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. muslima says:

    I think its much betta to have barrier but in equal way (not dark corner without AC for women)…
    and I have been to many khutbah where there was barrier and had no propblem, and could concentrate much better,
    but when guys infront of you you cant concentrate that much on what imam says!

    • Ghaliyaa says:

      Salaam, same here. I don’t want to pray close to the brothers, I do like the separation, except when it’s in the back corner of the masjid, as the previous sis said, with no AC and little sound etc. Especially when it’s near the door.

      I think it would be nice to have a special place for sisters with all the amenities, AC and speakers at least. I don’t like the curtain idea, because I want to see the Imam as he speaks. Anyway, just my thoughts. :-)

      • Kelly says:

        Why all this all-or-none? How about a compromise…a wall or curtain across half the ladies section? Then the women with opposite preferences aren’t shoving their preference on everyone?

        • Naz says:

          Exactly! That’s how it is where I go to pray jummu’ah. They have dividers up across half the section and that balance works wonderfully :)

    • afreen says:

      i agree with sister muslima I prefer the barrier much better. we can understand quiet well when we dont see the khateeb. At our masjid in Pakistan the khateeb is in another room and they dont switch on the camera on white screen either. i prefer it that way. however, we do have ac proper sitting, good sound system and a seperate entrance. ALHUMDOLILLAH

    • Su says:

      In my country, they put up projectors in the mosques so the women could see the khatib above the barriers and the khatib could not see them. The women would not even see the men, apart from the khatib. It is a win-win solution. f you could afford unnecessary expensive shoes, clothes, bag etc., why not invest your money in a projector, for the good of the ummah?
      Salaam..

  2. Just a Muslim Sister says:

    If a woman was able to correct Omar bin Alkhattab during one of his khutbas, I highly doubt that there was a huge wall of a barrier between the men and the women…if it wasn’t necessary then, it shouldn’t be necessary now.
    The khateeb should also have better things to focus on than staring at the women sitting all the way in the back. What do the guys do after the khutba, when the same men and women are in the hallway together, with NO barrier? At least in the khutba you’re not even facing the women…this was a very important and much needed article…Jazakallahu Khair!

    • Soul says:

      Yes, a lady corrected Omar R.A. during khutbbah..
      But they were behind the pardah/curtain. Men can listen women even if they are behind the curtains. :)
      And most of the muhadithah’s(female hadith reporters) taught women as well as men but behind the curtain..

      • Hedaya says:

        Soul, I think that statement needs some support. From everything I’ve read, I find the opposite: most of them did *not* teach from behind a curtain.

        • Soul says:

          AssalamOalaikum Sister

          I read it here and at many other places.
          interfacepublications.com/images/pdf/AKRAM_Article2.pdf

          [great info about Muslim women scholars]

        • Kelly says:

          Hi Soul

          I think you are referring to page 8, Section 4.1 of your link where it says “Al-Suyuti records this: ‘The ancestors learnt ˆad‚ths from `Aishah and other mothers of the believers, while they narrated hadith, from behind the curtain. (23) Al-Sakhawi relates how Aishah and other women Companions used to teach from behind the screen.’ (24) On certain occasions, however, where there was no possibility of any private interaction, they could teach directly, without a screen. This is illustrated in the account of how Ibn Rushayd studied under Fatima al-Batayhiyyah in the mosque of the Prophet.”

          We all know that the Mothers of the Believers had additional modesty & safety precautions enforced on them due to the safety issues at the time for them. This references does not indicate all women were told to teach men with a curtain separator – it only references the Mothers of the Believers. Secondly, I would be curious to see the Arabic if it references a veil or an actual wall/curtain to separate people. Could you find additional references that may provide guidance regarding non-Mothers of the Believers teaching men?

    • Khutbs for all says:

      I agree with the sister, if there was no barrier during Omar(ra) time, we don’t need one. Women should attend Jumma on regular bases. I know for myself if I do not go to the mosque, listen to a sheikh or get some kind of spritual activity, Shetaan starts pulling me away.
      Sister should be able to come see the Imam and get the regular doze of spiritual uplifting. May Allah protect all of us from evil of Shetan and evil of Nafs.

  3. Reem says:

    Great article, I too feel that many brothers only know how to cover a sister up. They do not understand that just like men us women also have a thirst for knowledge that extends beyond appearance and domestication. JazakAllah for making that point.

    With regards to barriers, such as the one mentioned in the article, I think it depends on the situation. For instance at my ISOC (British MSA), we had two separate rooms for brothers and sisters, because there was not enough space, and even though the sound system did give us problems, we still benefited abundantly.

    If given the option of a big hall or open ground, I would prefer seeing and hearing the speaker, however, I think barriers are mostly put up for the sake of the brothers who find it hard concentrating when put in a room with sisters (even though they sit in mixed class rooms all the time), and if we can help them tackle this problem, then the sisters might be able to benefit more as well.

  4. sara says:

    thank you so much for writing this..its nice to know a BROTHER can see our sisters side..sometimes muslims can make women feel so bad..this is from experience..non muslims treat me better then muslims..in my masjid they like made a small crowded room for women and we can barely sit..and the men get this huge hall..it is unfair..i dont know what goes through there mind..we are HUMAN too ..we are visual just like men..i mean men should have there own head and hijab..they should control themselves..they act like its always the women’s fault..there are limits..we should all try to do our hijab and modesty..atleast just let us sit in the back and look..why would the speaker even look all the way back at the women and be distracted..then that means the speaker has some issue in there heart..i dont know…im just so hurt by muslim brothers and sisters..Islam is not that hard we people just make it so hard..its just sad

  5. sara says:

    so in my other mosque they turn off the lights in the women area in the back and like mothers have children with them and stuff and no one can see anything and its just a mess while the men get lights..they turn it off so the men cant see us in the back..i think women need more light then men because they have children and all..i mean men should be modest enough not to turn there whole head around to look at women..how much can women be modest seriously..everyone just attacks the women about there modesty and hijab..there are limits

  6. Lubna says:

    I am one of those Muslim women who have immensely benefited from the excellent Friday khutbas. Since I do not rely on memory, I often take notes to consult later on. I have grown so much in Iman from these lectures, I cannot even express it. I am just grateful to Allah (SWT) for giving me and my daughters this opportunity to listen, learn and improve. Going to extreme lengths in matters of less importance than dawa and which hinders learning does not seem right. Allah (SWT) has commanded us to use wisdom, moderation and not make difficulties for others. Also it gives a salient message to Muslim women, that they cannot be trusted. I thank the brother for his support for us. JazakAllah Khair.

  7. Eternal One says:

    We often take our cultures as our references and mistake them for Islam, when even during the prophet’s time Alayhisalam, there was not a barrier…not even one of chairs. But rather the lines the women formed were spaced behind those of the men.

