement be willing to conduct fundraisers to build extensions and better amenities for masjid boards allowing them to do so? Would they be willing to tell sisters that in order for them to pray as the women did in Prophet’s masjid, they should also dress as the women did in the Prophet’s masjid, and leave once the prayer concludes as the women did in the Prophet’s masjid? And if not, would anyone be interested in spearheading such a movement? I think if these types of proposals (win-win for both parties) are made, then more progress can be made.


      • Ify Okoye

        June 7, 2010 at 10:52 PM

        Siraaj, you’ve come up with ideas, so you lead it. It’s common from Muslim speakers in the West and East, North and South and the common folk to rail against the sisters as well, I’m sure you’re all for equal opportunity, no? I’ve heard much more talk addressed to and/or about sisters than I have about men.

        • AsimG

          June 8, 2010 at 1:21 AM

          Sister, this is your passion and your cause and Siraaj gave you some great ideas to bring your organization mainstream, show relevancy to the Muslim communities and help your organization achieve its goals.

          You can do a bit better than a flippant response that basically says “then you do it”, which you have consistently used whenever someone has questioned your methods.

          He has his passions/causes that he is busy with and you have yours (plus I don’t think Siraaj lecturing women on how to dress/act in the masjid will go that well). So insha’Allah why not take these ideas to your organization and see what ya’ll can do?

          “Will you step up or are you all talk [blogs, interviews and protests] and no action?”

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 6:19 PM

            AsimG, I also have a full plate and one of the best leadership lessons I’ve learned from my various experiences in positions of leadership or by working within groups is that if someone takes the time to come up with an idea, which they then suggest to others, if they themselves are not willing to take leadership on it and to see it through that it will mostly likely die just as quickly as it took them to say it or type it down. So if you suggest it, you must be willing to do it. I’ve answered part of Siraaj’s points in another comment. So if Siraaj thinks fundraisers are a good idea, let him do it, I have a strong aversion to fundraising and don’t think I’m any good at it. And also for most of the masajid, it costs more money to put up these elaborate or hastily arranged partitions then it would to not have them. Many can be easily taken down with a little energy expenditure at no cost.

          • Siraaj

            June 8, 2010 at 9:18 PM

            Not sure if you’re referencing what I said in the AlMaghrib Chieftains list a while back, but if you are, keep in mind that that advice has context – it was made to people who were suggesting too many actions on top of the main responsibilities the HQ was already carrying. The same thing happened to me when I was Ameer, and my suggestion to my team was the same because while I liked the ideas, I couldn’t do it all. Please also keep in mind that we were all like-minded in our aim and goals as part of the organization.

            The Pray In organization has a stated goal, and it has members who share a common vision (albeit with different endgames in mind). What is being suggested is that your core work appears to be inflammatory and not conducive to bringing about the resolution it claims to desire, and that perhaps the method you’re using should be dropped, and more constructive methods can be taken.

            My suggestions were not about the specific suggestions themselves – they were geared towards getting you to ask the question, how can we address the issues the board has and the issues that we have so that we have win-win solutions? If you don’t have time for more than what you’re doing, I would suggest to you that your group is currently wasting its collective time and could drop the actions it is currently undertaking in favor of a more pragmatic approach – I think that would be a better use of time for all involved.


          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 11:34 AM

            Siraaj: Can’t say that I recall your advice on the Chieftains’ list as I was referring directly to comments here on this post.

            I would say our core work is through direct dialogue and engagement within our communities, currently we are talking to about 4 masajid in the area, some of which approached us first, have you heard about it, probably not. We had a panel discussion in April on these issues, did you hear about it, probably not? What most of our critics are quibbling over are two pray-ins, one responding to the invitation of the Imam, and the other because the masjid refuses any engagement at all.

        • Naureen

          June 8, 2010 at 2:58 AM

          I thought u guys were the ones spearheading this organization and you all want support/ideas. So when good ideas are given, why do you turn it around to the other person and say ‘you do it’?

          No one can spearhead every single cause in teh world. Everyone has their own thing they are doing. You are doing this alhamdulillah and we are simply trying to give you ideas.

        • Siraaj

          June 8, 2010 at 6:13 AM

          Jzk AsimG and Naureen for taking the words right out of my keyboard :)

          Ify, the purpose of my comments is to provide feedback as well as give you points to consider, points you will have to address – where do you as well as Pray In stand on advocating the full spectrum of etiquette required of women in the masjid?

          If all you or the group wants is to tear down the wall without asking why it’s up, you may be missing the point.


