Save the Sisters!


By AbdelRahman Murphy

I get some interesting looks when I suggest that the physical barrier that was recently put up between brothers and sisters for Jum`ah at my school be taken down. They probably think it is odd that a bearded, refreshingly conservative, practicing Muslim brother would dare suggest that there be nothing but chairs separating the brothers and sisters during the khutbah and salah. But I have good reasons.

It began last year, when the older generation of our MSA was completely phased out when the last few students who participated in the “glory years” finished their degrees and graduated. Then, a new group of brothers and sisters took the reins and inherited the responsibility of leading one of the largest Muslim student organizations in the State, if not the country.

For the most part, the new Shura (Council) kept with tradition in most practices of the previous MSA. The prior Council’s success with establishing such a large Muslim body on campus was proof that they were doing things right. So, it was a no-brainer to stick with what they did. There were a few things, however, that changed. One of them was the issue of setting up a barrier for our Friday prayer to physically separate the men from the women. This barrier, I was told, was to protect the khateeb from seeing the women while he was speaking, so he can focus and control his gaze. This was a more intense measure than what the previous MSA Council did; they usually lined up a row of chairs to designate and distinguish the men’s section from the women’s.

“Modesty,” you say, “is an important value in Islam, AbdelRahman. Shouldn’t you be a proponent of a tall physical barrier to promote ideals of modesty?”

That’s a great question, reader. I definitely support modesty between men and women in Islam, most definitely. But this situation is a bit different.

Anyone who has taken a speech class – scratch that, anyone who has ever talked to another human being knows that not all aspects of communication are verbal. When we talk, we may or may not make facial gestures, hand motions, and other physical movements to help get our point across. In fact, studies show that 70% of communication is rooted in something called paralanguage: an auxiliary form of communication that includes everything except speech. In this specific example, the aspect of paralanguage that is most important is called kinesics — more commonly referred to as body language. Putting it in simple terms, the motions a speaker makes during his speech directly improves or worsens the delivery of his message.

Do you see where I am going with this?

When I had presented this concern to the brothers who coordinate the Jum`ah khutbahs at my school, one of their responses was a small retort that shocked my ears and saddened my heart. With an uninterested face, he replied, “it’s not even obligatory for them to come anyways.”

In an event as important and essential as the Friday khutbah, we cannot compromise the effectiveness and impact that it can have on any of the attendees, and that includes the sisters. In fact, the sisters may be more important attendees in certain cases than the brothers. The average brother, though he may not realize it, has many more opportunities to interact with Islamic scholars, teachers, and personalities than the average sister does. For most sisters, the Jum`ah khutbah is the only time they can attend a direct discourse from a respected speaker, outside of conventions and special programs that come every so often.

Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best. These same brothers who feel the need to unnecessarily force women behind a blanket are also those who complain most about the onslaught of liberalism and feminism against our sisters. If they would only realize that their unnecessary repression of Muslim women is a direct cause of the future mothers of our Ummah lashing out in rebellion. There is a balance we must achieve, however fine the line may be.

Living in America — and now more than ever – it is essential that we provide as many educational and social opportunities to our sisters as possible, and this includes the Friday khutbah. Do not let our sisters be spiritually handicapped by not allowing them to have the full heart-changing experience of a good khutbah. We need to make sure they have full access to receive the complete message on Fridays, to be able to see what is happening so their hearts are energized for the next week — whether it is at home or at work.

But more importantly, let us be careful not to reinforce the idea that sisters are second-class citizens in Islam; that a room with a garbled sound system and terrible ventilation is sufficient for their educational needs. Even more importantly, let us refrain from strengthening the notion that they should not even come to the masjid — because if we do not have strong, educated, spiritual and active sisters in this Ummah, we are in deep trouble.

May Allah guide us towards what is best, and He knows best.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Do you agree? Disagree? I would especially like to get the sisters’ feedback (both for and against the barrier).

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352 Comments

  1. Talib says:

    Salaam

    I have been keeping up with this post and am quite intrigued with some various responses. There has been some very good points brought up by many people. After sitting in the sidelines i wanted to put input in this discussion.
    Being a leader of an MSA is a VERY big responsibility, because you are running a large number of people’s islamic affairs. I am only stating this obvious fact because when the leader of the MSA makes a decision he should try his best to follow the sharia because if he fails, then not only is he hurting himself but many other people, and is responsible for them in the DOJ. Once you don’t follow the sharia you open the gate to haram and it can lead to a person to destruction. I believe muslimah stated something about a person staying away from haram and stated staying away from malls parks etc. One scholar was talking about this very thing and saying that we need to stay away from sins and the way to stay away from sins is to cut ourselves from the thing that can lead us to sin. For example, you shouldn’t buy a iPod if you know you struggle with listening to music. Your intention might be halal, quran lectures etc., but shaitan can easily push you over the edge and instead of listening to sudais, you might be listening to 50 cent or something like that. You shouldn’t put yourself in a place which can lead to haram. Because this, due to our nafs and shaitan, can push us towards haram. So if your problem is that you look at things you shouldn’t, dont go to the mall or store on a sunday afternoon in the summer. Hopefully we can benefit from this and we can leave whatever haram we are struggling with.
    So as an MSA we should stop the haram at its track before it can damage someone.

    The only way a person will be guided is through number one halal means. Sometimes we think by doing something against the sharia we are doing someone a favor. But it is the opposite. If we think we shouldnt put up a partition because it will turn some ppl away from jummah or any event then we are wrong. We are going to be responsible in the day of judgement for all these ppl that come to MSA events. So we should try to have a place in which we can minimize the interaction between the opposite gender. What happens after the event is beyond our hands but in the event it is all in the hands of the MSA.
    The only way a person is guided is because of Allah (SWT) and Allah (SWT) alone. No passionate speaker can do anything to a person’s spiritual heart unless Allah (swt) guides his servant. (May ALLAH swt guide all of us to the sharia and to the sunna.) There was this one scholar and through his efforts thousands if not millions of people have came closer to allah (swt). This scholar was anything but a fiery speaker. It is narrated that he tried to say a word 10 times once and the 11th time he just gave up. But due to his concern in his heart he was able to help out thousands. Just read the history of the companions and you will find some amazing ppl that affected hundreds because, not of the way the spoke, but the amount of concern and the ibada’. So regardless of one being able to see the speaker or not one will improve because of the khateebs concern and connection with allah swt. There was times when the students of a scholar werent able to hear their teacher let alone see him.

    So I personally think that an MSA should try their best to stop any haram to happen. Women are unfortunately aren’t dressed properly and it is not just women but men. Men sometimes get overlooked but you see so many brothers wearing tight shirts and jeans. Not only are men commanded to lower their gaze but women are too. Once the Prophet (SAWS) was sitting with two of his wives and a blind sahaba knocked on the door. The prophet (SAWS) commanded the two MOTHER OF THE BELIEVERS to do pardah. One responded that he is blind and the prophet (SAWS) asked them if they were blind as well. and they got up and left. So as an MSA where there is so much fitnah, women arent dressing themselves properly, men are doing the same, and so on so forth, it is my opinion that one should put up a pardah to help stop anyone from looking at someone or unfortunately something they shouldnt be looking at. One scholar said that one glance of a non-mahrm is like shaitan taking a poisined arrow and shooting in our hearts. We can get the arrow out but the poison will still be there. One look will last a lifetime.

    I have made many mistakes due to my lack of knowledge and the lack of understanding this deen. So if i said anything wrong please correct me and forgive me if i have offended anyone. and Allah (swt) knows best.

    • Karen says:

      So a few modest but “not modest enough” women make the rest of us haram? I wonder what you do on the streets outside the mosque? Walk around with barriers? Do you only think of Allah in the mosque? I am a convert who hates the “separate but unequal” treatment. I like the idea of someone handing out hijabs or covers if needed, because what if, by chance, a future convert walks through the door. Is she to be sequested away like a criminal? I have a huge problem with barriers. What do the men get when they are dressed inappropriately? Nothing it seems. Ok, so lets let a woman hold the kutbah and put her on the womans side and give you men a closed caption tv, or better yet, only audio, AND all the children. What will you learn? For me, may Allah help me learn more of my new religion on my own I guess.

      • Assalaamu alaikum,

        I agree with Karen. I think its funny and really sad that dialogues take place at an MSA. Why, you say? Well, is it not true that all of the brothers and sisters are attending a co-ed university, that they sit in classes mixed with men and women all day, that they walk around daily on the streets mixed with males and females most of whom have little haya, etc. And yet they have the gall to want to wall up the sisters for the sake of haya for what, 45mins…and then see them in the parking lot/ all over campus? Oh, but right, haya only exists INSIDE the masjid…my bad :P

        Does it not seem a little silly to anyone? Am I alone in seeing the irony?

      • Regina says:

        Assalamu Alaikum. I’m in total agreement with Karen. I’ve attended khutbas with and without partitions and I feel I get much more out of the experience without a partition. To be able to see the person who is speaking just makes sense in attaining the full experience of the speech and gathering together as an ummah. Men need to be reminded that we are both equally commanded by Allah (swt) to lower our gaze and to be modest. Follow those commands and gathering at the masjid without a partition shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve also read that during the time of the Prophet (peach and blessing be upon him) that there was no partition. And Allah (swt) knows best.

      • Sona says:

        I too am a convert BUT I believe the barrier should remain along with accommodations for the sisters. If you really love Allah then you will obey His commandment and you will listen to our Nabi (SAW) when he said “Do not even go NEAR zina” – which means zina of the eyes, the tongue, the heart, the limbs, or the actual act of sex itself! Us women should not even be looking at the speaker because we are also commanded to keep our gaze lowered…so if we shouldn’t be staring at the speaker to begin with then does it really matter if we’re there with a physical barrier? We should be looking at each other and smiling at jokes or crying at emotional khutbahs. Us sisters should look to each other for that experience and support. If you complain that the experience won’t be the same then organize a bayaan or taleem with a woman speaker and feel the experience there. Even on Youtube when I’m listening to a lecturer I’ll minimize the screen, look down and really just listen to the speaker – Islam has such beauty, the Qur’an has such eloquence that you need not to see gestures to understand…After all, did Allah show us gestures so that we may me moved by the Qur’an? I think not – His words moved our heart. There are sooo many alternatives to making the sisters feel welcome and making the experience easier and more enriching more them – frankly I don’t think removing a physical barrier is one of them and Allahu ‘aalim.