    Lets stick to the Sunnah errrbody

  8. Jennifer says:

    JazakAllah khair for this article. I’ve experienced several masajid/prayer spaces where sisters are definitely “second class citizens”. The sunnah is that the women pray at the back, without a barrier. I’ve experienced the sound system going out multiple times during salat, and in sujood in certain places the sisters cannot see what the imam and brothers are doing. So, like the another person asked the question about prayer’s validity if the lines are broken and the congregation cannot see the imam- what happens in those situations? I understand that in alot of masajid the women are not using their best adab and it becomes distracting for the imam, brothers, AND the rest of the sisters, and children can also be disruptive. But being a convert/revert mother myself, I know that I am the primary person imparting Islam to my children. It is difficult for me to attend lectures or classes because of my responsibilities with my children, so for now, jumu’ah is my primary source of Islamic knowledge. If I am not educated in my deen, I cannot pass that on to my children, who then cannot pass Islam on to their children. That is a huge problem. We need more brothers to stand up for the rights of the sisters and more sisters to demand their rights be fulfilled when it comes to participating at masajid and other prayer spaces!

  9. Desi says:

    Wow! All the comments are right on the mark. As a mother of 4 sons and 1 daughter it is my responsibility in America to teach my children about Islam. My husband works long hours. I get my knowledge from reading & Friday prayer.Unlike my nieces & nephews that live in Egypt who are surrounded my Islam and a mosque on every corner. My children only get what we as parents provide. All of the previous comments are correct. But, the division does not bother me personally,the crowded rooms and bad a/c bothers me more. I have made friends with a blind sister at the mosque, so a lot of times I think of her and close my eyes and listen to the speaker. Woman who have recently visited my mosque have had more problems with the sour ,unfriendly faces of the sisters, so I told them, to sit with me. I think this is a way bigger problem than anything,but maybe this is the cause of their unhappiness,I am not sure.I have lived in 3 different states over the last 20 years and this is the same problem in every mosque. The sour faces, hot rooms,over crowding,and bad sound and video systems. I know sisters that quit going with their daughters because of this, and this is leading to a disaster for our young woman. So please, Allah guide us.

  10. Ahmer Khan says:

    SubhanAllah great article brother abdelrahman…in my masjid the women have their own section.its in the back and on the 2nd floor.Its not as big as the men’s section but its clean and air conditioned.The best thing about it is that it has a dark glass, sort of like a one way mirror, in front of it by which the women can see the khateeb and the khateeb can’t see them .I am sure its not the solution in many masajids but Alhamdo lillah.it worked in ours May Allah(swt) ease all our troubles and issues and grant us all patience.Ameen Ya Rabbal ‘Aalameen.

  11. Layla says:

    Asalamu alaikum

    Akhi AbudrRehman, I applaud you for taking concerns for your sisters in Islam, but there are things I disagree with.

    I live in NJ and have been to many masajid alhamdulillah. Some, like the previous comments said, treat the sister like second-class citizens. The worst I have seen is that women have to pray in the kitchen. And then there were masajid that have (mashaAllah) provided open, wide areas for the women, 2 large bathrooms with many stalls, and it is always clean.

    I live near a masjid that doesn’t have a barrier between the men and women, and let me tell you, it is a HUGE distraction, especially for the shabab. And the women (unfortunately) talk way too loudly, laugh way too loudly, draw attention to themselves, to the point that the shaykh has to say over the microphone “Sisters! Quiet down! If you want to socialize, go home!” It’s so embarassing for those of us who come to worship only.

    Not to mention (especially during Ramadan and Jumuah), the teenage sisters pray in the front row, and the teenage brothers pray in the back row, so close to each other. They even wave to each other when they think no one’s looking. And not to mention (and I do not mean to offend any sisters), but some sisters do not dress appropriately for the masjid. Skinny jeans and a see-through blouse, despite the little headscarf, is not proper hijab, and this clearly distracts both the younger and older brothers in the masjid.

    What I’m trying to get at: I think the barrier really does increase the level of “hayaa” between the brothers and sisters. Times have defintely changed since the time of the sahabah, when they were dress as “tafilaat” which means “tasteless” in Arabic. If one were to look at them they never looked attractive. Is that the case with the sisters going to the masajid nowadays?

    I saw a nice solution in a popular masjid I went to in Toronto, CA. There was a entire glass wall between brothers and sisters, the reflective kind that allows the sisters to see the brothers and the Imam, but doesn’t allow the brothers and the imam to see the sisters. The sisters pray comfortably, and especially for people like me who wear the niqab, I can pray assured that no brother will see me if I were to take it off.

    That’s all I wanted to say in regards to your article, but I do agree with you about your colleague’s comment about how it’s not obligatory upon us to attend the Jumuah. Still, we benefit from it but I truly, strongly believe that sisters should refrain from using make-up, perfume, tight-fitted clothing, and high heels if they plan to attend Jumuah.

    • Soul says:

      Awesome! I am with you too. Another solution I saw in some mosques is, sisters pray in same hall but in upper portion.

    • Green says:

      I totally agree with everything you said.

      And I’m pretty shock that someone wouldn’t even want a barrier. The Muslims now are not like the Muslims during the Prophet Muhammad (SWT) time.

      • Muslima2 says:

        As salaam alaykum.

        Does this mean that there should be an innovation? Because a partition between men and women in the mosque is precisely that, or so I was taught.

        If women aren’t dressing appropriately, then something can be said about that. Send someone home to put some clothes on one time, and it will never happen again.

        As for the brothers, and especially for the *leader*, if to simply see a woman existing somewhere under a burqa is distracting to you, you are the one with a serious problem. At my masjid, some women attend so covered that I can only assume there are actual women under there. Could be anybody.

        And the person in the *leadership* role should be able to politely call the younger people, male and female, on inappropriate behavior, should be able to have a word with the parents of the kids who are flirting or wearing clothes that are too tight (male and female – and yes! women are every bit as visual as men), and most especially should have developed enough self control to be able to cope with the presence of fully-clothed women in a group in public and in the presence of their husbands.

        I apologize, I cannot cite source, but I have been taught that the use of a physical screen in the masjid is haram, because it was not allowed by the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and if I am mistaken, please instruct me.

        Salaam.

        • wow says:

          Taraweeh is also an “innovation” from the same “Innovator” – Sayyidina Omar al Khattab, radi Allahu anhu.
          wanna get rid of it?
          pretty scary to call it haram and to say that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam did not “allow” it. Please get your facts straight…

  12. asalamualaykum

    jazakiallahu khayran sr Layla, I agree completely and I thank you for stating this position so eloquently.
    Coming from an msa where we almost always have a barrier (alhamdulillah), after only ONE event without it, I saw that it needed to go back up immediately. What can we say, this is NOT the time of the sahaba, and that can be seen clearly in how the young men and women dress and act. I’m definitely for the barrier, but I really appreciate br Abdelrahman’s concern for the sisters. jazakallahu khair br

