Thursday, August 23, 2012

Women's Place in the Mosque

Hadith reported in the Book of Muslim:

Umm Hisham who was the daughter of Haritha who was the son of Ne’man said the following: “I memorized sura Qaf from hearing it from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because he used to recite it often during his khutbah on Fridays.”

Remember that there were no loud speakers in the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). How far from the minbar do you think women were in the mosque of  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Madina. Umm Hisham memorized Sura Qaf (sura no. 50 which has 45 ayas ) by hearing it again and again because Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to recite it in his Friday khutbah. Perhaps 20 feet or maybe 30 feet away.
How does this compare with the place of women in the mosque you go to? Can the women see the khateeb? , or are they behind a wall or curtain, or maybe on a different floor of the building?

The way women were in the mosque of the Prophet (pbuh), they felt part of the Muslim community. Do women feel part of your community, or are they treated as outsiders and a nuisance for the men?

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived more than 1400 years ago. Women were welcome in his mosque and they were at a forward place in the mosque.

Other cultures have moved forward since that time in recognizing the contributions women can make to a community. They welcome women in their houses of worship and give them important positions in their affairs.

But Muslim society has gone the other way. Muslim women have less status in the mosques of today than 1400 years ago. This is because the affairs of mosques are decided by narrow minded men who got their religious education by rote-memorization and not by thinking.

An important step in Muslim reformation is to change this sad state of affairs. At the very least women should be in the main hall of the mosque. In a mosque which upholds the progressive spirit of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), women should be integrated into all its affairs. The roles assigned for different functions should not be based on discrimination by gender, but by learning and leadership qualities of the individual.