No, you do not have the right to a child-free prayer area.

Yes, even if the child is screaming.

I am not a mother. I would say–and have said–that I plan to be a mother, but I don’t really plan. If I get married, then great! If I don’t get married, then also great! I’m not really planning my life around having children or choosing a living based on flexibility for this very purpose like a couple of women I know; mostly, I’m looking forward to being finished with school and having a (hopefully) stable career for which I fully enjoy getting up in the morning. I’m looking forward to having a car, which would actually save me a lot of time I could use to cook real food. I’m looking forward to a small two-story house and a garden and coming home–my house! with large windows and shelves and shelves of books!–to dive under the blankets and have homemade pasta and read in peace and quiet and wear great shoes assuming I am not a complete and total failure.

Were I to imagine having children, I realize that I am looking forward to raising them. In fact, I think I would make a very good mother.

Which is why I will tell you to STFU if you ever–EVER–tell me to remove my crying child from the prayer area at the mosque.

It is one thing when the child is screaming and the parent is totally ignoring him/her in a public area that is supposed to be quiet, like a library, movie theatre, or sometimes a restaurant. It may be up for debate whether or not the child should be removed simply for screaming. (In restaurants the only reason kids act up is because they don’t know how to behave–precisely because no one wants them there; it is different in other places. In a movie theatre, I would definitely take my kid outside.) But at a mosque?

Never. You don’t have the right.

I have seen this happen too often. A baby–baby!–is crying as the prayers begin, and the mother (always a mother) is trying her best to calm the baby down. “Shhh,” she says in desperation as she rocks the child in her arms, “shhhh.” And she glances up apologetically because people have the nerve to turn around and glare at her. And she is trying to finish her prayer, and she is trying to calm down the baby, and her husband is on the other side of Satan’s Blasphemous Barrier of Hell so she can’t get to him for help, and she is desperately sorry and embarrassed for distracting everyone from their prayers, and everyone is shooting her dirty looks like why do you exist? just go kill yourself and she looks like she is going to burst into tears–

And then a woman walks up to her and for a fleeting moment she looks relieved, except the woman is not offering, “Here, give him to me,”–the woman is ordering, “Take him outside.”

And she looks hurt. Because she has a baby, and according to Islam she is doing everyone a fucking favor by giving birth and she is sacrificing everything for the future of the community and you are supposed to honor your mothers, and now she is being thrown out.

Whose fault is it that Islam is in the state it is today? Your fault. You have exiled the bedrock of the Islamic community and torn women and children away from the mosque. You have created an environment in which women turn on each other, forgetting that they too are and were and will be mothers, forgetting that the reward for giving birth is inconceivable in its value, forgetting that this is struggle, forgetting that this mother and her child are human beings who both have as equal a right to be there as you.

Man the hell down.

Two-year-olds have the tendency to run around the prayer area, chase each other, and fall into fits of delighted laughter. They are excited by the expansion of the unfurnished area. They can run without bumping into things and there is soft, soft carpet to fall on. So they chase, and giggle, and squirm, and are joyful. You’d have to have a heart of steel to not allow it. But there’s always someone who physically forces them to sit down, be quiet, and behave. Because it’s “disrespectful.”

Disrespectful? To whom? God loves the laughter of children, and we are here for God–not you.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the laughter of children in the background.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with their fussy infants beside them.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the sound of tiny, tiny feet running and stumbling across the floor.

Because they are praying as the Prophet prayed. Our Prophet, who prayed while children climbed over his shoulders.

In Islam, it is expected that there will be children. In Islam, adult spaces and child spaces are porous, and it is well accepted that there will be a lot of small people around. In Islam, men take the kids to the prayer area as often as women. In Islam, we smile at children and play with them, and we don’t banish mothers to the outskirts of society. In Islam, adults are not stuck up entitled douchecanoes who can’t handle the sound of a wailing child. Pray over it. Is your concentration so easily diverted? You pray five times a day–haven’t you got the hang of it by now?

No. The truth is you are perfectly capable of praying over it–you just want to be a total jackass because it’s empowering to act all holier-than-thou-see-me-in-the-grandeur-of-my-judgment.

And this is yet another tactic to keep women out of the mosque. How many have we got already? I will take my child outside when my child is old enough to have done something wrong. I will be stern with my child when my child is old enough to understand she/he has done something wrong.

And I expect the rest of the Islamic community to be patient. I am raising this kid–you know, the one you’ve been telling me for centuries is my duty to have?–and I am entitled to your patience. And to your teachers, and to your mosques, and to this community. Because I gave birth to it.

17 thoughts on “No, you do not have the right to a child-free prayer area.