  13. Haleema says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I believe a physical barrier can be challenging to a community’s maturity. We interact with people of the opposite gender on a daily basis, in the workplace, at school, public spaces etc. To become so fearful of a wandering gaze to the point that it cripples human interaction is worrisome. As human beings, we listen to tone of voice and observe body language and this can affect us in a range of ways from the way a message is conveyed to the way we take solace in each other’s presence to comfort one another and feel a sense of closeness with the community.
    We as human beings, have been bestowed with an extraordinary ability to feel love and respect for one another. I believe respect and seeing others as intellectual equals worthy of experiencing knowledge and spreading it regardless of gender is the strongest tool against a gaze that is disrespectful. Think of WHY we lower our gaze…it’s much more than a defense against sexual misconduct, it’s something that allows us to develop deep relationships and intimate understanding of another person beyond the superficial.
    My point is, the physical (like a physical barrier) will never be enough to guard against thoughts and actions that are shameful,a person who truly wants to do the haraam will always find a way. On a physical level, we can only go so far to prevent this, thus it is best to develop respect for one another which is born from a spiritual connection with Allah which is born from knowledge. A physical barrier does hinder attaining knowledge and it doesn’t create respect for the person on the other side of the barrier…it creates a fear and a subconcious resentment of someone we begin to view as “a highway to hell” for lack of a better term. But the greatest disadvantage that results from it, is a lack of faith in a fellow community member’s maturity and conscience, while perpetuating the erroneous image of a fragile and helpless woman who is threatened by the outside world.

  14. Sister says:

    As Salamu Alaikum, everyone,

    Should we not follow the sunnah of the Prophet (s), which is the middle way? Which is women pray in the back in the same room as men, with no barrier.

    We should be careful of arguments against following the sunnah – whether in a more liberal direction, or in a more conservative direction.

    Ie, the argument, ‘we are not the Sahabah, we are much worse than they are’ is not an excuse to leave the sunnah, but rather even more of a reason to stick to the sunnah of the Prophet (s).

    And Allah knows best.

    • wow says:

      Why are you all forgetting that it was Sayyidina Omar al Khattab, not some modern imam, who brought in the separating barrier between men and women. Was he wrong? do we not owe it to honesty and to our own integrity, as people who claim to respect (or even love) the 4 Rightly Guided Khulafaa and Amirs al Mu’mineen, to examine what his reasons for doing so were? and to reflect upon them? and to ask if they still exist or not? I don’t think these are arguments AGAINST following the Sunnah anymore than extolling the virtues of Taraweeh as we know it today, also a bidda hasana brought to us by Sayyidina Umar, is a rejection of the Sunnah or an argument against it. As you all know, it was not the Sunnah at the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam to pray Taraweeh in jamaa. Is praying it in Jamaa a rejection of the Sunnah?
      Let’s be a little more intellectually honest and fair in assessing these issues and not throw all sobre examination out the window just because our nufoos want something.

      • Kelly says:

        Giving people the OPTION to participate in Taraweeh is very different from doing an act relating to worship that PREVENTS a large percentage of women from feeling like they are part of the worship. Let’s give the women who prefer no wall a space with no wall, and give the women who prefer a wall the option to have a wall. What’s up with all the hate here, ladies? Why can’t we just give everyone options in all mosques so everyone is happy?

  15. This is an issue that is made so complicated when it really is s simple as the author indicates. If you are afraid of the fitna of men, stay home. If you are a khateeb and cant concentrate because of seeing women, then I think the change needs to take place in your sick heart, not in the architecture of the masjid. Excellent article.

  16. maryama says:

    assalamu’aleykum
    in my opinion i believe that people who come to friday prayers for the intention of Allah subhana-wa-ta’ala will not be distracted easily by the other gender as there focus wil lie with the khutbah and salah,
    however, if the intention was solely for other purposes then no barrier can stop that purpose being fulfilled.
    this should not be an excuse to make the sisters feel like second class citizens and be given a tiny room in the back or forced to pray in the kitchen(as i read in previous comment).i have been to many khutbah’s were the sisters and brothers had no barriers and no problems arised from it. almost everybody was concentrating on what the ‘uluma were saying and the shaykh’s were focusing on the khutbah rather than gazing inapproproately at the sisters…..jzklkhayr brother for bring this up.

  17. lamia says:

    Rassoul Allah SAS has no barriers. When one makes the religion so rigid it breaks. Allah soubhanahou wa ta3ala said that he didn’t make this religion to be a burden. Do not forbid what God has not prohibited for you! Allah said it also in the Coran. Why forbid something that is not in the Coran as God said: I haven’t left out a small thing nor a big thing in this book soubhan Allah.
    “Christian” priests and nones put so much barriers upon themselves, we see the results. Chruch basements filled with dead unborn babies or pedophilia for exp. If an Imam cannot control his sexual impulses during a khoutba, then maybe he should let on that day someone else lead the khoutba. Allah made us a tribe so that we get to know one another, no to put barriers between us. It is so natural for a man and a woman to communicate in an open healthy manner. InchaAllah we’ll again reach that state.
    Allah 3alimou l’ghayb and hope he guides us all.
    Peace

  18. lamia says:

    Save the sisters? why? because the interpretations are phony? then the title should be SAVE THE UMMAH FROM IGNORANCE! We should all strive to think logically as the Coran is the most logical book and complex. We should read beyond the lines and analyze so that we move away from shallowness (in interpretation and behavior that is. InchaAllah Muslims will worry more about analyzing the barrier that was built by Dul Qarnayn to keep us away from Gog and Magog and the destruction of the barrier by God and the reason behind it – many parallel to today’s political history – rather than some non sense barrier in a mosque.

  19. Kelly says:

    It seems masjid leadership needs an overhaul. National organizations need to lead an effort to encourage masjid’s to each put in place a Board of Director’s that is 50% women, and is comprised of people from different cultures.

    Women should have the right to follow sunnah and pray within view of the khatib. Men & women who disagree still shouldn’t have the right to take rights away from others. People who do want a wall should have the ability to pray behind one, but that shouldn’t force all women to pray behind wall. Form compromises, not absolutes. This is not a religion of extremes, so we need to stop being so extreme on this issue.

    If women are loud and distracting to men, then this needs to be addressed as these same women are likely loud and distracting to the other women as well. Women leadership at mosques need to have a discussion with the women after Jumu’ah about proper mosque etiquette, and have this discussion as many times as necessary. If they can’t keep the noise down – then make them listen in a separate room via speakers where they won’t be a distraction to others. If the problem is noisy kids – use a separate space for PARENTS with noisy children – men in front of that section and women in back of that section. Women also deserve to attend Jumu’ah in a space that is quiet and allows them to hear the khutbah.

    If there is a problem with men glancing back at women & vice versa, then at the end of the khutbah, leadership needs to discuss etiquette and how to properly be in the same space as the opposite gender, since the second they walk out of the masjid they will have to be in the same grocery store line, bus/train, walking down the sidewalk, etc. Don’t run mosques that act like alternate universes – run mosques that teach proper etiquette that can be applied outside the mosques as well. If there are men who still can’t behave, make THEM sit in another room instead of ALL women. Same for women.

