Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Makeshift Partition!? $#&@$!!

Makeshift partition in the gymWhat is this?

Who comes up with this? I thought y'all might wanna see something this stupid so I took a picture with my cell phone before and after the salaat tonight.

You see, the masjid is under construction, so sometimes instead of praying in the musallah, we're pushed into the gym right behind it. Tonight we were praying in the gym.

Now, I actually like praying in the gym because there's no stupid partition between the brothers and sisters (the stupid wall drives me crazy, I swear! I hate praying behind it.) There is, however, a lot of space. It's a gym...

This is a weekly isha jamaat prayer. I prayed maghrib there just fine though it was only myself and another sister praying against the back wall (not in the photograph above.) Just praying behind the brothers like normal Muslims. You know, best rows for men in the front, best rows for sisters in the back.

So what the heck? I come for isha and I'm debating whether I have time enough to pray 2 rakaat before the iqama and I see this brother start folding up one of the tables (yes, these are the fold-up tables you see in cafeterias) and rolling it in front of the sisters!!

In shock, I watch. Staring (as rudely as possible) at the brother building this stupid little makeshift, I see another brother come help him!! That tore me up too because I actually respected the 2nd brother (not the first). So they are moving tables until you see this embarrassing display in front of the sisters.

View from behind Now, isn't this just the dumbest thing you've ever seen? For one thing, there were only about 8-10 sisters back there. They were all perfectly fine praying without lunch tables in front of them. The men were far enough in front it's not like they were going to be watching us bend over... except perhaps when they walked in the door. But was there any kind of obstacle to block the side view as the brothers entered from the back and joined the ranks up front? Nope!

Just the stupid lunch tables. Give me a break. You all know (or if you didn't before, now you do) that I hate the idea of partitions during salaah; I think they are pointless and ineffective except to isolate sisters from the jama'ah!! The one table even has a hole in it--and there was trash stuffed in it. The only thing that grinds my ax more than women who want a petition are men who put one there without being asked!! Trust me, he wasn't doing anyone any favors, and rather unfortunately has lost esteem in my eyes.

Ugh. I can't give this up, how incredibly retarded it was to move lunchtables in front of the sisters to block them from the brothers. What, the brothers on the other side of the court were looking up our jilbabs? Oh no, we might actually be able to see the speaker giving the khaatera after the salaat?

I was tempted--sorely tempted--to move the tables right back once he was done. But I didn't. I waited until after the prayer, and after the khaatera. I moved three of the four before another brother decided to help and he moved the 4th one. InshaaAllah I'm gonna pray isha and I might not be so patient if someone decides to get clever.

And yes, oh yes, I saw those brothers who gave that stupid table array that wary look, but yet who did nothing about it. It just strikes me as extremely problematic that anyone in this community would consider such a partition to be necessary (or even desirable!) that they would go through such lengths to create one. How embarrassing then that he did... and that I took pictures! Am I so terrible? Apparently.

Just because some people don't know that there is no valid Islamic necessity for that partition doesn't mean they should be able to force it on the rest of us. And if you think I'm hot now? I'm just getting warmed up... this is an issue that I seriously think Muslims need to tackle, brothers and sisters--who are both contributing to the problem to the exclusion and isolation of the sisters.

Read another good post about silly partitions here.


Leena said...

Lame! It seems they are absolutely convinced of the weakness of their own self-control and a few wooden tables will effectively stop them from ravishing you or other helpless women they may come into contact with. You MUST know your place!

Anonymous said...


I hate the partition thing too.
I've been in mosques where they have done the partition thing, put women in a basement, and put women on a balcony. It irks me.
And, i've always wondered, doesn't having a partition between you make the prayer invalid.
For example, if you go in a room to pray and people will be passing in front of you, you can put up a partiotion, be it a chair or whatever between you and whoever will pass. what about when there is this partition between you and the imam. not just rows of people praying together, but rows of people, then tables then the women?
I dunno, i don't like it. And, it's not sunnah it's an innovation. The prophet (saaw) didn't pray with partitions between him and the rest of the congregation.


