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I recently came across an article talking about how Asra Nomani wants it to be a law that if mosques don’t allow women to pray in the musallah (main prayer section), they should not have tax exemption. I personally agree with the article in the sense that this demand infringes on the First Amendment rights of mosques, synagogues, temples, churches, etc. As the article says, there are a lot of factors of cultural practice, modesty, money and expansion issues that make this demand difficult for mosques. However,  it also made me think about the whole issue of “the women’s section.”

I personally prefer being in the same room as the men when I pray, I feel more unity within the whole community and I like seeing the khateeb instead of craning my neck to look at a TV screen so I feel like I’m being addressed, not just the brothers. However, I know some of my sisters prefer separate sections, for good reasons too. Modesty is always important to remember as Muslims, and if there’s a cute guy in the first row, you might not concentrate on God all that much, which is a pretty bad thing if you’re in a Masjid. So same room or not, I’m cool either way. I’m a pretty easy person to please.

But for me, this isn’t the main issue. The main issue is making the women’s section nice, beautiful, and spacious. Because let’s face it, some mosques have, I’m sorry, but pretty crappy women’s sections. You’re smashed in this little room/balcony where your kneeing other poor women, trying to pray comfortably without bumping into someone else’s butt.

Alhamdullilah, I have been able to find a Masjid where the women’s section is large, clean and really beautiful. It also has a clear barrier (it’s a balcony-type of thing) so if you sit in the front row, you can actually see the rest of the congregation and the khateeb. I always arrive early (like an hour early) so I can sit in the front and get more of that unity feeling. And actually, what is also nice, now that I think about it, is that I get my unity feeling but I still can’t see the brother’s faces (only backs of heads) and they can’t see me. See? Modesty preserved. And I feel so welcome and taken care of there. The women’s section is definitely on the same level as the men’s.

So Brothers, I ask you take care of the women. Instead saving up for the new chandelier, improve/refurbish the women’s section if you see it isn’t up to par with the men’s: be it a balcony, behind the men, to the side of the men, in another room etc. Expand it if it’s too small, put in new carpets,get chairs for our older sisters to sit in while they pray. Make sure it is a place you yourself would pray in if you were in the sisters’ position. And Sisters, if your section isn’t adequate, make your voices heard and demand improvement. The Prophet (pbuh) allowed women in the mosque and certainly did not force them into a corner. The Masjid is a place of worship and house of God for all Muslims.

I hope sincerely that rather than arguing about women being too demanding and men being misogynistic that people will instead think of making a trip to the Masjid something enjoyable for ALL. A trip where both brothers and sisters feel comfortable, welcome, protected and most of all, feel the presence of Allah (SWT). 

To end, here’s an article on MuslimMatters.org. It sparked quite a lively debate and both the article and the comments forced me to think about this issue in depth: http://muslimmatters.org/2010/11/27/telling-women-where-to-pray/

Also, if any of you don’t know about the Canadian show “Little Mosque on the Prairie” , but it’s definitely worth a watch. This episode which I found online is about the community dealing with the whole issue of a women’s section, barriers,etc. Worth a look 😀

Part 1 “The Barrier”
Part 2 “The Barrier”
Part 3 “The Barrier”

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