  20. safia kadir says:

    Salams:
    I am so curious about this apparent inability to concentrate if folks pray together with no barriers. I took my law school exams with fellow students, male and female, and no one had trouble focusing on the exam. I had no trouble praying in the haram with plenty of brothers around me. I am so used to comingling in every part of my life, in traffic, at the grocery store, at the office, that praying together in one room without a barrier does not impact my concentration one iota. I am fine with the “barrier” if folks are culturally not used to comingling. I just find the support for a barrier truly odd in an American Muslim setting. I like to see my teachers when I am learnng, but my khateeb is typically a distant and aloof figure on the screen. The khateeb is often inaccessible. I once prayed in a masjid in Allentown, PA and in NJ where we prayed in one room w/o barriers. I wish this were the norm.

  21. Naz says:

    Right on, I TOTALLY AGREE! Sisters do need better accomodations in the masjids and elsewhere and we need to feel that we belong, we are muslims as well. And we need spritual nourishment as well. So who are the brothers to try and limit our god-given rights to knowledge?

  22. End the Fitnah, End the Bid'ah says:

    May Allah bless you for an amazing article!! Just the other day, a man in the mosque made me cry because he was so rude when I started to pray in the back of the mosque:

    I was new to the mosque and didn’t have time to find the women’s section upstairs because prayer had already started and I was late. As I entered the mosque, he started hissing at me and telling me to leave, but I wanted the barakah of praying in jama’a so I started praying with the congregation right away. Then I could hear him bickering loudly with a bunch of men as I prayed (even though he should have been praying with us – the imam had started Isha’a already and it was almost over), and then as I was praying, he came toward me and started angrily SLAMMING down chairs in front of me. When I was in Sujood, I started sobbing and begging Allah to end the fitnah between the sexes in our Ummah. When I got up from sujood, a line of about a dozen brothers had formed a line in front of me to pray together – it felt like a barrier between me and the man (who I could still hear bickering with some other men and saying “AstaghfurAllah”). Alhamdulillah, it was like Allah had sent an army of angels to protect me and remind me that I AM a part of this Ummah, and I have every right to pray in the mosque as any other Muslim, no matter the gender.

    • Sr Ann says:

      Asalam alekum sister,

      My heart was truely pained when I read your post. Subhanallah, with the way Muslims treat each other in the masjid, whether it be men towards women, women towards men, men towards men or women towards women…..you’d think that as a rational ummah we would be MUCH more concerned with learning to give others their Islamic rights. You are right, you have every right to pray behind the brothers in every mosque in the world and that right was given to us by the Prophet(PBUH) himself. Will these people continue to defy the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH)? I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in your frustration. Let’s keep our entire ummah in our dua for clarity in understanding and applying our deen to our entire lives. Salam

  23. Sherifa says:

    This sister’s story is symptomatic of the changes taking place today…the dynamics of old and new and the challenges of holding fast to the sunnah of our beloved Prophet. May Allah give us all the towfeek to move from darkness to the light, to forbid what is wrong and embrace what is right. Alhamdulillah, I have been fortunate over the past 20 years or so to attend the Jummah prayer in a place where the women pray behind the men without any barrier, and I know that this weekly event has been very important in guiding me to the sirat-al-mustaqeen and bringing me closer to Almighty Allah, as it has been for all the other sisters who have attended through the years. May Allah bless all my sisters with similar opportunities so that the Ummah of Mohammad (SAW) be strengthened. Sisters make up more than half of this Ummah and if they are not properly educated in the deen, then tell me what does the future hold for us? Taking all the challenges mentioned above, it is past time for fitna…it is time for solutions. And Allah knows best!

  24. Muslimah says:

    I LOVE this article. Thank you so much for sharing! Jazaks brother, I wish more brothers thought like you. I agree that being in a closed room with a horrible ac system is absolutley wrong! but I also wouldn’t mind being apart from the brothers like some people stated. That is only for the women who feel the need to, but for me I’d want no barrier, only to sit in the back of them where I can focus. And if the guys are what your focus is, then people need to re-check their intentions. Those are the same men you see around you 24-7, just becasuse it’s a mosque with a speaker, what makes you think that’s the only time to be religious? So I agree and I am disheartened by this, but I am also very pleased with your mentality mashAllah. this is how it should be. Women…men… in islam are equal

  25. Sarah says:

    Excellent article.
    I wish there are more men like you who would have the courage to speak up.
    This happens not only in Mosques but even during seminars and conferences. I attended a seminar of Al Maghrib Institute in May here in Edmonton,Alberta, Canada. This was my first and my last seminar as I was shocked and disappointed. All the men were given the front rows and women were given the back rows. I complained about it saying I’ve paid the same amount as men and I deserve to be treated the same. I explained to them I cannot hear well, they said it was policy of the Institute. This was enough for me to never go back again to any of their talks or seminars. What disappointed me the most is that after I sent an email to them giving them my feedback they haven’t dignified me with a response. But yet they kept spamming em with their advertisements.

    I am really tired of the way we are treated. I am almost 50 years old, and cannot imagine how young women can put up with this.
    I interact with men outside and at work but yet somehow at the mosque I cannot see the Imam nor address him. I switched mosques because of this. I used to go to the MCE mosque but we had a room upstairs and the men have a much bigger room. We cannot ask questions nor interact with the Imam. On few occasions I had asked to speak to the Imam and I was made very uncomfortable as it wasn’t an easy process: a guy talked to another guy who came asking who wanted to talk to him, who then asked me to go outside where the Imam was waiting for me to talk to him.
    I now go to another mosque, Rahma (part of MAC) where the separation is in the form of a small wall made of wooden box, but not high enough to block the view of the Imam. Sometimes I don’t even feel like going to events or participating to the Muslim community. I am a professional busy with my job, when I go to the prayers I take it seriously and don’t lek to chat with others. But like someone said in a comment if this is a problem then it needs to be dealt with by the Mosque leadership and not by treating all women as second-class citizens. I too find it very distracting when women talk.
    How about men who dress inappropriately? No one mentions that. Aren’t women supposed to be humans as well? How is it acceptable fro men to dress inappropriately or have their underwears show when they bow because if the low-rise jeans they wear…
    I am fed up with all this non-sense. The dress code applies to everyone, but unfortunately men seems to be able to do whatever they want and this is exactly why we have problems in our Muslim community in North America.
    In my household the same rules applied for my son and my daughter.
    How many Muslim men are truly following the sunna and not dating until they get married? Then they want to get married they want a pretty woman/virgin/intellectual…etc….
    How can we expect young girls to behave that way if they see their fellow Muslim men do the opposite and get away with it,
    I am sorry for ranting but I have an issue with the way women are treated in general by Muslim community.

    Sarah
    Edmonton. Alberta

    • Chrysalis says:

      Salaam Sarah!

      I hear ya! I feel the same way! JazakAllah for voicing it out sister. I also think that not all is bleak – given that Muslim women are gaining Islamic awareness and standing up for their rights (and many God-Fearing brothers are supporting them) inshAllah in the near future things will be much different :)

  26. hiddenpearl says:

    The best way is the moderate way. Let the women attend the massjid and let them sit at the back (as per hadith, best row for women is to the back) without physical barriers.

