“Sisters in the back, quiet down please.”

A Free Radical produced an excellent post a week ago titled “Some other reasons you won’t find me at the masjid” –which I highly recommend. I do regularly visit the mosque, and I must, because I have plans to reclaim it (or else build my own) but the post, in conjunction with woodturtle’s “keeping our leaders accountable” is an excellent summary of all the things I find unbearably irritating about attending lectures and praying at the mosque. Of course, there’s no escaping it because this is ground I am not letting go. (That’s what they want us to do.)

Most of these things are caused by the barrier and all the consequential stupidity. Before the barrier soiled the respectable grounds of the mosque and presented itself as a revolting affront to Islam, women would actively interrupt the lectures of men who had inflated heads to correct them on unIslamic statements by citing verses directly from the Qur’an. Power was kept in check, argument was spirited and productive, and men constantly admitted that the women were right. Enter the barrier. The sole purpose of the barrier is to shut women up, and the men in the front kindly remind us of this by telling us to quiet down every five minutes.

And there are hypocrites who have established
a separate house of worship in order to create mischief,
and to promote apostasy and disunity
among the believers,
and to provide an outpost for all who
from the outset
have been warring against God and God’s Apostle. (Qur’an 9:107)

There have indeed been women who have left Islam because of the terrible treatment they’ve endured at the mosques and from those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. The men who are responsible for their apostasy are clearly called hypocrites in this verse. Not only have they promoted disunity by establishing separations like the barriers, but as the verse states they have provided material for Islamophobes when their actions themselves are unIslamic.

And they will surely swear [to you, O believers],
“We had but the best of intentions!” –
the while God bears witness that they are lying. (Qur’an 9:107)

Oh believers! Have you read the Qur’an? Make haste to do so! A man who tells you with the best intentions that you are responsible for his arousal and thus should pray behind a wall does not in fact have the best intentions!

Never set foot in such a place! (Qur’an 9:108)

Oh geesh. Women who don’t attend for these reasons are totally backed up here.

Only a house of worship founded, from the very first day,
upon God-consciousness is worthy of thy setting foot therein –
wherein there are men who love to cleanse themselves:
for God loves all who purify themselves. (Qur’an 9:108)

Seriously, does anyone actually read this thing? Clearly an individual’s purity is the responsibility of that individual. Cleanse themselves! purify themselves!–why why why does this need repeating? The Word of God is rejected by deceitful arrogant men, who turn away in favor of patriarchy!

Which, then, is the better:
he who has founded his building on God-consciousness
and [a desire for] God’s goodly acceptance –
or he who has founded his building on the edge
of a water-worn, crumbling river-bank,
so that it [is bound to] tumble down with him into the fire of hell?
For God does not grace with God’s guidance
people who [deliberately] do wrong:
the building which they have built will never cease
to be a source of deep disquiet in their hearts
until their hearts crumble to pieces.
And God is all-knowing, wise. (Qur’an 9:109–110)

To further worship patriarchy, men (whom we cannot see) will announce into the mic (which we cannot see) that the clueless women in the back are being awfully noisy again, and can they please shut up so we important men who run the world can continue to pretend they don’t exist until we want to force them to have sex again? That way we can get on with the sermon about how the enemy is among us and only those of the strongest of faith will stand against the tempting innovated corruptions of religion. Like barriers. I mean, feminists.

The most infuriating part of this is that it creates an environment in which women turn against other women–an age old tactic. Women walk out of the prayer area claiming that women are talkative, hysterical, unworthy of positions of leadership. Never mind the extra noise comes from the fact that they are excluded and have little motivation to pay attention when they can’t fucking SEE anything, and that they’re stuck with noisy crying babies, and that it’s not even that much louder if at all–the men just think it is because, you know, women… they always talk too much.

16 thoughts on ““Sisters in the back, quiet down please.”

  1. Uzma

    Wow, Nahida, these verses are chillingly relevant.

    I read the Qur’an, but I found it very intimidating. I miss things like this. Thank you so much for bringing them forward.

  2. almostclever

    I love this because it is so close to what I have experienced. I chose to leave – I am so glad it is something you are invested in and I wish you all the best.. Maybe someday I will see you in the news kicking ass and taking names…

  3. Keji

    Wow. Just wow. As you said Nahida, do these men really “read” the Quran. I suspect they are more than content concentrating on the verses that suit their agenda. Thanks for an excellent post.

  4. Hi Nahida! Simply love reading your blog! Your last para here makes me laugh and agree with you so much.sometimes I feel so infuriated that I don’t want to go to the mosque anymore but nevertheless I see myself going there for Eid.I just feel happy to see my unknown sisters there.But I wouldn’t be surprised to see myself not attending the mosques completely anytime soon for the obvious reasons you stated.

