Written Vs. Not Written Stuff: Where Are Muslim Women Spaces in Mosques?

Part I Written by Saadia Haq

The theme for this collab is much closer to heart as it voices the issues focusing on the Muslim women’s role and participation in religious institutions and specifically in mosques. Like in most Islamic states, we note that mosques are part of a daily lives of practicing Muslims however we note that across Asia and Africa the majority of mosques activities are men-led and women presence and participation are not encouraged.

In many Muslim countries, prevailing attitudes are a norm where societies are operating on the mere notion that “there’s no place for women at the local mosque.” As a Muslim feminist encountering these mentalities are not only outraging but also speak volumes on the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings. Our cultures and traditions continue to dictate men and women segregated roles and most annoyingly deny women their rightful place within the religion’s central institutions as in case of: mosques.

On the whole large scores of Muslim women pray at homes and are hardly encouraged to go in mosques though the population density is in majority Muslim countries and mosques are given high preference thus, they are built in almost every street.

Alone Indonesia has the largest number of mosques approx eight hundred thousand, then India comes second with approximately 3 hundred thousand, then comes Bangladesh with 2.5 hundred thousand, Pakistan with 1.8 hundred thousand mosques.

In my own country, Pakistan we have minimum three to five mosques in any given small neighborhood. But they are male dominated and women prayers are quite a no-no. I really don’t think any other Muslim nation is obsessed with construction of mosques as are Pakistanis, but given the patriarchal mindset they like to keep mosques doors closed on women. Of course it also speaks volumes on how men hold tightly on the reigns of almost all decisions on behalf of women that are considered objects and gulps, without rationality and sentiments.

Like a majority of Pakistani women, I never went to a mosque for the Eid namaz. I always heard that men go to mosques while women are supposed to pray indoors and at home. Growing up in such an environment, I was always struck by the fact that we culturally, do not think about traditions; we just follow them. More than often, we don’t even know why we are doing a certain thing for instance take the issue of career women and entrepreneurs. So called clerics harp on and on inside mosques teaching men that women need to stay indoors and only do household work and child bearing as per Islam.

There is nothing Islamic in pushing male dominant agendas in the name of religion particularly when Islam’s first business personality was Hazrat Khadijah  the wife of Prophet Muhammad  a successful successful entrepreneur 1400 years ago, setting the bench mark as a role model for women of all centuries.

Muslim women are faced with a lot of hostility in spearheading business and economic ventures that further aggravates their social exclusion mainly due to different interpretations of religion. For countering such complex issues, Muslim states need to address the issue of women’s protection in the workplaces and public life.

Moving forward

With passing time, we have observed that within South Asia and other east Asian countries, a small but increasing number of women have started going to mosques. But over all mosques are not equipped to handle women prayers. As we know for predictable reasons; for one, not many mosques have proper arrangements and nor the will to build women’s wings inside the structure.

Though most mosques in question do not forbid women from coming, they simply do not allot a women’s section, and thus there is no space for women to pray. The women by default are forced into a difficult scenario where they are forced to accept the exclusion.  Until mindsets do not change for the better, and organizers of mosques show more willingness we will lag behind.

We should return to our rich history to draw the lessons since Islam came as a religion, it has always protected the rights of women in all ways possible and education was made compulsory for both men and women. Islamic teachings support the Muslim women economic empowerment and political participation but in name of misguided culture and traditions we continue to struggle.

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Part II Written by Papatia Feauxzar

Bismillah.

Our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “If the wife of any one of you seeks permission to go to the Mosque, he may not prevent her.” (Sahih Muslim)

Look for any authentic source that states that women are FORBIDDEN to go to mosques and you won’t find ANY. So why do we women go along with this treatment from these patriarchal Muslim communities? It’s because of the community pressure; the mental conditioning we have been subjected to. Let’s try to break that string that keep the elephants (us) in the room rooted in not leaving the spot we have been planted at; praying at home especially on Eid.

I grew up going to the mosques on special occasions like Eid or Layla-tul Qadr. I saw my grandmothers walk to the mosques daily for EVERY prayer in their humble and clean garments.