  27. Imran says:

    Asala Mu Alikum

    Bismillah All Praises and Thanks are due Allah swt and pbup Prophet Muhammed (saw)

    Jazakallah khair for the great post. This is a great post and a great concern to be brought up.We must handle this situation in spiritual and intellectual( shariah) way not by our dislike and likes, because if that was the case than we would have so many types of masjid and great example of that if you look at how many different types christian churches, which was based their dislike and likes of their religion.

    We have great islamic tradition of spritiual and intellectual scholars of females and males and many of this issues we are facing now, were already dicussed in previous generation by our great scholars. We have been neglecting large amount of our pervious text.

    After Prophet (saw) died, Aisha (ra) taught many of the Shabas (ra) hadiths behind the curtains because she was one of muhaddithat that time and we had great tradition of other female scholars throught out islamic history. Unfortunately that tradition female scholar has been deceased and PART OF OUR PROBLEM OF THAT IS, WE (brothers) HAVE NOT DONE A GOOD JOB OF ENCOURGING OUR SISTERS TO BE SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL LEADERS.

    As of now it really boils down to getting a legal opinion (ijma) for the rightly guided scholar who has knowledge of the of his people in the area he lives and is legally certified by a teacher to give a legally opinion on this issue.

    As for the writer of the blog i would say, it is a great concern to be brought up and May Allah reward you for that but we need to look at it in a professional and traditional way instead of taking a oneway street. Each masjid are different inside so in each community the sisters need discuss thier issues in there halaqah or there weekely gathering and should address these concerns to imam or the committees of the masjid.

    As for us brothers, we are lacking in full filling our rights (haqq) towards our sisters in the community and this ummah. Many of our problems will be slove if encourage our sisters to be great scholars and exemplars in the society.

    And the last thing i want to say to All my sister, remember modesty is the essence of our Deen.

    Forgive me if I offend anyone.

    Allah swt knows best!

  28. Ubaid says:

    With no offense, but this idea will be inviting the fitnah of free-mixing to the masjid, which can lead to serious consequences. As far as the gaining the knowledge of sisters is considered, in today’s era it has become more easier than ever through internet and media. JazakAllah. Allah swt knows best

    • Sarah says:

      Here we go again,
      You are suggesting that sisters can gain Islamic knowledge through the internet. Does this mean they don’t need to go to the Mosques?
      The internet has its pitfalls as anyone can post and pretend to be expert in Islam. I am very careful on the use of Internet.
      No one here is encouraging “Free-Mixing” as you are suggesting.
      I believe there is a greater danger in excluding Muslim women from the Mosques than in allowing them to pray behind mean with sufficient space and no physical barrier that prevents them from addressing the Imam.
      Excluding ou young generation of women from participating in the Mosques’ affairs will just encourage them to participate in the Non-Islamic and non-hallal activities other youth organize.
      If the two I would much prefer allowing our young girls to feel comfortable going to the Mosque.

      Again this is my opinion.

      Sarah,

      • Layla says:

        I totally agree with you, Sister Sarah and respect your opinion, and brother Ubaid you have a point but from what I’ve seen (from both extremes) is that the best way is to have some sort of barrier-any barrier-in the masjid, and then have a way that the sisters can hear the imam and SEE him clearly. The Imam should also provide a few days a week where he gives a sisters-only class, or fatwa discussion so that sisters do not feel shy when asking questions that concern the women.

        Sheikh Al-Albani, a well known scholar of our time, I ask Allah SWT to have mercy on him, gave a fatwa which was BASED on ahadith of the Messenger peace be upon him and on the wisdom of the Salaf after him, that if a woman is to create ANY sort of distraction to the men ESPECIALLY during the Friday prayers, then it is prohibited for her to attend. Prohibited.

        And why is that? First of all, it is FARDH (obligatory) for the men to attend the Jumuah prayers. If they do not attend they are sinful. It is also obligatory for them to attend the 5 prayers in the masjid (as long as the conditions allow, i.e close to the masjid, good weather, not a danger, etc). It’s NOT obligatory for the women to attend ANY prayer in the masjid, rather she can go because she WANTS to, and because especially in the West, we need to have some sort of Islamic environment, or Islamic refuge to go to. Many Muslim women also forget about the hadith stating that a woman’s prayer in her home is more rewarding for HER, and this is a mercy from Allah.

        I agree completely that the rights of the women in the masajid (and in general) have been ignored and even neglected at most times, but at the same time we do not want to go overboard in our “freedom”.

        And yes, it’s not our problem if the brothers of the community do not want to be pious (not lowering their gaze, being chaste) but why aren’t we addressing THAT issue first instead of jumping into a solution that may or may not work? Let’s first teach the shabab to fear Allah, and THEN they will be mature enough to one day pray in the same room together, with the sisters behind the brothers.

        One more point, and I’m just going to say this because it’s annoyed me in the past few months from what I’ve seen in the news, but breastfeeding is EXTREMELY hard when there is no barrier available in the masjid. In order for a sister to nurse without being exposed to a man in masjid with no barriers, she would have to turn her back to the imam or just leave the masjid because it’s not comfortable at all. I’m a nursing mother, and I rarely get time to go to the masjid, so when I do go I’d like to know that my masjid would accomodate me and all other mothers with small children.

        This is my opinion and if I said anything wrong then may Alah forgive me.

  29. hina says:

    may allah bless you with his mercy , brother u made a valid and worth while point – worthy enough to discuss , women need to have a barrier while sitting in the mosque indeed – but however many people have differing view” talibul alimu farizatoon ala kulli muslimin wa muslimatin” the gaining of education is a fard on every muslim men and WOMEN … most of us forget this hadith.. thanks for sheding light on our hardened souls..

  30. Sr Ann says:

    Asalam alekum,

    I left my position on our mosque’s BOD over this very issue. I follow sunnah and the sunnah is women behind men in prayer. Not in another room, not in a basement, not in an upper level, not to the left, not to the right.

    I am not sure why people feel the “need” to add to our religion and make every excuse in the book to do so.

    We must remember that Islam was sent to humanity in a time of EXTREME social ills, which make any of the issues people bring up today to support separation or barriers ridiculous in comparison.

    With that said, we can’t always assume that it it always the fault of the brothers that sisters are treated in a second class manner. In our masjid it was a group of EXTREMELY aggressive sisters who finally were able to force the separation and now they have their own room to the side of the main prayer hall where they can talk when they want to, take a nap when they want to, etc. Anyone who tries to pray behind the brothers is treated with nothing less than contempt by some men and most of the women.

    I not only gave up my BOD position but also going to the mosque entirely. I do not want to have any part of innovation and if the mosque will not provide a place behind the brothers for me so that I am able to follow sunnah, then I am better off at home. Maybe the fact that I am a revert makes the whole issue clearer to me than sister’s who are raised within cultures that teach them their place is in a walled off space. ISLAM teaches otherwise.

    • Dyhia says:

      I am not a revert and I still have issues with it. I grew up in North Africa, spent half of my life there and 1/2 here in Canada. I have given up going to one of the mosques here in because of the physical separation and the inability to interact with the Imam. I don’t go to the mosques often because of a number of things: women who don’t look after their kids and let them run around, or women who talk amongst themselves instead of respecting others who want to listen.
      The new mosque I started frequenting 2 years ago has a babysitting are upstairs at a cost of $2/hr and yet no one uses it.
      I work full-time and cannot afford to go often to the Friday prayer, and when I go I like to listen ti the Khutba and focus on that but unfortunately often I can hear kids crying, running around or cutting in front of me while I’m praying.