        • Sona says:

          Also, I’m sorry if anyone found this offensive – regardless of our different opinions we are ALL brothers and sisters in Islam so love between us for the sake of Allah should remain.. may we meet each other in Jannah =)
          As’salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        • Sister says:

          Sister I agree with you, I am a Muslim woman who goes to the Masjad and I don’t see why all of these women are fighting so hard for this because as long as your in the Masjad, and your there for Allah why does it matter who you can and can’t see? who cares if I can’t see the speaker, I am not there to look at him, I am there to listen to him and the message he is sending. I think it’s silly that all of this drama is going on amongst Muslims because everyone is missing the BIG picture here! The shaytan is everywhere and it is easy for MEN AND WOMEN to get distracted by the opposite sex, so if there was no separation, and everyone is looking at each other and supposedly “listening” to the lecture, what benefits really came from being there at all? Something to think about!

        • 0xc001d00d says:

          +99999

          Masha’Allah sister. What a beautiful response. May Allah (SWT) elevate you and grant you the highest level of Jannah, ameen.

          Oh, but my comment was that you’re totally right, how can it be justified to stare at someone of the opposite gender when Allah (SWT) clearly states:
          “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that will make for greater purity for them…Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…O you believers! Turn you all together towards Allah that you may attain success.”
          And that’s also the way that the sahaaba (RA) used to learn from Aisha (RA) – from behind a curtain. They used to ask her all kinds of questions, from fatwas to mathematical and algebraic (Islamic inheritance) questions! If there was any better way to learn from and communicate with the opposite gender, the sahaaba (RA) would’ve practiced it, and Allah (SWT) would’ve mentioned it in the Qur’an. Indeed if we look at incidences and anecdotes from the early days of Islam, we’ll find that the curtain was a commonplace practice. Example: A woman was too shy to ask Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) about menstruation and therefore put a red apple across the curtain. Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) cut the apple in half, answering her silent question. (Don’t remember what cutting the apple in half meant – I think it meant you can’t pray while menstruating?) The point, though, is that at this time (during the first three generations – the salaf), women would ask Abu Hanifa (RA) from behind a curtain.

          All of the above said, if there were more female Islamic scholars, then women would be able to learn other things from them, like adab, akhlaaq, everyday living issues, etc., which cannot be easily learned from a man.

        • Karen D says:

          AA
          Sona I feel that your logic has been misguided and I am sorry. “After all, did Allah show us gestures so that we may be moved by the Qur’an?” He most certainly did, by way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He was the Qur’an walking, as was related to us by Aisha (ra). These barriers and separtations at the Friday prayer were not instituted by our Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) and therefore we should not institute a bid’a like this. I am sorry, I don’t mean to offend.

      • Dania says:

        Couldn’t agree more. great points, what you said makes the perfect sense!

    • Leilani says:

      You have every right to your opinion. MSAs have every right to theirs in decided how to run a Jumuah. Personally…I am not for barriers. I once likened it to attending a live concert and then you can’t see the performance or they tell you that you have to be in another room and watch it on TV. Praying together is a very healthy communal activity…as it listening together. And I think it actually helps the imam to be able to see the women, because then he can know how they are reacting to him. He can see if he is offending the women or not. There is a special connection that happens between a public speaker and the audience that I don’t think can be recreated on TV or when a barrier is erected.

      In the end…it’s really on the women to demand there be no barrier if they are truly uncomfortable. It’s a free country and they have every right to hold their own Jumuahs if they want that. I really respect the Muslim women of China who opened ladies only mosques and appointed female imams. Instead of protesting and doing something negative, they did something positive and took responsibility for their Jumuah experience. The women can’t just hope the men will make improvements and suddenly take notice of their grievances. If it’s really an issue, it may be time to break off.

    • Dee says:

      Asalam Aleykum,
      Thank you for bringing this issue up. If you go to hajj to pray at the Masjid el Haram, you’d be entering the Masjid with the men, in the same door, and you’d be praying side by side. Whatever you do during hajj – circling the Kaaba, stone throwing, climbing Mina and so on you do it with the men by your side. Now, I’m just wondering if the segregation of the sisters outside of Masjid el Haram is not our own making. Can someone enlighten me please?
      If allah (swt) allowed us to be together in Masjid el Haram, then why is it wrong to pray together elsewhere? BTW, I don’t know anyone who goes to mosque to socialize, if anything we pray and run back to work or home.
      So, sitting together just for the khutba/prayer, especially when the rooms were very small and inconvenient to divide like my MSA, division seems pointless. I think at times attendees were turned off by it(when they’re not able to hear what was said because of nature of the sitting arrangement.)
      Jazakalah kulukheyrun

    • Malak says:

      Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,

      I’m a convert, one who converted by coming to Jumu’ah prayer without identifying myself as a non-Muslim. Keep that in mind when we set up our jumu’ah prayers. You don’t always know whose who.

      That said, I would like to point something out, something important, to me at least. Brothers always like to use the sisters’ inappropriate adherence to hijab as a trump card for any and all efforts to put us behind a barrier, in a basement, through an alleyway, or what have you.

      However, even in a Muslim run society, not all women are required to wear hijab. Non-Muslim for example, and also amat. check the works of fiqh; the fuqaha are quite clear on this point. My point is quite simple: a woman’s dress is not a man’s business, nor does her attire have anything to do with him. If hijab were about men, in a Muslim run society, all women would be required to wear it or not. But they are not. Therefore, brothers must learn how to worry about their own modesty, and let their sisters worry about theirs.

      • '08 Shurah says:

        agreed, jazakAllah for this post. alhamdulillah this says it all.. it’s not that us sisters arent worried about our own modesty, but it feels demeaning having every ‘pious’ brother worry about it for us. And absolutely their intentions are most likely pure and good, but it comes off as overprotective and overbearing. If every brother worried about what him and his fellow brothers saw with their eyes, on the tv screen, through downloads, and while surfing the web, they’d have enough to worry about for the rest of their lives.

        As a sister, i shouldnt obsess over the porn industry and how men are increasingly victim to it more than the fashion industry’s impact on me.

        As a brother, i shouldnt worry about the fashion industry’s destruction of women’s hayat more than the porn industry’s impact on me.

        Women should worry about their modesty, and men theirs. Ill change myself first, then you. SubhanAllah, that’s the Prophetic example as well. Change what you can with your hands first.. but it starts with ourselves.

  2. Ali* says:

    Assalamu Alaykum

    So first of all, I would like to know where in the Shariah it says that there is supposed to be a pardah, because I believe the fact has been established that the Prophet (S) never even used a barrier during salah. Although you mention that hadith of the Prophet at the end, you are going to have to explain “pardah” a little more. Did Rasul (S) mean to his two wives to literally put a barrier up, like in MSAs, or to put a hijab and a nikab? Aren’t those technically a barrier? Please elaborate on what “Pardah” really means and what exactly the wives did.

    Second of all, akhee, all you are talking about is lowering the gaze and being held accountable on the DOJ. You have to understand that being the MSA leader means more than just what happens in Jumaah Salaah: you are responsible for the tarbiyah, the development of the Muslim youth who come to your MSA. Imagine a girl in a mini skirt (lol, don’t really imagine it) coming to Jumaah salah after several years, for the sake of learning something. Let’s say she is really interested in what the khutba will be about, and when she enters, she finds a big barrier in front. What do you think is going to happen? More than likely, she won’t be coming to Jumaah again because she doesn’t feel welcome, she feels restricted. She could have been coming every single week, but because of the barrier, something that is not necessary in MSAs, she stopped coming to Jumaah. What will you say, MSA leader, to Allah (SWT), when he asks you on the DOJ, why you kept the barrier up, despite the fact that the girls are clearly running away from Jumah because of this? Rasul (S) said that if you don’t attend Jumaah salaah for 3 weeks, you are not Muslim. What about all of those girls who left Jumah, all because of a stupid barrier? For every single sister that leaves Jumah salah because of an unnecessary barrier, YOU WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for them.

    Now tell me what is more important, gaze or the akhirah of the sisters? When you talk about gaze, you are only thinking about brothers and about yourself. I say this to myself first and foremost. And I say this because I had this mentality too. However, we have to understand that the first revelation revealed to the Prophet (S), iqra, was not just a commandment to read. Allah (SWT) starts out with Iqra, or Read, and in the second ayah, says Proclaim. What does that tell you? Our job is to not only absorb this message of Islam, detailed in the Qu’ran, but also release it to the public. Our job is solely not looking at girls.

    As far as for brothers who are looking, then as an MSA leader, you need to, after Jumah salah, make sure to do something that will help keep these bros away from that stuff. Have a halaqa, or go out to eat. I’m telling you right now, if you think a barrier is going to stop guys from looking at girls, think again. Guys are still going to look at girls even after the jumah salah. They are still going to be looking at things that they shouldn’t be looking at at night.

    Thirdly, you are saying that it is Allah (SWT)’s will to change people. True. I don’t dispute you in that. But I remember Imam Suhaib Webb saying this in his tafseer of Surah Fatiha. He talked about his teacher at Azhar, who talked about the make up of a Muslim. He said that the Muslim is composed of intellectually superiority, tazkiyah tun nafs, and activism. The proof can be found in the early revelations of the Qur’an. The first revelation called for Rasul (S) and us as an Ummah to gain knowledge (IQRA). The second one, Surah Muzammil, calls Rasul (S) and us “to stand and pray” (Tazkiyah tun Nafs), and the third, in Surah Mudathir, calls for the one to “arise and deliver a warning” (activism). Does this mean do it once and leave the rest to Allah (SWT)? No. It means we need to be active every single day. Proof? Look at the example of Rasul (S). He constantly gave dawaah to his family and people, every single day.