Anonymous said...

The wall is bidah. Those who push or find acceptable such a partition are deviating from the sunnah, and adding their own beliefs to Islam. It's sad that people can't differentiate between culture and religion.

I would have been livid too. I remember at the masjid I would attend in college, that there was a built wall with windows between us, and a heavy curtain on our side. Sometimes the women would be forgotten and we'd have to send someone over to (sometimes women would send their children because they didn't feel "comfortable"), to ask the men to open the blinds so we could see what was happening.

Then, I was upset about it, but did nothing. If I were in your situation, I don't know what I would have done.
But I know I would have definately liked to have gone up and pushed those tables away immediately after the men took their hands off them :D
And then given them a very, very, angry look.

Modern Muslimah said...

All man, maybe Allah is allowing all this to occur for a reason. Like two weeks ago I wrote a post on the same exact issue. I'm not sure if you've read it. It was a similar scenario. The sisters musalla wasn't open and when my hubby told a brother that I was praying the main musalla, he thought it was absolutely imperative that he take one of those fold-able walls and put it up so that I would be separated from my husband while making salat. I had like 5% of the musalla to pray in and I had no idea where my husband was in the musalla. It was so bad that I literally could not pray in jamaat with my husband. It was impossible. It really made me mad. The anger you're feeling right now was the same anger I was feeling that day.

Is there anyway that you could speak to the director of your masjid? I spoke to the president of that masjid I just referenced. He happens to be one of my profs so I have a good rapport with him. He told me that I didn't have to pray behind a partition and that if any brothers took issue with that to tell them that the president himself said that I could do it. Enough is enough! If we're going to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah then let's follow it. I hope that you and the other sisters at your masjid can get this straightened out. Partitions are an absolute bid'ah and an unequal one at that! We are not second class members of the ummah. We have to demand our rights!

wa salaam,
Your sister in the deen,

Amy said...

Jazakum allah khair for the comments, all!

Leena--it's definitely lame!

Fatima--I'd be interested if there is any evidence to suggest that a partition between some worshipers would invalidate someone's salaah. I don't think that's the case, but praying in an entirely different room really bothers me that it actually might. (I keep meaning to ask the imam about it, in fact..)

Maya--I myself am hesitant to use the B-word, but this wall business is definitely not sunnah. It's in this instance perhaps we are obligated to offer naseehah to our poor misguided brothers, eh? I really wanted to go push them out of the way, right when they were done, but I thought it might cause a scene... and that bothers me less and less.

Unfortunately, for now the regular musallah has a partition (movable, but still it's there for the prayer) marking the sister's section, and it's about 5 feet high so I can see over it though a lot of sisters can't. Once the construction is finished, the sisters will have the entire second floor (not just a balcony, but the whole second floor so it's a big space) to pray, but still they are in a different room, with a wall of windows at the front where supposedly we were supposed to be able to see the imam? That's going to be impossible--I've been up there. Not unless you're standing against the window could you see him.

MM--No, I didn't see your post but I read it now, and added a link to it! They've got issues, huh!? Locking the sisters' section in the first place is a problem. I think I might have to do a post about sisters going through the main door now, an issue like that recently came up at my own masjid. But these stupid partitions being erected as such is really embarassing and highly offensive. I do have a hard time concentrating when I start getting mad (livid!) at these absolutely retarded innovations. There, I said it.

Now, I should add that the IMAM hates the partition in the musallah, the masjid shura has no love for it either. In fact I was even reading a summary of Maududi's introductions before taraweeh in Ramadan, I once a week and one other sister on another night, and someone in the community literally had a hissy fit because of it. But it was the masjid administration and the imam who supported us--and the shura who apologized quite profusely I should add for the very embarassing behavior of some members of the community against the sisters. Totally cultural he called it, and inshaAllah we can just bring ourselves more into accordance with the sunnah with time and knowledge. May Allah help us to do that.

saliha said...

i agree that the partitions are annoying and pointless. i have been reading some of your posts, however, and i wonder if you are not a little too critical about us born-muslims? i dont think you understand that it is very different to be born a muslim - especially of an immigrant muslim family in the US - and quite another to convert when you are an adult. we have a lot of different issues than you have. there is a lot of misunderstanding on the part of both born-muslims and convert muslims. it's also very easy to be critical, but harder to teach people what is correct in islam and to have patience with them as a lot of immigrant muslims have a lot of culture-and-islam mixed-up baggage. it's not easy to change something you have been taught your whole life. so i would suggest you have patience with us just as we have patience with muslim converts like yourself. we're all in this deen together.