          • Yus from the Nati

            June 8, 2010 at 11:13 AM

            I think that’s the fundamental issue in dealing with barrier/no barrier…

            Finding the ‘illah/sabab (reason/cause) for it’s existence in 2010 in America, then seeing if it’s still applicable/reasonable weighing out the good and bad of it.

            That is what should be discussed and moved on from there.

            The methods have already been challenged now and is a separate entity in of itself.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 6:20 PM

            Siraaj, answered somewhere up above and also in response to AsimG.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 10:49 PM

      I hear you Maryam, let’s all be the sahaba, right. But what is really meant as I mentioned in my post is that those telling us to enjoy second-class accommodation or come dressed a certain way would not accept for themselves similar accommodation nor to be told how to dress.

      Everyone is on a journey and in different places in their Islam, I know I’ve journeyed along this path, and had the standard been the “idealized” one in order to gain entry in the masjid, many men and women would fail before getting through the door. I’ve never understood why people want to actively turn anyone especially sisters away from the house of Allah.

      • AsimG

        June 8, 2010 at 3:11 AM

        Brothers are told to dress appropriately when coming to the Masjid and if they come in wearing shorts or low rider jeans that have nothing covering up that lowness, they will get similar responses from the people. And unfortunately, as time goes by, men’s inappropriate clothing will become a much bigger issue.

        Maybe there is an overt obsession with women’s dress amongst Muslims, but in the outside world there is also an obsession with how women look and dress.

        How many men’s fashion magazines vs women? How many ways can a woman show her ‘awrah (and I’m speaking of the most liberal view of ‘awrah) compared to the ways of a man?
        And the levels of attraction from men have been spoken about ad nauseum on here.

        And I’m really trying to understand your stance and what your group actually wants beyond these written for media talking points. You don’t want barriers but then you don’t want sisters who are inappropriately dressed to be “turned away”?

        (With a barrier they can wear whatever they want and everyone is safe.)

        Explain how you will achieve the Islamic balance besides just repeating lower your gaze (which is only one part of the ayah)?

        And to switch your angle, do you know how many brothers have corrupted their Islam or even left it because of a girl? How many brothers have lost control and fallen into zina or lesser sins?

        Can we not even be safe from such a prevalent fitna inside the House of Allah?

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 6:37 PM

          AsimG: I’ll post these points for the third time here in the comments:

          Macro Goal: A return to the example “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam where women are truly valued, included, and full participating members in our communities.

          Micro Goal: Equitable prayer space with the arrangement “closest to the sunnah” of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and doing away with forcing women into marginalized places and spaces. If women choose their own marginalization or what they perceive as preferable so be it.

          And for your other points, I responded to similar comments about being the masjid bouncer or clothing police in a comment to Siraaj:

          Although, I don’t know about this masjid bouncer position, Siraaj. Our obligations and sunnahs are important but as many of us here agree, it requires hikmah. For me, the issue is complicated because I know I’ve seen good brothers and sisters that were seeking to come closer to Allah be turned away from their communities over relatively “minor” issues like that of dress and some of them left Islam. And when I first converted, my conception or implementation of what I considered for myself to be “proper hijab” or the best I could do is not the same as my conception or implementation today.

          People are on journeys of submission in this life. Just as Allah revealed the verses of hijab and alcohol after the hearts were fortified, I too do not believe in beating people over the head about their dress before even getting to know them. I’ve seen many sisters take on full hijab and niqab and abayah and fall out of Islam. So of what use was the clothing when there no firm iman in the heart. I don’t mind telling people what I have learned and consider to be proper dress for men or women but I’m not sure I buy the argument that that is essentially tied to ability to come to, have adequate and decent space, and participation in the masjid.

          • Abdul-Malik Ryan

            June 8, 2010 at 7:41 PM

            Actually I also think the issue about whether the women or men coming to the mosque are covered properly is a red herring to this discussion. Of course people of either gender should dress appropriately at all times and especially when they come to the masjid but it seems to me that if women are in the sight lines of men they will be distracting, whether they are covered appropriately or not. And of course men should try not to look to the women, but we should help make that easier if we can inshAllah.

            I remember Shaykh Yaser in Fiqh of Salah talking about a masjid where there were great big windows directly in the front with a beautiful view that would be naturally distracting to the musalleen and how this was obviously a bad idea.

  25. Maryam

    June 7, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    I do like to further add i have yet to see a Muslim sister dressed improperly when attending the masjid, sure the younger sisters wear long shirts and jeans and to find out some men find it this bothersome and this somehow gets in the way of their deen or observing their salah really is an eye opener and laughable, get over youselves! or better yet work on yourself because that reveals deeper problems.