    The point that I am trying to get at is that of course saying something once isn’t going to change a Muslim. You need to constantly be involved with these youth. You are a leader, and what is the job of the leader? To lead. Subhanallah, I give major props to Inspired. To be able to take people who were once drug dealers and turn them into great leaders, into Khateebs, that is what Islam is about. Let me remind everyone including myself that Allah (SWT) could have made us those very same people, selling drugs, doing so much haraam. But Allah (SWT) didn’t. He blessed us. Why? So that we can take these very same people and reject them from society? No. He gave us these resources and knowledge so that we can deliver to society. “Let there rise among you a group of people who enjoin the good and forbid the evil.” Do you not think that the circumstances we live in were no different then that of the Prophet (S)”s? Heck no! In fact, it was worse than today. And yet, Rasul (S) still kept preaching and spending time with his people. He never stopped, no matter what.

    Now let us look at ourselves. Can we honestly call ourselves Muslims, witnesses to the shahada, when we don’t even act like Muslims, act like the Prophet (S), follow Allah (SWT)? Ask yourselves this: if there are Muslims who are leaving Jumah salah, all because of a stupid barrier, how are you going to justify your actions in front of Allah (SWT)?

    Please forgive me if I hurt your feelings. Please forgive me if I offended you guys at all. Wallahi, I love the barrier, and I would like nothing other than the barrier. I understand what you are saying, Wallahi I do. But we have to look at the benefit of the Ummah. We need to put the Ummah before ourselves, that means guys and girls. Otherwise, we will be held accountable for them on the DOJ.

    I ask Allah (SWT) to correct me if I am wrong and to please forgive me for anything I said wrong. Anything good that has come out of this discussion is from Allah (SWT), and anything bad has come from myself or the Shaytan.

    Assalamu Alaykum

    • hellow0rld says:

      Walaykum salam akhi,
      Women don’t have to attend jumu’ah. Also, the purdah had existed since the time of the sahaaba and the salaf – this is evident of narrations by Imam Hassan Al-Basri (RA), Imam Abu Hanifa (RA), and others. They learned and taught from female instructors from behind a curtain. Furthermore, lowering the gaze is a commandment of Allah (SWT) to both men and women – not only men.

      With regards to the notion that “outside jummah everything is mixed, so why can’t it be mixed inside of jummah?’ – two wrongs don’t make a right. Under the same logic, people may also start saying, “We sit in classes side-by-side, so why can’t we also just pray side-by-side?” It doesn’t matter how people sit in classrooms at our universities, or how people interact in the public sphere – we have no control over that. However, we do have control over what we do with our own lives.

      However, in order to teach women, we should have more female scholars with their own halaqas and classes. Female students often feel more comfortable with female scholars and can ask them more personal questions without feeling shy. Additionally, female students can interact more personally with female instructors, thereby learning other good qualities such as akhlaaq, mu’amulaat, etc.

      • TJ Princess says:

        Salaam alaykum,

        I agree with the above reply [helloworld].

        It is interesting though that ‘purdah’ isn’t even an arabic word… It is used mostly by people of Indo-Pak descent.

      • Jennifer says:

        It’s true, women don’t have to attend jumu’ah. Does that make it right to exlcude women from jumu’ah? From experiencing community with their Muslim sisters, from perhaps learning something from the khateeb? We need to be more concerned with the states of our hearts and how diseases of the heart manifest themselves in our lives. We need to teach people, young and old, what the adab of jumu’ah is, and keep repeating it until everyone adheres to it. It’s easy to say we should have more female scholars, but until that happens, it’s not right to keep women in the dark. Especially when women have the primary role at home to instill Islam into the hearts and minds of their children.

  3. talib says:

    Salaam

    I think I may have not stated opinion as clearly as I should have. I am not saying that it is against the sharia to have a pardah or not because some scholars say that it is necessary and some say it is not. Regardless the reason why I believe that we should have one is that this will help stop a person from looking at someone we aren’t suppose to. A barrier will help stop haram from happening. I think everyone can agree to that. Since it can help stop haram, a leader should do his best to look out for the people and stop anyone from doing something thats haram (looking at something we aren’t suppose to).

    You are assuming that a person will not come because there is a barrier. You know what they say about a person who assumes (just joking). But honestly you can’t say that a person will stop coming because of a barrier. Some sisters will not come to jummah because there isn’t a barrier. So it can go either way. The girl in mini skirt might think it’s a good idea for the guys not to check her out or whatever. I mean we never know. I know some relatives that don’t go to the masajids where there is no pardah. So it can go either way.

    Since the barrier can help stop haram we should do our best effort to have one up. I may be wrong but didnt Umar (RA) prevented women to come to the masjid because they weren’t dressed properly and later only came in the dark (fajr and isha). So more or less it was a way to have a pardah.

    So your assuming that a sister will not come because of a pardah. There might be some sisters that will say I’m not going to come because there is a pardah. But there are some other sisters that want a pardah and won’t come because there is not a pardah.

    As for your question in the first paragraph, I am not exactly sure of how they did pardah from him. THis hadith is in Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi. But we can understand that they did not see him.

    • Malak says:

      Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,

      One thing we need to keep in mind is that the wives of the Prophet(S) had requirements that didn’t apply on the rest of the believing women, such as niqab, and some that for the rest were even specifically discouraged. They(R), the beloved mothers of the believers, were specifically forbidden to marry after the Prophet(S)’s death, whereas believing women are encouraged. So it doesn’t matter if they were required to put a barrier or not. The question is whether or not believing women were, and there is every bit of evidence to indicate that they were not.

      I think the following narrative summarizes this issue, and God knows best: Ibn Abbas(R) said: A beautiful woman, from among the most beautiful of women, used to pray behind the Prophet. Some of the people used to go to pray in the first row to ensure they would not be able to see her. Others would pray in the last row of the men, and they would look from underneath their armpits to see her. Because of this act, in regard to her, Allah revealed:

      {To Us are known those of you who hasten forward, and those who lag behind.}

      Obviously, her face was uncovered, but what is also striking is the fact that the focus of the verse was on them, and not her. No one, not the Prophet(S) nor anyone else, tried to discourage her from coming, or tell her that, since she was creating this fitnah, she should just stay home, and her prayer in her home is better. She was neither directed to cover her face, nor was she directed to stay away from the masjid.

      Someone suggested we should see how the votes come out? I re-iterate: non-Muslims may be interested in our deen, and by far, the highest number of converts happens between the ages of 17-25. i.e. predominantly people of college age. These MSA’s need to factor that in. It’s not just about them.

      As for what Umar(R) did or didn’t do, and I love and respect him, for so many reasons that I won’t get into. But that is still Umar(R) and not the Prophet(S) and I do not accept that we will use the actions of the Companions to overturn the actions of our Messenger(S). They continued to struggle with what he(S) sought them to teach them.

      Abdullah b. Umar reported that the Messenger(S) said: Don’t prevent your women from going to the mosque when they seek your permission. Bilal b. ‘Abdullah (his own son) said: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. Ibn Umar(R) turned towards him and reprimanded him harshly as I had never heard him do before. He (‘Abdullah b. Umar) said: I am narrating to you that which comes from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and you (have the audicity) to say: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. (Muslim)

      And some riwayahs have him even thumping his chest and others that he(R) wouldn’t speak with him for days after that. Clearly despite the esteemed and beloved nature of our salaf, they still struggled with how to deal with women.

      That folks is just one example.

      • '08 Shurah says:

        thanks again for a great post. I wonder why we never hear of such vivid examples of disagreement on this issue (hmm… :/ ) these types of hadith rarely get discussed (even despite being authentic.. this one is in Muslim) they need to be brought to the forefront of conversations and such examples need to be considered, not swept under a rug. May Allah (swt) increase us in beneficial knowledge and action. (Ameen)

  4. student says:

    Assalamu alaikum brother Ali,

    You have some valid points, but just wanted to point out a couple things:

    1.) Are you sure sisters in mini-skirts don’t come to jumu’ah *only* because of the barrier? There may be other reasons as well. As I said above, if the sisters’ room is welcoming (meaning not a dirty, stuffy room), sisters will feel encouraged to come.
    2.) As far as I know, the missing-three-jumu’ahs-in-a-row rule is for men only. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, I think you may have misunderstood what brother Talib was trying to say. Brothers and sisters may misdirect their gaze at times besides jumu’ah, but letting it happen during jumu’ah is much worse. Jum’uah is a sacred day and time. The leaders of MSAs should try their best to keep it as halal and pure as possible–not think, “ok, they look at other times anyways, what’s the point of the barrier?”

    Just a couple of thoughts. No disrespect intended.

  5. News UPDATE says:

    The MSA that [I think] AbdelRahman was referring to has finally arrived at a decision.

    They decided to place the barriers up. They’re using these big, large, cloth partitions that seem pretty high in terms of height. As to whether they consulted the sisters about this decision or not, I don’t know about it. However, I don’t think they ever bothered to do .

  6. Ahmed says:

    I’m not a scholar. But didn’t the Prophet pbuh talked to women in his time without any barrier? This is quite clear isn’t it? This closed mind, traditional (not religious), and destructive mentality must be abolished from the Muslim World. We need to understand the real message of Islam.

  7. Maybe it’s better to let them erect the barriers, and if there is enough concern over them, then those members of the shura will be voted out in favor of people who are more in tuned with what is wanted.

    On the other hand, if they or others like them remain, then the opposite – this is what is wanted, and it will continue, insha’Allah.

    I’d say, leave it to the MSA board, and voice your disagreement either directly (and politely) through discussion, and through the ballot box of the MSA elections if need be.

