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Breaking the Ranks or Peaceful Protest? PDF Print E-mail
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Community News - Community News
Written by Muslim Link Staff   
Thursday, 03 June 2010 09:53

 

Pray-In Group Targeting Local Masajid to End “Gender Segregation”

In January of this year, Fatima Thompson, a revert to Islam living in the Baltimore metropolitan area, went to pray at the Islamic Center of Washington DC. 

Arriving late, she missed the main jama’, so she prayed on her own in a section of the prayer area designated for women. The space was enclosed by a 7-foot high wooden barrier.

Soon after she finished her prayer and left the women’s area, she noticed a second prayer congregation in progress. She was upset. Had she known of this congregation, she would have joined. The barrier she prayed behind made her feel like a “second class believer”.
“That was the crystallizing moment for me,” she recalled.

Shortly after this incident, Thompson set-up a Facebook page and founded a small movement now called “Pray In”. The purpose of the group is to “end gender segregation” in the masjid, and Thompson is leading group members in what she calls acts of “civil disobedience” – praying behind the men at local area masajid, disregarding any specially designated prayer areas for women.

Their first “Pray In” protest at the Islamic Center of Washington DC took place in late February. About ten  women prayed outside the women’s space behind the men’s congregation; men who came in late formed lines behind the protesting women. After the prayer, a confrontation ensued between the caretaker of the masjid and the Pray-In group. The police were called. This first protest received a good amount of media attention, but – maybe because the Islamic Center of Washington DC is largely disconnected from the community-based masajid in the region – most area Muslims did not take notice.

In early May, however, Thompson and members of her group staged a pray-in protest at Dar Al-Hijrah, the region’s largest masjid. Reporters, invited by Thompson, were already on the scene.

Although Dar Al-Hijrah has a second floor mezzanine overlooking the main prayer hall designated for women, Imam Shaker Elsayed allowed the protesters to pray in the main prayer area but only in the very back, citing a hadith which states the back most rows are the best for women. The group refused, demanding to pray with only a few rows of space between them and the men. Thompson told the Muslim Link asking the women to pray at the back wall was “essentially an attempt to humiliate” the group. A heated exchange took place, and after the prayer, the police escorted the women off the property. Dar Al-Hijrah told Thompson she was no longer welcome at the masjid.

The incident, covered on the front page of the Washington Post’s Metro section, shocked area Muslims. Moreover, Thompson told the Washington Post she already had another local masjid in mind for the next protest, and that the group won’t stop.

The Muslim Link spoke to several community leaders and Imams about the Pray-In group; very few agreed to speak about the group, and those who did answer inquiries chose to speak off the record.

Muslim leaders of masajid in Maryland and Northern Virginia were roundly critical, even upset, that Pray-In is making what one board member called a “big drama” out of barriers in the masjid.

“Our own community sisters who come and pray [throughout the week] at our masjid have never had a problem with the barriers. And now this outside group is coming with their reporters from Fox News and [other media] to make the community a laughing stock in front of everyone. It is irresponsible and … selfish. It is totally against what Islam teaches,” said a board member of a large area masjid. The masjid is exploring legal ways to prevent the group from coming on the property, he said, adding that the policy is still being discussed.

Thompson told the Muslim Link she invites reporters along to be witnesses if there are any verbal or physical threats made against the protesters; the group also believes mass media coverage of their protests is the only way to force Muslim community leaders to address their concerns. Pray-In alleges that one of its members was assaulted by a prayer attendee at Dar Al-Hijrah.

Masjid leaders also question why Thompson’s group doesn’t speak with the Imam or the masjid administration to attempt to amicably resolve any issues with the prayer arrangements. Thompson said she does reach out.

“Everywhere where we’ve had a pray-in, we have tried to engage the [masjid leadership] before hand … the responses were variable,” she said.

In April, Dar Al-Hijrah’s Imam Shaker Elsayed accepted Thompson’s invitation to speak on a panel on the women’s prayer space issue. The discussion did not prevent the heated pray-in protest at the Falls Church, VA masjid a few weeks later.

Imam Safi Khan of the Dar-us-Salaam community in College Park, Maryland agreed with other area leaders that taking the issue to the media is not the best way to approach the issue.

“There are Islamic vehicles to go through, like talking to the Imam, talking to the women in the community through the halaqas and [through] education … making the community aware of the issue. If the Imam is not responsive, we should go to the other nearby Imams to speak to that Imam. We should also go to the ulema [scholars] to issue a fatwa on the issue. If all these ways are tried and the issue is not resolved, Islamically what should be done is to remain patient, and keep educating the community. There is [a detailed] and comprehensive Islamic process for resolving differences, and we should follow that,” he explained.


Imam Safi Khan met with Ify Okoye, a Pray-In member who lives close to Dar-us-Salaam and often attends his Friday khutbah. Okoye called for the meeting, asking about the prayer arrangement for women at Dar-us-Salaam. A revert Muslimah like Thompson, Okoye said it’s “bad da’wah” when she brings her female non-Muslim relatives to the masjid and they discover women pray behind a partition.

Pray-In maintains that prayer barriers between the genders are a “bida’”, or a “religious innovation” that did not exist at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Imam Safi agreed.

