I was inspired for this post by reading a recent post on Hegab Rehab about that sisters difficulties with actually being able to get inside her local masajid for salaat. I personally just wanted to share my own thoughts on this “issue” which unfortunately is quite a “hot topic” in man Western Muslim communities…i.e. what to do about Muslim women and Mosques (masajid)
I guess I am one of the “lucky few” that is blessed to live in a city where all the masajid I have regularly attended have been sister-friendly. The masjid I attend *generally* is a converted Mormon temple, the musallah is the top, main floor and it has a wide, open space plan. There is no real “divider” between the men and women except for a low 3 foot wooden book shelf which basically just divides the space. This is how the masjid has been for the past 12 years I have attended there. Recently-like since we returned from Saudi the have no put up folding dividers which go from the low book shelf to the walls. I believe this was generally done because the brothers were starting to take over the sisters space…like you’d walk into the womans side and literally be stepping over brothers. If you dont sit right infront of the divider you can still see over and see the Imaam giving his khutbah. The masjid tends to be relatively sister friendly with many sisters in roles of importance within the community and many programs aimed at women-even a sisters fitness class! The other masajid in the city are generally equally female friendly…although some are converted homes or libraries and so the floor plan isnt as open. The other masjid which I used to attend quite frequently up until a few years ago had the women in a separate *huge* room within the masjid, beside the mens area with just a curtain dividing them. I frankly didn’t mind this as the womans area was actually larger than the mens and had its own bathroom, kitchen, closets and play room and everything else and plus the majority of sisters wore/wear niqab and they preferred being able to come to Jummah, take off their niqabs, their abayaat and lounge in jeans and teeshirts while their kids played, listening to the khutbah. They would then put everything back on, and go and pray behind the men in the mens area.
I’ve also traveled a lot around the US both before and after marriage and generally would try to see the local masajid wherever I was at. Most masajid I found were relatively sister friendly. Only a few stuck women in a tiny room the size of a closet or had no womens space at all-bummer!
I’ve personally found that generally whether sisters are welcomed to the mosque does often boil down to the majority cultural group which founded that masjid. Lets be frank…some “muslim cultures” do not welcome women into society and do not think they should go to the masjid at all! Hence people from those cultures come to a western country bringing those beliefs with them. Or perhaps the community is just to small that really few if any women attend. There are some masajid which are just rented office space or a part of house…but generally I’ve found culture does come into play!
As far as my experiences in other countries goes…like in Saudi…Its unfortunate to say but atleast in the area we lived in, women were not welcomed in the masajid. We lived in Al-Khobar and the *only* prayer rooms I ever prayed in outside of the home was those in the local malls. The local community masajid otherwise did not welcome women at all. Infact once we all jumped in the car to attend Friday salaat at this masjid which was walking distance from our compound only to find the womans side was locked. So we sat for 10minutes waiting to see if any women came…nope! I later learnt that the local women in that area only attend the masajids during Ramadan! Yet this is not necessarily the norm everywhere in Saudi. In the predominantly Shia areas of Qatif and Saihat all the masajid there had dedicated sections and even small mosques for women. I have also heard that Jeddah is generally a female in masjid friendly city. Whats funny is when I tell sisters here that in the area of Saudi we were in…women were not welcomed in the masajids they don’t believe me…but trust me…outside of more “liberal areas” the Haraam in Makkah and the Prophets Masjid in Medinah are the exceptions. During our first Omrah we went to pray at the Prophet SAWS first masjid in Medinah-Quba masjid…and I was shocked to see that they didn’t let women *inside* the masjid. Instead all of us women were forced to pray outside on the tiles, under the hot sun in our abayaat with female guards surrounding us with a small grill to look through INTO the masjid! Kind of shameful is you ask me! I had so looked forward to being *inside* the Prophet SAWS first Masjid in Medinah!
Now, contrast that to Iran. Iranian masjids welcome women and pretty much every single masjid I’ve been in over there from small neighboorhood masjids just open for salaat to large, tour group drawing ones always-always- have a large room set aside for female worshippers! Infact its so culturally OK for a woman to go to the masjid that many are even “hang out joints” where women go, socialize and even nap! Often the womans prayer areas in masjids around Universities draw female students who come to rest and do home work between classes! Its even 100% acceptable to come and sleep during the afternoon siesta….many other women and families do so as well! Outside during the hottest part of a July day? Sleep in the park-or-sleep in the masjid. hehehehe. But seriously, the womens side of the masjids are actually quite nice and fun places to be. They have full dividers up and there are often books everywhere and interesting things here and there.
Personally the way I look at it…like there shouldnt be problems with women attending their local masjid for salaat. Particularly if your in a western country where it will be Muslims of every racial and cultural group in the community! Even the smallest rented office space should keep atleast a smidgin of room in the back or side for women wanting to attend!
Often Muslims forget that that Muslim women are not forbidden from going to the masjid. There are even hadeeths about the Prophets wives going to the mosque and praying there. Yes we know its not fard for women to pray inside the masjid…but they arent banned! …And what about the children? Generally the kids are with the women…so if the women cant go or there is no space for them…where does that leave the kids? They in turn wont go and wont have any connection to the muslim community unless their father drags them along.
Personally…I see all kinds of wrong here!
What about your community?
[You know, I wanted to add, but got off track that I personally dont necessarily mind a small divider between the male and female worshippers in the masjid, much as I dont mind how during Ramadan iftaars the men sit upstairs and the women downstairs. To me thats fine…personally I’d rather not mix with men anyway, regardless of inside the masjid or outside (obviously as a future Nurse, en’shallah, I’ll be handling male patients but thats different from socializing, thats medical and a necessity…anyway, I digress)…Ive found that any time the brothers and sisters are able to socialize too freely in the masjid problems arise, which is one reason why I tend to prefer to stay in the sisters areas. So I dont think small dividers or having a womans space and a mans space in and of itself is wrong…but whats wrong is when the womans space is incredibly small and not fairly given or women are barred from the masjid entirely…Allahu alim]