    Siraaj

  8. News UPDATE says:

    @ Br. Siraaj,

    I don’t know if everything will go as you say. It would be nice if it did, but I don’t know if it will. When issues like this show up, most people don’t seem to speak up about it. In fact, at the MSA that AbdelRahman was talking about, as far as I know, the only people to speak up were those in support of the barrier. These brothers that were behind the idea of the barrier have beards and wear thobes/shalwar-kameez and etc. and so, because of their physical appearance, are considered religious by most people that see them. I’m not questioning their religiosity or anything here, but I’m just letting you know that this is how people think. If they see someone the looks (stereotypically) religious, then they assume that they (in actuality) are religious.

    Because these people appear religious, some people will blindly accept whatever comes out of their mouth and sometimes will consider their words to be the words of Allah (swt). It is for this reason that, in my opinions, there were a bunch of people at our MSA that just blindly accepted what they had to say. What I’m trying to say here is that within every MSA, there is always a large group of people that are like the “masses.” They blindly go along with anything the MSA does, and do not question anything because they don’t seem to know any better. Often times, these people get affected by various things that the Shura will do but they will do nothing about it.

    As for changing the Shuras, the fact here is that Shura elections are often popularity contests. Some MSAs obviously have more of a problems with this issue than others but to some exent, most MSA’s are affected by this, one way or another. It is for these reason that those brothers that are thought of as being “religious” get to make it into the Shura.

  9. A sister says:

    Assalaamualaikum, jazakAllah khair brother for bringing up this important issue.
    I went to a masjid to hear Imam Suhaib Webb this summer and one of the things he applauded the masjid for was not having the sisters hiding in what he called “Guantanamo Bay” I believe. That was the first time I really thought about the issue. It was something I just kinda got used to. And it made me feel really good that people cared about and were thinking about such things. May Allah bless Imam Suhaib & his family. Ameen.
    So I read the post and most of the comments, here are my thoughts:
    -TVs for sisters is honestly really annoying to me. I can just watch a lecture on my computer if that’s the case, you know? Also, when there’s like a whole separate room for sisters like on a separate floor or something. There’s usually a lot of kids there making noise, and people that basically didn’t come to listen to the lecture. It becomes nearly impossible to listen to the lecture.
    -For me the best thing is the sisters being behind the brothers with a barrier that opens up in the middle so that those who want to, can see the shaykh and any blackboard/presentation he may have going on.
    -At our jummah, we don’t have a barrier, but the room is shaped so weirdly that it’s kind of a natural barrier. It works well alhamdulillah
    -I think in a lot of ways, it depends on the community. I’ve been in a very small mosque sitting behind brothers with no divider and felt completely comfortable because the community was like a family. No brother even looked at a sister except to say salaam or pass her a book or paper for the class,etc. I know in some places, I feel a lot more comfortable if there is some sort of a divider, because the brothers walk in, check out the sisters and THEN sit down. lol may Allah save us.
    -TOTALLY agree about the speakers tho. Honestly, the whole ummah needs to fix their speakers lol.
    - I think it’s a good idea to find out what the sisters in your MSA think. Maybe have an online poll? Would be funny if you were fighting to save them but really, they loved the barrier :)

    Thanks again,
    salaam!

    • Karen D says:

      AA-I want to add to the comment about children making noise etc. during the khutba. Many churches are designed with what they call “cry rooms”. Usually they are glass enclosures that are soundproof to an extent in the back of the back of the church but I have also seen them on the side. The sermon is piped in. The purpose is only to separate noisy children with their parent from disturbing the other congregants. But to relegate all women into these “cry rooms” is repressive. To remove women in total from the sight of the brothers doesn’t allow the brothers to develop their own sense of modesty. If they are so afraid of seeing women then it would serve them better to keep in check and increase their character by not looking with intent. Women who feel they have to hide from the lack of restraint by the brothers are not doing themselves or the brothers any favors. I think if brothers are weak to the point that they fear their own thoughts and behaviors in front Muslim women are not sincere in their own modesty. This, for me, is the real issue to be addressed and not a barrier that relaxes character- aoothu billlah.

  10. I don’t know if everything will go as you say. It would be nice if it did, but I don’t know if it will. When issues like this show up, most people don’t seem to speak up about it. In fact, at the MSA that AbdelRahman was talking about, as far as I know, the only people to speak up were those in support of the barrier. These brothers that were behind the idea of the barrier have beards and wear thobes/shalwar-kameez and etc. and so, because of their physical appearance, are considered religious by most people that see them. I’m not questioning their religiosity or anything here, but I’m just letting you know that this is how people think. If they see someone the looks (stereotypically) religious, then they assume that they (in actuality) are religious.

    Because these people appear religious, some people will blindly accept whatever comes out of their mouth and sometimes will consider their words to be the words of Allah (swt). It is for this reason that, in my opinions, there were a bunch of people at our MSA that just blindly accepted what they had to say. What I’m trying to say here is that within every MSA, there is always a large group of people that are like the “masses.” They blindly go along with anything the MSA does, and do not question anything because they don’t seem to know any better. Often times, these people get affected by various things that the Shura will do but they will do nothing about it.

    As for changing the Shuras, the fact here is that Shura elections are often popularity contests. Some MSAs obviously have more of a problems with this issue than others but to some exent, most MSA’s are affected by this, one way or another. It is for these reason that those brothers that are thought of as being “religious” get to make it into the Shura.

    If that’s the case, then I’d say it’s better not to get people up in arms about something no one is really caring too much about. You may not always agree with your shura’s decisions, but let’s get real here, there are MSAs that openly flaunt the worst behavior in the world, and we’re coming down on brothers who took an opinion from scholars they trust.

    They were nominated and elected, and if anyone cared enough about the issue, these brothers would not be so in the next election. I’m a firm believer in actions and not excuses. If people don’t want to critically evaluate what these brothers are doing, and these brothers are not doing something haraam necessarily, then this type of discussion is counterproductive to the overarching goals an MSA needs to achieve in a given year. As I had mentioned before, these side issues will simply pull people away and consume energy (as it is right now) on discussions that don’t serve the Muslim or nonMuslim community at large on campus.

    As I said, if it’s that bad, if people are truly being harmed by it, then they ought to speak up – we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. If we don’t take responsibility for ourselves, then that’s by choice, not force. The very essence that makes us responsible before Allah subhaana wa ta’aala is that we have the free will to make decisions, even in the face of all the conditioning and environmental (over)stimulus we encounter.

    Siraaj

  11. Umm Rayaan says:

    Save the sisters -Yeh, by keeping our barriers up :)

  12. Qas says:

    Siraaj said “I’m a firm believer in actions and not excuses. If people don’t want to critically evaluate what these brothers are doing, and these brothers are not doing something haraam necessarily, then this type of discussion is counterproductive to the overarching goals an MSA needs to achieve in a given year.”

    JazakaAllah khair for the great advice, bro. I always find your posts full of wisdom and lessons.

    • Karen D says:

      AA-
      I am sorry but this approach only sidelines the issues yet again. And it continues to marginalize the needs of the sisters. No one should assume that if there is no opposition voice directly in the face of it all that it doesn’t exist. Proper leadership should reflect the whole voice of its representatives. If the MSA feels that it is justified because it doesn’t hear the opposition or alternative approaches then that is just naive behavior and lacks real concern for its constituents. The truth of the matter is that leadership does not just represent those who voted them in but all constituents even those who were so marginalized they didn’t even give their voice to vote. If you feel justified serving only those who voted you in then you are missing the point of your leadership. I will pray for your guidance. InshaAllah.

  13. Talib says:

    Good comment brother Siraj. JazakaAllah Khair for the advice. May Allah (SWT) Reward you.

    Some claim that a barrier is biddah. Correct me if I am wrong but we should follow the sunna of the prophet and the one after him (companions). Especially the four khalifas after the prophet (SAWS). And didnt Umar (RA) forbid women from coming to the mosque. And when the ladies complained to Ayesha (RA) she said that this action was in the bounds of the sharia and not biddah. So the pardah is more or less like the action of Umar. I may be wrong correct me with hikmah if I am.

    But brother Siraj tore it up nonetheless.

  14. A Mujahid says:

    These few hadith are not placed for us to comment on or say ‘great post’. These are solely for reflection on what we say. Do not use these hadith for ‘your’ argument for or against what you ‘think’ is right. Rather control your tongues on things you don’t have hikmah or wisdom upon and please don’t be ignorant. Brother Suhaib Webb has established this site not for the purpose of argument but his intention, I believe… and he can correct me if I’m wrong… is to bring only khair and goodness into our BLESSED lives.

    Narrated Anas (Allah be pleased with him): The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Hadiths to you is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.
    (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol 1).

    No judge must give judgement between two people when he is angry.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    The man who is most hateful to God is the one who quarrels and disputes most. (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Do you know the thing which most commonly brings people into paradise? It is fear to God and good character. Do you know what most commonly brings people to hell? It is the hollow things; the mouth and the private parts.
    (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah).

    Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it, and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.
    (Tirmidhi).

    If you guarantee me six things on your part, I shall guarantee you paradise: speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfil your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your eyes and restrain your hand from injustice.
    (Baihaqi).

    Avoid envy, for envy devours good deeds just as fire devours fuel.
    (Abu Dawud).

    “Believers are to one another like a building whose parts support one other.” He then interlaced his fingers.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two if them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honour, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around the sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    What I have forbidden to you, avoid; what I have ordered you [to do], do as much of it as you can. It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their Prophets that destroyed those who were before you.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Allah the Almighty has laid down religious duties, so do not neglect them; He has set boundaries, so do not overstep them; He has prohibited some things, so do not violate them; about some things He was silent out of compassion for you, not forgetfulness, so seek not after them.
    (Daraqutni)

    Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al As (Allah be pleased with him): I heard Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) saying: “Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead people astray.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol 1).

    Ibn Masud reported the Messenger of Allah as saying: “A woman is an object of concealment for when she goes out the devil presents her in alluring looks before men.”
    (Tirmidhi).

    A time will come to mankind when man will not care whether what he gets comes from a lawful or an unlawful source.
    (Bukhari).