  26. Naseebah

    June 7, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    There were some questions in previous comments about whether the sisters were bringing in outside protestors, and if they had surveyed/involved the women who regularly went to the masajid where they protested.

    In DC they bussed in about 30 outside protestors. In a Washington Post article about the DAH protest, it states the women secretly taperecorded many discussions with masjid-going women (who were in total ignorance of the protestors’ intent) about what they thought of the barrier. A writing by one of the protestors about the DAH protest speaks mockingly about a niqabi lady who tried to reconcile the situation.

    Please check out their facebook page – go to facebook and search under “Stand In” — group’s previous name. It is very enlightening.

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 10:56 PM

      Naseebah, I respect you even if I disagree with but please refrain from spreading untruths and misinformation, you’re better than that I know. Perhaps, you’ve seen the recent and most odious opposition group that also sprang up on Facebook?

      In DC, a group was visiting from the Hagerstown masjid and they joined of their own accord the pray-in. Only one person (singular not plural as you’ve stated) recorded some discussions she had with women not for public consumption but simply to gauge honest feedback.

      If you wish to be enlightened, please do so honestly, if you want my phone number or email or to meet up somewhere we can and have an honest conversation to clear up any misconceptions. Thank you.

      • Naseebah

        June 8, 2010 at 8:56 AM

        Don’t accuse me of lying or dishonesty.

        1. You are right that apparently only one person was quoted as having secretly recorded women in the masjid. And she happens to be your group’s leader. You are in this together. And it was indeed for public consumption:

        “[Fatima] Thompson said she went on a mission in February to “probe” Dar al-Hijrah as a protest target. She had a hidden digital recorder and asked women there about their views on being segregated to a balcony. She said she did not tell them that she was recording their comments.
        “They pretty much were like: ‘This is the way it is. We’ll keep going with it,’ ” Thompson said. She talked to about a dozen women. Some were “actively” pro-segregation, Thompson said. “None of them said it should change,” she said. But the group thinks such women have been brainwashed to some degree to accept a subservient or inferior position.

        2. Your group does get outside protesters.

        “Defiantly, they continued to pray behind a row of men at the front of the mosque, when their numbers unexpectedly quadrupled. A tour group of about 100 Muslims, including about 30 women, from Hagerstown, Maryland, had hurriedly entered after the prayer had already began, unsuspectingly joining the protesters.”

        3. Do you disagree that your group is actively targeting masajid for protest, that your group’s leader secretly records women in the masjid and discusses this with the media, that your group is organizing men and women from outside the masajid to join your protests? Did I get that wrong?

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 6:49 PM

          1.I’m not accusing you of lying but I know from your words here that you’ve gotten some bad information.

          2. Fatima’s actions on that day had nothing to do with Pray In, she acted independently, and without consultation of any of the other members. When I found out and asked her about it, she offered a rather lengthy explanation but that does not mean she had the approval or consent of other pray in members so hold yourself to the same standard and don’t make false accusations towards me.

          3. We did and do not bus in anyone as you previously stated, the group from Hagerstown was visiting the masjid of their own accord for what I believe was a tour. Purely coincidence that it happened to be at the same time as the pray-in.

          4. Do you disagree that your group is actively targeting masajid for protest, that your group’s leader secretly records women in the masjid and discusses this with the media, that your group is organizing men and women from outside the masajid to join your protests? Did I get that wrong?.

          You’ve gotten quite a bit wrong, even though I cannot assume anything other than the best intentions from you, which I’ve addressed above. I would say a more accurate characterization is that we are actively working and engaging with several masajid, which some of our group members frequent, to discuss issues surrounding prayer space and women’s inclusion in the community and sincerely and honestly hope that further pray-ins will not be needed. We also seek to engage in dialogue and conversation before any protest.

          • Naseebah

            June 9, 2010 at 2:43 PM

            Jazaki Allahu khair for presenting your views. At the same time, you are identifying yourself with this group.

            Thompson’s actions now reflect upon your own. In the article quoted, in the same paragraph discussing her actions of secretly taperecording the women, it clearly states, “But the group thinks such women have been brainwashed to some degree to accept a subservient or inferior position.”

            It seems clear from the article that this action was endorsed, discussed with the group, and you all (or members of the group) came to the conclusion that the sisters were being brainwashed. If this was not the case, as you seem to be saying now if I understand you correctly, then why not send a clarification to the newspaper?

            Why not correct this misinformation at its source, instead of insinuating it is my fault or my spreading misunderstandings for not understanding.