  5. Hi Nahida,
    Great post, thanks for the shout out.
    Although I’ve chosen different battles, I’m definitely on board with your no-retreat stance on masjid equality. Should you ever need a partner for a pray-in, just let me know ; )

    1. Latifah

      Asalaamu Alaikum I myself have been a revert to Islam for 5 years alhamdulillaah. Since the age of 31. So I came in late and a grown woman with experience of society outside of Islam I had married and divorced, dated, partied and had all the liberties offered to a woman in today’s society. Firstly, I’d like to say that regardless of the physical barrier/segregation in today’s Mosques I have never felt any hinderance in seeking knowledge or asking questions while at the Masjid. We all observe the proper manners when listening to a Khutbah men and women alike. There were early scholars who would sit so still and quietly during a talk it was as if a bird had landed on their heads and they did not want to disrupt it. I would hate for people to be shouting out over the Sheikhs and giving their “laymans” opinion/view when we have a knowledgeable person already speaking. Have you ever attended any Khalaqas where females are giving talks? These are some of my favorite circles of knowledge! And we offer these sisters the same respect we offer the men full attention and then we ask questions at the end it’s the proper manner and etiquette among a student and their teacher. These circles years ago where there were discussions and corrections were probably at a time when Islamic knowledge was abundant these days most people can’t even make wudhu properly or read Arabic! How are we gonna let any Tom, Dick or Mary shout over our teachers??? Maybe look at attending another Masjid if your bot happy where you are or like I said a female Khalaqa. Allaahu Muataeen.

      1. Maybe if we let any Tom, Dick or Mary “shout over” our teachers every Tom, Dick and Mary would know how to make wudhu properly and read Arabic.

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

  7. rosalindawijks

    A few months ago I started doing something I never thought I’d dare: Praying in the main/mens hall in the biggest mosque in my home town.

    It’s a beautiful, grand mosque that has been around for as long as I can remember (some 30-35 years) The founders/board are Desi/Hindustani Surinamese, but many Pakistanis and Ghanians pray there, too. Religiously, they belong to a conservative strand of Sufism.

    For jumu3a I always go to a small mosque which is a 5 minutes walk away, since they are friendly, respectful and inclusive to all. The big mosque is 5-10 minutes away with the bus.

    Anyways, the big mosque has a grand hall for the men upstairs, and a little space downstairs (smaller then an average living room) for the women.

    That space is always messy, dirty and dusty, and almost always closed, and nobody ever has the key or knows where the one with the key is.

    They also have a balcony for the women, which is almost never carpeted – the carpets and rugs are thrown in the back and the floor is of marble, so praying there would mean thrashing ones knees.

    So one day, I was just so fed up that I refused to pray in the womens area again. Brave pioneer women like Amina Wadud, Asra Nomani etc. inspired me and after reading their writings for years, I finally mustered the courage. And walking into that room was an amazing, inspiring, uplifting and empowering experience.

    I know make a habit of praying there whenever I’m around there to do groceries or shop. And ofcourse, there are always men muttering, but I greet them cordially, thank them for their advise, debunk their arguments when needed……………..and don’t move an inch.

    In that mosque, the back door is for the women. I never use that door anymore, since I consider it degrading & insulting for a woman who wants to pray to have to hide out, lest men see her.

    In my country of origin, Surinam, we had a practice what was called the “nengre doro” – the negro door. Surinam is in South-America, but the culture is Carribean, and we have different ethnic groups & faiths. The largest ethnic groups are Hindustanis, Afro-/Creoles, Native Surinamese, Javanese and Chinese. The largest faiths are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

    The “nengre doro” was the back door which the enslaved West-Africans, my direct ancestors, ahd to take to enter a house. I never really connected the dots with having to use the back door in the mosque, untill after seeing a speech of Aisha al Adaweya, who said: “I didn’t become a Muslim to sit in the back of the bus.”

    Watch her speech here: It is awesome and a must-see for every Muslim woman, in my opinion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjhagDJorug

  8. rosalindawijks

    So, yes, I fully agree with you that we should reclaim the mosques. Amina Wadud, Asra Nomani, Zarqa Nawaz, Aisha al Adaweya, Sameena Ali and many other started it. Now I’m doing it in my own way & I’d love to hear more from you about your strategies dealing with this subject.

    Oh yes, and here is part of the Unmosqued docu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApC6_UPjLRc

  9. rosalindawijks

    Oh yes and “Me&the mosque” by Zarqa Nawaz and “The mosque in Morgantown” by Asra Nomani were amazing, too.

  10. rosalindawijks

    80% of South Asian mosques have barriers, 70% of Arab mosques have them, but thank God, only 39% of African American mosques have them. I’m proud of my African American brothers and sisters!

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