    Do not ask for any high office, for if you are given it after asking, you will be left to discharge it yourself; if you are given it without asking you will be helped to discharge it.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Woe to him who tells things, speaking falsely, to make people laugh thereby! Woe to him! Woe to him!
    (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Darimi).

    Sufyan bin Abdullah ath Thaqafi told when he asked God’s messenger what he feared most for him, he took hold of his tongue and said, “This.”
    (Tirmidhi).

  15. A Mujahid says:

    When a man tells something and then departs it is trust. (What he told should be treated confidential).
    (Muslim).

    The things which I said were at the beginning of the post so those are between you ie. the readers and me. However, the hadith themselves are intended for the sake of knowledge and amal or actions/implementations of that knowledge. There they[hadith] are written in truth.

  16. Ali says:

    Assalamu Alaykum

    Siraj, I think, has the best response to this question about the barrier. The last one that he wrote.

  17. I don't know the right answer to this dilemma (if it is one) as I don't think I have sufficient knowledge on this topic. However, I thought I would point out the following flaw in the article….

    Anyone who has taken a speech class – scratch that, anyone who has ever talked to another human being knows that not all aspects of communication are verbal. When we talk, we may or may not make facial gestures, hand motions, and other physical movements to help get our point across. In fact, studies show that 70% of communication is rooted in something called paralanguage, an auxiliary form of communication that includes everything except speech. In this specific example, the aspect of paralanguage that’s most important is called kinesics, more commonly referred to as body language. In layman’s terms, the motions a speaker makes during his speech directly improves or worsens the delivery of his message.

    The Quran commands both genders to lower their gazes. So I think it can be safely implied that we aren't supposed to sit around and analyze the opposite gender's body language in order to accurately understand what he or she is trying to communicate. Have you heard the hadith about the first glace being forgiven…and voluntary subsequent gazes being disallowed? If yes, then how can it be said that paying attention to a speaker's body language is all right and essential?

    And seriously, from a Muslim woman's perspective do you think the haya-ful females of the Muslim Ummah would feel comfortable with the possibility that the movements of their bodies are being analyzed by the Muslims brothers while they are talking? That would be a really creepy situation to be in, to say the least.

    Also, please remember that Allah has effectively communicated to us through the Quran and the Quran in its current 'primary' form is a textual document (there is no audio or video to it). I don't think most of us feel the need to look at Allah or even the Prophet (sa) in order to accurately understand what the Holy book is saying.

    Finally, whenever religious matters are discussed the points that are being argued for should be backed up by evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah as these sources of evidence supersede any sort of para-lingual (or any other kind of human discovered) “evidence”.

    • Muneeba says:

      Salaam Sis,

      With all due respect – the Qur’an says we are not supposed to stare at each others body parts in a sexual way, and guard our gaze i.e. be chaste. It does not say “body language”. Body language are gestures like nodding of the head, motioning of the hand, & expressions of seriousness, sadness, joy. They are not sexual in nature during normal conversation. We use these signals to aide our communication.

      Besides, if a Muslimah is observing Hijab – the brother will not be able to ‘analyze the movement of her body’ !!! Because she is covered and there is nothing to ‘analyze’.

      Also Sis, When you / If you go to the grocer, the butcher, talk to the postman etc you come across men right? Even if you are in Niqab you are using body language. Your posture, rigidity of shoulders, your eyebrow movements, your hand gestures are part of that communication. Body language per se is not ‘haraam’ to interpret… unless it is used for flirtation.

  18. Nomad78 says:

    Salam,
    Most of Kinesics, body language, is picked up subconsciously. For example, when you walk down a busy road, why do you think that you don't run into the people streaming down the road in the opposite direction? Studies have shown that you actually, subconsciously, drop the shoulder in the direction that you are going and the person across from you picks that up and drops his/her shoulder in the opposite direction and that's why you don't run into each other. You can test this yourself by dropping the shoulder in one direction and then moving in the opposite one. You're almost guaranteed to run in the person walking your way.
    I applaude your Haya, but without me looking at you I can feel your “aura”. Try walking into a room where people are upset and see how that brings you down or vice versa.
    Nomad78

    • Gr8! So if it’s picked up subconsciously, then that means there is no necessity to look at a person when he/she is talking.

      And just for the sake of argument, I don’t think anyone can sense the aura of properly veiled Muslim woman. Her clothing would be too loose to offer any info on that matter! :)–unless you are talking at the nano level.

  19. Vaginal discharge, especially if it also accompanied by Vaginal Odor is probably bacterial vaginosis.

  20. Abd says:

    Look man if don’t have Islamic evidence to prove the wall should go down then you need to reconsider the facts that exposure of my family to the men of my community is unacceptable nor do i want to view my brothers family. I do believe that if a woman wants to go to the masjid no one can say anything and i recommended to sisters who’s husbands don’t deliver them knowledge to go and seek it. I don’t have any evidence to support that so I won’t make more then it is.

    Also we at our Masjid have a wall and do not mix male and female. however we have a camera hooked up into the main area with TV for the women to watch what is going on if you want to use that excuse for not having a wall. Also the nabi sallahu ahlihim to my understanding did not stand straight in front of women when he would talk to them in jamma he would turn half way as to not look directly at them if this is right and true then that is where your heart should be if I am wrong i ask you to forgive me and correct me so i don’t repeat this if it is an error

    and Allah the most high knows best

    I am sorry i don’t have the exact detail for my understanding the only thing i have is to listen to Ahmed Ali this strong human and listen to his work this is where i got the info from and i love Ahmed Ali for the sake of Allah and for the knowledge he passed on to inshAllah khair may Allah forgive you and make dua for me inshAllah

    • Hedaya says:

      @ br. Abd, you should know that the rule in fiqh is permissibility. Hence, we don’t have to prove that the barrier should come down. You have to prove that the barrier needs to stay up.

  21. Firoz says:

    Why dont you put a barrier of tinted glass ! Or tinted see through plastic so that the sisters can view the imam and not the other way around

  22. Brazilian sister says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa ramatullah wa barakatu!

    I believe that what the post meant was to alert both brothers and sisters about the seclusion of women to an area of the masjid that do not offer enough structure for them to better profit of the khutbah.

    I haven’t found anything that states it’s more desirable to have women separated by a physical divider from the men during prayers; and do believe that if it was meant for that to happen the prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) himself would have done that.

    As a woman I personally feel that in many masjids the designated area for the sisters are often too small, on the second floor of buildings or in a place of difficult access (and many of us bring children, their gear and strollers with us) and that in many occasions we can barely listen to anything being said by the imam.

    Women are your wives, your mothers, the mothers of your children. And all the knowledge we can get about Islam and all the participation we can have in the community will be for the profit of the family life and, ultimately, for the profit of the Ummah.
    Sisters, please think about it all and ponder as well. And if the current set up of your masjid is not appropriate, please speak to those who can help you change the situation for the better.

    If I said anything true, is due to the grace and glory of Allah. If I said anything wrong, it’s from my own faults – and may Allah forgive me.

    • Sister K says:

      @Brazilian Sister

      I also arrived at the same conclusion. Our muslim women are not educated, they do not know anything about Islam and they are the ones who are raising your children. We do not give them the opportunities to study closely with the scholars, we cant even ask questions during lectures. We have to go as far as throwing our question over the barrier and hopefully someone will give it to the sheikh and maybe if he feels like it he will answer it. You are distancing us from gaining knowledge. There is a different level of inspiration gained when learning from a scholar. Do not cast us aside because of your misinformed information concerning Islam. I challenge you to attempt to understand what it means to be a Muslim women in Islam in the United States. Islam gives us the rights but our very Muslim brothers and sisters take it away out of ignorance. Whether that is intentional or not is not the issue. People need to relearn Islam, not what is told by your parents or friends. Find the facts, question the sources and make sure you get your information from strong sources (i.e Quran and Sunnah). During the prophets time there was no barrier and should a sister have questions she could go to the sahabas and ask it freely. They were allowed by the prophet to take part in lectures. What about know. We feel the best place is for a women to stay home and not go anywhere. These are medieval influences that have set back our progression. In those times it was typical for people to have harems so they would hide their women away. We adopted such practices that women should stay home and only go out for emergencies.

      No disrespect to anyone but I honestly feel that people are not educated about Islam. I remember hearing this lecture of Shk. Yasir Qadhi where he mentioned that one of the sahabas was talking about the generation after them saying how he didnt recognize anything that they did which is Islam except for their salat and even that they were changing. How much do we really know about Islam. Women and me equally need to be educated. Knowing Islam, knowing our religion will allow us to deal justly with eachother and we have to make efforts to learn more about Islam. I dont believe Islam to be as difficult as people make it out to be, but with cultural influences that contradict Islamic teachings, and the ignorant teaching the ignorant, and our women, our mothers and in turn our children are uneducated we continue the destructive cycle that which we see in our current predicaments.

      Allah will not change the condition of people until they change themselves” [Qur'an 13: 11]

      Sit down and really read about your religion. Let us not continue to follow blindly a religion that we say we love but have no idea what it is. We believe putting on a hijab or having a beard guarantees us Jennah or that we are good Muslims. Learn your religion, learn the foundation of it and continue to gain knowledge.

      Forgive me if I said anything wrong. Anything wrong is from myself and anything good is from Allah.

      I challenge everyone , including myself to start a revolution of education, inspiration and knowledge (for the sake of Allah SWT).

      WaAlaikumAsSlam

      • hellow0rld says:

        Salams sister, just wanted to let you know that there are narrations of the Prophet (S) drawing a veil between himself and the female sahaaba, and also of the sahaaba learning from Aisha (RA) behind a curtain, etc. There are many narrations of the Prophet (S) and the companions interacting with people of the opposite gender behind a curtain. The reason why some people say “There was no curtain at the time of the Prophet (S)”, etc., is that they read a hadeeth that was narrated in the early period of the revelation. As time went on, the emaan of the sahaaba (RA) increased, and so the laws changed, until Allah (SWT) revealed the verse (translated), “This day I have completed your religion for you…”.