            What is still more puzzling, you have not yet said clearly that Thompson’s tactic was wrong. Do you think it was right or wrong? You have every opportunity to criticize the action of spying on and taperecording one’s own sisters in the masjid, and yet you have not of your own accord publicly distanced yourself from this tactic in your various writings on the subject.

            This tactic was prominently highlighted within a Washington Post article on an action with which you have become inextricably linked.

            Indeed, despite the Post article, you continue to say that all the tactics taken are from qur’an and sunnah. When, clearly, secretly taperecording one’s sisters conversations in the masjid without telling them, and disclosing the content of their talk to the press is not from the qur’an and sunnah.

            Where are the tapes, by the way? Have the sisters who were secretly recorded gotten a chance to get those tapes back? You seem to know a lot about Fatima Thompson’s motives and methods for taping – who did she show the tapes to? Was it videotape or just audio? I think the offended women deserve to know and get the tapes back.

            If you are going to stand with this group so publicly, then you cannot cherry-pick your involvement.

            Similarly, once you go to the media, you no longer control the message. If the way in which the media reported the Hagerstown group suggests that they were bused in to the unsuspecting masjid — then do not blame the readers. Either make a clarification in the media, or accept your message will be understood many different ways, and not necessarily the way it was, or even the way it was in your mind. Which is part of the reason so many brothers and sisters are suggesting you not go to the media.

            Part of the reason of distancing yourself from a leadership that will admit to the media to taping a dozen women in the masjid without their consent months in advance of a targeted action against the masjid — well I think it should be clear by now.

            I maintain my respect for your feelings and thoughts on many of the issues as a whole, but some of the tactics of the group with which you are identified I cannot fathom or endorse. Unless the good of this topic is extracted from the bad of the methods, I cannot lend my support.

            “Whoever intercedes for a good cause will have a reward therefrom; and whoever intercedes for an evil cause will have a burden therefrom. And ever is Allah , over all things, a Keeper.” (4:85)

            You have every opportunity, and I invite you, to publicly distance yourself – in as widely circulated a way as you have endorsed them – from certain tactics taken by leadership and others in your group. You can back down from some things; and this while not mean you are giving up on your beliefs about prayer space for women.

            We are all the fuqara, and Allah is Al Ghani. I am in need of Allah’s forgiveness more than anyone. I ask Allah for the best for you and the other sisters in this world and the next, and I ask you to forgive me for any mistakes or offense I have caused you or anyone else. May Allah guide us.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 9, 2010 at 4:57 PM

            Wa iyyaki. I am indeed associated with Pray In, the words of one member of a journalist do make those words or opinions necessarily my own. We’ve attended and associated with various functions together, which does not make the views of everyone associated with them mine or your and we may not even fully share the views of the organization hosting the event.

            It’s strange to make assumptions based on one line in the newspaper, we never discussed taperecording nor did we all agree on it. See how one’s perceptions don’t necessarily reflect reality at all? I do my best to correct the misrepresentations and mischaracterizations here on MM and my blog and through other media but honestly I can’t correct every single thing written about me everywhere. These are anti Pray In facebook group that is backbiting and spreading lies but I’m not on there refuting everything they say, I hear some other online forums or blogs have taken up some attacks or even on the Muslim Link’s website, simply not feasible for me to try to respond to everything, it’s hard enough and extremely time-consuming trying to keep up with the comments here let alone everywhere. So I do what I can, writing here and on my blog and on Facebook and through emails and by talking to individuals in person, etc.

            I would not record a private conversation unless I first informed the other party and had the issue been raised I would have expressed by disagreement with that methodology. I have no knowledge of the taping other than what has been said publicly, if you have questions for Fatima, ask her directly, she’s here in the comments and you’ve been to her Facebook page or if you want I can put the two of you in touch offline.

            And ameen to your duas.

        • Fatima

          June 8, 2010 at 11:31 PM

          Assalamu Aleikum

          Masha Allah… one good benefit of taking action is that people are made uncomfortable enough to think about and discuss the issue instead of trying to ignore it away.

          The existence of this article was brought to my attention tonight and I am amazed that there are 250 comments!

          I would like to address here some comments that Sister Naseebah made.

          Specifically, I should address the now infamous “secret recording”. I approach my interviews with sisters as a sociologist. If they were aware that I was recording – whether by pen and paper or by an audio recording device – they would be inhibited and not discuss the issue completely.

          ((Also, I must admit, I have a problem with hearing and it would also be difficult to remember, perfectly, the statement of a dozen or more women – so a recording serves as a secretary for me)).