Amy said...

Saliha, you're right that it's easy to be critical, and it's harder to teach people what is correct. But you tell me to be patient. And you know what? I think I have a lot of patience, and am actually exercising a tremendous bit of restraint here.

I go to the masjid, I pray behind the silly partition and don't make a big fuss about it except among friends. I don't really criticize anyone in particular about it; I know it's not based in deen, I know the imam knows it's not based in deen, and I know some people just "have issues" and so I'm patient with their issues and I pray behind the stupid partition which I hate to be patient with their issues.

But too many people say "be patient" and mean, in fact, "ignore" or "get over." I.e., be patient with them while they are too busy to learn about this deen, and let them step on you. There is a point where it's more important to stand up and correct a wrong than it is to be patience.

And I think we've reached that point.

So yes, yes, patience is nice. But we can't go on being patient forever while others continue to be wrong. I think that preventing an ignorant brother from rolling some lunch tables in front of me while I pray is not demonstrating a lack of patience but a strength of will. Being patient is allowing the regular wall there for the sisters (I only keep my mouth shut for the sisters.)

But allowing people to continue to add innovation is not called patience, it's not very bright at all, and that is what I am complaining about.

alajnabiya said...

Assalaamu 'alaikum,

I have been reading your blog for a while now, and thoroughly enjoy it. So I am sad that the first time I comment on one of your posts will to be to disagree with your opinion, especially since you already said that you are annoyed by women that like partitions.

I can see that putting those tables up might have seemed silly, or at least ineffectual, but in general, I prefer a masjid that has a separate area for women.

First, here are a few hadith from Bukhari that show the general permissibility of praying with some barrier between the Imam and the followers. (There may be better, but this is just what I found quickly.)

Volume 1, Book 11, Number 696:

Narrated 'Aisha:

Allah's Apostle used to pray in his room at night. As the wall of the room was low, the people saw him and some of them stood up to follow him in the prayer. In the morning they spread the news. The following night the Prophet stood for the prayer and the people followed him. This went on for two or three nights. Thereupon Allah's Apostle did not stand for the prayer the following night, and did not come out. In the morning, the people asked him about it. He replied, that he way afraid that the night prayer might become compulsory.

Volume 1, Book 11, Number 697:

Narrated 'Aisha:

The Prophet had a mat which he used to spread during the day and use as a curtain at night. So a number of people gathered at night facing it and prayed behind him.

Volume 1, Book 11, Number 698:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Allah's Apostle made a small room in the month of Ramadan (Sa'id said, "I think that Zaid bin Thabit said that it was made of a mat") and he prayed there for a few nights, and so some of his companions prayed behind him. When he came to know about it, he kept on sitting. In the morning, he went out to them and said, "I have seen and understood what you did. You should pray in your houses, for the best prayer of a person is that which he prays in his house except the compulsory prayers."

There are a few reasons why I personally like to be in a masjid that has a separate prayer area for women. The first is that it ensures that there is room for the women. Some times there may be so many worshipers that there isn't enough room for everyone. If the musallah is one large room, and there are enough men to entirely fill it, where will the sisters pray? Many times masjids are so crowded that the back rows are out in the yard or street, but the women's area ensures that the sisters have a place to pray and they are not entirely pushed out.

Another reason I like the separate area for women is that it makes it easier for some women to go to the masjid. When my babies were small, I used to take them with me to the masjid when I wanted to pray. If the baby needed fed, I was free to breast feed then and there, which kept things quieter for every one else. I certainly would have hesitated to go to the masjid to pray if I didn't have that bit of privacy. Another advantage is for the sisters who wear niqab. As you probably know, a woman needs to remove her face cover while she prays. That poses no problem during the fard salat lead by the imam, when every ones faces are turned to the front, but what if she wants to make some extra prayers after the salat? Should she feel that she ought to rush to finish before the brothers in front of her may chance to look around?

