Friday, September 05, 2008

The Women of My Mosque

Islamic Center of Raleigh
A few weeks ago, another blogger mentioned some problems of having a women-friendly mosque. Women want to come to the mosque, of course... but they want peace and quiet, and feel like the burden of disciplining unruly children during the prayers has fallen on them when mothers (and fathers) neglect their part.

In fact, at my masjid many women have not come to taraweeh prayers for a long time because for many years (and years ago) they were so bothered by the annoying screams of dozens of children during the prayer. So I wanted to take this opportunity to really commend the women at my masjid for the efforts that they currently undertake to ensure that taraweeh prayers are peaceful for all the sisters who attend. If someone else at another mosque has a problem with sisters and children causing disruptions maybe they can use this as a model inshaaAllah.

The masjid building now has two floors where people pray, one for brothers (downstairs) and one is basically for sisters (upstairs.) There is a musallah upstairs for the sisters, with an excellent sound system to hear the imam from downstairs, as well as a large screen high-definition TV screen showing the imam (useful for khutbahs as well, if not so much for salaat.) This room is only used by sisters who do not have any children. No children are allowed in the room--so the carpet stays clean, the room is quiet to hear the imam without any mother needing to tend to a child, or any kids running between the rows.

Beside this prayer room is a smaller "play room" which has been adapted to include praying carpets and also has a sound system to broadcast the recitation of the imam, so that mothers of children up to 2 years old will be allowed to attend taraweeh prayers upstairs, praying with sisters. In the past children this age were sent to childcare because there were not separate rooms but now this is the alternative we have, a separate room for mothers of small children who really might have a hard time in babysitting anyway.

But all the other children, ages 2 and up, are sent to babysitting. The masjid actually HIRES babysitters to be there every night, and then some sisters volunteer for the busier nights to watch the kids and to also register them in as they arrive to keep track. Past the age of babysitting, girls must be upstairs, boys must be downstairs. The babysitting actually takes place in another building on the premises, where there is also set up speakers to hear the prayer, and some room for sisters to pray there as well, if they wish.

There are also 1-2 sisters volunteering each night in Ramadan as security to make sure that no children end up in the main prayer halls to disturb the salaat, and to make sure that there are't any older children running around in the building at all. They can also direct sisters to the appropriate room, or to babysitting, if they don't know where everything is. This way inshaaAllah everybody has a pleasant experience.

I know this is probably a problem for many communities, but alhamdulillah, it's something that is addressed very well here. The entire effort is coordinated and implemented by the Women's Committee, and frankly it's pretty impressive. :-) Last year we did not have the upstairs floor so all children (even babies) had to go to babysitting. But alhamdulillah there was no crying and wailing--EVER--the whole month. :-) It can happen!

And so far this Ramadan there hasn't been any problems (at least, not that I'm aware of.) And taraweeh is a very blessed and wonderful experience. May Allah reward all those sisters who sacrifice their time to ensure things run smoothly for everyone else.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ideally, this would all be a good plan, but in reality I have been to fifty percent of the Taraweeh prayers so far and I was told each time that I could not pray in the room for babies. Other sisters used it. I had to pray in the child's prayer area or give my baby to my husband. Furthermore, at the end of the last prayer I attended, the woman in charge yelled at the women in the child's play area..."this is not a crying room, if your baby cries, you shouldn't come to the masjid". Who knew? There must be babies that don't cry. Also, I have been to many other prayers prior to Ramadan, and someone would yell into the room, often after the prayer has begun, and tell us that if our child cries then we need to leave.
So, it is nice that the women without children have found peace. But honestly, they should just tell people that no babies or children are allowed in the prayer areas during prayers.

Amy said...

Salaam

I sat here for a while trying to figure out what you were talking about when you said you were told you couldn't pray in the room for babies but had to pray in the child's prayer area. I get it now.

There are two rooms at the front of the musallah, which outside of Ramadan are used so that one is for women with babies, and the other is for single sisters who want to pray in quiet. In Ramadan, both rooms are for single sisters who want to pray in quiet. You can see that someone even improvised a sign "No children" for the room on the right.

What you call the child's prayer area is not that, it's actually a play room, but now it is the room for sisters with babies during Ramadan. It is not a play room right now, it is a prayer room for sisters with babies--that's why they put the green carpets down in there. And if your child cries, just try to tend to him. You see, when a baby cries he disturbs the entire congregation in a painful way. Sometimes it's not good for little children 0-2 to have to be away from their mother, which is why the small ones are allowed with their mothers in that separate room. But even through the wall a screaming child can be heard. Last night, for example, there was one. It's easier since it's in another room though.