      Men can be very mean and disrespectful towards women. 7 years ago, a young girl came to study for a year here in Alberta from France.
      One day as she was walking she was so happy to see a mosque. She went knocking on the door. She was not wearing the hijab but she was decently dressed with a long coat (it was in winter between -10 and -20 Celsius) the guy who opened the door shut it when he saw her after making a mean remark on the fact she wasn’t wearing Hijab.
      She went back crying.
      How can we possibly cal ourselves Muslims when we treat each other like this?
      The story above of the sister “End the Fitnah, End the Bid’ah” reminded me of the story of my friend. It is so sad, and I hope the younger generation will be successful in changing things. I don’t mean to be negative but the frustrating has been building up now for years.
      May Allah help us improve things in our Mosques.

  31. Heba Al- A says:

    Thank you for a much needed article. For all those concerned with ‘fitna’ in the mosque, due to the absence of physical barriers, even as the world outside of the mosque we live in, from universities, to work, to grocery stores continue to exist without these walls, I would propose something: how about if we emphasize on fighting the ‘fitna’ within ourselves?
    the blind are not sinless because they are blind, and the sighted are not sinful because they can see.
    Jazakalah khair

  32. Fatima says:

    Today, there are multiple ways of learning about Islam, based on what you’re comfortable with. Those who are busy or do not learn from sitting in a room listening to lecture can learn by research: reading or viewing lectures online as per their convenience. Others can attend focus groups. I think this article is about a society in which women are quite comfortable and un-self-conscious in the presence of men, which maybe a good thing in a way, but I believe it is always best to be a little self-conscious so that you filter what you say and keep a check on how you behave in the presence of the opposite gender.

    In Saudi Arabia, there is almost no interaction between men and women, and there are designated public spaces (including ladies’ malls) for women alone, designed exclusively to cater to women’s needs than to a common denominator between men and women. To be honest, the common denominator system rarely exists, because almost all spaces are designed considering men (ie the majority) as the users. So women rarely get justice in mixed spaces. Saudi Arabia being a rich country with considerable wealth allotted to religious development, women have as many facilities as men in mosques: separate entry spaces, lighting, ventilation, air-conditioning, sound system, and ablution spaces are often larger and specifically designed for more convenience to women. Women feel free and do not need to keep adjusting their hijab or lowering their voices, or being careful about not attracting attention to themselves in such spaces. So it is possible to learn and be part of the Islamic community without having to share space with men or even to interact with them, as vice-versa.

    In India, it is almost the opposite. Hardly any mosques have women’s sections, forget asking for equally comfortable facilities. It is very uncommon for women to visit the mosque, as women have been homemakers for centuries and have always taken the option of not attending the qutbah or prayer in jamaat. As a result, there are no qutbahs that address women’s issues, on the contrary they create a more male-centric/ male-dominant feeling in their all-male audience, which is not very difficult to create. Which puts off women from starting to consider going to a qutbah. Now, as more women are working, and becoming independently mobile, many new malls and corporate companies have designated prayer rooms with air-conditioning and plush mats, as well as chairs for the elderly. During Islamic delegations, open-air arrangements are made without visual barriers but demarcations between men and women. Women, being at the back can hardly see the speaker, being so great in number (usually in black garb) can hardly be seen by the speaker; screens are put up to relay the image of the speaker to the audience in the distance. However, these spaces are privately-owned and the decision to provide these facilities was with the owners. The Muslim community needs to take the decision to include women in the public realm with a view to helping women become better Muslims and valuing women’s contribution to society.

    Women need to stop aspiring to become the human ideal, ie male. The male is hardly an ideal; men and women are different and will never be able to be comfortable in spaces designed for the opposite gender, or in spaces designed for the common denominator.

    • Dyhia says:

      @Fatima
      Saudi Arabia is far from being a model of Islam. The way they treat women is far from the Islamic tradition: women can’t drive, can’t vote, or go out alone.
      As for the Saudi men I have seen how they behave the minute they step outside their country.
      I will never take Saudi Arabia as a reference.

      Unlike in Muslim countries, Muslims are a minority here in North America. We need to feel a sense of belonging to the Muslim community.
      In Muslim countries it is different the Mosques are mainly a place to pray. In North America the mosque is more than a place of prayer. It is a place where people meet, where events are organized for the Muslim community etc.….

      As for interacting with the opposite gender why is it wrong? I interact with the opposite gender at work, outside in the public space, why not in Mosque?
      I disagree with your reasoning.

      The Muslim world wouldn’t be so backward if Muslims were not so concerned about petty things and technicalities such as women being hidden from view inside the mosque, or whether to wear Niqab or Hijab. I wear Hijab but this doesn’t make me a better Muslim than one who doesn’t. Those same men who are so strict about it are the ones you will find talking freely to Western women and chatting at length with them at work or in public places. I have witnessed many times their hypocrite behaviours.
      One need only go to mosques to see how the Muslim community behaves whether during Eid prayers, Ramadan or Friday prayers: rude to each other, inconsiderate of others and not welcoming of new people.

      How about men? Why don’t we talk about the way they dress when they go to the Mosque: low-cut jeans that reveal their underwear’s when they bend, tight pants…the dress code applies to men as well.

      We need to respect both sides: Women who want a physical barrier and those who don’t. I like to be able to see the Imam and hate having a physical barrier, as long as there is enough space between the men’s section and the ladies. I don’t like it when I am being pushed to the back or in an isolated room full of out-f control children who make so much noise I can’t even hear

  33. Kerry says:

    I recently attended a lecture by Imam Suhaib Webb in Boston. The only barrier was a rope down the middle of the prayer hall. This allowed sisters and brothers to sit up front near the Imam. I loved this setup. It makes me feel more involved and important. I believe that men are more then capable of controlling themselves in this setting and physical boundaries are not necessary.

  34. Asma says:

    As a sister, I personally disagree with removing the barrier between the men and women. One small fitna leads to another until we begin thinking that a sin is not a sin anymore.
    Now, I don’t mean that women shouldn’t be allowed during kutbah or in the masjid to gain valuable knowledge, but it’s unfortunate how women dress coming into the house of Allah. If every women that walked into the masjid wore a niqab and abaya then I wouldn’t see the need for a barrier.

    There is no hidden meaning from a kutbah in terms of gestures or body language other than the actual words that come out of the mouth, so for this we only need our ears.

    “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.”

    Brother, this is a western ideology and sisters roles are regarded just as important in Islam. Our roles are different from our male counterparts but this doesn’t mean we are any less. When we fulfill our roles in Islam, InshaAllah there is barakah in our lives.

    Living in a western society, we sometimes associate our lives with ideas of the kufar and sometimes we need to step back and realize what our position is in Islam and the beauty of sisters and brothers roles as prescribed in Islam.