[CORRECTION: Imam Safi did not agree the partitions were "bida", but he did acknowledge they were not part of the masjid at the time of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam]

“The closest to the sunnah is to not have a barrier. If most of the sisters request the partition because they feel more comfortable like that, there is nothing haram about that. And if most of the sisters don’t want the partition, then there won’t be one – provided the sisters maintain the proper hijab. If the sisters don’t wear the proper hijab, then we need to make shura [consultation] with the sisters and see what we need to do, whether that is a partition, more education, or rules for the masjid,” said Imam Safi, who said that he can only speak on behalf of Dar-us-Salaam and not other masajid.  “The Prophet Salallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam instructed the men to not turn around until the women left. If the brothers don’t follow that, then maybe in that situation a barrier could be put up,” he added.

Citing a fatwa on the issue, Fatima Thompson insists that not only are barriers un-Islamic, but a space larger than a few rows between the men and women invalidates the women’s congregational prayer. She could not recall the name of the scholar who issued the ruling; the fatwa is also not on the group’s Facebook page.

Imam Hassan Amin, an Islamic Chaplain in Baltimore City, said local Imams should give a khutbah about the issue of partitions in the masjid, and how men and women should arrange themselves in the prayer area.

Many Muslims familiar with the Pray-In group consider them “progressive Muslims”, a moniker which came into use over the past decade to describe Muslims who advocate for free interpretation of the Qur’an, the Imamship of women, and the permissibility of homosexuality.

Although Fatima Thompson is affiliated with a progressive Muslim group – a homosexual man who calls himself an Imam accompanied the first pray-in protest in Washington DC – she is adamant that the Pray-In movement is independent from any progressive organizations. Many Muslims who identify themselves as progressives are supporters of the Pray-In movement.

Asked if she thinks the involvement of people like homosexuals and figures like Asra Nomani – the main organizer of a women-led mixed gender juma prayer in New York in 2005 – affected the credibility of the Pray-In movement, she said no.


Mentioning her participation at a Gaza rally in which some Jews also took part, she said “does [the participation of the Jewish people] detract from the message of standing up against injustice? No.”

While several area Muslims sympathized with the lack of proper prayer accommodations for women at some area masajid, almost all Muslims who spoke to the Muslim Link said they disagree with the group’s methods.

At one Maryland masjid, women heard about the Pray-In group but were not interested.

“We don’t know them. They don’t come here. Our needs are being met [at our masjid] ... we have classes and a lot of activities, some with the brothers, and some just for sisters. We have needy, single mothers [in our communities] who don’t have money to feed their kids [properly]. And these sisters are worried about prayer barriers? They need to get over it,” said one sister on her way to a weekend class.

As for the rest of the women in the area masajid, the Pray-In movement doesn’t really know how the majority of them feel about the prayer accommodations. Asked if they ever presented a petition of local women to a masjid board or Imam, they said no. The women, they said, are probably too intimidated by the men to sign any petition.

Asked if they approached the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations of the DC area – an umbrella group representing most masajid in the region – with their concerns, they said not yet. Like Thompson, the chairperson of the CCMO is from Baltimore, and is also a woman.

 


Note: Ignorant Comments Will Be Deleted

Assalamu'alykum,

We've received several comments which we decided not to post. They all expressed the same sentiment about "these new Muslims".

The best gift anyone can get is Islam -- regardless of whether Allah gave you Muslim parents or not. Eemaan (faith) is a gift from Allah. Those who make light of the faith of others or worse -- wish they would not have entered in Islam -- do not understand the enormity of what they say. Those people should repent and pray that Allah does become angry with them on account of them wishing others return to disbelief after having believed in Allah. Remember the authentic hadith qudsi where Allah put a "pious" person in hell fire and forgave a sinner because the former told the later "Allah will never forgive you." -- The Muslim Link


 

