Sunday, April 13, 2008

I must be a misogynist

Because I hate women.

No, don't give me that look, that just because I am a woman I'm supposed to think women are wonderful people. I don't think that. Clearly, I hate women. And I am in a fitless rage at the moment and have been unable to sleep out of sheer frustration at some women in my community. No doubt my post will anger, even infuriate some--most especially my readers in my own community.

But I just can't take it anymore.

The masjid here just opened a new portion of the building, including a musallah on the second floor especially for sisters (henceforth known as the fake musallah.) According to some people (men and women alike unfortunately) this means that women can't or shouldn't pray in the real musallah, the main one on the first floor. I tick these people off when I refuse to go upstairs to the fake musallah, and instead choose to pray behind the men. They usually let me know, as if I'm some poor stupid lass who can't figure out how to use stairs.

But in reality, every time I choose to pray upstairs in congregation (I have no problems praying up there solo), I become so angry, so infuriated that I cannot concentrate on my prayer whatsoever. Tonight I pretty much stormed out and threw a fit in my car, I was so upset. (After praying isha in the fake musallah tonight, that is.) I'm still throwing a fit 7 hours later, really.

Why do I get so angry at the women while praying upstairs? Various reasons... I'll list them.

First, because the women won't shut up. In the real prayer hall, people know better than to carry on their casual and audible conversations in the musallah--so they take it to the lobby. There is no lobby upstairs so the women use the fake musallah as their cafe to chit-chat when salaat is not going on. This is only a minor issue, because there is at least a private room secluded where I can pray in private if I show up and there is a group of sisters monopolizing the fake musallah with their pointless conversation.

Secondly, because the fake prayer hall serves as a dual-purpose play room. There is infact a play room upstairs, adjacent to the fake musallah. And there is a door to another secluded room for mothers to pray who have small children. And then there is a door from that room into the fake musallah itself. So this means that children can (and do) amuse themselves by running from the play room into the secluded room, into the fake musallah, into the hallway, back into the playroom... and so on. Despite having a play room, they also choose to run back and forth across the fake musallah. Usually this is behind the sisters praying in a row, but not always. Even when there is only enough room to prostrate, children still sometimes choose to run in front of this entire row! So they chase each other, giggle, scream, fall down and cry, and stomp around, all in the fake musallah, during the prayer. What is the point of a play room if the kids are still going to play in the prayer hall? Why can't the women control their kids!?

Thirdly, the sisters seem to have a problem observing basic congregational prayer etiquette. Like straighting the lines. And filling in the gaps. And starting the row in the center behind the imam. It isn't difficult to tell where the imam is downstairs, although it is not possible to actually see him. But still sisters insist on lining up starting sideways or in a corner instead of in the center. So tonight for example, the sisters somehow decided to line up in the front left corner of the fake musallah (against all logic) and as usual failed to fill in the gaps, and as usual could not manage to keep the line straight, despite having clear rows on the carpet!

Fourthly, the sisters collectively refuse to place their shoes on the shoe racks. They walk upstairs I suppose, take their shoes off as they open the door to the fake musallah, and walk right on in. Leaving their shoes in front of the door. Repeat after me: safety hazard!! And yes, already sisters have tripped on these shoes while exiting the fake musallah. (And can I point out that this is NEVER a problem downstairs where the brothers ALWAYS store their shoes?) And before you start telling me "maybe they don't know," be aware that after jummah sisters have repeatedly been instructed to place their shoes on racks. The racks are only three feet away from the doors!! Three feet! Why can't a person walk three more feet to put their shoes up instead of leaving a disaster pile of shoes at the doorway? Is bending down too much trouble? When I see this I've made a habit of removing them and putting them on racks--as have other like-minded sisters. We've also when seeing a sister leave her shoes there, informed her that she needed to use the racks. But still it happens... I exit the room and there are the shoes. I'm sorely tempted to collect them all and throw them in a dark room forcing the sisters to go on a search to find them. Really, it's absurd.

Fifthly, the audio/visual disaster. It is a disaster. There is absolutely no visual equipment (as had been promised!) to provide sisters with a view of the imam--for khutbahs or khaaterahs or even the salaat. There is a wall around the front of the room which is glass from about 3ft high up to the ceiling, so it is possible to see the imam if you look down from standing immediately against the wall. If you are far enough away from the wall to allow yourself space to prostrate, then you are too far away to have a proper angle to see the imam. So it doesn't count. No video equipment like I said, even though I had been told on several occasions that there would be a large screen television for sisters to see the imam. This results, quite naturally, in more chatty sisters who instead of listening to the talk will just carry on their own conversations! Leaving the other sisters with no recourse but to attempt to listen, without the aid of line of sight. This is a problem that DOESN'T happen downstairs. They brothers do not talk inside the real musallah during a lecture. Sisters do not shut up! Perhaps a television would not even help the problem--it's just another reason for me to hate women and their chatty selves. It is a problem that stems from the separation... or really seclusion of women in a separate and unequal (clearly deficient!!) area. And tonight I had to suffer from a very poor sound system. Whether it is the quality of the speakers or the volume being too high, the sound was clipping--very unpleasant to listen to... and anything that makes the Qur'an unpleasant to hear, and the salaat difficult to follow is not a good thing in my opinion. It's probably not a woman's fault, but the fact that women have to pray upstairs by themselves and it's men who control the sound system leaves me good reason to still hate praying upstairs in the fake musallah.