  1. First, I want to say I really love this post.Second,forgetting that they too are and were and will be mothersYou did say at the beginning of the post that you may choose to not be a mother, so I take it you're not disregarding that choice here. However, I didn't point it out before, but it's not always a choice and I feel like you often overlook that some women aren't fertile? I didn't want to say anything in the posts about menstruation, because you had a clear purpose due to how menstruating women are demonized.

  2. Katrina: For the posts about menstruation, I did worry that some women would feel left out/like they weren't "real" women–but as you said there was a very driven purpose, and I trusted that they would trust me not to forget them, or not to suggest something so oppressing and insulting and absurd as "you're not a woman if you can't menstruate."To be clear, all women are women.As for this post, the infertility factor isn't mentioned because I hadn't ruled out adoption.

  3. almostclever

    Amen! I don't have children, but when I do (through birth or adoption or fostering) I pray they can have an inclusive Mosque to find joy and a sense of belonging in.

  4. Dont get me started on mosques where the sisters area is upstairs or in a basement cupboard. Completely inacceissible to prams and strollers and disabled sisters and disabled sisters who have small ginger disabled children. In wheelchairs. Pah.Or, if you have managed to take said ginger disabled child to the Islamic fayre, the looks of horror and grabbing up of small children because ginger child is in a wheelchair and makes odd noises and is fed theough a tube. Pah pah pah

  5. I have never seen a mosque with a ramp–for strollers or wheelchairs. I'm so sorry Riven it must be hell for you.The sisters' area shouldn't be upstairs anyway! …Or in a basement cupboard.I call for an invasion. "Invasion"–taking back what's rightfully ours isn't even an invasion…

  6. I admit, I do get annoyed when children are crying or running amok in the prayer space of the masjid. However, this post gave me some real food for thought. Thank you for showing me another side to this, and Insha'Allah I will try and be more sympathetic and accepting from now on. What really bugs me isn't so much the small children (since they can't be expected to remain perfectly quiet and still), but the older kids (like ten, eleven, and twelve year-olds, who should be joining in the prayer at this age) who should know better and are making a huge ruckus and no one tries to discipline them. Alhamdulillah, I am very proud to say that my masjid does have a ramp and an elevator, and women may choose to pray either upstairs (overlooking the main prayer space) or in the main prayer space itself (which I almost always do).

  7. I haven't seen ten-, eleven-, or twelve-year-olds misbehave, but yes by that age they should be praying or at least know not to disrupt others…

  8. I love this post. And amen! Lovely prayer.I'm lucky that (at the moment) large crowds intimidate Eryn. So when she's with me, she's quiet and either watches me pray or prays with me (though, now that I think about it, the last balcony we prayed in, she spent the payer moving all of the extra hijabs and prayer suits from one end of the balcony to the other. back and forth. back and forth)When she's with baba, she howls. On more than one occasion when baba takes her to the men's section to pray, she freaks right out and he has to skip the jammat, wait for people to clear out a little, and pray alone with his baby. I think it's sweet.Once in Kuwait, when Eryn was crawling around, a woman, deciding to “give mama a break,” grabbed her during my prayer and took her to a corner to play. Well what do you think happened when a stranger grabbed my quiet, content baby? She freaked the eff out. Caused a scene, and totally messed up my prayer — NOT ONLY because a STRANGER TOOK MY BABY AWAY from me, but also because then I had to spend the remainder of the prayer consoling Eryn.I have never, ever seen an accessible mosque in Canada. Only in Kuwait. Funny, that.

  9. That's so sweet that he waits for everyone to clear out so he can pray alone with Eryn!…And yikes. I don't know why she thought she was giving you a break when Eryn wasn't fidgety or crying.

  10. Pingback: How sacred is the mosque’s “sacred” space? | AntiDogmaSpray

  11. Rainmaya

    This is so wonderful and I am so embarrassed not to come to that wonderful realization. I too admit that I feel annoyed when small children run around the mosque, that you can barely hear over the imam. This article gave me a much better perspective and I hope I will pray with more love and a lot less ego!

    But I should draw the line, right when they start playing firecrackers (during Ramadaan tarawih) :)

  12. Saima

    Oh, hi.
    This is a good post. :D

    I’ve read this blog a lot but I’ve never commented. I’m a Muslim girl who’s really confused about her faith and has thought about leaving the faith because sometimes it feels like a cult.

    Of course, I’m no Sam Harris – I hate Islamophobia just like most other Muslims, and I hate when people imply that it doesn’t exist ANYWHERE (Gujarat had 2500 Muslims displaced – the world is not America >:-( , Richard Dawkins). But I found this site while looking for scientific miracles in Islam called: answering-islam.org.

    It’s weird and chilling, because it denounces everything I know about Islam as propaganda and says that even Islamic studies courses spread false information.

    If it doesn’t trouble you too much, could you please look at the site and reply back telling me if answering-islam is true or just full of crap or whatever? Thanks so much.

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