So there are some reasons why a sister might welcome having a separate area for women. But why do women often hate it? Well, if the partition or wall makes it hard to hear the imam then that certainly needs to be fixed. But if you can hear clearly, why do you need to see? Are you looking at the imam while you pray? No. Do you need to see his face to understand the khutba? No, if you did, then I think a lot less Islamic lecture tapes and CDs would be sold and downloaded. So what is the real problem? Is it so awful to be with your Muslim sisters instead of standing with the men? It's like we feel that being with women is not good enough. Why? Aren't women as good as men?

Finally, I wonder if a part of the brother's motivation in placing the partition in the temporary prayer hall might have been his own modesty. Not just that he feared that he might be tempted to look around at the sisters, but he may have also just felt some shyness at making ru'ku with sisters he doesn't know behind him. Just because he is a guy doesn't mean that that he doesn't feel shy about bending over and showing his backside to a bunch of women he doesn't know. Yes, I know that they didn't have that partition in the Prophet's (SAWS) time, but you have to look for 70 excuses for your brother, not just assume that he is a misogynistic, culturally backwards extremist. And we don't always have to be with the men to be equal to them.

May Allah subhana wa ta'ala guide and protect us all.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Alajnabiya

Jazakillah khair for the time and effort you put into making that comment. I think you were very careful to be gentle and non-offensive in your disagreement and I want you to know it was well-received.

But I don't agree with you. I'm sorry.

You make a point about a demarcation of space for the sisters. That's fair--what if the brothers take up all the space, where will sisters pray?

I ask, however, if the sisters are in the back... how can there not be any space for them, unless none of them arrive until the brothers have the place filled up? I know the women here are regularly kicked out of the musallah (for jummah, taraweeh) because the brothers will, without a doubt, fill up all the space and overflow.

However, it's not a rare occasion that the sisters overflow the space allotted to them, while the brothers don't even fill up half. So what should happen then!?

Never can be perfect that way, you see? In the interest of space, I don't make a large protest about sisters being pushed upstairs with the new construction project. Plus I'll be gone soon inshaaAllah so I don't really care.

This barrier, though, the one I photographed... this was not an issue of space. It was a Wednesday night, it was doubtful the brothers would be more than a few rows and more than a handful of sisters. Space was definitely not the issue. So the lunch tables were silly and ineffective. You could see through them too, so please don't suggest that modesty was an issue here at all. There was no way that a man could walk into this room to pray in such a way that he would not be forced to walk past the sisters, and if the row of tables constituted a defined border to the sisters' "section" then the brothers would have been walking through the sisters' section.

You did give some ahadith to demonstrate such alleged permissibility of praying behind a barrier so I'll drop that bone--what is missing, however, is absolutely any prophet reason to isolate WOMEN to a separate portion. If women start in the back, and men in the front, seldom will you have an issue with space except that BOTH are forced to a separate area. And someone's going to be overflowing either way. Just because there is "space" for sisters does not ever mean that it is enough. And if women are praying in the back already, there is no reason to think they would be "pushed out." The exclusionist thinking is just the sort that gets women "pushed out" before anyone is in the first row.

Unfortunately, you're barking up the wrong tree with your sister in niqab suggestion. I'm not even going to touch it, because I don't have anything nice to say in response.

About breastfeeding in the masjid. About breastfeeding in the masjid. About breastfeeding in the masjid. About breastfeeding in the masjid.
Are you breastfeeding while you are praying? Or do you like to sit in the masjid in a separate section for you and your baby while you listen but don't watch a lecture? What if the sister beside you would rather WATCH?