Comments (40)
  • Hafsah  - as salaam alaykum
    I really think these women should be ashamed of themselves. I as a Muslim woman prefer a barrier because i can lift up mu niqab relax in the sister's side without worrying about brothers looking at me. what do they want for the masjid to have a sister side and also let the sisters come and go on the brothers side? these women are bad for community. I speak for myself first and formost we need to fear Allah.
  • Ify Okoye  - To Hafsah
    Not ashamed at all, Hafsah. While I can appreciate your interest in having a barrier, not everyone feels the same way you do. Even Imam Safi mentioned that it is his belief that not having a barrier is "closest to the sunnah."
  • ametullah  - Asselamualaikum,
    This woman should understand first what is the intention coming to the Masjid? is it to pray? or to be with the brothers?????. May Allah for give you.... and please seek forgiveness from Allah subhanehuwata'allah and get some knowledge from the Quraan and and sunnah....
  • Ify Okoye  - To Ametullah
    Ametullah: Which woman would that be? Our intentions for coming to the masjid are varied, salah is of the utmost importance, yet Muslims also come to the masjid to learn and participate in the community. It is not so much that we "want to be with the brothers" but that most of the life of the community from lectures to Q&A to access to the Imam to community discussions happen on what has in our time become the "brother's side" in stark contrast to how things were in the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alahyi wa sallam.
  • RaSheeda  - As Salaamu Alaikum, Ify Okoye
    While I understand your concerns, I must say that I do not agree. As it has clearly been pointed out, everything is not for everybody. It is best to find an environment that is best for you; some Masjids have a partial partition and some don't have a partition at all. Although I am a new Muslim, every Masjid that I have visited has taken steps to solve the problems that you mention. They will announce a small talk that will take place after Friday prayer and then perform that talk over a microphone. They also post class times to address the possible areas of interest. These are just some examples. Another reason Masjids use partitions are to separate prayer areas in cases where Friday prayers can become overly crowded. Personally, I don't want a man to have to line up behind me to pray. Allah (SWT) asks us to cover to protect our modesty. I don't wish to go through all that trouble to have another brother view the shape of my behind. If that is one of the main reasons (missing out on discussion), maybe you could ask for an area to be set up for the women on the mens' side to allow for joining in on discussions AFTER prayer. For the huge Masjids that utilize televisions for the women to view the Imam, they could also install a microphone. This is just my opinion and a few supporting examples. Please do not take offense and if someone could help me out by posting it, I believe that there is a hadith that speaks about the negativity of causing separation in the ummah. May Allah (SWT) guide us all and keep us all on the straight path, Ameen. For he is surely the Best of all planners.
  • Noor  - Noor - Assalamu Alaikum
    I believe this "Pray In" will have the opposite effect in that if barriers are removed some sisters will prefer to pray at home rather than compromise their Haya, insha'Allah. Just as gender-separate schools have proven to improve academic performance, similarly when a Muslimah doesn't have to worry about some male's straying eyes she can better concentrate her salat. After all we go to the Masjid to pray not to be on display to the opposite sex and Allahu Alim.
  • Ify Okoye  - To Noor
    Noor: Noor, even now many sisters choose to pray at home rather than face locked and sometimes chained doors, dark, dirty, cramped, stifling or otherwise substandard accommodation. Are you saying the women in the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam "comprised their haya" by coming to the masjid even though they could be seen by other men? If we all did our best to lower our gaze as Allah commands us to do in the Quran, we'd be better off as a community of believers. And even if some fail at that, we should not punish sisters for the inability of others to control themselves. And Allah knows best.
  • Abu Ayyub  - Just Wondering....
    Salamualiakum, Just wondering, do you think the masjid officials or whoever chained the doors/locked the doors purposely did so to stop the sisters from coming to the masjid? It is interesting, I personally have experienced this myself at multiple masjids, in Maryland, Kansas, Missouri. The situation did not allow us to pray in the musholla, however, that did not stop us from praying whether it would be in the parking lot outside or the hallway. We just assumed the person who has the keys maybe overslept (when it was for fajr) or just forgot. Many Masaajid these days get locked up for security reasons, i know many masaajid that have been robbed or vandalized, the only solution would be to lock them up and put up security cameras. For the dirty problem, maybe the masjid does not have enough resources or funds to hire someone to clean the area 24/7 or maybe they are short on volunteers? It is not easy to keep a place clean when the whole communities children come and play in the area. Wouldnt it fall on the jammah to do something and perhaps lend the masjid some of our time to clean and keep the area tidy? Are these points that you mentioned some of the reasons why the "pray-in" protest is happening? Could you please list what exactly the "pray-in" group would like to achieve in the Masajid? What kind of changes does the group want to see happen? Is it just to have the barriers be brought down during daily prayers, like the way Dar-us-salaam's off-site jumuah is? Or is it to pray a row or two behind the brothers? Is it to get the doors of the masjid unlocked? Is it to be able to have access to the imam? I think it would help clarify what exactly the group wishes to accomplish, inshaAllah, and perhaps all this is just a big misunderstanding. Jazakumullahu khairan...
  • Mujahidah  - what a shame.
    the disease in the ummah, protesting against barrier. i dont feel like a second class believer praying behind a man with barrier at the masjid nor praying with my husband. i certainly dont feel comfortable to be praying exactly behind the men , what about the latecomer? it will be free mixing. There is no such thing as progressive muslim.
  • Rafiq  - Your mouths say quran and sunnah BUT;
