Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Women in the masjid: a bare necessity

Although my perspective is uniformly American, I think it's possible--even likely--that my opinion could apply to Muslims anywhere on the globe. You see, I think that women absolutely need the masjid, and that the masjid needs women. Why don't women to go masajid?

Why not, when the Prophet saws forbid men from prohibiting women from going? That means it's prohibited to prohibit women from visiting the masjid. So maybe "forbid" and "prohibit" are words too strong, yet there is a section in Sahih Muslim on the permissibility of women attending the mosque. Here is a hadith from that section:

Abdullah b. Umar reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) say: Don't prevent your women from going to the mosque when they seek your permission. Bilal b. 'Abdullah said: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. On this'Abdullah b. Umar turned towards him and reprimanded him to harshly as I had never heard him do before. He ('Abdullah b. Umar) said: I am narrating to you that which comes from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and you (have the audacity) to say: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them.

What I like about these hadith is that even then, just short generation after the Prophet saws, people already sought to interject their own opinion, especially as regards women. I love how the translator used the word "audacity" for emphasis, it's so appropriate I think. But even as much as I could cry the above hadith and other narrations even from Ibn 'Umar, there will be Muslims (both men and women) who object to women going to the mosque. Why?

Let's first address how. They say the prayer of a woman is better at home. How much better? Prayer is better on congregation. Prayer is better in the masjid. Prayer is even better in one of the three masajid, Al-Aqsa, An-Nabawi, and Al-Haram. So what I should do is move into the haram, so all my salaat can be 1) at home so they're better, 2) in the masjid so they're better, 3) in congregation so they're better, and 4) in the Haram so they're super. Rolling your eyes? Me too.

You may try, as you will, to prove that a woman's prayer in her home is somehow better, and yes, I know the hadith, but I will unabashadly stand up to anyone who tells me that a salaat in my home even comes close to a salat in the masjid. For me, it doesn't even come close.

So why is prayer for a women better at home? Is it better than the masjid? Or better than congregation? Or is it just blindly "better" than something? Of all my salaat, the ones at home are usually only a step above from a solitary prayer in a public place, like my cubicle, a classroom, stairwell, or a sporting arena. I have a problem with the hadith not because I don't believe it, but because I see how it is actually discouraging women from praying in congregation, and from praying in the masjid.

Now, for a woman who finds harship in leaving her home to pray, alhamdulillah, she has the reward in her home. It's a good thing. For a woman who feels safe in her home, alhamdulillah, she has reward for praying in her home. But for a woman who is just too lazy to go to the masjid? Ah, the reward at home? For a woman who tires of listening to a slow recitation in congregation or in the masjid, praying quickly at home... you think this is good?

You see, while men are encouraged to build the community, encouraged in fostering ties simply by going to the masjid, encouraged to participate in the community affairs and education and da'wah... what is the woman encouraged to do now? Stay home. Don't help the community. Don't seek out new sisters to share company with at the masjid. Don't go learn your deen, don't call others to your deen. Just stay home. This is troubling. Isn't it troubling?

A mother says to her daughter, "Why do you go pray at the masjid? I never prayed in the masjid. Stay home." A husband says to your wife, "Why do you go pray at the masjid? Your prayer is better at home. Stay home." I find it all absurd, why??

It's not as if a woman loses reward by praying in the masjid, does she? Or by desiring to pray in congregation? Or she desires to listen to the word of Allah recited clearly instead of merely reciting the few aayaat she knows? She loses reward? You must be joking, where's your head if you say yes?

And as much as I may be challenged on this, I think it's absolutely essential for women to go to the masjid. Absolutely essential. To start with, in this society the masjid is the center of the community--a center for networking for Muslims. Where else can you go to meet Muslims? Especially Muslims who pray, who fast, who struggle to improve their deen? Not to the shishah bar. Go to the masjid. Women need to learn their deen as much as do men. They need to participate in those same classes, they need to meet other sisters, for their own good.