          As for discussing it with media – the only mention of it was the fact that I collected statements in order for me to assess the climate and attitudes of those attending the mosque. If PRAY IN was all about my own preferences, as many are wont to claim, I would not ask anybody else what they thought about partitions at all. I did not provide names to the media as, I am sure, the sisters’ would be uncomfortable with that – just as with taking their pictures. I simply described general age (it was a guess) and were they immigrants or not. If my inquiry at the mosque were a medical procedure, the level of “disclosure” would meet criteria of privacy under HIPPA law. There is nothing that could identify a single woman.

          I want to point out one more thing about recording “secretly” and the mosque in Falls Church, VA where we had our recent protest. I was discussing the dynamics of the mosque with the police who, when asked, told me that they make a LOT of calls from domestic violence in that community and they also said that they are called to that mosque regularly for disturbances. If these women are suffering domestic violence they would have every reason to be reticent about talking to someone about gender relations in the mosque. They would not want their husbands (or fathers, brothers, uncles, sons…) knowing that they commented at all on gender relations. So, in a way, I am providing a mercy to them by keeping things “secret” and anonymous.

          As for the protest in which a group came from Hagerstown on a tourist trip and joined the protesters, as part of the congregation prayers, this should not be an issue for anyone. Allah knows what is in their hearts and it is not for you or I to make any assumptions about that. However, after the prayers while we were lingering outside and the other visitors began to ask about our presence (and the presence of the police) they themselves began to protest. In fact, one older brother began to shout “see how you treat our women… see what you are teaching our children… this is wrong…”. We did not serve this man with any propaganda, any literature… he got his information from the people at that mosque who had called the police to have us removed. Remember the Qur’an 2:256 – “la iqraha fi deen, faqad tabayyina rushdum minal gayy…” – there is no compulsion in religion, the truth stands clear from error…

          It is not difficult for people to realize the truth of what we are working for… the inclusion of women in the mosque – in congregational prayers, in community meetings, in educational offerings, in disbursement of charity, in positions of leadership, in recognition of accomplishment… It is not difficult for people to recognize that the barrier is something that did not exist in the time of our Beloved Prophet. It is hard for people to give up their barriers… it is hard for them to defend the existence or continuation of their barriers…

          Targeting masajid… every masajid that engages in gender segregation and, thereby, marginalization of women, should expect to be targeted by PRAY IN – whether by the DC group or from another group that rises up organically. Every mosque we have targeted we have made sincere attempts to contact the governing body to present our message and request to discuss the issue. We Muslims have to stop being so isolationist as to think that each mosque is a mini-state that can escape criticism from “outside”. We are all Muslims and we are standing up to injustice being meted out on our Muslim sisters – everywhere.

          Our group is very diverse… many races, many nationalities, men and women both together, many theological/philosophical perspectives … we are all joined by one idea, one hope, one desire… that women may enjoy the status of “equal before Allah” in their place of worship. As it stands now, 2 out of 3 mosques in America relegate women to the “other” space… spaces that, if provided for their children at school, would be deemed inferior and would cause a parent to find another school to place their child in. We honor non-Muslims with allowing them to wander about the main prayer area, taking pictures – even while people are praying, and lingering in the main prayer area whether they are male or female. And yet the Muslim women who have more right for use of space at the mosque are sent off to a separate space as though they are not worthy of recognition by or participation with the rest of the congregation.

          I am sure many of you would like me to address your comments personally. I truly would like to.

          However, please know that with 250 comments on the board when I looked tonight I will not humanly be able to address them all – at least not with any sort of expediency.
          I will try to scan and respond to some more significant points raised, Insha Allah.

          I ask Allah to guide us all and ask that Allah instills in us the humility to accept that guidance and the accept correction.


          • Sayf

            June 8, 2010 at 11:47 PM

            Specifically, I should address the now infamous “secret recording”. I approach my interviews with sisters as a sociologist. If they were aware that I was recording – whether by pen and paper or by an audio recording device – they would be inhibited and not discuss the issue completely.

            I approach people as a surgeon, so don’t mind me stabbing people in the heart.

            Apologies in advance for that, but with all due respect sister that’s not appropriate,you can keep people anonymous after getting their consent to record them.

            Please don’t record people without their consent from now on.

            As for the media, we all know they’re wolves, we shouldn’t be helping them with their anti-Islamic propaganda in any way. It doesn’t matter how bad things get within us, we should never have to run to them. Even worse, it will so severely hurt your group’s credibility with other Muslims who genuinely care about your cause that it will only further split up the community, and I’m speaking from witnessing such a blunder before.

            So please, and I emphasize this more, even if they bring you mountains of gold, don’t ever deal with the media to expose the potential sins of other Muslims.