        Now, this is NOT to say that women shouldn’t acquire knowledge, etc. Islamic history is full of examples of great female Islamic scholars. It’s just that the way they taught men was from behind a curtain.

        Allah (SWT) says the truth: “That is purer for your hearts and theirs.” If there were any better way of acquiring knowledge from the opposite gender, it would’ve been mentioned in the Qur’an and used at that time.

        May Allah (SWT) guide us all, ameen.

  23. Daughter of Adam (AS) says:

    I certainly wish the women’s side of the masjid was more well-taken care of, but I definitely understand the difficulty this presents to the caretakers of the masjid that are often men. :/
    I thoroughly prefer having a curtain/physical barrier. It HELPS you concentrate way more. I can focus on the message the shaykh is giving more than the way he looks or how long his beard is. Plus, I’ve definitely heard girls comparing guys in the masjid, of all places :( because they’re sitting right behind them!

  24. Muneeba says:

    I’m a sister. From Pakistan. I have attended both kind of Masajid… one where ladies pray in the ‘women’s section’ which is a small box room (I know not all Sis Sections are like this) and cannot see the Imam. And one where you CAN see the speaker, even ask him questions. Lets just say that when you have access to the main hall and can interact with the Speaker (i.e. ask him Questions and follow up) it is INCOMPARABLE to just hearing a voice. I loved the article and I’m so glad that Brother AbdurRahman wrote this. I think Brothers like this can make it easy for us women to have access to the mosque. Because when WE say this we’re just immodest fitnah-ful
    troublemakers & feminists…

    I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop with a very good scholar mashAllah, and to my PLEASANT surprise, the ladies were right there in the room, with the Imam in front of us! He could address us directly… he could see what our reactions were (whether we were dozing off bored, or nodding in enthusiasm). We could ask him Q’s, stop him when he was reading too fast and make him repeat things we didn’t understand. We could SEE his expressions, and knew when he was just kidding, or serious… or when he was about to make a serious point. When he paused, we knew he was just pausing to read something, and that there wasn’t a problem with the speaker! I felt like I existed, and that my opinions mattered to my fellow brothers.

    Observing the Imam we learn ettiquette and adaab!!! how he speaks, how he behaves, how he interacts. Had we just been hearing a voice – we would only hear the content. Why should I make the effort to just listen to a voice when I can hear the audio at home?

    It was like somebody took a plastic bag off my head and I could breathe! Sorry, I don’t mean to be melodramatic – but thats how I felt because this was the first time I got to interact with a learned scholar. Very first time. I feel blessed mashAllah. If the organizers and the sheikh had believed in screens & closed rooms for the sisters – I would have been deprived of the awesome experience I had.

    PS: The brothers and sisters didn’t even notice each other – we were so engrossed in the Shiekh’s lecture.

    • Farah says:

      jazaki Allah khair for this. Indeed, when our scholars, leaders are up to the mark, the rest of us raise our standard of conduct automatically. The point is not to be the judge and jury but to spread ‘rahma’. Your words on how you felt interacting with a scholar, mashaAllah I can so attest to it too. It humbles one and teaches at the same time.

  25. ummMaryam says:

    salamu ‘alaikum,

    to practice the sunnah, both brothers and sisters need to change…the deal: brothers, take down the barriers AND sisters be handed an abaya/jilbab when entering the prayer hall to wear during the khutbah. both sides comply to the deal. if this is a more liberal MSA with the majority of sisters in their tight jeans and barely a head cover, keep the barrier up to keep intentions pure. many ivy league schools, guys and girls post juma have social chat time…so juma is not held sacred it’s just another hangout…know that having graduated from a name brand school myself…you can see it in the eyes and the flirtatious fun ways of talking

    • Takoua B. says:

      with all due respect sister, what constitutes/defined as a hijab, in terms of the type of Islamic apparel deemed to be modest, was/isn’t specified in the Qur’an. In other words, the Jilbab/Ibayah isn’t the only form of hijab out there.

  26. Iconoclastm says:

    You see if the barrier stays, its all good. But If has to be removed then the women have to be veiled properly as in, in an abaya, that will be a barrier (many small barriers instead of one big one) in itself too. For hijab is obligatory upon both males and females.

    Let me reiterate an interesting contention by Shaykh Hakim Murad: “The veil covers the man’s eyes, not the woman’s.”

  27. I have not read the comments. Just wanted to say that it’s pretty pathetic if a khateeb cannot concentrate or speak because of the presence of Muslim women, seated, wearing hijab. What happens to him at university or at work? Does his brain shut down? What about when he’s driving, or at the store? Can’t think there either?

    We cannot shut out 50% of our human resource as an Ummah and expect to reach our full potential.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I know this is probably a non-issue, but many seem to be complaining about the lack of good space for women in many Masjids. I agree with this. However, many of the newer purpose built Masjids have found many different ways to solve the issue. One masjid simply has a half barrier so that the sisters can still see, and are even in the same prayer hall, but since there is a barrier – which is about halfway in the room- they are guaranteed a place to pray that is equal to the brothers. I agree with the point that an Imam giving a khutba being distracted by women with hijab on is a big ironic, considering hijab is supposed to remove the distractions for the most part anyways. Also, I have seen masjids with second floors that are balconies, or have huge glass windows, so that they can see the khateeb etc. Also, this frees up more space when men and women are in seperate halls- I don’t think masjids always seperate them because they want to ‘hide’ the women or whatever, but it is true that they rarely seem to give the sisters adequate room for prayer.

  29. '08 Shurah says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Although its been a couple yrs since this issue was first brought up, after reading through all the responses I feel the need to reply.

    I was the shurah sister responsible for getting feedback from the sisters at the msa br.AbdelRahman was discussing. I tried making a comprehensive survey asking sisters questions regarding a physical ‘purdah’ or curtain during Friday prayer. I will tell you honestly that responses varied from question to question. Truly not all sisters feel the same way about this issue, in fact there’s a wide range of beliefs and opinions on what the BEST Friday prayer set up is, and why.

    However, in response to the key question (do you want a curtain to be put up between the brothers and sisters during friday prayer) more sisters responded ‘yes’ than ‘no’. Not an overwhelming majority of them, but more. It was on that basis that our shurah decided to put a curtain back up.

    Now there were some drawbacks of the survey. First, there was a ‘neutral/don’t care either way’ option which I shouldve eliminated (in retrospect). Some girls had opinions (i know from speaking with them personally), but when given the chance to remain neutal on the topic, they did so for whatever reason, although the survey was anonymous.

    A more imp. concern was the surveys limited pool of respondants. I passed the survey during jummah for a couple of weeks (to ensure that any sister who was already a part of the friday congregation had a say), and around campus. I would say we got most of the sisters who were associated with the MSA, through going to the places where many muslim sisters hang out, or through friends and friends of friends.

    However, this meant that the survey did NOT reflect the opinions of those many muslim sisters who do NOT come to friday prayers at all (or who happened not to come those few wks), or who don’t associate themselves with the muslim students / the MSA in particular.

    But is that okay? Is it okay for our leaders/boards to base their actions (which will affect the larger community) on the preferences of ‘active’ members (usually not representative of the broader community). If we are talking about a united Ummah, then I guess not… we didn’t really reach out to Muslim sisters on campus who werent involved with the MSA, and their opinions (i believe) would have helped us see where we lacked.

    One outlook has been represented very well by ‘Inspired’ (who replied to this blog sometime in ’08). That was the outlook held by me and a few other members. Based on that outlook, our survey pool was not adequate, because it was not as comprehensive as it should have been. It may have been that the curtain was one of the reasons why certain sisters never came to the prayer in the first place. Since they never came, they werent part of the survey and could not give their two cents on the matter.

    Another outlook was that people who generally come to the khutbah might feel uncomfortable w.out a curtain, and that it would discourage some sisters from coming. There were one or two sisters, during the interim period when there was no curtain, who prayed on there own. So yes, the opposite effect is also possible. But does that reflect the majority of us? Not really. Anyway, students with this outlook also did not see the khutbah as a dawah event. They thought that it needed to cater primarily to the existing active population, that we should be catering to the opinions of those who are already at friday prayer, not asking ppl who dont come anyway.

    This leads to my main point. There are far bigger issues that were discussed by our shurah because of the curtain dilemma. In order to decide on the best friday sermon ‘setup’, every MSA (and masjid leadership for that matter) must first agree on the PURPOSE and GOAL of the friday khutbah.

    The question ‘what best exemplifies the Sunnah?’ (half the room w/curtain, half not; a full, large, solid curtain; a separate room; a line of chairs; some empty space) can be better answered if we first agree on the reasons we hold Jummah prayer. If we can agree that one purpose of the Friday prayer is to bring us together to attain some knowledge, stay in touch with the deen, and build a sense of community, and that fulfilling this purpose is an ESSENTIAL need for both guys AND girls, then we can try to talk to those brothers and sisters who say things like ‘its not mandatory for sisters to go anyway’. If we can agree that the foremost goal of Friday prayer is calling EVERY Muslim to the Faith (dawah) then we can continue the discussion about whether or not a curtain or separate rooms accomplishes that goal.

    BUT many people see the Friday khutbah in simpler terms, maybe just an obligation that has to be met. Before quoting hadiths based on one part of the Prophet (saw)’s life or another, we first gotta see if we’re all even looking at the topic in the same light. If the Sunnah is going to lead to a greater, stronger, more intelligent, more God fearing, and more supportive community of muslims and muslimahs, we have to see the Sunnah that way. That’s the kind of insight I found lacking when discussing the purdah. Our aims and motives were worlds apart, and they need to be explored more and hashed out. iA these types of articles can become a means to do that. Ppl need to step up and tackle these types of unpopular/complicated issues (which I appreciate you trying to do br. AbdelRahman).