    Assalaamu A'laikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu It's sad when a person wants to empliment the sunnah and everyone stops her because of their cultural/mathhabi anti islamic/jamaat attitudes. Aaisha-ra- brought this same issue to the prophet-saw-and he forbade a barrier and he-saw-forbade a leaning device. when you come to the masjid there is a certain protocol and barriers are not one of them. the only separation come when ther are too many men, and that's when you would use the saying-saw-It's best for the women to make salah in her room and in the corner of that room. If we can't be around each other in a public business or spiritual manner [b]GET OUT OF AMERICA[/b]our women work and we work around women all day and then we pretend/faint self righteousness in the name of anti sunna. How sick have we become forreal. The right of the sister is to make salah behind the men with the children in the middle, and that's our only degree of separation if you follow the saunnah of Muhammad-saw-. This discussion could go on, but why? Rafiq
  • Ify Okoye  - To Rafiq
    Rafiq: It has always baffled me how we can manage to interact effectively and modestly everyday in this society but when it comes to the masjid all that goes out the window and we pretend as though self-control is no longer necessary and that the better thing to do is erect barriers or exclude half of the congregation making them invisible.
  • Ify Okoye  - To Mujahidah
    Mujahidah Mujahidah: Some of us do feel like second class or even third class believers when forced to pray behind barriers that limit or prevent our access to the jama'ah and the imam. I cannot tell you how many times, I've been with sisters when the mic cut out and we had to then pray individually, how many times we were locked out of the sisters' side, how many times we were unable to participate in community discussions or ask questions, how many times in witr women lose their khushu either by looking up at a monitor or just waiting around for some sign of how the imam is praying that final rakah, or how many times the Imam would be relating a story like the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said the person who does this and I will be in jannah like this...and we cutoff without any visuals are left wondering what was intended.
  • RaSheeda  - Salaam, Ify Okoye
    Again, I understand your concern, but not your methods. I've been to a Masjid that was small and there was a need for a "women side". It was not a comfortable environment. Yes, the men could do more, but my first though was who are the women that attend here regularly. It is more that we as women can do to improve our condition in these Masjids. We need to speak up for ourselves before it gets to this point. I think that this should be the focus...Women getting more involved so that our needs are not overlooked. In most cases, the partitions are there because the women ask for them. If you think the mentality of our women is the fault then focus on education. Personally, my choice for a partition would be dependent upon the condition of the Masjid. For example, if it is an environment that gets overcrowded, then I would prefer a partition. That way I know that women would always have space no matter how crowded the Masjid got.
  • Aziza
    We have enough trouble with wayward individuals within our community who are causing trouble in greater society, we don't need the added stress of worrying about new Muslims who want to come in and stir things up for the media. Claiming to bring reporters along to serve as witnesses in case of some sort of violence is laughable. May Allah protect us all.
  • Ify Okoye  - To Aziza
    Aziza: The only reason we are having this discussion is because of the attention of the media and it is far from only converts who see this an issue. Let me introduce you to some people I know who left the deen unable to reconcile between the inconsistency between the words and examples we hear in the Quran and Sunnah and what is practiced in our communities. Maybe you're laughing but for many of us, that is painful and sad.
  • RaSheeda
    I think that it is sad that people leave the deen because of the actions of others. As a new Muslim, I was always encouraged to learn for myself. As there is disobedience in all religions, we cannot judge the religion itself by its members actions.
  • UmAmeenah  - Fear Allah
    There so many much more important issues in our communities: teens on drugs, homeless single mothers, soaring divorce rates and the list goes on. Personally as a mother of young children, two of whom are girls, I want them to learn modesty in this immodest world. I also appreciate the barrier when nursing. Furthermore, we go to pray for Allah and to gain a greater reward in congregation. How can you fear Allah and focus on your prayer if you have division in your heart? Finally Islam as revealed is "progressive". We need to properly educate ourselves on our path or prior to reversion. You can not be homosexual and Muslim nor can you waltz from masjid to masjid causing strife and exposing internal faults. It is anti- Islamic. May Allah truly guide this group and fill their hearts with fear of Him. Ameen.
  • Ify Okoye  - to UmmAmeenah
    UmmAmeenah: I challenge you to take on one of those issues if you are passionate about it, let's read in the Muslim Link how you are rectifying those issues. I hope you also teach your children not to assume you know what is in the hearts of others. We agree Islam is progressive as revealed so if barriers, separate rooms, balconies, basements, etc were not part of the revealed or lived reality of the earliest and best of generations why are we trying to oppose that today?
  • Erum
    Assalamu alaikum, JazakAllahu khair for this article - it has shed some light into an important issue facing our local communities. As a sister, I can understand the motivation for the pray-in group. Indeed, at the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam there was no barrier erected to separate the men and women during salah. So why can't we follow that same model in our masaajid today? This brings me to another question: what is the role of the masaajid in the West (specifically in the US, which is all I can speak about)? I believe that our masaajid are places of prayer and education, but are also very important places of social gathering and coming together as a Muslim community. Essentially, this is where Muslims come together to meet other community members or just catch up with an old friend after salah. Based on my very very limited knowledge of Islam, my understanding is that this is different from the masaajid at the time of the Prophet SalAllahu alayhi wa sallam, especially for the sisters. As quoted in the article above, at the time of the Prophet SalAllahu alayhi wa sallam the men would keep sitting facing forward after the salah and until the women left after the salah. So, the way I see it, if we remove the barriers, then that would mean that after salah, the women should quietly and promptly leave the prayer space before the brothers do so. Honestly, given our situation where our masaajid serve as both places of worship and as social gathering places for the Muslims, I think that this would hinder community-building and bonding between sisters. Essentially, we would have musallahs where people come to pray and leave. This would be fine if we already had other avenues to catch up with friends and community members; but honestly, i don't think we have those other avenues yet (I'm not willing to replace face-to-face communication with Facebook). As Muslims in America, our masaajid should be places of worship, but also places where we connect with our sisters and strengthen our bonds and I personally would feel most comfortable socializing with sisters in a separated area, where I can freely laugh and joke around. Allahu A'alam. May Allah guide us to do that which is most pleasing to Him - ameen!