            There may be noble and important causes you are fighting for, but don’t compromise Islamic akhlaq. Two wrongs never make a right.
            Ameen to the dua’s.

          • Naseebah

            June 9, 2010 at 5:59 PM


            – you approached these women as a “sociologist” but certainly you did not approach them as a muslim, and actually you weren’t even very nice were you?

            – you decided not to let these women know you were recording them because you thought they would be more inhibited if they knew you were recording them? No kidding. That is exactly why we ask people’s permission before tape recording them.

            – Hmmm. Let’s find out from the reporter(s) you talked to what you mentioned and what you didn’t. You were quoted directly on the content of the conversations. there might be more in the reporter’s notes. unless of course you asked them to be off record on that, because you would be more inhibited otherwise. You seem to have it all figured out, don’t you. Did your lawyer give you the HIPPA line?

            – So, you talked to the police about the “targeted” mosque and you started to draw conclusions about the women who go there (aka stereotyping) based on these conversations. So you decided, based on the possibility (rumor, innuendo and speculation) that some of these women might possibly be the victims of domestic violence — even though that was never established as such, and it was never part of the conversation, nor was it even an outcome of the discussions or your actions – that you were going to deprive them of any choice in the discussion out of your great benevolence and mercy? Give me a break.

            Bottom line — I have seldom heard anything so patronizing in all my life. You accuse others, yet you are the one who has deprived these women of their legitimate voices, you have betrayed their trust and friendship, you have co-opted their views to your political ends without their knowledge or consent.

            You raise the specter of domestic abuse, yet you have abused the trust these women showed you in a very real way, without apology.

            You talk about the need for women’s legitimate space, and yet you have intentionally, coldly, clinically, and without apology violated women’s privacy in their space within the masjid, where they had an expectation of privacy.

            When all they did was to go there and worship Allah? When all they did was engage in conversation with you, thinking perhaps you wanted a friend, or some spiritual fellowship?

            But in exchange you recorded them without their permission, all in the name of helping them?

            You are purporting to tutor us on what it is to be a real american and how we do things in this country. Well, is this your America? Secret recordings in houses of worship? Undermining people’s right to privacy?

            Is this your idea of sisterhood?

            Your group is supposedly worried about what non-Muslims would think of the women’s spaces in the masjids? I can’t think of anyone who goes to church on Sunday expecting they will be secretly recorded by their fellow parishioners. That is NOT the spirit of america.

            You owe these women, and the communities you have “targeted”, a big apology.

          • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

            June 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM

            Yeah, I’m not sure I understand Fatima’s comment about the tape recording but if you were doing sociological research, it would normally be unethical to do so without the informed consent of the subjects of your research.

      • Naseebah

        June 8, 2010 at 11:57 AM

        And below is the reference to the remark about the niqab from Stand In notes about the May protest at DAH.

        “As an interesting detail as I stood there facing the journalist I noticed to my right a woman standing in front of me who had taken part of her scarf and pulled it over her nose and mouth as a ridiculous makeshift niqab – it was none other than Fatima Goodwin from ICDC. She asked me if I wanted to go “over there” and motioned with a tilt of her head toward the rear of the mosque. I pointed toward her face and asked her what is this garbage… but it was so stupid that I turned around without hearing what her response would be.

        These kinds of egregious put-downs towards one’s fellow sisters who are only trying to help avoid a confrontation in the masjid are so disheartening.

        And then to know on top of that that a dozen female worshippers had been secretly taperecorded by the leader of the Pray In group back in February, laying the groundwork for this in May. Then what they said was told to the media.

        Is it even legal to secretly record people in Virginia? Or was Thompson given some authority/cover to do that? Is this the behavior of sisters who love and support their fellow sisters? So many questions.

        • Ify Okoye

          June 8, 2010 at 6:56 PM

          Naseebah, there is much baggage between these two Fatimas from their experiences at ICDC, it’s very difficult and perhaps a bit unfair to look at it from the outside without first seeking to understand what has transpired between these two or the context in which the remarks were made.

          I’m sure you’ve been to DAH, they have cameras everywhere, including I’ve been told by those regulars that commented on one of my blog posts a few years back the sisters’ mezzanine, which was unbeknownst to me, I’ve tried to ascertain the truth of that claim from one of the board members there that commented on my blog but to no avail.

        • Zulander

          June 10, 2010 at 3:36 AM

          Wow… Good points Naseeba, I don’t understand how someone can defend themselves after they were caught secretly recording people…

  27. Brother

    June 7, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    I have one question regarding women not being able to access the Imam: what happened to Aalima’s? It’s not haram for Muslim women to go study our religion. Alhamdulillah there are programs for women in Yemen to become scholars. There’s also one in the US (NY) and in the UK (unfortunately I forgot where it is). Nevertheless I believe that Massajid’s should accommodate the woman’s needs in this way by having an Aalimah ready to address their issues. Some women may have very personal issues that may be hard to tell the Imam.