    Walaikum assalam

  30. Sam says:

    Salaam Alaikum, As a sister that has learned so much from her college MSA, and especially from going to khutbah’s and classes on campus, it is unfortunate and truly disturbing that there are brother’s who believe that since it is not required for us to come, we are not given the same respect. Even the prophet’s mosque in Medina does not have a barrier! this is the Prophet, peace be upon him, who else do we have as a better example! And the Prophet himself would take time aside and teach the sisters. I believe that just because we are not required to come, does not mean we shouldn’t. This leniency is given out of the mercy of Allah, not his wrath. It is out of Allah’s mercy that women are not required to come to the khutbah, for various reasons. But young women such as myself truly value their time at the masjid, and it is a shame that we are not given the same respect and honor as men. We are all equal and should sit in one room as that.

  31. Samiha says:

    There were some very good points in the passage, but I still think that there should be some type of barrier between the men and women.

  32. Farah says:

    This is a vital issue. As a woman and scientist, I find it incredibly demoralizing that in our mosques we are not given a space to raise our voices. First, I totally agree, that if I cannot see the khatib the experience of the talk is very shallow (and by the way we can focus on the khatib despite brothers in tight jeans you know, it’s rather insulting to think otherwise). To experience what I mean, I would invite brothers to go behind a barrier for once and listen to a speaker that way.
    Second, being behind a barrier has distanced us from being considered an active part of the community. I feel way more respected among peers in a scientific setting, using my brains and brawn to figure out solutions to current global crises than I do in my own Muslim community, where if I can’t cook a meal (which of course I can and excellently by the way) I don’t amount to much.

    One big reason the Islamic civilization lead the world in times past is the place it gave women. Right now of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, you’ve got 700 million absconding, or being absconded… so we are shooting ourselves in the foot with these ‘oh I’m so unsure of my iman it will crumble if I see a guy in tight jeans or a sister who’s attractive’ attitude. Seriously, grow up

    • Chrysalis says:

      I agree completely. Especially with, “lets invite the brothers to experience the barrier/closed room/ TV-screen-scholar”. Perhaps if the brothers looked at it from our perspective, they’d understand. It would make for a very interesting experiment.

  33. Asiah says:

    There needs to be a part two of this article!

    Honestly, women’s space in the mosque is about so much more than the barrier. Truth is, in almost EVERY mosque and MSA I’ve been to, the barrier doesn’t keep men out, it only keeps women contained. I’ve been physically threated and called degrading names at the mosque – on the “women’s” side. My friends have been physically attacked. I’ve known women who went to the mosque to convert to Islam, were verbally attacked because they used the “wrong” door, and returned home as non-Muslims.

    A barrier can be well-intentioned but I’ve never seen it prevent the interaction of men and women. It’s gotten to the point though that good intentions are no longer good enough.

    Just my own, very sad sad experience. May Allah guide us all, ameen.

  34. sister says:

    i don’t think removing the barrier is the best idea. You are opening the doors of fitnah even though your intentions may be sincere.

  35. Hailey says:

    This might be a stupid question, but could it be possible to have a completely separated Jumaa prayer, and ALSO have two different speakers for the khutba: a male speaker for the men and a female speaker for the women?

    • Karen D says:

      AA
      No questions should be considered stupid. However, this approach leads down the road of total segregation.

  36. Saeed says:

    How about like A sister said:
    - option 1. Women pray behind men.That way man want be conditioned to look at ladies adornments. Only way to look would be to turn around and and that would be very obvious to everyone and he want be able to continue for a extended period of time. And from a sitting position other men may obstruct the view.
    - option 2. Women pray behind men
    and they would be a barrier in between not tall enough to obstruct the view of imam for sisters. That could be chairs with white cloth like in a high end restaurants. And these chairs could be used by elderly and handicapped to pray on. i don’t think most elderly and handicapped would likely check out ladies. Moreover in the quran Allah svt says: it is okey if you open up in a older age.

    Yes, there might be little risks but for the greater good we could sacrifice a bit. And we should trust our Muslim brothers and sisters. I don’t think your mosque is under attack by mini skirted ladies and tight jeans brother. Even if they did, I believe your community has defense system to repel such attacks. And if you start loosing, you can always go back to old ways. Islam is a solution till the DOJ, I pray for Allah, so you find a solution to this issue.

  37. mutumainah says:

    Excellent article bro, thanks!

    I’m against the barrier but I do think there should be an area for the sister who are more comfortable behind a barrier (because of niqab or if they have children with them).

    Personally, it is very difficult to pay attention when the khateeb is talking and I can’t see him! And some women might do it unintentionally but because the khateeb can’t see them, they do whatever they want and a lot of them talk and disturb the sisters who are trying to pay attention. When the sisters are in a different world, there’s no way they’re going to be quiet either (this is mostly in masajid that are built with a barrier, not as much the make-shift partition).

  38. IAR says:

    By all means, take the barriers down (at least the majority of them). I have seen women completely abandon the Muslim community because they felt unwelcomed and that barrier was a big part of it. I don’t like facing a wall while I’m being talked at. I have a better idea, tell the men to lower their gaze and some of us ladies need to dress more modestly. That solves it instead of going to extreme measures.

  39. Karen says:

    I am a convert. What that means is that I need a lot of support and help from the Islamic community. In reality, what I got after my shahada was, “Here are some books, good luck, congratulations. Hopefully we will see you again at 9am study circle on Friday.”
    While every convert has their own story for converting to Islam, the reasons I converted to Islam seem to be completely irrelevant as a muslim woman living in the West. I still work, and as such I have to converse and interact with men. If I don’t support myself and my child, my family will not take on the burden of my expenses. If I leave the house in a hijab, I am not American because I am muslim, but when I enter the mosque, I am not muslim because I am American. I thought Islam was here to grant women equity, which is our equality. I still work, I still have almost no knowledge of Islam except what I learn online, and I have no shining examples of prayer to follow. Just diagrams and online posts. This for me seems to be such a lonely religion, very isolating, and extremely frustrating. I am at this point Muslim by word only. Now if I was to go down to my local Catholic diocease, I would be welcomed, helped, coached, and brought into the religion with knowledge and classes beforehand. The one person who has knowledge of Islam at the mosque seems to be the Imam, but alas, he is off limits to me as I am a woman. I can’t even look at him without being haram. I find this a hard pill to swallow when all day long to support myself I have to work. I see men all day long without barriers, and I am not enticed to do haram things. So to put a barrier up in a mosque and separate the men and women, which I understand was not done in the prophet’s time (pbuh) is devastating to me. For my children, what can I teach them? I heard once from a sheikh, if you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman, you educate a family. No wonder so many women converts I know don’t go to the mosque. There are too many obstacles and barriers, both cultural and physical. The rights women were given, which was a big reason for my conversion, seem to have been displaced. If there are women that want their own room, great fine, have your room, buy don’t deny someone like me the opportunity to learn without barriers, whether it is a Friday prayer, a convention, or something as simple as praying. I have never taken a course where I did not see the speaker or teacher. This is why this issue is so important to me.

    • Assalaamu alaikum Karen,

      You just spoken my *very* feelings as a convert. Thank you.

      • Actually let me revise that, you summed up my feelings here:

        “I see men all day long without barriers, and I am not enticed to do haram things. So to put a barrier up in a mosque and separate the men and women, which I understand was not done in the prophet’s time (pbuh) is devastating to me. For my children, what can I teach them? I heard once from a sheikh, if you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman, you educate a family. No wonder so many women converts I know don’t go to the mosque. There are too many obstacles and barriers, both cultural and physical. The rights women were given, which was a big reason for my conversion, seem to have been displaced. If there are women that want their own room, great fine, have your room, buy don’t deny someone like me the opportunity to learn without barriers, whether it is a Friday prayer, a convention, or something as simple as praying. I have never taken a course where I did not see the speaker or teacher. This is why this issue is so important to me.”

        • AM says:

          Very well put. If women at the time of the Prophet prayed in the same mosque without barriers, who are we to separate them? Alhumdulillah, our mosque only separates the sisters and brothers by a one foot tall railing so that brothers don’t start taking over sisters’ space :). For me, it’s important to see the imam to understand him (remember, 70% of communication is not verbal).

    • Muhammed says:

      Asalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatu

      May Allah grant us the strength to speak truth to power. Following the manner of one’s forefathers is no excuse in the eyes of Allah. Not for the father of Abraham (AS) and not for us.

      May we be incessant in our efforts to bring light to our communities by being intruments of Truth (Haqq), Mercy (Marhama) and have patience, resolve and persistence (Sabr) in the face of obstacles.

      We are not holier than the Sahabi. We should not be unwittingly holier-than-thou. It is a sign of ignorance and arrogance and presents an incorrect picture of the Deen. May Allah protect us.

      We should also be careful of whisperings of the deceiptful ones (waswasi) lead us to turn away from the Deen in the name of “reform” or being “moderate”. May Allah protect us.

      This issue is far from being academic in terms of being esoteric. The Path of Allah is one of Love and Guidance – of Light (Noor). We should certainly tear down barriers, material and otherwise, which were not clear Sunnah and which deprive women of their rightful place. We should cherish true Modesty (Haya) by brothers and sisters in dress, behaviourand interaction, radiating from within and apparent from without.

      The inestimable contributions, for example, of great women scholars of Islam, is today hardly acknowledged. Read texts by Sh Akram Nadwi and others. Barriers and isolaton will do little to encourage such scholarship anew. The majority of new Muslims are women. By the Grace of the Almighty, perhaps in spite of our example rather than because of it.

      Let us be better. Let us truly be One Ummah.