And about watching. Yes, about watching. Ahem. Watching. One thing I learned when I studied public speaking a few years back is that communication is over 80% nonverbal. And as a speaker, we are supposed to utilize the nonverbal and the verbal aspects to communication. And as a listener, nonverbal cues matter. You can never convince me that a room of people who are listening to an audio-only lecture are as attentive and learning as much as those who can observe the speaker directly as well as hear his voice. There is plenty to be learned as well by watching the speaker. And when the audience is in front of the speaker, you have more audience attention and less distraction. The presentation is "in their face," so to speak. I have observed, and I'm sure you have as well, that when any group of people are listening only to an audio playing over them, without any kind of visual information, they are easily distracted, and more likely to be carrying on their own conversations, an occurance far less common when they are before a speaker.

I WANT TO SEE THE SPEAKER. I don't buy this business about being able to understand it just as well overhead, because it's a lie. It's a lie because all non-verbal (visual) cues are lost (including visual aids, hand gestures, etc) AND because the audience is far more easily distracted.

But this isn't even about salaah, this is about lectures and any other kind of gathering. Which is another hill of beans I can grind if necessary.

I don't think I ever called the brother misogynistic or extreme, actually. But here there are two issues--one, the partition in the first place, which you support. Two, this extra lunch table barrier that was just uncalled for and silly.

Now, I really needed to address this part of your comment: "So what is the real problem? Is it so awful to be with your Muslim sisters instead of standing with the men? It's like we feel that being with women is not good enough. Why? Aren't women as good as men?"

I absolutely NEVER said I had a problem praying beside Muslimahs. Do I have a problem with them talking while I'm listening? YES. Do I have a problem praying beside them? Astaghfirullah. Come on. I have never suggested praying beside the men, but do I want to be in the same room? YES. Without any partition? YES. Why? Because it's the best way, it's the Sunnah way, and I feel like I am part of ONE jama'at, not sisters following a disembodied voice as an imam. Standing on the OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE COURT of the brothers without lunch tables is not standing with the men.

But as long as women have this idea that they shouldn't participate equally in a gathering to learn about Islam, I have a real problem with them, yes. But I didn't say anything about men being better than women really so it's odd you decided to ask.

I'm sorry to have responded so rudely when you attempted to be so polite, but consider this:

What if men said they didn't want to pray in the same place as women? How does that make you feel?

I kinda feel that way when you don't want women to pray in the same place as men. The business of segregating women is NOT justified Islamically. I cannot accept it.

Anonymous said...

While there will always be differences of opinions about some things, some things are not up for debate.
So, if someone has cultural habits mixed with islamic doctrine, it needs to be pointed out and corrected. It shouldn't be left to become more enmeshed with religion to the point where it becomes like it's part of religion. So, yes, we need to have patience with these kinds of things, but, we shouldnt be silent about them. That gives the impression that its OK.
When other muslims are doing things wrong it is our duty to tell them, and remind them if necessary.
And, whether you are a convert or " born" muslim, there is no difference. If you see something that you know Allah did not order or warned us against and it is going on in front of you, by MANY people, of course it is going to be upsetting. And, you are going to say something about it.
It's a shame that whenever anyone has anything critical or constructive to say about situations, everyone's pants get in a bunch and they can't just take the criticism and apply it to themselves.
As far as the points that Amy has made regarding many issues, particularly toward certain going's on in the mosque, it may hit home and make you think, but, it's correct.
The partition thing, is ridiculous and upsetting to many of us. Some may not feel that way. But, when it comes down to it, the prophet (saaw) did not pray with a partition in the mosque during congregational prayers. the partitions reffered to in those hadith are partiontions when he had been praying individual prayers. The partitions are so that you can seperate yourself from others who may walk or pass in front of you while youre praying.
The situation of muslims currently is horrendous. Instead of everyone getting offended and being 'careful' of what we say to each other, let's just be honest up front and work to correct ourselves. When someone tells us something in a non abbrasive and un-offensive matter, we need to listen and fix the problem. Not get angry because we are doing things that are wrong and we want them to "understand". We need patience, yes. But, we also need to actually correct the problem.


alajnabiya said...