    • Dyhia says:

      @ Asma
      “so for this we only need our ears.”
      This is far from true. It is a known fact that communication doesn’t consist of listening only but of many other aspects such as body language among others.
      As for wearing the Niqab this isn’t required in Islam and is rather a Bidaa from those who wan to impose it on the rest of us. I went to Hajj last year and didn’t have to cover my face, and went around the Kaaba without any physical separation between men and women.
      Again I believe there are more important issues facing the Muslim community than
      wether a woman should be wearing Niqab or not.
      Salam

    • Layla says:

      I agree with you. And no, niqab is not an innovation. Rather it is an innovation to call it an innovation.

      And to the sister who said she attended Hajj without covering your face, that was your choice, but if Aisha r.a and the female companions used to cover their face using the Jilbab-not the niqab, like they did on normal days.

      And everyone is whining about how hypocritical the Muslim men are…so what?! Does that mean we also have to hypocritical? Does that mean we also have to be immodest in the way we act?

      And everyone knows that we interact with the opposite gender on a daily basis OUTSIDE the masjid, in school, at work, when you’re at the grocery store, but why do we have to be our masjid’s environment, the only place that can be as close to the Sunnah as possible, just like the outside world that is full of haram and misguidance?

      • wow says:

        i agree with you Layla.
        don’t turn our masaajid into the mall or office. we know enough about office romances…

        • Kelly says:

          Actually, covering of the face during hajj is forbidden.

          And the masjid clearly isn’t going to be turned into a mall or an office romance situation. What we need is to stop imposing our preference on everyone, and allow those who do not want the barrier to not have a barrier in an area. And to teach both genders how to behave around the opposite gender and to politely teach those who need help in behaving appropriately around the opposite gender. If this can’t be taught at a mosque, where can it be taught?

  35. Pakistani says:

    I definitely agree with the writer here and am happy he has mentioned the fact that many men say, “they don’t need to come to the masjid anyway”. I myself have received this response from someone who I asked to escort me to the local masjid.
    In Pakistan Alhamdulillah it wasn’t such a problem for me that we were separated from the men because they were many opportunities for me to find alimahs to help me out with any problems. When we moved to Malaysia, it proved to be a big problem because we didn’t know any female scholars. The masjid I go to, however, has a great system where the women’s area is abovestairs and overlooks the men’s area. That way there are no distractions for anybody and it’s very easy to locate your brother or father when the prayers are over :)
    But I definitely agree with the writer and am grateful he brought this issue to light. Those women who don’t rely on reading on body language are lucky, but I am unfortunately not. The expressions on the speaker’s face and their body language emphasise points they are trying to make and have a greater effect on you – they move you.
    I believe there should be no barrier, or only a small one if there is, between the men and women.

  36. Aminna says:

    Thanks for posting about this Imam Webb, I strongly think in an informal prayer setting like those held on school campuses should not have a barrier, it is true, facial expressions and gestures are important when it comes to listening to a speech and also, people are easily distracted i.e. day dreaming, playing with random objects, talking etc. when they can’t see the speaker. If the barrier was SO necessary than there would be barriers set up in all of our mosques. If the speaker is speaking to a large body of Muslims (especially since Jumah prayers have a large turn ount) and can’t lower his gaze (even when all the girls are wearing hijab because they are going to pray) than I suggest getting another speaker.

    • Dior says:

      ALHAMDOULILAH the words taken right out of my mind, not to disrespect the speakers but if they can’t peak to me without having foul thoughts then I wouldn’t feel comfortable with their advice in the first place. We all are tempted sometimes but we have to own our thoughs and try to control them

  37. sakinah says:

    Keep the barrier add CCTV. We really don’t need to be in with them anyway, they’re so weak; we don’t need to be party to any excuses that they can’t concentrate on the Khutbah because we’re smelling so good and looking all pretty and colorful etc. etc. appreciate the concern but we’re alright.

  38. Inspirit says:

    Great article! In some ways, I think some khatibs need to be reminded or aware that women are present in Jumah, because they tend ot speak in third person about women or wives, and talk about how husbands and mean need to go home and do, rather than speaking to the women themselves. Furthermore, I never understood this notion that women are not obligated to go to Jumah. Where does that come from? I’ve read the verse in Qur’an about the Friday prayer and it makes no distinction about men or women leaving off business and traffic for the prayer. Nor have I heard anything about women during the Prophet’s time, not being obligated to attend Friday prayer. Any answers?

    • strivinggratitude says:

      As I believe, the allowance has to do with women taking care of the children and the fact that, if everyone is going to jummah, it will be hard to find child care. It’s a woman’s choice if she wants to go or not. Also, there is a hadith that says something to the effect of:

      It is better for a woman to pray in her court yard than in the masjid, it is better for a woman to pray inside of her house than in her court yard, it is better for her to pray in her private room than in the oppenness of her house, and it is better still for her to pray in the corner of that private room.

      Not word for word but it goes something like that. But if she wants to go to jummah then she can as the khutbah’s can be a powerful spiritual rejuvination.

  39. Nadia Hussain says:

    AOA Sister

    Can’t agree more with you on this issue you have raised. As they say a picture is better than thousand words, likewise during any lecture/khutba/seminar body language is more important than the words and if you deprive your audience from this key factor, the essence of attending a live lecture/khutba/seminar dies.

    JZK

  40. Dior says:

    I would love to see a speaker since it helps me connect with them and their emotions and passion on what they are speaking of, that’s just me I’m a visual person and I would love to be seated with my sisters but I don’t understand why there has to be a problem where ne shouldn’t be when one the room can b divided in half with a side for male n the other females. I’m a young Muslim and I have been always told it’s better for me to pray at home but sometimes I want to actually take the time to go to the masjid and surround myself with other practicing muslims and learn a thing or two instead of being at home watching tv then I will try to find other outlets for social life when I can make the masjid my spiritual and social combine.

  41. S. says:

    JazakumAllahukhayrein, this was a beautifully written article on a much needed subject matter. It’s not just about this specific issue, but how we as individuals and a community view/support the issue of equal access, opportunity, knowledge, participation, etc. for men and women in the Ummah.

  42. jaleela says:

    Salaamu alaykum from South Africa…

    The brother raises many important points, insha Allah this will encourage change.
    However… “Modesty,” I say, “is an important value in Islam, AbdelRahman.” :)
    And we should remember it swings both ways… so the sisters have to compromise a bit, in not being able to see the speakers actions/expressions, but insha Allah the barakah from this sacrifice will result in greater knowledge & acting on acquired knowledge.

    salaamu alaykum

  43. Anon says:

    I disagree. There should be a separation! And if you are worried about the Khateeb’s expression (facial, hand, etc) not being seen to our women’s side, then place a tv or something (which is common in many places). I really do not feel comfortable praying where I can see the men.

    • Layla says:

      Or even better, build a reflective glass wall. the men see a mirror, and the women see the imam and then men.