The general rule however is that children are not allowed upstairs, because they disturb the prayer. I'm sure you've prayed there on Friday nights with kids running around everywhere, and that is the situation to be avoided in Ramadan.

I remember sitting with the committee who is taking care of these things and really they want to make the experience the best for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't talking about a literal child's prayer room, I was talking about the child's play area where they let all of the women pray with babies or children.
I am aware that there are two rooms at the front of the musallah, one of them is for women for babies, but now it is not available for them. They mentioned at the first night of Taraweeh prayers that the room would be available for mothers with babies. They shouldn't announce this if they have no real intention of providing it.

I understand that when babies cry they disturb the congregation...I have never let my baby cry.

Right and so if children are not 'really' allowed upstairs then they should just say it instead of offering a place for children to pray upstairs and a baby room where women can be insulted for having babies.

The solution is really so simple and it would only take a heart with mercy to recognize it so that all women with or without children would be allowed to attend the mosque. A female scholar came to Raleigh, I met her one night before Maghrib. At the end of that prayer, a woman yelled at all of the women with children. The scholar turned to her with a look of disapproval and made a quite poignant reply to which the complaining woman (probably on your committee) could say nothing in response.

Congratulations, you sit on committees.

Anonymous said...

copied from their Ramadan booklet:
The cry room noted is unavailable.

Women’s Committee Services
The Women's Committee will provide baby-sitting during Ramadan.
 No children under 7 years old are allowed in the Musallah
 For 3 - 6 years old children, there will be crafts and activities.
 Children 2 years and under should be with their mothers in the cry room.

Amy said...

Salaam

I think there is only some miscommunication here. All women ARE allowed, in fact they are ENCOURAGED to attend the mosque. All women. :-) I've never said anything different, neither has the Women's Committee said anything different.

Children under the age of 7 are just not allowed in the prayer hall because they are disruptive. They are children, and they can't help it. So there is babysitting provided.

For children 2 and under, babysitting is more difficult so instead, the room /beside/ the musallah has been converted into a prayer room (from a play room) for the women who have children 2 and under.

The rooms at the front of the musallah are not for babies during Ramadan. Mothers with babies are to use the room beside the prayer hall. You can mock me for sitting on comittees but I only bring this up to mention that these sisters are working very hard, and they are giving up their time--they are not praying taraweeh so that they can monitor everything else which to me is quite a sacrifice and I think they should be commended for it.

The room at the front of the musallah which is normally for babies is not for babies in Ramadan. Perhaps there was some confusion in the communication of that message, but now you know.

Moreover, there is no place for children to pray upstairs in Ramadan. Children are supposed to go to babysitting. That's all that has been said.

I'm looking at the Imsakiyya too and I guess use of the word "cry room" isn't clear. Which is maybe why the poor sisters working security are having so much trouble. But the room for babies is the room /beside/ the prayer hall, and not the room at the front of the prayer hall with the glass wall.

And of course the first line says that no children under 7 years are allowed in the musallah.

I'm still totally unsure of what the problem is that you're actually having. From my perspective, it just looks like bad communication.

Anonymous said...

You have evaded some of the points that I have made. Obviously, I am not saying that women shouldn't be commended for babysitting.
Also, in no way am I mocking you, I am just congratulating you on things that you have stated about yourself, you are active on committees in the masjid, you conduct dawah, etc.

I will delineate my points for you:

1- There is no point in having a room for women to pray where they have to worry about whether or not there child will cry. Inevitably, at some point, a child will cry. Furthermore, when the child cries, she then has to deal with the sister 'managing' the room following the prayer. You said yourself that the general rule is that children are not allowed upstairs. This has been supported by comments made by other women during or after prayers. So, the obvious solution is just for you to say to all women that no children are allowed upstairs. period.

2- You can't make the argument that all women are encouraged to attend the mosque if their condition is a means for discrimination. The condition being that they have a child with them. You would have to find an alternative for them which makes everyone happy (both the motherless and the motherly). My point is that no woman should be insulted and spoken to with unwelcoming and subordinating tones after a prayer has begun or ended. Clearly, if a woman with a child prays the Maghrib prayer and then a woman stands up and yells at them for having children, humiliating individual women in the crowd, then they are not welcome here. They have nowhere else to pray at the masjid, and the best solution is for them to not come back. So, it is really unfair to say that all women are welcome. It is a subtle yet sincere discrimination to outwardly proclaim women with children are welcome, but then to publicly humiliate them when they arrive. There was a time that I sat next to a woman whose child was running through the aisles. After the prayer, a woman in the front row turned around and just broke into a diatribe. I could feel the woman next to me breathing and a soft cry. I felt so sad for her and I will never forget it.