  28. Farhan

    June 7, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    After some more thinking, I’ve had some thoughts that are neither here nor there…

    At our masjid:
    * There’s a lot of room for women – less than the men, but it doesn’t fill up
    * They have 50% access to the gym, and when its their turn, they close the doors and no men are allowed in
    * Classes are held in close proximity to the sister’s section so they can be close to the Imam
    * They can use the entrance directly on the men’s side (which is for both) OR the sisters-only entrance.
    * A separate bathroom the same size as the mens’ (I would know, I used to help close the masjid after-hours)

    Despite that, the attendance of the sisters for classes, gym use, daily activities, or even just to hang out is low. Very low. For Isha, its at most 5, usually 0.

    Our masjid has a gym. Its nice. But imagine, you have a bunch of rowdy teenage boys who want to use the gym to play basketball (or whatever, i suck at sports), but they can’t because its the sisters turn. Fine. But at most maybe 1 or 2 will show up. Usually, its zero. How do you explain to adolescent boys that its not fair for them to use an EMPTY gym because its the sisters turn- and we both know that they aren’t going to come anyways.

    Third, even though the womens’ section is smaller, they have more room per person. That’s because far less women show up. Meaning, their numbers in Jummah are substantively less such that there are a bazillion chairs for the elderly women while the mens’ chairs fill up. And it isn’t like they get the smelly carpets, because the carpets are randomly placed down and cleaned once a month.

    I KNOW that abuse against women is wrong and it DEFINITELY takes place in our Muslim communities. But, I swear, every single Khutbah by one of our Khateebs is like “Men, you suck, fulfill your responsibilities”. Can you imagine a single Khutbah talking about a womens’ responsibility? In one ‘Eid salah, a Khateeb talked about both mens’ and womens’ responsibilities. He got told down afterwards by 3 people saying he was a sexist against women. How was that against women? Didn’t he talk about both? That’s a clear-cut double-standard.

    In ‘Itikaaf at our masjid VERRRY few sisters showed up, but they got to use the numerous, spacious and private classrooms to sleep in, whereas the men crashed in a small-Musallah area. I would be fine with that if more than 10 women showed up. Each of them could have had their own private room while the men slept in a clearly over-crowded single room.

    I dunno, maybe my masjid experience has been different than others. It is a pretty AWESOME place (I turned down a job paying 85k just to be close to it). But, no joke I almost feel like saying masjids are sexist against men, not women.

    (I say this with all due love and respect for Sr. Fatima Thompson, Sr Ify and all the Muslimaat who are frustrated with clear marginalization of women. May Allah fulfill your objectives and admit you into the highest levels of Jannah)

    • Ify Okoye

      June 7, 2010 at 11:02 PM


      I can’t tell you the number of khutbah I have heard or arguments by men and women wanting to exclude or marginalize women. Or how many times, I’ve been to masajid, that have kicked women out of the musalla or building entirely to accommodate the expected overflow of men. Why is it okay for sisters to pray in cramped and crowded conditions, in hallways, on shoes, in airless rooms, in completely separate buildings, etc and not okay to give those same spaces to the overflow of men. The lines are not joined but the first recourse in a number of masajid I’ve been to has been to kick out the sisters, is that respect?

      • Farhan

        June 7, 2010 at 11:23 PM

        as-salaam ‘alaykum Sister,

        Wow, that’s pretty extreme. I’m very sorry to hear that. I wouldn’t feel like a man telling women to leave the masjid like that.

        One of our Khateebs is big on social justice, civil involvement, working with domestic violence, that sorta stuff. Its actually pretty cool.

        But, a lot of his Khutbahs are basically ‘if you want a wife like Khadijah, you have to be a man like Muhammad SAAWS’ (no, he’s not Suhaib Webb, I’m just stealing his line :-) )
        You earlier wrote:

        I’ve heard much more talk addressed to and/or about sisters than I have about men.

        I don’t know what to say, I just haven’t seen that. Actually, I’ve seen the exact opposite. TO THE MAX. They’re all ‘men, you’re all screwed up and don’t fulfill your rights’. Like Siraaj said, its a counter-reaction to being called a sexist religion.

        I dunno, I guess we just had different experiences. But, I empathize with your cause.

        • Naureen

          June 8, 2010 at 3:02 AM

          assalamalykum to all.