  44. Mohammed says:

    Just wondering. Why do some sisters feel uncomfortable when they sit close to the brothers? I thought it is the other way around. We men feel distracted if we see an attractive woman infront of us because it makes us want to look at her, and especially in the place where you are doing any action like just listening to a khutbah. But what is the case with sisters ?

    • A.R says:

      Actually, in my opinion..it is not ‘uncomfortable’ feeling that we are talking about here. Men are distracted when there are women around and wanted to look more than once, this applied the same for women. But I won’t call that uncomfortable. Nafs are a very strong desire, so even when the bad intention is not there, the desire just to see will still be there because we human are all weak when in comes to temptation of the beauty (man, women, other creatures, etc.)

  45. AmatunNur says:

    When a person(s) looks a us again and again or stare us instead of listening imam, that make us feel uncomfortable and it divert our attention too.

  46. Abu Ayyoob says:

    Salaamun Alaykum

    I would be interested in finding out what are brother AbdelRahman’s thoughts now that he has had about 3-4 years of feedback, both from the sisters and the brothers.

    As for my personal feedback, I would say a few different things need to be looked at:
    the quality of speech (speakers v/s proximity), the most benefit to the sisters, protecting both the brothers and sisters from distractions and fitan and also looking at the “additional” purposes of any potential barriers that would be put up.

    Finally, I would say the decision should lie with the Ameer (who has the enormous responsibility that he will be asked about on the Day of Judgement) and the rest should accept his decision.

  47. Jubair says:

    Lets focus on what the sunnah is. Sunnah is to not have a barrier. If the prophet wanted, he could have had a barrier between men and woman in his mosque, but he didn’t.

  48. Abdu Raheem says:

    Salam,

    Honestly my preference is that there be a curtain or barrier of some sort. This is not to put down women in any way, rather it is only for modesty’s sake and to prevent fitna. I asked my wife and she agreed with me on this point.

    To those who say that there was no barrier in the Prophet’s mosque, I disagree. We cannot be sure that there was no barrier. We only do not have any specific narrations about there being no barrier but there well have been. Not every single moment of the Prophet’s life has been recorded and we do not have any pictures of his masjid looked like in his time. But we do know that he had a separate door for women and we know that women dressed far more conservatively in his time than they do today. In fact Aisha (ra) said if he knew how women today dress then he would have prohibited them from even coming to the mosque. So sisters can come and benefit from the knowledge but my prefrence is that they dress modestly and be behind a barrier. There is too much temptation in this society. Even Imam Suhaib said once that zina is a big problem in the Ummaah today.

  49. guest says:

    As salamualaykum

    i think 1 thing you have forgotton is that when we sisters pray behind the men, but we are in another room etc and there is a problem with the sound system OR we come in to join a prayer, we have no idea what part of the prayer we are in.

    i have had this happen during eid prayer when the sound system cut out for a bit and we were making sujood, but the brothers had fineshed praying and we were still making sujood till some one else made takbeer and we finshed praying individually. i have also had this happen when the sound system is fine, but we have joined the prayer and there is no one else there so we have no idea if the imam is saying Allahu akbar and doing sujood or standing up or what? so being able to see for that reason would make sense.

    i thought women also were supposed to lower their gaze? so even when we are listening to a talk at home if it has a video there are times when i dont bothering looking unless there is a need, in which case you usually hear the speaker say and if you see/ look at/ then does the action.

    one last thing about kids. they are banned from many masjids these days at least in some of the countires i have been in (never been to the US). how will the sisters learn how to behave if no one will teach them the ettiqutes of attending a masjid, ie correct hijab, not wearing perfume to the masjid etc but it needs to be done with wisdom.

    how will the children learn to love the masjid if they are not welcome in it?

    mums and dads need to teach their children, mums and dads who dont know wont teach their children anything.

    1 thing i hate and have seen is that when there is a mums and kids room, theres no point going. i have been to the masjid in ramadhan many times as there are some masjids that have mums and kids rooms. i avoid those rooms because the kids in there are going wild, mums are talking and it makes you wonder why come to the masjid?

    there is one masjid here that i have heard the shekih who comes to do taraweh there every year encourages the parents to please bring their kids to the masjid, he says Allaah swt has blessed us so bring your blessings to the masjid and let it be a source of blessing for us. mashallaah.

    before i had kids i also thought mum and kids rooms where great !!!!!!! then i had kids and realised that unless some one explains to the parents to bring somehting and keep the kids calm they are not going to learn.

    if you stick the kids together in a line to pray, they will mess about. the children should be praying with the adults, boys amongst the men and girls with women, NOT next to each other but between the adults, that way they will behave.

    i dont bother going to the masjid hardly ever, though my kids love it and ask to go. i dont like having to explain that banning kids from the masjid is not the sunnah. i can understand it having seen the way some parents let their kids behave but banning them wont help them to improve, educating them might help?!

    ramadhan comes every year and every year i am surprised that my sisters can not remember to bring a small thing for the little ones to play with while they are praying, instead i have had mums take things from my kids while i am praying and give it to their own kids! my kids at the time where the quite roll over an take it types, still are. so then i would get them coming up to me upset that they took my book/ toy etc and wont give it back! then i have to get it for them and leave!

    There are many ahadith that talk about the Prophet sws having his grandkids climb on him, holding them in the prayer etc. the men would be at the front the women at the back and from what i heard little kids would play around in the middle, between the 2, little kids as in younger than 7/ 6 as we know 7 year olds are supposed to be praying and we have read that one of the companions was 6 when he was leading the prayer and his shorts/ clothes were such that he was not covered properly so some one suggested they get their imam proper clothes.

    There were also cases of men being exposed while praying, as they wore sheets. so the prophet sws instructed that women should stay in sujood till the men have stood up properly and the back rows for the women were best and the front rows for the men are best,etc so theres all this to learn about praying and also men are suppoesed to be covered too, tight trousers that show your awrah when you sit or bend is not correct covering for men either. your supposed to have loose clothes over your awrah not tight trousers and pants and a t-shirt does not cover the awrah either, unless you buy a really long one!

    reflective glass sounds like a good idea, or parts where there is a curtain and parts where there aren’t a curtain.

    islamic education is needed a lot for all of us sincerely, smiling is a sunnah sisters to sisters. brothers to brothers. the masjid for some people is like a community centre its the only local thing where they have contact with others and if you make it unbearable for them and push them away you might have set someone adrift who ends up going away from islam.

    masjids i thought were the centres of the community in the prophet sws’s time?

    sorry for the long ramble

    wasalam

  50. Ansari says:

    Very interesting article traditionally in the time of the prophet saw the women and children would pray behind the men. Sisters are missing out on the imaan boasting recitation which you need some times in jama’a. The prophet saw used to hold special halaqas for the sisters. We just don’t have that in the pro-dominantly sub continental mosques in London. Alhumdulilah with the advent of islamic weekend courses sisters can gain much needed knowledge and by the way during these courses men sit at the front and women behind. I was in sweden once and sisters were freely walking around the mosque (not salah time) I found this strange because my only experience of mosques is a male only environment. I can understand the case for fitna but it is up to the brothers to ensure sisters have equal facilities because we are their providers and protectors. Allah knows best.

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