    • Dee says:

      Assalam aleykum Karen,
      I’m sorry you’ve to go through this alone. I’m sure you’ve tried self study through google. There are some useful sites – though I don’t believe any of them to be complete authority on any one subject. Only Allah knows best.
      My experience is that not all converts WANT help or even accept help. Understandably, perhaps people refrain from crowding you because of that. Try making friends with the sisters and you’d be surprised.
      In my masjid there are more than 20 convert sisters and they just introduce themselves and ask anybody for help, and most everyone is accommodating. There’s a knowledgeable VOLUNTEER man who volunteered to meet and teach the new Muslim sisters every 2 weeks, and no question is off limit. They meet face to face as a teacher- student and the sisters are very modestly dressed. I don’t see a problem with that as most of them are married (as is the teacher) and they are in large group, in a masjid. Maybe you can set up something like this in your local masjid.
      My suggestion is try to call your local masjid to set you up with a volunteer mentor sister. Alternately, you could post it yourself at the women’s section in the masjid. Failing that, I would ask the imam to set up a class, just like my masjid did, though run by volunteers, for the new Muslims to be held once every two weeks.
      Let us know your progress.
      jazakallah

    • Takoua B. says:

      wow. That’s tough. But you know, it’s not haram for a` woman to talk [ask questions regarding Islam] to a male Imam. I mean, that’s the whole point of having an Imam in the first place. And just a side note…if you don’t feel welcome in one mosque – go find another that’s more comfortable. It’s a sad reality that there are men out there, who think they have the right to control anything Islamic – including issues involving women [and the barrier is one of them]. It’s as if they skipped out on the Sunnah [of the Prophet {SAW)]lessons and the intellectual/powerful women in Islamic history. May Allah (SWT) save us from being arrog/ignorant. And it seems as if people are using the word ‘haram’ way too freely, and using the term ‘fitna’ and ‘women’ in the same sentence – seriously, it feels as if we’re in the dark ages of the medieval-Judeo-Christian mentality or the current U.S Bible-belt community. help!

  40. Um Emaan says:

    Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
    AsSalaamu ‘alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
    All Praise is due to Allah.
    Jazak Allahu khair for your efforts in bringing light to a topic which is clearly under-addressed.
    I appreciated hearing your outlook on the topic. However, I wonder why you did not site points from Quran and Sunnah to back up your opinion. I am interested in what these points may be. I found it very disappointing to read all the way to end without hearing any evidence and therefore, not learn much from this article.

  41. Ala says:

    Assalam alaikom,

    Great article and JAK for addressing this issue! Its one of particular importance to me, as ive been blessed with the privilege of seeing many masajid in america and im always very dissapointed when i enter a masjid with huge barriors. Not to mention that the men have a beautiful open area, while the women (at least in one masjid ive seen) are in a completely different small,cramped, building with nothing but the crackling speakers.

    Im all for a glass barrior, as long as there is sufficient room on the other side of the glass (which is always a problem). Or large projectors of the imam, which can be costly, but can be extremely helpful.

    SubhanAllah its always good to look back at the sunnah of the Prophet Saws, there was no divider. Plus the Prophet saws still interacted with women and addressed their questions in a respectful way, not to mention that some of his wives became great scholars of islam, may Allah swt be pleased with them all.

    In the mothers of the believers cd set, suhaib webb said himself, by isolating the females from the masajid we are turning away half of the muslims in our communities… SubhanAllah, something to think about

    Jazak Allah khair, please forgive me if ive said anything that was incorrect
    Thanks again for the post!

  42. Melissa says:

    I have been going to a mosque that has the women’s section on the 2nd floor on a very large balcony overlooking the mens side. It was obviously built this way but one creative way for seperation but to allow for full view of the Imam. I don’t like the wall and have difficulty hearing the whole message when I can’t see anything. Side by side (all men on the left of the room and women on the right for example) would make more sense with a barrier down the middle, even if it is a rope to separate the two.

  43. Sara says:

    dear imam,
    i was very ‘proud’ of you for writting this, i have studied shari’a n law in sudan, we were discussing these matters with our sharia teachers etc.
    my point is, while the prophet (pbuh) used to talk with his sahaba, there used to be women sahabi present, i understand that they were veiled, but at the same time they could see the men. it really doesnt make any sense why women should be isolated when we live at a time when a womens face is no longer ’3awra’ because we see faces everywhere :)
    i wear the hijab (not veiled) because i dont beleive my face is a ’3awra’ believe me if i was so beutiful i would have covered my face. i also dont believe my hair is a ’3awra’ as other women have way awsomer hair than me, but it was a personal decision, that (thank allah) i dont regret.
    not to get off the topic, people always tell me that i should stop shaking hands with men, and i dont see the necessity in stopping, i’m sorry but i believe i have good ‘eman in allah,’ that will stop me from ‘getting turned on by shaking a mans hand’, thats why i beleive men also have the same ‘eman in allah,’ for them not to need to lower their gaze, because looking at a womans face will not ‘lead them into whats haram.’
    dont get me wrong, i understand why at the time of the prophet people didnt shake hands with the oposite sex and women wore veils, what i’m trying to say is these ‘cultural customs’ are no longer an issue in our time. i must point out that these issues are more cultural than they are religious, we follow shari’a from the saudi’s but sadly we bring their ‘cultural customs’ into our religion.
    after studying Osool al fiqh, and understanding that customs (or culture) is part of religion, it makes me sad that people are negating their own customs as they believe religion negates their traditions, and adopting the saudi arabian customs.

    Thank you again for enlighting me,
    your sister Sara

    p.s for the people saying that u shouldnt go to the mall in the summer if u dont trust urself to lower ur gaze… really, is that how u much u trust urself…

  44. Nicole says:

    Salam, I love this article.. In fact I had an issue with this years ago and so I sought out a fatwa from http://www.islamweb.net and they stated that women are not to pray behind a curtain or a wall in the mosque IF she can’t see the imam from behind these things. SOOO I refused to pray at any mosque that puts me in seclusion.. in fact I have actually walked into the men section and prayed with the men against the back of the wall. There was some who didn’t like it but oh well, I did it anyways..

  45. Sfatima says:

    I am a muslim sister, and am all for barrier between men and women, and between the Imam and the women, BUT it will be nicer if the there were projectors/big screens for muslim sisters to look at, because sometimes it gets difficult to focus on things if we cant see them. But we as muslims must keep the asul and principles of shariah intact, I would not go sit in a gathering which positions men and women so close they can see and smell each other. It is understandable that there are socieities where people have been completely de-sensitized by the social images and nudity being bombarded over them all the time, but that does not mean that we forego our values just because a certain number of sisters have been brought a certain way and they are unable to focus on what the imam is saying if there are no barriers between them, but yes their concern is valid, and it has a solution. Put up big screens and speakers for visible,audible experience. But lifting the barriers completely is just plain Un-islamic.

    The imam also has the right to protect his gaze, and since they are not used to stare around on so many women at a given time, it can be extremely distracting for their speech and eeman. For some it isn’t, and for some it is, so which approach do we adopt? the one that accomodates the both, WITHIN the Islamic guidelines, NOT PERSONAL preferences.

    And the sister who said that she has no problem shaking men’s hands because she doesn’t feel turned on by such a gesture, should really revise her concepts of haya, modesty and purdah. There are people who are not turned on even by a liberal display of nudity and explicit images, would that make it alright for them too?

    There is a sahih hadith that goes by ” It is better for a man that an iron rod passes through his skull, than for him to touch the palm of a strange woman”.

    When we submit to Islam , we submit completely knowing that ALL morals, all values and all logic is BEST ordained by Allah swt only, for the best of his Humanity. If some people start thinking that ” what I think is better ’cause it suits me better..” you are not following Islam, you are following yourself, and trying to justify it the other way round.

    Just because we get used to living a certain way, and it is does not affect us apparently, does not mean that it does not affect our state of mind, our state of spirituality and state of eeman.

    Peace to you all : )

  46. sou says:

    I totally agree with what you said,the sisters are unfortunatly considered second class citizens in Islam in the Middle east only,not only in the states.I wounder why men do not understand the fact that women are the ones that raise children up,if you make and treast women to become weak and isolated,your children and thus the new generation of muslims will probably turn out to be weak and lack the knowledge about islam and the strength to make da’wa and spread the word of Allah.
    We have the complete right and freedom to attend masjids!masjids are not made for men only,get me one verse where Allah swt says that the masjid is a place for male worshipers.
    JazakaAllahu khayran.

  47. Aisha says:

    Well im a sister and a convert to islam and I feel the barrier does deprive me.of the full benefit of the talk. One time a masjid had a lecture and sisters were put in another room and listened to it through speakers. It makes u feel not included. If were dressed properly I dont think its fare. As muslim men u have a responsibilty to lower ur gaze. I feel like if ur in the masjid and ur staring at covered muslim womrn with lust then u seriously need to check urself and have a bit more self control. I agree with this :p

  48. sister says:

    Salaam Alaykum. The problem I have with this issue is that many women of the older generation feel so tied to their culture and their beliefs about the seperation of women and men, that they neglect to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (saws). Is Islam about being comfortable or is it about fighting our inner desires? What is the objective of the barrier? Many sisters feel more comfortable with it, and I charge them to ask themselves why. Why do they feel comfortable not being in the same room with the Brothers of your faith?

    We all have to control ourselves in the masjid. No matter what gender you are, the trial of lowering your gaze is real for everyone, but it shouldn’t be a reason to deprive anyone of their right to the public place of a masjid.

    I apologize, I haven’t kept up with all the comments, I’m sure all this was mentioned earlier. But I only mention this because this very issue is coming up in the mosque I recently started attending, and it is bothering me deeply. I have been confronted by a generation of Muslimahs who feel more comfortable behind a curtain, or even in another room. And this, I feel is the biggest problem my community is facing, miseducated Sisters.

  49. Soha Tanwir Khan says:

    Instead of presenting arguments in favour or against the barrier based on personal opinion, you should refer to Hadith and Quran. During the time of the Prophet [PBUH] and his companions, was there a barrier? If they didn’t have one, then we shouldn’t either. If they did, then we should try to understand the reasoning, the logic behind it, and adopt this approach.

    I used to attend a weekly dars and over there, they would have a barrier only between the audience; both parties could see the speaker. This seems like a very good way. If this is correct and appropriate, then you should certainly adopt this way.

    :)

  50. T Hoss says:

    I have been to a Masjid where the Men and women have a barrier- but they are side by side. The imam speaks in front of the men, but in clear view of the sisters. This is an extremely effective and fair compromise of both sides.

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