And last of all, praying upstairs in a separate room from the imam and congregation, does not feel like praying in congregation at all. The fact that anyone thinks there is a problem with women praying behind the men (when the Prophet saws said the best rows for women are the last rows) is another reason for my frustration at the fake musallah being upstairs and totally separated from the men. I am not even convinced that it is Islamically permissible really. I mean, does it make sense for my husband to lead me in prayer while he is downstairs and I am upstairs in my room with the door closed? Even if I can hear him? It doesn't. Does it make sense to follow a salaat while hearing the imam on the radio even if it's live? Or to follow a prayer on satellite television or streaming video on the internet? It doesn't make sense and I think what we're doing at the masjid now isn't much different--to be in a completely separate room from the imam, where it is not possible to see him (or the rows of the congregation), or to hear him except through artificial means (the sound system), hardly constitutes a single congregation, in my opinion.

So I hate it. I hate being up there with the women who don't like being part of the real congregation. I hate the women who leave their shoes strewn about for others to trip over. Who use the prayer hall as a venue for inane conversation, who leave their trash laying around, who and who talk during the lectures.

And worst of all I hate the people (this includes men) who come to me to say "Sister, there is a musallah for girls upstairs," as if I didn't know, as if to say I'm not welcome at the masjid if I can be seen, as if I am second class, and as if there is a problem with my praying behind the imam.

So I've done it now... made everyone angry. Oh well.


ameir said...

You will probably be happy to hear that the IAR will most likely close off the second and third floors except for Friday prayers and special occasions, and inshallah they will get the video equipment set up soon.

Brad said...

Salaam Alaikum!

I am sorry to read about your troubles at the masjid. One of my biggest issues with many Muslims (not Islam itself) is how women are thrown off to the side without much thought. And the women themselves seem to accept this as perfectly normal.

Since I am a guy, I cannot and won't pretend to understand the struggle you face. May Allah(swt) reward you for your struggles and make things easy for you.

Please let us know how things work out!


Amy said...

Salaam Ameir--

Actually I am happy to know that. I'm still worried that the same problems will occur... the post was mostly an angry rant, but there are some problems which need to be addressed (among the women.)

InshaaAllah the video equipment will get set up soon... I know that getting the money for all these things isn't exactly easy for the masjid right now.

I'm also glad the second floor will be closed because it will probably save the masjid some money on the energy bill.

Amy said...

Hi Brad,

I wanted to say something in defense of this mosque. The women were not "thrown aside without much thought." It's true that I (because of various reasons perhaps) don't like praying upstairs HOWEVER, I have noticed that many MORE women are coming to the daily prayers than did before the construction was completed. Which means many of them prefer the space, I think. (Perhaps they just feel more comfortable up there where they can talk in private, though.)

Also, there was tremendous thought given to the arrangement upstairs, so to say there wasn't much thought is not fair to them. I don't think the idea was ever to "throw them aside." The space is very nice, with the two secluded rooms and all--there was definitely some thought in that. There have been for a while plans to have video equipment up, but it just hasn't come through yet. The sound equipment works fine except for the annoying clipping which can probably be easily remedied. And it is possible to see downstairs through the glass if you are up against it. There is an elevator for the elderly to go upstairs so they don't have to use the stairs.

Overall I think the community here does a fine job including and catering to women, when it isn't usually appreciated by the women. My scathing attack was more specifically on the women... and the handful of men who repeatedly tell me that there is a musallah upstairs. And truthfully, they probably mean well.

Malak said...

Well, you pretty much posted the rant that I wanted to, so I'll share in your lashing too. ;-)

I stormed out of Mahgrib last week and then went back the next night to the same thing. >:-(

My other issue is that unless there is another sister with me downstairs, I don't feel comfortable.

Amy said...

Salaam "Malak"

Girl, I am so with you. The reason I think I don't quite feel comfortable downstairs alone is the glaring gaze of the men. It's like I can feel their anger at me for praying there. I don't think they just have a bad attitude, but really the fact that the whole upstairs/downstairs thing isn't clear to them either they just get frustrated.

Last night I was speaking to one of the security brothers about this issue--he said management still hadn't decided what to do about it. And we talked about some possibilities.

