Women in the Mosque and in Islam

Even after only a few hours sleep I often find myself strangely awake after sehri and to be honest it’s about time I turn this into productivity; like I am doing now. It is somewhat different that I am writing about Islam in particular because I find that I can’t help but think that as I am not as well-versed as I should be I do not really have much authority to be discussing Islam more so in the written form which upon reflection is actually wrong on my part. I may not be a scholar of Islam but my questions, enquiry and desire to learn more about the religion I subscribe to should not be stifled by, well, myself. After all, my blog site is called “5 pillars and 6 colours”, the 5 pillars of course referring to the 5 pillars of Islam (Shahada, Salah, Zakah, Sawn and Hajj) which I outlined in my very first blog post along with the 6 colours of pride.

So, when I woke up today for sehri I went onto Facebook and I stumbled across an article by Imam Khalid Latif from the US who was writing for the Huffington Post’s Religion section as part of a Ramadan blog titled “Ramadan Reflections.” This particular article was about “Women in the House of God” where he discusses the increasing marginalisation of women within mosques. What makes this article stand out from the others is that he talks of his personal experiences in this case, his wife’s and his own experience of going to a mosque after prayers. He talks of how men and women enter mosques at different entrances and that the women’s entrance is often very unappealing, in this instance, it was poorly lit and because of the dustbins near the women’s entrance it was very off putting to enter due to the smell. Imam Khalid goes on to say that he has “never really understood why some mosques are so comfortable in creating spaces for women that really are just disrespectful” and that as prayer is the most important pillar in Islam, how could the people responsible for maintaining the House of God be comfortable with this? He then talks of how he often feels a spiritual connection in the places in which he prayers from streets to mountain tops and how he feels that this enhances and deepens his connection to God.

[So I just HAD to take a break writing this because I felt so inspired and galvanised to learn more about women in Islam and Islamic feminism. I’ve just brought four books which I’m so excited (already!) to start reading:

  • “Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes” by Dr. Katherine Bullock
  • “Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam” by Mohammad Akram Nadwi – I’m looking forward to this one the most!
  • “In Search of Islamic Feminism” by Fernea E. W.
  • “Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate” by Leila Ahmed]

Anyway, back to the blog… So, yes, where was I? The most prominent thing the imam says is that ‘a mosque is not meant to be a place that is run or driven by ego” and this very mentality is so incredibly powerful. Could you imagine what our mosques could be like if people put their egos aside? Could you imagine how welcoming they would be? Could you even imagine that people would put money into their communities instead of building yet another mosque around the corner from another mosque because of some dispute the community may have had? I digress. I like how men particularly are becoming more vocal about women’s issues generally and also within Islam. I also like how these offerings are often self-reflected much like this article in which the imam concludes by asking “But if I am the cause of someone else’s prayer being adversely impacted, what am I really hoping to set myself up for?”

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-khalid-latif/ramadan-reflectin-day-25-women-in-the-house-of-god_b_1773718.html

Don’t forget to check out the Youtube videos in the article. They certainly get you thinking, re-thinking and indeed critically analysing women’s roles within Islam, prayer and indeed within the mosque and wider community. Oh and remember to click on the links to the other articles. It certainly makes for interesting reading about the different ways in which we can advance the quality of women particularly within the mosque with the ultimate aim of this ricocheting within general Muslim society.

As a side note: Sheikh Habib Ali al Jifri is a prominent Muslim scholar who I have recently discovered. It is not often that I find scholars that I particularly resonate with them as I am critical of them and their objectives. I sometimes find that some Muslim scholars do fall short in terms of women’s rights advocacy and human rights in general within Islam however, brother Habib Ali really is a breath of fresh air. I find him so endearing. One of the main reasons is because he smiles so much and from his demeanour he appears to be such a happy and warm person. He talks passionately and with great urgency about women’s rights and advocacy and he certainly does not mince his words when talking about the plight of women. One of my favourite parts in his talks is when he reminds people that we really need to move on from simply defending Islam by saying it provides women with their rights and that we need to actually start putting this into again and dealing with women’s issues.

On a side note here’s the link to one of his responses to the treatment of women within Islam and our communities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZG6ibK8mwo&feature=player_embedded

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