  • mohamad k. yusuff  - the barrier in a masjid is a latter day invention
    my dear muslim brothers and sisters, salamun 'alaykum wa rahamatullah. this question, erecting barriers in mosques to separate men from women during formal ritual prayers, may have practical use today, due to the increased size of the population at prayer, but it did not exist in early islam. the arabic word for mosque is masjid, meaning a place where one prostrates oneself, or a place of worship. it should be commonly known that canonical prayer in islam can be performed anywhere. the noble Messenger (pbuh) says: "the whole of the earth has been made a mosque for me." (Bukhari). it should also be known that as a meeting place for muslims five times a day, the masjid serves as basic training center where the doctrine of equality and fraternity of mankind is put into practice. generally speaking, every muslim is free to build a mosque so that people living in different locations can have access to a place of worship. Abu Bakr (rta) erected a mosque in the courtyard of his house while still at Makka in the early period of islam (Bukhari). in later times, mosques have been built for sectarian and tribal purposes, defeating the universal spirit of islamic concept of unity and brotherhood. the fundamental rule is: when a mosque is built in good faith for the purpose of worship for the community, it is open to muslims of all persuasion, and no one has the right to prohibit muslims of a certain ideology or theological diffference from entering it for lawful spiritual service. the Noble Qur'an is very clear on this: "And who is more unjust than he who prevents men from the mosque of Allah, from His name being remembered in them, and strives to ruin them?" [2:114] the custom of pardah in certain countries of the muslim world raises the question as to whether women may go to the mosques. today, such restriction against women from attending ritual prayers in mosques has been peeled away over time. in fact, during the time of Messenger's missionary, there was no such rules against women, who freely took part in religious services of the embryonic community. there are multitude of traditions showing women attending prayers late at night and early in the morning, and even with children. for instance, in one such tradition, the Messenger (pbuh) states: "Do not prohibit the handmaids of Allah from going to the mosques of Allah" (Bukhari). In another tradition, the Messenger (pbuh) is reported to have said that, if a woman wanted to go to the mosque at night, she should not be prohibited from doing so. (Bukhari). a more general tradition states: "When the wife of one of you asks permisson to go out, she should not be prohibited from do so." (Bukhari) the practice for women to be present in the mosques at the time of prayer continued without change long after the passing of the Messenger (pbuh). within the mosque, they were not separated from men by any screen or curtain; they simply made line behind the men (Bukhari); and though they were covered decently and modestly with an outer garment, they were not veiled. on the occasion of the Great Pilgrimage (Hajj) a woman is expressly forbidden to wear the veil (Bukhari). many other traditions show that women formed themselves into a back row and that men retained their seats until the women had left the mosque (Muslim). this practice seems to have existed for a very long time. Thus, we read of the women calling out Allahu Akbar along with men in the mosque during the three days following 'Id al-Adhaa as late as the time of 'Umar ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz, the Ummayyad Caliph, who ruled approximately to the end of the first century A.H. (Bukhari). in the year 256 A.H., the governor of Makka is said to have tied ropes between the columns to make a separate place for women. later after that period, the practice emerged to erect a wooden barrier in the mosque to form a separate enclosure for women, and by and by the concept of pardah grew so strong that women were shut out from the mosque altogether. today, in this 21st century, many of the vestiges of the past innovation continue unabated. i fully agree with Iman Safi Khan that there is a better way to resolve this issue. but above all, our menfolk must educate themselves and understand the historic practices on how our noble Messenger treated women during his divine ministry. what is quite clear, however, is that "protests, sit-ins, pray ins" are not the ways of muslims; these are the habits of other people. the Glorious Qur'an has simple, logical,and good procedures in resolving disputes and differences. in final analysis, as mentioned in the introductory paragraphs in this response, women who are not satisfied with the status quo of the rules in mainstream mosques, can freely and legally build their own mosques to pray and meditate as they see fit. this has been down in certain parts of muslim world. but this is not a preferred action, more like a last resort. i sincerely trust that all of us can come together where common sense, lively dialog and mutual agreement can be established and fostered to resolve issues and differences. wa salamu 'alaykum
  • Al-Atharee  - Fitnah over a lesser merit???
    As salaamu 3leikum I personally do not find anything wrong with the sisters praying behind the brothers, if circumstances are favorable for that. However I do think that there must be a moderate amount of space between the two. The situation at Dar al Hijrah explains it all. Likewise, if the circumstances are not favorable for the previously mentioned situation, I would advocate the usage of a partition or another room altogether. I do not advocate forcing women to stay at home and pray, this would be contradictory to the Sunnah, but what seems to be in line with the Sunnah is that a woman’s prayer at home is more superior than in the masjid. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said concerning a woman’s prayer in the Masjid: “Their houses are better for them.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (567) and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood. ” Umm Humaid Sa’idiyya(raa) reported, She asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, I desire to offer prayers under your leadership.” The Holy Prophet said, “I know that, but your offering the prayer in a corner is better than your offering it in you closet and your offering the prayer in your closet is better than offering it in the courtyard of your house, and your offering the prayer in the courtyard is better than offering it in the neighboring Masjid, and your offering it in the neighboring Masjid is better than your offering it in the biggest Masjid of the town.” [Ahmad & Tabarani] These so-called progressives should look at it from this perspective, instead of causing fitnah over something that is of lesser merit. And Allah knows Best.