If women pray on the tile floor behind the men, with some carpet rolled out (as I've done a few times when I've seen other sisters lien up there), that is one possibility. But there has been a suggestion to keep the movable wall closed except for jummah (which is probably a good idea, because most people don't know how to work it and can easily break it), but that would mean women praying on the tile couldn't see the imam. (Amy goes grrr...)

Another possibility was praying in the back of the carpeted section, but the brother told me that during a dhuhr prayer there were so many women and someone actually blocked the door! (Not surprising, this is another problem women have, they did it in the gym and the old musallah, just stopping and praying in front of the door with no consideration for anyone coming in after them.) So we suggested something to keep women from setting up right by the door, maybe them having to go around to the other side through the far left to get into the musallah, and letting brothers use the entrance on the right. I'm afraid that the women will then just pray behind the wall which would be counter-productive.

Sooooooooooooo.......... we'll see.

InshaaAllah this week I'm going to try to pray maghrib at the masjid every night at least because there are supposed to be classes after the salaat. I think if we can establish something that is sensible and practical for the sisters, it might help resolve this issue altogether.

Malak said...

One thing about the gazes from the brothers: when we were in the gym, the brothers would come in and pray two rakats and then sit, facing the back wall and read. Now that they are in the new prayer hall, they lined up against the side walls and read. This leaves them watching things around them rather than the Qur'an that is in their hands. I've definitely noticed more gazes, so I just go upstairs (where I am usually by myself).

When I enter into the main prayer hall, I go in thru the door on the far left (at the back). I do that to avoid the brothers and I think this is more appropriate. I like the idea of making this a sisters' entrance.

The issue of sisters blocking the doorway just burns me up! It's like they've never left the home before. Allah forgive me for saying this, but this is how I see it.

As far as praying on the tile, well.......they should lay some carpet down. I love the carpet! That stuff has some sort of memory foam in it!!!

Amy said...

I wrote a new, calmer post about this issue, here:

Malak, I think you're right about the brothers looking--and that only applies to solo prayers which are outside of the jamaa, whether sunnahs or a fard prayed alone.

There is a real problem though with women who act like they haven't ever left their homes--it's not new. Women who just eat and spill food on the floor (including carpets) and don't clean it up. And then it is good that now they come to the masjid, and can learn about Islam.

Br. Hisham's class on Sundays might be a good way for people to learn about proper etiquette between men and women. (PS, it's after maghrib, and the first class was very good... maybe you can make it next week.)

Malak said...

Okay, the food thing. Something happened last week that kind of weirded me out. This is kind of gross, but I'm gonna mention it anyway. You know we have the "box" upstairs for sisters with younglings? Well, they are not using it at all. Someone had a baby in the main prayer section and I swear (Allah forgive me) that I thought I heard that baby spit up on the brand new carpet, right where we prostrate our faces. That grossed me out anf I couldn't concentrate after that. I still think that sisters with kids should be upstairs. It's only fair to the rest of us who want to pray.
Has anyone ever thought about having someone volunteer to watch the kids in the playroom during prayer? I'd gladly volunteer!!!

I'll have to remember Br. Hisham's class. How did I miss this? :-)

Amy said...


You're right though, sisters by and large aren't using the 'box.' Last night there was a little baby in the hall upstairs, a few rows behind the sisters, that eventually decided to scream. That's what the box is for!!

And there are always kids running back and forth, that seems to be really hot for 4-6 year olds.

Here's something that bothers me. There is a playroom upstairs. So the mothers should have to go upstairs if they have little ones? What about the dads!? It's not rare unfortunately for boys to be playing downstairs--why don't they go play upstairs instead?

And here's a thought. Last night in Br. Hisham's class one brother was like "oh, the reason there is a partition for the sisters is so they can breastfeed...."

Tell me when was the last time you saw someone breastfeeding in the sisters' section? I never have. Not once. So basically they are forcing all the sisters to pray in a facility that is deficient for them in numerous ways, so once in a blue moon a woman can breastfeed in the masjid!?

This is a problem I was thinking of several months ago before the building opened--some women WANT to pray upstairs and some WANT to pray downstairs. The split makes things difficult for everyone--sisters who want to pray behind the imam, sisters who are paranoid about being in a room with men, sisters who want to breastfeed during the prayer (whoever they are), the women who don't have children and don't want to be distracted by them, men who don't want to be distracted, the parents who bring children that are distracting, and men who can't take their kids upstairs...

just a mess. big mess.

the crazy jogger said...

hmm, I think we have the same problm in the women section esp during ramadan. whn all the stomach's r full all the 'geebat' is on full steam

this guy used to take a wiper n move all the shoes not in the racks to the end of the landing [which was the street]. ppl were angry at first but then he explained: his kid hurt his head bad. got tripped on them. so he said he would do it till 'the end of time'