A favor?

Dear Readers,

Last night I had planned to attend Taraweeh at my favorite mosque. It is a mosque on the hills overlooking higher mountains. At night the lights in the mountains are enchanting. There used to be an elevated extension—sort of like a tree house—before the (much smaller) women’s area was built. The mosque itself is near a farm and an old abandoned house hidden in a downward sunken mess of overgrown trees. When I was a kid I would pretend the house was haunted. (Perhaps it is. My brother claims to have sighted jinn.) The farmhouse near has horses whom I sometimes feed before breaking the fast myself (which is not Islamically encouraged). The mosque is built on a slope of tall yellow grass.

When I heard it was being renovated years ago I was a little heartbroken. I liked my little mosque—quiet, unamusing, a humble part of the supreme nature that surrounded it. But I was hoping also that with the renovation the women’s area would finally be extended to be as large as the men’s.

Dear readers, I did not stay for Taraweeh last night. After the Maghrib prayer, a speaker announced that the new construction design provided three times as much space for the men as it did for the women. He did not say it in these words of course, but in numbers (393 for men and 160 for women). I cried at this. Quietly. Luckily it was dark. (I was outside during the announcement admiring the mountains.) My mother did not see either, but she had sensed my distress the entire night and informed me she was driving me home. I went with her. I suspect that she, unaware of my sorrow much less the cause of it, is terribly frustrated with me.

Here is an outline of the layout.

The men’s side, which is expansive, is labeled both “mosque” and “men’s prayer” while the women’s side is labeled “women’s prayer.”

At least they have daycare?

What I am asking is a little time to write to them. I have done it myself, just very briefly. The construction has just barely begun and is going very slowly (it has been about three years since they began and they still haven’t actually torn anything down or started building anything except for a fence.) So I take it it’s not too late. Offer your salaams, wish the project team Ramadan Mubarak, and request that they redesign the plan to provide an equal amount of space for both sexes and that they rid of any procedures to install a barrier separating the two areas. Of course an Islamic explanation for why this is critical may be provided in your request if you wish, but I feel I am asking too much from you already.

Here is their contact form, with which an email address is also provided. I would appreciate this very much. Please be polite.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Love, love love love,

33 thoughts on “A favor?

  1. Redd

    Nothing breaks my heart more than having to go and pray in a women’s prayer room, it truly hurts me. This past July, I spent the majority of the month visiting a very well known cancer hospital in my country. The first time I went to pray there, I took my little sister along and we headed to the prayer area, which is a very large area to begin with. Nothing broke my heart more, and made me lose faith in the entire muslim communtiy I live amongst, than when I realised that not only was the mens praying area 3 times bigger than the womens, but our area was shunned in the back and stunk. Till this day, my mind can’t grasp how the architecture thought, for a second, that mothers’, daughters’, wives’ and female family members who truly spend hours, if not days, with their sick loved ones would not want to go and pray. It is a huge hospital. It is a “MUSLIM” country. The women’s praying area is half a classroom. My heart aches, but I will complain; and, for you, I sent them my request.


  2. Hegirae

    Long-time lurker, first-time poster.

    This is one of the reasons why I stopped going to the local mosque regularly. I feel ashamed of myself and my fellow male coreligionists that we have not yet addressed women’s issues at all in our community, and how we still insist on keeping separate but “equal” prayer spaces for women, in addition to all other architectural forms of prejudice erected against women in our building. While it’s inspiring to know that my university’s MSA elected their first woman president last year, it’s dismal to know that the previous president publicly defended the barrier, even though he supported the current president’s nomination.

    If I alone can’t make a difference towards countering injustice in my community, it brings me solace to know that I can voice my concerns to other communities.

    Signed, sealed, and delivered.


  3. I will contact them. I am facing exactly this with a mosque in my area. When I heard they were undergoing reconstruction plans (but maintaining separate prayer areas) I finally put together a plea for them. So far, it hasn’t done any good. This was my letter in case anyone finds it helpful in putting together their own pleas: http://qatheworld.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/an-open-letter-to-my-masjid-calling-for-an-end-to-separate-prayer-rooms/
    Last night, I tried a new (to me) masjid. I had not been to a masjid yet for Ramadan this year because it pains me so much to take my son there and show him such conditions. This new masjid was even worse off than the one I wrote to. There was a tiny basement room with stained carpet. When I say tiny I mean maybe 10×10 classroom. The hall above looked to be quite large (and I doubt it was full based on the number of cars there). Even though it was the weekend and there was a potluck, there were only a handful of women there for iftar, most of whom weren’t praying, not surprisingly I suppose. I felt very sick after breaking my fast and so did not stay long though I had come with the intention of talking to some new people there. One person was there for her first time to make shahada, I can only imagine how she felt. My son was very excited to go to the masjid (he probably didn’t remember the last time I took him to the other one), but he was very confused when we started praying and there was a crackly loudspeaker, asking me where this was coming from and looking around for the person leading. I had to explain to him afterwards, but I failed at my explanation. He is only 3. This is not the example of Islam I want him to grow up in, this is not the example of our prophet.