  • Maimunah  - we need Alla's attention not media's
    Assalaam u Alaikum, I think all the members of pray-in groups have some deep personal issues they need to deal with before they can embark on this so called "movement" to end gender segregation! My knowledge is limited but I think there is a hadith which says that best place for a women to pray is in their own homes. Allah swt has blessed us with massajids in our areas so we can pray in congregation to reap more reward for our prayers what more do we want? Ladies let's face it, we are in much greater need to do tawbah and should grab any chance we get to ask Allah swt to forgive us. So stop wasting your time with all this drama to get media attention and concentrate to get Allah's attention! May Allah swt forgive us and strenghten the bond between muslim ummah, ameen.
  • My_opinion  - Going to the source....
    I have spoken with some of the members of the "Pray In" group and I should say that they have told me emphatically that they make every attempt to talk with the Masjid leadership before they protest; in the case of the Islamic Center it would seem they had their requests for dialogue were denied over and over again. Also, regardless of how we feel about this issue ([i]and let’s get serious, a lot of foreign-born Muslims bring cultural baggage with them[/i]) we must go to the source, the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah. Every Muslim knows that women prayed in sight of our Prophet (PBUH) as he led prayer. Beyond the evidence in the Sunnah and Hadith, we can ask ourselves, how would the early female worshipers know how to make salaat if they never saw anyone perform it? Of course they prayed in sight of the Imam! We have no evidence of 7 foot high barriers separating males and females in the Sunnah or Qur’an. In Mecca, men and women circle the Ka’bah and make salaat openly and mixed! I am normally very conservative in my values but I believe these sisters have solid ground to stand on, theologically. The mainstream media may not be the best way to approach this...but come on, why are our leaders not speaking out about this? We must go to the [b]source[/b] regardless of what some people feel comfortable with, or what they did in the “old country.” We need a fatwa and we need explicit proof either for or against barriers.
  • Bayinah  - FEAR ALLAH
    No during the Days of the prophet (SW) there were no barrier, however we are in a different time where brothers and sisters do not even have a fraction of the modesty that the Sahabas had. The women did use to go and hang out in the Masjid, because the Prophet had classes just for women all the time. Not only that they also had the mothers of the believers who would answer their questions. Today women do have to travel in the Masjid more way more to gain Islamic knowledge. How can a sisters feel comfortable praying directly behind brothers when other brothers come late they have to pray behind you. I don't know about the "pray in "protesters, but i speak for myself i do not want a man behind me while I'm praying. i don't even want my husband behind me while I'm praying bending over even when sisters bend in front of my i feel uncomfortable. yes men are suppose to lower their gaze, they will have to answer to Allah for not doing so, but believe it or not sisters you also have to answer to Allah for helping shaytan's with his plan. I do not mind praying behind brothers but i have to be far behind them and before the brothers get up and leave the masjid; the sisters need to be out of the area that way it protect both male and female from fitnah that's the sunnah. Sisters are you willing to leave the prayer area as soon as you are done praying? meaning no chit chatting with the other sisters after salaah, because the brothers need to leave. Out of respect you need to move out of their way. It is not the sunnah to have brothers and sisters mixing with one another and if that's what you sisters want thn guess what it is a "bida". the sunnah to make sure that Majority of the sisters in the community are comfortable, that women should be at home taking care of the home duties. How many of you women who are protesting married?
  • Anna
    The masjid is a place of prayer and peace, not of fighting and arguing. If they truly respected Islam and the Houses of Allah they would give respect to the sanctity of the Masaajid.
  • _Just_My_Opinion  - Opinions
    [i]Assalaamu A'laikum[/i] When Muslims suggest that times have changed, or that needs are different now or that modesty has declined - all in support of innovations that never existed during the time of our Prophet (PBUH) this is bi'dah. Bi'dah comes from the root word [i]Al-Bada' [/i]meaning [i]to create something without precedence[/i]. We know it is good for Muslim women to pray at home, a well accepted Hadith supports this, but where is the evidence stating that if they do pray in the Masjid they must be in another room or behind a 7 foot high barrier? No one can find it because it does not exist! If a worshiper is comfortable with the gender barrier (male or female) – it is of no consequence. If we just all did what we felt most comfortable with we wouldn’t be Muslims! We must subjugate our own comfort, cultural proclivities and habits to the will of Allah, and he is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. As Muslims we must understand that it does not matter how [u]we[/u] feel, what we brought from the "old country" or if we are comfortable with 7 foot high barriers - we must do our utmost to [u]replicate[/u] the models of culture and behavior set forth by the Prophet (PBUH) and the Companions (Peace Be Upon Them All). This is the beauty of Islam, we have the ROAD MAP for life, we just have to STICK TO IT. A fatwa should be issued on this. For me, personally, if the Prophet (PBUH) didn't feel the need to put up a wall, and if men and women can circle and pray in mixed congregation in Mecca, and the Qur’an and Sunnah make no mention of barriers, then the partitions that exist now are [b]BI'DAH![/b] I know some Muslims do not like to hear this, but we have to go to the source. The scholars must speak! Also, why is it that the Muslim Link insists on referring to anyone who was not born into Islam a “revert?” Why is it important to make this distinction? Are we not all Muslims? I have noticed that the term “revert” is often used as a precursor to subtly question someone’s belief system, or dedication to Islam. It is insulting. What if Muslims born in Pakistan or Yemen, etc. were referred to in the public discourse as “tribal Muslims?” Think about it people, how would that feel? May Allah (SWT) guide us all down the straight path, and Allah Knows Best.
  • Ify  - Wa salaam alaykum