That was until I married into another culture. In this culture, women do not pray with the male congregation. They have been conditioned to think that their praying spot is at home and that if they want to pray in the mosque, they have to do it when the main prayers are not in session.

If those are the limits, you might as well pray at home because you are not welcomed for the fard prayers. I mean what’s the point then to go there for just nafila prayers? They have an exception for salat time finding you outside. Under these circumstances, you can go pray to the nearest mosque while you are travelling, carrying or minding your business. And they will tell you to AVOID the jamaat (the men crowd) prayer at all costs.

So imagine my shock and surprise when you are told, “Women pray at home. Allah didn’t ask women to mandatorily attend Eid prayer.” That didn’t sit well with me. I asked my mom and she explained that praying at home has more baraqat for a woman. And I found ahadith supporting that. Of course, patriarchal societies leave that part or the explanation out of their marching orders. More baraqat or not, isn’t fair to leave the choice to pray in or outside the home to women themselves? We have free will. Why are they so concerned with women’s well-being in the after-life when they are often lousy spouses?

Didn’t Rasool ﷺ also say, “…the best of you are those who are best to their women.”(At-Tirmidhi) How many ideal Muslim husbands do you know? Anyway…

If the mosque is being transformed into a catwalk or a fashion establishment, then that’s another discussion, WOMEN need to address themselves. Exception made for the Messenger of Allah. And the following statement from Aisha  one of mother of the believers came about that.

“If the Messenger of Allah  was alive to see what women are doing now (in A’isha’s time), he would surely have prevented them from attending the prayers in the Mosque just as the women of Banu Isra’il were prevented.” (Sahih Bukhari)

Now, if you as a man think that a woman is causing you fitna because of her looks, you have been given a simple command by your Lord; Lower Your (damn) Gaze! Apologies, I paraphrased a bit with ‘damn.’ But seriously, beautiful women crossed the path of people of the stature of Rasool  with his companions often staring and he ordered them to lower their gaze. He didn’t fault the women. So, please understand that most women don’t dress up for you fools. They dress for their Lord, to celebrate. If you are a woman and you pamper yourself up all to attract loserscompete with other women, show off, check yourself because you’re bordering on the behavior of the the women of Banu Isra’il. Your total devotion is to your lord. Beautify yourself more for Allah  ﷻ than the creation. If the hubby loves what he sees, masha’Allah alhamdullilah too.

Above all, the issue of women allowed in mosques, praying in mosques, having equal space in mosques will not be resolved until women take matter into their own hands. Muslim women in communities, seek the women in your communities who have authentic Islamic knowledge, financial freedom, socio-political power, any kind of power and gravitate toward them. Gather with them and start a movement. When chauvinists and misogynistic community leaders come to your strong platforms to ask for your money to support the community or the mosques, state your demands. Don’t let them ignore women issues any longer.

When they start to:

  • Make equal space for you in your local mosques
  • Give you your Islamic rights as a woman
  • Start treating you like a human being and not like a walking fitna
  • And make etc. etc. changes in your favor

You may assess if they are worth your financial donation or any other help sought from you.

Dropping mic.. Allahu alim.


The Written vs. NOT Written Stuff’ is a copyrighted collaborative feature series highlighting serious issues of and within the global Muslim communities. It’s a joint initiative of two Muslimah writers, Papatia Feauxzar of Djarabi Kitabs Publishing and Saadia Haq of The Human Lens. As always we would love to hear your feedback, here at wordpress or through email which ever medium works for you.  Copyrights @2015 – 2018. 

Bio: Papatia Feauxzar is an accountant. She blogs at Between Sisters, SVP! or A Ducktrinor Mom.

Bio: Saadia Haq is a human rights journalist and feminist trainer, plus the mayhem force behind this blog!

Original article.

Papatia Feauxzar

Papatia Feauxzar is the Online Editor of Hayati Magazine. Visit her websites at www.djarabikitabs.com or www.fofkys.com .

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