Assalaamu 'alaikum sister Amy,

I am quite content to have a polite disagreement over an issue with you. But perhaps I didn't make it clear that I was not disagreeing with you over the particular incident you described. I also thought that it was a silly and pointless to place those tables between the men and women under those circumstances. And if the brothers who did it believe that having a barrier between men and women is necessary in the deen, then they are misinformed and need to be taught.

I chose to comment because of your statement beginning "The only thing that grinds my ax more than women who want a partition..." My intent was to simply try to give you some idea why some women would want a partition.

You said "I ask, however, if the sisters are in the back... how can there not be any space for them, unless none of them arrive until the brothers have the place filled up? I know the women here are regularly kicked out of the musallah (for jummah, taraweeh) because the brothers will, without a doubt, fill up all the space and overflow." You made my point. If the women need to keep moving back to accomodate more men in front, assuming there is a door in the back, then they may be pushed out of the prayer area altogether. If there is a women's musalla, then at least those sisters that got there early will get to keep their places. Of course you are right that the situation will never be perfect, especially when you are praying in a gym.

I am sorry to think that you felt you couldn't have anything nice to say about the comfort of a sister in niqaab. I don't belive that wearing one is fard, but I also wish to respect the needs of the sister that chooses to wear one.

No, of course I never breastfed a baby during salat, but I do remember being greatful that I could quiet one during the khutba if need be. Better than having him making noise to disturb others. That baby is in his 4th year of college now, but I do recall that even when I did my best to get him all fed and happy before I went to jummah, he often wanted to nurse a few minutes before settling off to sleep. And I hated to miss jummah because in our little masjid in Ohio way back when, there were far fewer chances to listen to any lecture about Islam than you seem to have these days.

"And about watching. Yes, about watching. Ahem. Watching." :-)

Well, I agree that it is often easier to pay attention to a lecture when you can see the speaker. But it is also possible to pay attention and benefit without seeing the speaker. After all, if you were here in Jerusalem or in Mecca, even most of the men barely get a glimps of the khateeb, yet they benefit from listening to the khutba because they listen attentively. The problem in many women's sections is that the women don't listen attentively. They talk, they figit with their clothes, they let their kids misbehave. But the women's rudeness or out right sin if it is Jummah is, as you put it, another hill of beans.

I never suggested you had a problem praying with the Muslimahs, and if it sounded that way, please forgive my poor writing abilities. I meant to address the feeling among some Muslimahs that having women in some way separated from the men is de facto discrimination. It may be, but it also may not be.

And I know that you never called the brother misogynistic or extreme, it was an exageration to make a point, just like I didn't think that Leena (who made the first comment) was entirely serious when she wrote "they are absolutely convinced of the weakness of their own self-control and a few wooden tables will effectively stop them from ravishing you or other helpless women they may come into contact with."

May Allah subhana wa ta'ala bless and guide us all.

MyHijab said...

Salam Alaikum Amy

I completely, and utterly agree with you.

Because I did not 'be patient' about this partition issue, us women at the masjed can now SEE the sheikh speak. It is because I made a big fuss about being sectioned in the back that the curtain is taken down, that the plastic makeshift walls are taken down.

ALso, when women are partitioned (or hidden behind massive think curtains) it gives them the green light to talk, and talk and talk and talk. I have noticed that because the speaker can see us, they are, shock and horror, quiet!

At uni I sit right at the front because I gather more information when I can hear AND see the lecturer. Its that simple.

Don't give up Amy. I'm with you on this one.


Amy said...

AA Al-Ajnabiya -

"My intent was to simply try to give you some idea why some women would want a partition."

Although my opinion is pretty much the same as before, and while I still truthfully abhor being partitioned away during salaat, and during lectures, from the rest of the congregation, I did consider what you said. And I can try to be more considerate of my sisters in Islam. I appreciate your comments, and did give them fair consideration. Just wanted you to know that. Jazakillahukhair for commenting in the first place, and replying.

Amy said...

AA MyHijab -

Jazakillahukhair for your comment, I think we have nearly identical viewpoints on this particular issue. I appreciate your comment, and hearing that you were able to affect change in your own masjid. :-)