    Not ashamed at all, Hafsah. While I can appreciate your interest in having a barrier, not everyone feels the same way you do. Even Imam Safi mentioned that it is his belief that not having a barrier is "closest to the sunnah."
  • Sakinah  - What a Shame these women do not realize they are a
    Salam Alaikum: I am an American Revert to Islam, Also a disabled Navy Veteran, so I do consider myself a very liberated woman. What I know of Islam is that I am proud to be praying behind the men, and we (the prayer area for the women) at Dar Al Hijrah are even raised above the men :-). Why can't they see they are a precious jewel to be protected? Never I would want to pray and do as they have done. This is fitna of the worst kind to be happening in the masjid. What are these women truly thinking? I can't imagine. May Allah lead us all to the right path. It is sunnah yes to pray behind the men so what is the problem? I am proud to be a Muslimah. I know my husband was shocked and upset when this happened at Dar Al Hijrah and these women did not stay where they were suspose to and disrupted the prayer. May Allah guide them to the right path. Amin
  • The Muslim Link  - Ignorant Comments Will Be Deleted
    Assalamu'alykum, We've received several comments which we decided not to post. They all expressed the same sentiment about "these new Muslims". The best gift anyone can get is Islam -- regardless of whether Allah gave you Muslim parents or not. Eemaan (faith) is a gift from Allah. Those who make light of the faith of others or worse -- wish they would not have entered in Islam -- do not understand the enormity of what they say. Those people should repent and pray that Allah does become angry with them on account of them wishing others return to disbelief after having believed in Allah. Remember the authentic hadith qudsi where Allah put a "pious" person in hell fire and forgave a sinner because the former told the later "Allah will never forgive you."
  • A Believer  - Getting Our Priorities Straight
    As a man, I usually feel like I should hide my prayers from both men & women because my prayers are ONLY for Allah swt (knowing that there is a greater reward when the prayer is done in congregation). Yet these women want to display themselves in front of everyone. May Allah preserve our communities and give haya (shame). Giving the media attention to trivial matters at a time where our dear brothers/sisters are getting [u]killed[/u] in Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq....I think the group should refocus on it's priorities.
  • Naureen
    IF the issue is about following Sunnah, the WHOLE sunnah needs to be implemented. The sunnah was : -no partition -women left bfore men got up -women were probably covered from head to toe. -men and women had separate entrances. IF this can be followed and (let's get real..are u telling me all the masses of the muslims who are subhanallah not practicing are going to follow this and NOT start mixing INSIDE the musallah) thats the group wants, SUNNAH, then alhamdulillah. Are you going to knock on each improperly dressed sisters' shoulder and ask her to cover? Then again, Perhaps the solution could be to have a separate prayer area for women for those who want tht and one that is together for both men and women who want that and which follows the SUNNAH with the rules above, so that insh'allah everyone is happy. May Allah guide them n may Allah guide us.
  • UmmA  - Where is the adaab?
    As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatualahi wa barakaatu: It has been established clearly that the authentic sunnah is to pray without any partition between men and women, as was done during the time of Rasulullah (salallahu alaihi wa salaam) and for some time after his death. The exception is that it MAY become necessary to have one only if the space for the salaat is too small to allow the women to pray behind the men without there being some mixing. We are to strive to emulate his sunnaat to the best of our ability, are we not? If there is some issue within the community with which there is disagreement, isn't the proper adaab to discuss it within the community and take shura on it with the amir of that community? And if that is properly done, but the desired results are not obtained, then shouldn't it be approached again within the shura framework, but maybe from a different angle? If after all this, the result is still not satisfactory, then might it not be better to leave the issue and be more concerned with the larger, more important issue of ONE'S OWN SALAAT and not WHERE that salaat is made? Allah will not question us on what part of the building we made the salaat, nor whom we made it behind, or in front of, or beside. So often what are annoyances or perceived inequalities are tests, but the shaytaan whispers to our naafs and convinces us they are controversies of the utmost importance. How subtle he is in getting us bogged down in things that do not benefit us! If sisters, or brothers, or both, have a problem with a partition in their masjid, consider this: 1. Have a meeting among you to determine how many are in agreement. 2. See how many would be willing to actively and consistently practice the sunnah of lowering their gaze, leaving the masjid directly after the salaat and remaining seated until the sisters leave. 3. Clearly, and with the best words and tone, outline in writing your concerns and back them up with sound ahaadith. 4. State that the people are willing to actively work, with the best adaab, to carry out the sunnah. 5. If people agree to sign or initial the paper so the amir clearly sees how many are in agreement, then take it to him. 6. If there are some who do not agree and would prefer the partition, or prefer to pray at home, then don't castigate them for that. DO NOT LET THE SHAYTAAN CAST DIVISION AMONG YOU. You know that in the sight of Allah you are not 2nd class citizens, and you know that Allah does not look to what civil, gender or social matter you put your attention. May Allah guide me and guide us all to the best of intentions and actions. Amin.
  • a.m.winfree
    as salaamu alaikum, to all those good muslims who posted comments especially those who live in the d.c. area, dont allow the shaytan to cause disunity among you. the shaytan mixes the truth with falsehood and plays on the ignorance and emotions of the people. no there were no barriers during the messengers(saw)time and as was so beautifully stated the women and men dressed properly. and the hajj cannot be used as evidence because it has its own rulings spacific to it. dont act as these people are acting(immitating the kuffar)using the deen as a means of protest. be patient with them and try to talk to them with in the best way.
  • adel  - Lock of knoledg By this group
    There is a rule in fiqh called SED DARIA'A. And we need it in our time more than anything in order to protect our AQEEDA and our spouse from the evil of SHAYTEN and NAFS. I ask this group first to consult a scholar and to leave the feelings behind because this deen is not about feelings, it is about pleasing ALLAH so ALLAH will be pleased with us, INSHA ALLAH WA ALLAHO ALIM