  4. Thanks for writing on an issue which is faced by muslimahs in many countries around the world. I also read the comments by other muslimahs who happened to have experienced the same dismal conditions at their respective mosques. However, I would like to point out that the situation is not that bleak everywhere. Alhamdulillah I am lucky enough to belong to a community who has more understanding of the teachings of Islam regarding womens’ (non) issues related to praying in the mosques. I put the “non” in brackets because I think there are not supposed to be any issues to begin with regarding the prayer arrangements for muslimahs. The issues are created by cultural divides and nothing else.
    The mosque in our community (http://BilalMasjid.net ) began as a 2500 sq ft structure, with a glass partition in between the men and women halls. Now we have worked out an expansion project and the new structure is removing the partition between the men and women prayer halls, combining and expanding the area to 16,000 sq ft InshAllah. The new building is planned to have a main prayer hall for 350+ people, and an auxiliary hall for 150+ people. The auxiliary area is primarily for the muslimahs but since there are no partitions between the main hall and the auxiliary hall, the muslimahs are free to pray in the main hall as well and vice versa. A family room has also been added for muslimahs with babies. I could go on and on about our mosque’s plan, only because it makes me happy and excited to envision the new structure :) The details of our expansion project are here: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5c0sSrzgr0uUm00d0hpZVhQWDA and here is the first floor plan for our mosque: http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg595/bilalmasjid/firstfloorplan-16ksqft-Copy-1.jpg I am posting these links because I would like to invite people to visit our floor plans and see how the prayer areas can and should be all inclusive InshAllah.
    And of course, I will be voicing my concerns through the link you have provided, Nahida. Thanks again for bringing attention to this issue.


    1. That is *incredible* news. It almost makes me want to move to Oregon. And thank you so much!

      On the website for your community men are still designated more space:

      Prayer space for Men will be increase from 200 (current) to 400
      Prayer space for Women will be increase from 150 (current) to 250

      But if they are removing the partition then I’m assuming it’s not necessarily designated to men specifically, just whomever is attending.

      It would be very easy for my mosque to solve the issue by simply not building a partition, but it looks like they are planning one.


      1. I guess I should note at this point this is the same mosque I contacted about their expansion plans ;). The current structure has side-by-side rooms with a floor-to-ceiling barrier (if it’s glass, it’s not transparent). Interestingly they have never clarified for me either after my initial contact or the followup whether the new rooms were going to be separated or not (as you noted, the plans talk about a different space for men and women). The only response I received as I noted in my blog was addressed to somebody else and didn’t clarify the issue, nor did I get an answer to my followup (which was shorter). The response I did get though, did refer to the two new prayer spaces as being for men and women, not that women would be welcomed in the main area (in fact if that’s the case why are there two rooms, with the smaller described as the women’s prayer room, instead of one main room?). I am however, VERY glad to hear confirmation at this point that the new prayer areas will not be separated, even though it looks like they are separate rooms, but with a passage between. though I’m a bit miffed that nobody would respond to me about it or answer (not the first inquiry, though on other topics, that I’ve failed to get much response about,
        unfortunately). I also hope the new prayer area will stay all inclusive in the main hall as the commenter above describes, as with the small opening it would be relatively easy to close off and create the same situation again. I say this because, I have wondered before about the existing barrier because it appears that it was added after the fact (in other words, it looks in person like the current mosque was originally all one room, then the wall was added, then, if it’s glass, someone must have added some type of covering to make it non-transparent. Since the new plans look like they have a separate, smaller room with an opening between… I just hope it will stay open and not turn into the same thing again.


  5. Done! (Also included some Quranic verses lol) Please update us on this :)

    I’ve only been to one mosque in Tokyo (built by the Turkish immigrant community) where I prayed with my husband right in front of the mihrab. It was an experience I have not had again since.


  6. Just read your post and wrote to them! It’s beyond upsetting how so many Mosques continue to do this. One of my local Mosques (not the main one I go to) was debating about whether or not to keep the barrier during guest-speaker events, and some people threatened to never attend the Mosque if the barrier was removed. The worst part of this was that only men participated in this debate – no one cared about what women had to say (and if women did voice their opinions, it was through a man).

    Hope it all works out, insha’Allah!


    1. Good grief! Let them stay home then or wise up :/ I know actually some women are in favor of them too and some men are not, so it’s not split entirely along the gender divide. I suspect that these general attitudes are behind the fact that these barriers have been actually increasing over the years. Those in charge need to stop bowing to these demands and stick with the actual sunnah, it’s their obligation to uphold that in the community!


  7. Ibtisam

    I’ve just emailed them. I felt your sadness reading your words. I wish the they could feel your sadness, too, because then they’d understand.


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  9. @qatheworld It certainly is a small world! :) Did you get a chance to raise your concerns at the open houses the Masjid Comittee organized in the last couple of months? I would request you to attend one of those meetings and see the detailed plan firsthand. I am sure many of your concerns will be addressed InshAllah.