          I’ve practiced for almost a decade now and never was I kicked out or treated like this and i’m from the va/dc area. I almost always heard talks/lectures/khutbas (98%) talking about men fulfilling their responsibilities to the point that when I got married I noticed how I NEVER heard about what I should do.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 8, 2010 at 6:59 PM

            Naureen, let me know if you ever want to meet up or go masjid-hopping, I’ll take you to those masajid, I know them well, and have attended them regularly for years. Alhamdulillah, it’s a process and sometimes a battle to even hold onto the areas that were supposed to be designated for the women, we take two steps forward at times and two steps back.

        • Muhammad

          June 9, 2010 at 8:14 PM

          I second that, I’ve never heard a khutbah about the responsibilities of women. Never. Plenty of stuff aimed towards the guys, I think the khateebs are afraid of being hounded by the sisters :D. If there’s any mention of responsibilities of women and what they should do, it’s done in halaqat, usually ones relating to marriage. And I can say that in no state that I’ve been in have my sisters (blood sisters) been kicked out of the masjid due to overcrowding. A lot of times, the guys side will get overcrowded and guys will be pushed into the hallway, activity room, and lobby while the sisters side has plenty of space.

          It’s interesting how everyone’s experience with their masajid are so different than yours Sr. Ify.

          • Ify Okoye

            June 12, 2010 at 6:42 AM

            No, not everyone’s read the comments more closely brother or the stories of sisters mentioned in the post.

      • Mehdi Sheikh

        June 9, 2010 at 8:05 PM

        It is a fard for the Men to pray in a masjid and not for women, so naturally if there is an overflow of men they have more right to the space than women do. While it may not be an optimal situation, it is what it is.

        The sunnah is clear that during the time of the Prophet and thereafter women and men prayed in the same space; men in front and women in the back and it is understandable that if you want to follow the sunnah that is what you implement. But it seems that out of the many related sunnahs of the masjid you seems to be nitpicking on one issue while ignoring other directly related sunnahs.

        During the time of the Prophet (sal Allaahu alaihi wa sallam) the masjid was a place of prayer and prayer only (occasionally prisoners were kept there too). People prayed and they left after the prayer. The Prophet instructed the women to leave the musalla before the men as well. The Masjid was not a place for socializing just salaat exclusively.

        In non-Muslim lands this situation is different. Masjids are not just houses of prayer, but social and community centers for Muslims as well. People gather not just for prayer, but to socialize as well, in a Muslim environment. In light of this situation it is not seemly that men and women occupy the same space in the masjid as the presence of each other in the other’s space takes away from feeling comfort.

        There should be no problem allowing the women to pray in the same space should space allow, but the women should leave to their own space thereafter. If there is not enough space then whatever space is there is the right of the men first.

        However you want to put it. Practicality demands that women have their own and separate space in any masjid, and since it is there it is used. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

  29. Naseebah

    June 7, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    I was asked to give naseehah to the brothers.

    Recall the hadith in Sahih Bukhari.

    Narrated An-Nu’man bin Bashir: The Prophet said, “The example of the person abiding by Allah’s orders and limits (or the one who abides by the limits and regulations prescribed by Allah) in comparison to the one who do wrong and violate Allah’s limits and orders is like the example of people drawing lots for seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part while the others in the lower part ; those in the, lower part have to pass by those in the upper one to get water, and that troubled the latter. One of them (i.e. the people in the lower part) took an axe and started making a hole in the bottom of the boat. The people of the upper part came and asked him, (saying), ‘What is wrong with you?’ He replied, “You have been troubled much by my (coming up to you), and I have to get water.’ Now if they prevent him from doing that they will save him and themselves, but if they leave him (to do what he wants), they will destroy him and themselves.”

    Brothers in authority you are like those in the upper section; you have acted troubled by the needs of the females. You have been rude, not listened, and not responded kindly to their needs. You are to be blamed for doing that. But now some of them have taken their needs upon themselves through the seriously wrong means that is jeapordizing everyone and most of all the rights of Allah in the matter of salaah in His house. These sisters are like those who have gone and started digging a hole in the boat. So now we must stop their action, and repair the damage, or the ship sinks.

  30. Yahya Ibrahim

    June 7, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم‬

    I do not have much time at the moment so I will follow up later insha Allah.

    The female Sahaba made a similar complaint about access to the prophet (s). He set out a day for them and told the men to leave during that time (tuesdays I believe). A special door was cut out for the woman and the prophet (s) would walk over to them to instruct them and remind them of charity.

    Access to the imam and administration is NOT during prayer time.

    Like any other place, schedule a time with the Imam (men and women).