2/26/2013

Unmosqued, Unseen & Unloved




There is a documentary in the works called "Unmosqued". ( see the trailer for it here:Unmosqued)

This documentary speaks on the scores of Muslims, both men & women, who feel unwelcome at the mosque. There are many reasons why we feel unwelcome. There are very few activities to bind us a a community, to build relationships and fellowship, the facilities are lacking to say the least, youth are shunned, women are shunned, converts are shunned, children run wild. The mosque often seems like it is just a place for old men to pray, nothing more, nothing less.

There is a brief explanation of this phenomena here: Muslims unwelcome at the mosque.

This begs the questions: If Muslims feel unwelcome at the mosque, how do non Muslims feel?

I am a Muslim woman so I will speak from my own perspective and speak of my own experiences with the mosque.

I remember being a child and going to the mosque with my father. I did not always go with him, but when I did, it was such a treat. The mosque was so big, and had so much open space, which to a small child is an open undeniable invitation. I was allowed to be free, to run around with other kids, but I was not allowed to disrupt people. I was taught to have manners, to not interrupt people, to speak with a whisper. If I was not abiding by these rules, I was scolded by my father. I agree that children should be welcome at the mosque. The Prophet used to pray with his grandsons on his back. He never rejected their presence. However, I do think we need to teach mosque manners to children from a very early age. The mosque is not a playground, and there is a certain level of respect that should be given. I also think it would be fantastic if more mosques had a small play area outside so that children can have a safe place to go wild with other Muslim children. A play room indoors for the smaller ones. Mosques usually have many class rooms, and they are unused, why not use them to occupy, educate, entertain and welcome the children of our communities?

As a woman I am obligated to seek knowledge 'even if it means going to China', just as a man is obligated to do. This instruction did not say men only seek knowledge, it was for any and all Muslims, male or female. I am in just as much, if not more need of Islamic instruction, and knowledge as any Muslim man out there. The Muslim women in our communities are the primary care givers of the children, the creators of atmosphere in the homes and the backbone of our community as a whole. Women go out in hijab and broadcast to the world their Islam, their dedication and submission to Allah. We  are harassed, belittled, insulted, sometimes assaulted, degraded, and disrespected all day every day out in the world. We have no safe space, no respite, except our own homes & let us be honest, in many cases that is not at all a safe space. We are in desperate need of reassurance, encouragement, uplifting fellowship, and education.

Often when women work up the courage to go the mosque, they are not even greeted with 'Assalaamu Alaykom'. The men shy away from us, walking in other directions, putting hands in the air when near us, as if we have a plague. It is the obligation of every Muslim to greet another Muslim with Assalaamu Alaykom, there is no such teaching that says men only say it to men and women only say it to women. I am a woman, and I am in just as much need and deserve it just as much to have salaams said to me. In fact, we are taught that the best among us is the one who says it first, not the one who runs the other direction.

I have said salaams to men in the mosque before only to be shunned, they rarely even return my salaam and usually look in horror as if I have just asked them for a quickie in the wudu area.

Relax brothers, Assalaamu Alaykom means may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you, it does not mean I want to jump your bones!

If we have all this responsibility, should we not be welcomed in mosque?
 It is our duty to teach our children about Islam, their jannah is out our feet.

What a heavy responsibility that is!

Our children will get to jannah via us, our instruction, our dedication. It is upon us, as women, to ensure they are brought up to be strong adults who can then carry on this deen to the world.

I should be able to pray behind men, not behind a wall. The hadith says that the best among men are in the front rows and the best among women are in the back rows. This hadith came about due to men and women intermingling and gawking at each other at the mosque during prayer. The prophet was an intelligent person, he was capable of making rulings and those rulings are the most perfect system of personal and communal governance this world has ever known. So, would the prophet have not created a barrier, or a wall on his own, should that have been the wise thing to do? He never created such a thing, never mentioned it, nor did any of the sahabah. The women were in the mosque, with the men, with the prophet, praying, listening to lectures, visiting, having fellowship with one another. We should not behave any different inside of a mosque than we do outside of a mosque. If it is not OK to purposelessly mingle with women in the mosque, then it is also not OK to do so outside the mosque. The mosque has no spiritual value. It is a building. It is not holy. It is not a relic. It is simply a space for us to gather, safely. During the time of the Prophet people actually lived in the mosque, they slept there, hung out, studied, read books, debated issues. The mosque was a community center. A place for Muslims to handle all kinds of life issues, for men and for women.