So, to reiterate my point, if women with children are not welcome, then just make it a rule so that no one has to deal with these public displays anymore.

You might argue that you can't control these hostile, militant women, but it wouldn't happen if there were not a group consensus approving their actions.

Your committee can't want what is best for everyone when it is accepted that some people will be harassed during or after their prayer. In order to effectively run a group, all individuals of that group have to be represented. You are clearly only representing the opinion of yourself and those like you.

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum my dear sister

I don't mean to evade any of your points. I would like to resolve this with you--do you come to the prayers? Do you know who I am? I am not in charge of anything but I can direct you to those sisters who are head of the committee and who are on it so you can talk to them. I am sister Amy, try emailing me at amydadair@hotmail.com (I don't like to give out my main email on my blog because I get spam, but inshaaAllah I will keep an eye out to hear from you there) and I can send you a picure or something so you can find me.

And you don't need to congratulate me. Serving on any committee doesn't make me any better than anyone else. I never wanted to boast about what I've done so please forgive me if anything else has been conveyed.

So I will try to address your points here but I hope that I can meet with you in the next couple of days and we can actually resolve them inshaaAllah.

(1) Yes, children cry. We all know children cry. They are children, it's what they do. :-) That's why sisters with children are in that side room and not in the prayer hall. I don't know who it was that 'harassed' you so I hope that together you and I can talk to the Women's Committee about it so that other sisters aren't harassed and the volunteers can be more gentle, or so that they know what their limits are. This is something that we can resolve in-shaa-Allah.

(2) I don't know who it was that spoke to you in such a harsh manner--and clearly this has bothered you very much--but I hope that together we can resolve the problem and help the volunteers to be more gentle when they have to talk to sisters.

I pray maghrib at the masjid very often--before Ramadan I would pray it at least twice a week and often more than that. And 'isha as well. And there are children there very often. I'm not talking about Friday nights even, when sisters are upstairs, but everyday during the week. It's very common for children to come with their mothers (and even fathers) to the salaat. And I have never once heard anyone complain and I am very very sad to hear that any sister was humiliated or berated in such a fashion as you describe.

If sisters are being harassed--and you have described exactly that--then it's something that we (all of us, you, and me, and the women's committee and all the women in our community) should try to resolve.

I hope you will contact me in private, or come up to me after the salaat if you know who I am.

Ma3salamah.

Jamilah said...

Anonymous

I can understand your frustration, and I sympathize with you. I don't have a baby, but I do have a 10 year old Autistic son. My husband and I will take turns going to tarawheeh so that he is taken care of. I don't expect him to behave that long and I don't trust that anyone else can watch him properly.

I think that sisters sometimes don't understand that during a non fard salat they can stop their prayer to tend to their child. In my masjid they try to have someone watch the kids but it seems the escape.. :).. and eventually start running around the masallah causing issues. At that point the father or the mother can stop and get the child..

No one really understands what its like to have kids until they have them. Its hard when people without children have issue with it, but inshallah it will all work out.

Helen said...

Assalamu alaikum,

Dear sister anonymous,

I am Helen Awan, and I am the secretary for the Women's Committee. I do the registration for the baby sitting in the Education building (where Al-Iman school is held) during Ramadan most of the days . If you do feel a need to talk to me personally, you are welcome to stop by any time. I will be there this Wednesday, if you do need to talk to me.

Here are the rules for the sisters with children:

Any children who are 3 - 7 years old will need to go to the babysitter. Any children who are under can stay with their mother in the prayer area where it used to be the children's playroom on Friday nights. The 2 rooms in the front with the glasses are also for sisters with no children. We keep them this way in case there is an overflow of people in the main prayer area. I do apologize if the rules were not related/announced to the sisters properly before or after Maghrib, Isha, and Jummah salats. I will request the volunteers to wear name tags so if anyone does not behave properly as you said will be reminded. There are many volunteers and it will be hard to know who it was that did not behave properly if you don't know their names.

This is Ramadan, and do you agree that we all should behave properly, the volunteers as well as the sisters attending the events?

I want to give you an example of my experience last week. I was out-of-town the first night of taraweeh so I did not know who brought their children to the babysitter. The next night, Monday, I was at the registration desk, and a couple brought their 2 sons, one is 3, and the other is 5. One of the volunteers that night said that the 3-year old cried last night. The father said that he will be OK tonight. We let the boys stayed together so at least the younger boy will be with his older brother. That night the little boy cried. We had to take him out of the classroom and let him and his brother sit in the lobby. We had to bribe them with chewing gum. The next day, the couple brought their children again. I asked the father, the little boy will cry tonight? The father said he will be OK. I signed them in. He seemed to do OK until near the end and started crying, then we had to take him out of the classroom again. The next night, the parents brought the children again. We accepted them without any complaint. Sure enough, the little boy cried again, so this time I told the mother that she can let him stay with her when she prays. So you see sister, we try to accommodate the parents as much as we can. I'd been in situations during salat where the baby was crying but the mother just kept on praying like she did not see or hear her baby crying. Finally a sister next to her had to pick the baby up because its cry was getting louder.