  • mariam  - "pary-in" concerns
    Asalaam aleikum Brothers and Sisters. I personally thank all contributers on this issue. Someone mentioned modesty dressing, and it is very true. There are sisters who have no interest to cover themselve well, to the extent that even fellow sisters feel unconfortable, and if possible provide them with extra garments if available. I have seen sisters wearing low-cut pants, a short shirt and a head cover. At an occasion a sister at ISWA Masjid asked for a support to make some hijjabs and donate to the sisters' room. I volunteer to support her mission but unfortunately I don't know what happen to her. So yes, we can keep sunna, but let face the facts about our current situation. May Allah help us, Insahaalah
  • Fatimah
    Most are not designed to accommodate what the "sit ins" have in mind, in line of the grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah. Are the "sit ins" going to put up millions of dollars, so masajids can be remodeled to their heart desire? I think we have more important things to do with the limited funds at disposal of mosques than to blow them off on the need a couple of people may have. By the way, the Potomac mosque has an arrangement that should make these sisters happy.
  • A'ishah Hils  - Bismillah
    Assalaamu aleykum, I find it interesting that some women worry that this will cause sisters to stay at home...I presently cannot pray at the masjid except during maghrib and tarawih during Ramadhan because that is the only time of the year men and women pray together where I live. Our women's prayer area is not disability accessible, and I am disabled (there is a narrow flight of stairs). If we were allowed to pray according to the sunnah, behind the men, I would be able to go to the masjid for prayer. As it is now I cannot. I don't understand what is wrong with wanting to pray according to the sunnah. In the time of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wa salaam, women prayed behind the men. I know for me it is not a desire to "show myself off" but to be able to pray in an area that is equally well-kept and equally accessible to all people. The sister's prayer area is neither of those things in my masjid and in many others. To the comments that women haven't done enough to solve this in more constructive ways - most of us have tried and been ignored. I'm not sure if I really feel that a pray-in is the answer, but...how long should we wait for the usual channels to work? Because all I see is sisters' concerns being ignored and written off as unimportant.
  • Fatima Thompson  - re: Bismillah
    Assalamu Aleikum Sister A'ishah Hils, I am SO glad you brought this up because, honestly, it is something we had not addressed as a consideration for the accommodation of women behind the men. I have often wondered about women who could not climb stairs to get to remote rooms for prayer. I have often seen brothers with walkers, crutches and wheelchairs access the main prayer area with ease. Personally, I have asthma, and so there have been many times I would nearly pass out trying to climb the stairs. I often wondered to myself just when would I give up climbing and just walk in and pray behind the men. Well, that time is now. And, I hope, for other sisters who not just WANT accommodation behind the men but NEED it, I hope that they take the opportunity NOW to do so as it is the arrangement given by Allah and His messenger (pbuh). -- Fatima Thompson
  • Your Sister In Islam  - Question
    I keep hearing that the members of this group have tried to talk to different leaders and there is no response, therefore they went on with their approach. I just have one question....If I want to talk to you, and you do not want to talk to me; if I have a question for you, but you do not want to answer; if I want to meet with you, but you do not want to meet with me; Is it then okay for me to come in your dwelling, disturb your peace, cause fitnah, bring the media with me, and splatter the members of your dwelling all over the papers and facebook? Because if it is, then on-ward with the protest, and I am on my way to YOUR home with the channel 8 news, but if it is not okay for me to treat your home this way, or your work place, or your MASJID, then this needs to stop. The protest needs to be moved out of the Masjids for GOD's sake. Hold a rally on the streets if you want, but my sisters you are trampling on very dangerous grounds by disturbing the salat of an entire congregation or even one of your brothers or sisters. May Allah save you all from carrying the burden of each believer's Salat that they have disturbed and brought fitnah to, AMEEN YA RABB, AMEEN. This is too much of a serious matter to be taken lightly, and may ALLAH save us from falling into error, and displeasing Him in any way AMEEN. Those of us that disagree with this group's actions, may ALLAH save us from waking up one day wanting to join them, and for those who have joined them, may ALLAH save you and all of us from His displeasure, Ameen. Ask your self this, when you are naked standing in front of your LORD on the last day waiting to receive your book of deeds, Will it be the RIGHT hand oh ALLAH, and we will go to Jennah with the Rasul SAW, and rest of the believers, or will it be the LEFT oh please ALLAH save us from it, that we will go to Jahanum and burn forever, ALLAH save us from it Ameen. Will we be thinking, wait, did I pray with the sisters, or the brothers? Did I pray behind the partition or in front of it? Did I make my voice heard and make sure that the media received my side of the story; or oh my Lord of the Worlds did I pray correctly for Your pleasure, did I recite correctly for Your pleasure, did I stand correctly oh Allah, did I pray for You and You alone, which book is my intention for my Salat in my LORD. Then ask yourself my sisters and brothers is it all worth it. Your Sister in Islam
  • TCM  - Subhanallah
    This is what happens when we leave aside the simple sunnah and start to erect barriers as some sort of replacement for our own lack of attention to purifying our sick hearts. Men peeked at women in the time of the prophet.....and no barriers were erected then. I think our community is obsessed with sexuality and many converts who posted here in favor of walls-to-enforce-piety are simply swallowing the sexual norms of their fellow Muslims wholesale. All one really needs to do is watch the documentary "Me and the Mosque." Until you have done so, dont make erroneous statements that praying without a barrier is bid'a or that these women want to be seen. You dont know the intentions of other people. I have been to mosques with no barrier and the people there were actually more educated, more polite, and gender relations were more civilized, and less characterized by sexual obsessions over who may be peeking at who. Have a good opinion of your brothers and sisters. Case closed, end of discussion.
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