    1. Assalamou alaikum sis :) that it is, I was surprised to see we were talking about the same masjid! I didn’t call it out in my original post because I didn’t really want to point fingers (and I still hadn’t gotten much response about what the new plans were) and also I feel the problem is widespread and applies to many masjids. I was planning to attend the last meeting but unfortunately was not able to do so, and haven’t been able to get to the masjid much lately anyway. But, thank you for posting the more detailed plans, they’re definitely helpful and give me a better sense of what will be built than the earlier sketches I saw.


  10. nmr

    Please try to contact Maryam Eskandari – this is her blogsite: http://maryameskandari.blogspot.com/

    She is a Muslim woman architect who is tries to design masjid spaces in context of culture, tradition, and gender equity. She must be doing something right because she has had men throw things at her in masjid planning committee meetings.

    She may have some ideas for you & your community.

    Good luck!


  11. mohamedm1

    Assalmu alaikum :). First off I want to say you’re a really good writer, i could really feel your emotion through your writing. I do agree with the fact that most mosques do NOT have suitable prayer areas for muslimahs. Cleanliness, ability to see the mihrab, etc. But the truth is that men are recommened to go to the masjid For congregational Salah and women arent. That is a fact. Let’s face it, there never is as much women as men in the mosque. So about equal prayer space…well is it really necessary, especially when you might not have money to spare or the people to occupy the space?


    1. The fact that it is not required for women is a mercy of GOD, between WOMEN and GOD, in which MEN have NO RIGHT to interfere. You are ACTIVELY DISCOURAGING women from attending the mosque when you create a sexist hostile environment like this, you are ACTIVELY separating the moral sphere of God that states men and women are of spiritual equality from the legal sphere and social sphere of human beings which APPLIES this principle, and that is a VIOLATION against ISLAM. It is a war against the faith itself. And I will NEVER, NEVER tolerate it, under ANY circumstances you hateful men can think of to excuse it. And these phony excuses are just that–excuses, and the work of the devil.

      Satan believed that the way he was created as biologically different from Adam entitled him to acting as a barrier between Adamn and God as well! He believed this was “good reason.”

      And so do you. You are acting as a barrier between women and God, pretending it is with “good reason”, and it is haraam and those who believe otherwise are worshipping the devil.

      By the way everyone, if people didn’t pay extra money to add a barrier between the women’s and men’s areas the space (not the mention the money) wouldn’t *be* a problem because there would be no division in the first place to dictate where the men end and the women begin. So if there is more of one sex than the other they still have space.

      That is the most obvious thing in the world, but I don’t expect men who are too busy thinking of excuses to keep women away from God to realize how much of an idiot they are.


      1. mohamedm1

        Assalamu alaikum. Alright so im a bit confused. Why do you detest men? You’ve accused me of “worshipping the devil”…seriously? You have a lot of hate in your heart by the looks of it. By the way you speak about men you make it seem as if we’re all kuffar and should be put down or something. That’s unacceptable. This feminism stuff really is fatal.


        1. It is fatal to you and your blasphemous privilege. Good. You’re a fast learner.

          You tell me salaams, that you wish for peace, while you engage in the violence of taking away my God-given rights?

          A mansplainer believes he is more entitled to the masjid and I’m the hateful one putting him down. LOL Men are so weepy. You couldn’t even get past your emotions to the points.

          Watch your modesty: your beliefs about me are no concern of mine. What arrogance to return and assume I care. If you come back you’d best have proper hi’jab.

          Do not approach me insulting my intelligence, believing I will not recognize enslavement if it is dressed up with false flattery, and expect to be received with rainbows and cupcakes.


    2. Hmm.. no “suitable prayer areas for muslimahs” and “let’s face it, there never is as many women as men in the mosque.” Do you not see that one fulfills the other? It’s not because there are somehow more muslim men in a given area, it’s because women are both passively and actively discouraged from attending. Not by Islam, but by the community and their families. Further, the “women’s area” has somehow also become the “children’s area” which if we were to actually do a body count undoubtedly means the overall number of combined women and children is larger than the number of men. Or would you also argue that children have no reason to come to the masjid until they reach puberty? All of this debate over equality of spaces or accommodations, in my opinion, completely misses the point. There should not be “separate but equal” (not that anyone is even pretending they’re equal) spaces to compare. There should be one space. Anything else is an invention after the fact which is clearly to the end of restricting women. It does not matter that men are required to attend jummah and women are not required to. How many times did the prophet Mohammed
      pbuh have to say over and over again, do not prevent women from going to the masjid? Do not prevent women from going to the masjid at night? And various other
      instructions primarily aimed AT the men to accommodate women at the masjid. The modern way of “preventing” women from going to the masjid, for those who acknowledge this hadith and thus feel wrongly about outright prohibiting women from attending, is to box them into a restricted substandard area. This is not part of the sunnah. Why was a shared open space containing men, women, and children the example of the prophet but one that “modern” masjids find unsuitable? There should be but one space. Those who trumpet providing “facilities” for women and/or children and act like they are so generous to do this are the ones who created this need in the first place by removing women from the main area. If you don’t create the division in the first place it becomes a non-issue. I would like to see just one masjid somewhere where this is actually practiced following the sunnah. Do I have to go back in time for that?


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