I hope that I have answered your questions and hope that it clears this confusion. You have posted about the subject more than 3 times, would you say that we have talked about this matter long enough and it's about time to lay it to rest?

You are welcome to talk to me personnaly if what was posted is not to your satisfaction.

Thank you for your concern, and thank you Amy for all your replies.

May Allah (SWT) accept our prayers and fastings during this Blessed month of Ramadan. May He (SWT) also forgive me for my mistakes if I offend anyone.

Wa salaam,

Sr. Helen

Anonymous said...

Amy,

First, I would like to wish you a happy Ramadan, and I hope that's not an incorrect terminology, and if it is, I apologize. Second, I'm going to apologize for this being off topic of the post. However, you're pretty much my resource for all things Islamic. :)

I was wondering if you had any idea where one could buy a hijab, online, inexpensively. More specifically, I'm looking for the large scarf portion of it, that you wrap around. And, silly enough, are the scarves rectangular shaped? Or square?

Thank you,
Amber

Amy said...

Hi Amber!

"Happy Ramadan" is fine. :-) Normally we say Ramadan Mubarak which means to have a blessed Ramadan or something to that effect.

There are a few places where you can buy hijabs online inexpensively, but that's usually not how I buy them. One of my friends does, though, and I'll ask her to comment on this post God willing and she can tell you the best sites.

But if you can email me (amydadair@hotmail.com) I have one I'd like to send you. :-) There are square ones and rectangular ones, but the kind that you wrap around is rectangular.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Dear Helen and Amy,

With regards to women praying before, during, or after Ramadan, there are simple solutions to these problems.

If you sincerely believe in and understand the value of salat, you would want it for all of your "sisters in Islam" not just yourselves. I have had at least one thoughtful sister who offered to watch my child while I prayed.
I am sure that most women would appreciate someone watching their children while they prayed, and I am certain that there would even be women who would want to watch these children if they recognized the value and reward in preserving the religion of a fellow Muslim.

The fact that this mother and father acquiesced in your demand to state that their child must not cry is indicative of their desire to pray regardless of the outrageous demand you placed on them. No parent can know or control whether or not their child will cry.

Until you provide reasonable resources for women and their children, they will always bring them to prayers. Despite what you think, their children will always cry, play, and run not because they are 'unruly' or have bad mothers, but because this is just what kids do. If their mothers are praying, they will have a limited handle on all of this.

We don't live in a society where women can afford to be isolated in their homes with their children. They need to find support in their masjids where people are not condescending when they make mistakes and are patient with their issues.

All I am asking is that you find it in your heart (because you would want this for yourself) to construct a plan to nurture the religion of these women. Insha'Allah, if you are sincere Allah (SWT) will find a way for you.


As a note, when you pray with your heart and not your mind (this is an important distinction), you will find Allah (SWT) in front of you, and when this happens a coolness will run across your chest, and a great longing and love for Allah (SWT) will come over you. From that place, there are no distractions.

May Allah (SWT) Bless you and Forgive you this Ramadan, and may He pour His Compassion and Mercy upon you.

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaikum Sister Anonymous

The sisters on the Women's Committee really do WANT to help you out and make the mosque accessible for all the women of the committee.

Perhaps, instead of complaining here (which mostly isn't read by the community, except that one member of the community graciously forwarded along this particular post to the WC so they could help you) you could try to get involved on the committee yourself, and offer your own ideas for improving the masjid.

I'm sure the entire community could benefit from your insight and constructive criticism. Please give it some thought. :-)

Ramadan Mubarak.

Jamilah said...

Just a quick question... how many sisters on this committee have kids? Anonymous makes a good point... kids will cry.. .we don't know when they will. Asking those parents every night if a 3 year old will cry is absurd. So what if he cries... you take care of it... what do you expect them to do? Sit quietly with hands folded on lap and stare at the wall?

Amy said...

Salaam Jamilah

Almost all of the sisters who serve on the committee, who volunteer and stuff, have kids. I'm not really on the committee (somehow got asked to go to the meeting they had to prepare for Ramadan) but the only sisters on it who don't have kids... maybe 2? The rest are moms, 10, 15, 20 sisters, however many there are. There were about 10-15 at that meeting if I recall correctly.