The Side Entrance


There was a great interview on NPR about a week ago entitled Muslim Women Challenge American Mosques: ‘Now Is The Time’ with Edina Lekovic. It was discussing the place of women in the masjids. Sadly, many cultural, yet unIslamic, desires made their way west and resign women as nonexistent. As the interview stated, “Now is the time” for change in the masjids, ummah (Muslim community) and backwards mindsets. Another woman was mentioned in the interview; Hind Makki. She has started Side Entrance; an online project asking women to post photos of the women’s prayer areas and entrances. Although these photos range from dank closets to spacious carpeted areas, they all have one thing in common; separation from the men, imam and minbar. Some self righteous men of the boards that govern the masjids have claimed that they separate women by barriers and separate rooms (usually upstairs) in protection of women. However, Prophet Mohamed, sallahu alayhi wa salam, had the women pray behind the men in the same room. “Oh, but the men of today are not like the sahabah,” say the self righteous blowhards. So, what they are saying is that women must be separated, which is not the sunnah, because the men cannot control their gaze? Men and women have responsibility in guarding their chastity, not only the women.
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The separation of women from the minbar, imam and men has had many negative effects. What has happened is that women are stuck with the children unable to pray and unable to learn from the imam. Some women have even made the masjid their personal gossip shop; creating a lot of fitnah (trouble). The men are constantly yelling at the women to be quiet, yet are foolish to see that they are the cause, by separating the women from the heart of the masjid. It is a new twist on the old adage of women are to be seen not heard; women are to be heard not seen. In my city there are several masjids and all have barricaded women in one form or another. The original masjid here was created out of an old two story home. There is one entrance for both brothers and sisters. If there is not a large crowd, women can pray downstairs in one of the rooms that is adjacent the men and usually there is a curtain. When the first floor is full, the women are resigned to upstairs. Another masjid, has the women’s area upstairs only. There are two entrances for men; the front and the side. However, there is one entrance for women in the back of the masjid; which is most unsafe considering the neighborhood is nothing more than prostitutes, pedophiles and drug dealers. The thermostat is contained in a key lock box. The men keep it cold in the winter and hot in the summer to keep women from coming. They are also of the mindset that children do not belong in the masjid. The masjid that I attend the most, if at all, has a side entrance for women. Then the women proceed upstairs where they have a nice bathroom, a couple of back rooms and a well carpeted prayer area. The issue with this arrangement however is that the women’s area is a quarter of the men’s area and women are saddled with the children. Every Ramadan is a test for my heart, because the kids take chairs and try to climb up on the half wall that keeps this balcony “private”, while their moms try to pray. Needless, to say, women again cannot see the imam nor minbar. Nor can the women hear any lectures as the socialization commences among the women whether salah is finished or not. The most frustrating part of this masjid is that it is converted from a church. So, in the church, there was plenty of room for the women to be with the men and the balcony housed the organ. Now as a masjid, there is no room for women in the lower section and women are sequestered into an area ordained for an organ. What does that say about Muslims? Prophet Mohamed, sallahu alayhi wa salam, had it right when he had women pray behind the men, in the same room and without a barrier. The masjid was respected as a place of worship. Men took their responsibility as fathers seriously and not just toss them to the moms because they did not want to “deal with them.” Women gained knowledge of their deen (religion) and were respected members of the community. Children were raised in the masjid with love and kindness. I do not understand how some people nowadays think they know better than the Prophet, saw, what is best for our ummah.   UPDATE: My “Side Entrance” photos were published on Hind Makki’s online project.
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