The women came to the Prophet and told him they felt left out, that the men occupied all of his time and they had questions too, that they did not want to ask in the presence of the men. The Prophet realized he had been neglecting them and set aside a day that was only for them, to come, obtain his advice and ask him questions. This did not mean the women only were allowed on that day, or that they were to be separated. This was simply because sometimes women have delicate issues that we need advice on and we do not want to ask in the wide open room with hundreds of ears listening, and this is what is best, to seek advice in private, not to broadcast your business to the world, for men and for women.
What is more beautiful than our mothers praying?

The Prophet never shunned women away from him, he never turned his nose up at them, never degraded them, never treated them badly. He accepted anyone that came into his presence. Should we not be doing the same?

These same men who separate women from the community, make the mosque unwelcoming, are the same ones who stand on their soap boxes 24/7 bellowing about SUNNAH, SUNNAH, SUNNAH. It is sunnah to do this and sunnah to do that. They seem to only want to enforce or focus on the burdensome parts of the sunnah, the laws and regulations. The sunnah is also filled with love, mercy, a welcoming salaam and kindness, inclusiveness and respect are mere minimums. 

As a Muslim woman, I fear the mosque. Astaghfirallah!!

I fear it because it is scary, it is dreary, depressing and I am clearly not welcome there. I get a more welcome greeting and acceptance from the greeter at my local Wal Mart than I do from my local Mosque. That simply should not be the case.


I love mosques, they are beautiful and they display the beauty and creativity of the religion I love so much. The main prayer room is always so well decorated, beautiful clean carpet, windows that let in strategic amounts of natural light, a dome with murals and calligraphy and mosaics. The men get to enjoy this. The women are shoved off in a dark room, with Styrofoam ceilings, horrid lighting, no air flow, no space to actually pray, and a speaker that transmits to us sacred knowledge, yet sounds like a drive thru speaker. Yes, we are instructed that it is better for women to pray at home. That instruction was given in reference to jummah prayers, and it also says forbid not the women from attending. Allah gave me the right to enter a mosque, to pray in a mosque, to receive education,
advice, guidance and support from the mosque. Allah gave these rights to me, not a shura council, not a board of directors, not a group of curmudgeons. I should not have to fight for these rights. I spend my whole life fighting for rights, fighting for a seat at the table, the mosque is the last place I should have to fight for.


What is the difference between these two signs?

I should never have to enter the mosque from a side door, I should never be sequestered into a dark room, totally void of beauty and disconnected from my community. If I am good enough to marry a Muslim man, and raise Muslim children then I am good enough to sit a modest distance behind those same men and obtain the same information, in the same fashion as they do.

I truly believe the saying 'as go the women, so goes the community'. This is because women are the teachers. We set the tone, not only in our homes, but in our friendships, work places and our society. If women feel disconnected, disenfranchised and unwelcome, so will their children. We have a serious problem in the ummah of unhappy, uneducated, Muslim women. These women want to learn, they want to pray, they long for support, acceptance, respite and a safe space.

So if mosques would hold classes, events, have a sisters group, have a sisters shura council that works as a liaison between the board of directors and the sisters, have committees of sisters that work to fulfill the needs of the women in the community.

The mosque needs to offer safe, fun, modern, Islamic alternatives for single Muslims. Have mixers, offer match making services, have classes on various topics of finding and being a spouse.

All of these activities should be free. There should be no cost. I realize things cost money, but every mosque I have ever been to has found a way to ask me for money. Stop asking for money for the building fund, there is no point building a building that no one wants to enter. Ask for donations to support education and activities to build relationships, a sense of belonging, ownership and pride in our community, the building fund will follow by default because when people have pride in something, when there is a real need for more space, people rise to the occasion.






2 comments:

  1. Masha'Allah, masha'Allah, masha'Allah. Wonderfully written, and YES! I agree.

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  2. This point was really powerful: "If I am good enough to marry a Muslim man, and raise Muslim children then I am good enough to sit a modest distance behind those same men and obtain the same information, in the same fashion as they do."

    You may not be aware, but the Hadith about seeking knowledge as far as China is generally seen as da'eef. Because it is a saying of encouragement and not of law, one can use it but one should be aware of its status.

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