This is an article I am working on. Let me know what you think.
The State of the American Masjid
In 1954, a major change occurred in the United States education system. Before then, public schools in the country were governed by the rule “separate but equal.” This supposedly meant that although the schools were separated by racial barriers, they should provide the same standard of education to the Black students that was granted to the White students. Brown V. Board of education changed that. In the years preceding 1954, “separate but equal” was more of a catchphrase than a fact. Black schools were sub-par and everyone knew it. While many still argue if desegregation of schools ever worked, no one can prevent a Black student from attending any school he or she chooses. Unfortunately, there is another institution in this country that remains segregated to this day, to the detriment of many women. This essay is not about schools, it is about the segregation of the American Masjid.
Our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAWS) stated, “Do not stop the maid servants of Allah from going to the mosques of Allah, (Muwatta of Imam Malik).” Additionally, he also stated, “When the wife of one of you asks about going to the mosque, do not stop her,” as narrated by Bukhari. These evidences establish that it is very much Halal, and encouraged, for women to enter and worship in the Masjid. Allah (SWT) states in the Qur’an, “O you have believed! Do not make unlawful (Haraam) the wholesome things which Allah has made lawful (Halaal) for you… (5:87).” No believer has the right to change what Allah (SWT) and his messengers proclaim. Ideally, the Masjid should be open to every believer, man, woman and child. Not only should the Masjid be open to all Muslims, ideally, it should also be clean, comfortable and well kept for men and women alike. It is a shame that many Masajid go against these ahadith. Some Masajid openly ban women, while others do not vocally declare the Masjid a solely men’s domain, they simply make it too uncomfortable for women. Unfortunately, I have experienced this firsthand.
Let me tell you about the story of Masjid X. For the attendees of Masjid X, it is not enough to have separate areas for men and women. In fact, not even separate rooms suffice. This Masjid has separate buildings, one for the male worshippers and one for female worshippers. In order for a female worshipper to attend this Masjid, she must walk through a gravel covered parking lot and enter a separate building. The women’s area has a speaker system that is supposed to allow the ladies to hear the prayer. When I prayed there, we heard the adhan over the speakers, but we didn’t hear the iqama or the actual prayer. Myself and a few other sisters sat there feeling foolish, while waiting for the prayer. Eventually, one sister got up to lead the other sisters in prayer. In the meantime, my husband was outside looking for me, wondering why I was taking so long when the prayer was over long ago. Now, I am not saying that the planners of this Masjid intentionally designed the buildings to deter women from attending, only Allah (swt) knows what lies in their hearts. However, I feel that more steps need to be taken in this Masjid to encourage female attendees. In this case, the rooms are separate, but they are far from equal. The men got to hear the beautiful recitation from the Imam, while the sisters missed out.
Next time: Masjids Y and Z…and is there a solution?