They also need to go to the masjid for the good of the entire community. That's because women have something to contribute, obviously. I keep hearing about the "youth" and acommodations that need to be made for the "youth." Who best to oversee that than mothers, honestly? To raise them properly. They also need to be available in this society in particular because of how women are viewed by the public. But more importantly, when a woman shows up at the masjid to learn about Islam, who is going to tell her?

If you say or give the impression women are not welcome, I can pretty much guarantee you she is going to leave. And if she knows no other way to learn about Islam, she might never come back. Have that on your conscience.

Keeping women out of the masjid (which is done either by society's customs or religious proof to justify a custom, or else fear, or arrogance on the part of the woman thinking she is too good for the masjid) prevents the youth from integrating into a community, it prevents women from learning about the deen, and provides an environment ripe for extremism by excluding a weighty opinion in the community.

If women do not go to the masjid, you see what you see in Muslim societies today where you find men who are willing and eager to practice Islam, study Islam, teach Islam. They are devoted in their salaat, respectful of elders... these are the ones who go to the masjid regularly probably. And the men who don't? They're out smoking, drinking, flirting, missing their prayers, engaging in haraam, right? Well, when a woman is left outside of the Muslim community (which happens in effect when women are excluded from the masjid) she falls into the same traps of Shaytaan. She is out smoking, drinking, flirting, and missing prayers (forget hijab!) just like the men who don't go to the masjid.

When your women are excluded, when they are prevented from fully realizing their potential in this deen and are relegated to their homes where they refuse to stay anyway, they aren't learning the deen and they can't teach it to their children. What then do you expect society to turn into?


Anonymous said...

It is true as per se of hadith, "If one of your women seek permission to go to the Mosque, then do not forbid her."

But look at the muslimahs of today as against the hadith, "If one of you attends ’Ishaa, then do not touch perfume."

so reality is,

A'ishah said, "If the Messenger of Allah had seen what the women innovated after him, he would have stopped them attending the mosques."

The second is a tradition of Umm Humaid that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Surely your prayer in your house is better than your prayer with me."

And the third is the tradition of Abu Hurayrah, who said that the Prophet (PBUH) said, "For the woman to offer her prayer in her chamber is of greater merit than to offer it in her courtyard, in her courtyard than in the mosque of her people, in the mosque of her people than in the congregational mosque and in the congregational mosque than going out for prayer in Eid day." (Pages 179-80).

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Amy said...

Oh goodie. Nothing I love more than bafoons quoting hadith on my blog thinking they know what they're talking about. NOT.

Try going back and reading the post, why don't you, and see my point. I'm tempted to even call this comment of yours "garbage" except for the fact that it contains ahadith. So I won't call it garbage. But I will call it irrelevant.

You're clearly not a woman. Clearly. If you were, you'd know that women who attend ishaa prayer actually don't wear perfume when they go. I have been praying salat in the mosque regularly for a year and a half now, and you know what? I never, not even once, smelled a single sister wearing perfume, at isha or any other salat. Never. So how are you accuse muslimahs of wearing perfume to the salat? That's a lie as far as I'm concerned.

Next point, the saying of Aisha. The most important words in the entire sentence is this one: IF and WOULD

You see, the Prophet saws did not prevent women from going, did he? Never. In fact, he told people to not prevent them. Hate to break it to you, buddy, but that's exactly what morons like you are trying to do. Prevent women from going. I won't stand for it, I absolutely will not stand for it, and if you had read my post with any sort of intelligence, you'd understand WHY!

The other point in that saying of Aisha is what the women had innovated. Indeed, innovation from women is a problem. Why? Because the moronic men of Islam who think that women should pray at home have forgotten that knowledge comes not in solitude. Women cannot simply stay at home and expect to learn anything about their deen. When women are kept from the mosque (as they are kept by those such as yourself) they don't learn their deen correctly and naturally, they innovate. It's absolutely disgusting. Aren't you disgusted? I am.

The whole line of reasoning used to decide, from Aisha, that women shouldn't pray in the masjid, lacks sense, totally. Didn't Allah swt KNOW what women would do or were doing? That Muhammad saws didn't see them doesn't mean that Allah didn't know, and if there needed to be prohibition on women attending the masajid, there would have been because Islam is complete and perfect. To suggest that things needed to change after the time of the Prophet saws to suit the opinion of A'ishah... is that what you really mean to say?? Don't you trust your Lord? Not to mention, it's hardly fair to punish, by stopping them from attending, all the women for the crimes of a few. That doesn't make any sense at all now, does it, especially when it is clearly in their best interests to attend? And they're still able to go to the mall and to the schools and where-ever they want, so why prevent them from GOING TO WORSHIP of all things?

Neverminding that the other two hadith you quoted have been suspected by some anyway of doubtful authenticity, you have to look at the examples of people at the time of the Prophet saws.

It was known that women used to go out and pray even fajr prayer behind the Prophet saws. We have heard from Fatima even that she prayed in a row adjacent to the row of men in a salat, and we know that even menstruating women were told to come out for Eid. We know that the Prophet saws would wait for a moment after salaat, it was supposed, to allow women time to leave before the men.

So it's quite obviously Sunnah that women were praying in the mosque, and they were never prevented from doing so. And I wrote a whole post telling you WHY they NEED to.

So I think you should fall off your high horse and realize that women are part of this Ummah too, and that they have a place, it needs to be respected, and they NEED TO BE IN THE MASJID!

Keeping them out is destroying the ummah. Period.

xihua said...

because muslim guys are obsessed with controlling women. Theres a huge difference to the way women were in the time of the prophet to now. They know it, but no one likes to mention these things, except women, and when they do they dont listen!

Amy said...

What, aren't men different too?

Who was it that said only an honorable man will honor women?

We have a shortage of honorable men. That's the jummuah salat that fills up in the last rakat, but never any other time of the day.

I'm not sure if you were trying to say that women are different so they shouldn't be able to go to the masjid. The problem is they aren't connected anymore, you find so many women who gossip, just party and watch TV and talk, they don't do anything to further their deen. Being excluded from the spiritual center, the masjid, how can they be helped?

Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

//I think it's possible--even likely--that my opinion could apply to Muslims anywhere on the globe. You see, I think that women absolutely need the masjid, and that the masjid needs women. Why don't women to go masajid?//

As someone who had the first published work on the issue of equal masjid access for women (ie, before it became a "hot topic"), I disagree. I live in the Middle East, and I can tell you, women there don't really go to the masjid and they don't need to. Our (American) society is not like theirs. The only time in the ME I've been to the masjid are when we were out and needed to pray before the time ended. And only once have I seen another woman there.

This is not to say that women don't have their diyn education. They do, and sometimes, it's in the masjid (during the days, including weekends). But it's just not the same as our situation in the US.

It would be a great hardship on me to go to the masjid for every prayer or even just one, and I live right behind the masjid. That is why it is not fardh. And there is a lot to be said for the concepts of 'itikaf or some other type of retreat and withdrawal, so I wouldn't so cavalierly dismiss the sahih hadith from the Messenger of Allah (sallalahu aleyhi wa 'ala ahlihi wa sahbihi wa salaam) about the prayer being better in the home. He knew more about implementing the diyn than you or I do, and didn't speak just to hear his voice. There is a lot to be said for the idea of women being in charge of establishing the masjid of the home. But I'm not going to say it b/c I've gone on long enough and I've said it elsewhere before. Sorry for taking so much space.

-- UmmZaid

Amy said...

Walaikum as-salaam UmmZaid

//There is a lot to be said for the idea of women being in charge of establishing the masjid of the home. But I'm not going to say it b/c I've gone on long enough and I've said it elsewhere before.//

Where have you said it? I would be interested to read. Jazakillah khair for your post, I'd be interested in hearing more of what you think.