The Noisy People Upstairs

It was our first Eid prayer here at the main mosque here in Blacksburg, Virginia. The mosque itself is set up such that women are on the second level overlooking the men’s space. Of course, throughout the festivities as well as during the Sermon the men could hear the women above enjoying themselves. It was, after all, Eid– a joyous occasion!

“SISTERS!” One of the men yell.

“Sisters please, ” the Imam asks the women to quiet down.

I’d like to say three things. And feel free to post this in your local mosque.

1. If you put women and children in a separate space apart from the men, they are no longer are part of the congregation. Therefore you should not be surprised when they start talking during the sermon.

2. Another reason why women have disengaged from the happenings in the mosque are the things said about women inside the mosque. (E.g. During a sermon: “The majority of the inhabitants in hell are women.”)

3. Yelling, “Sisters!” or asking them to quiet down wont work either, because as long as you make mosques where women are in separate rooms, balconies, etc… They are not your sisters. They are the noisy neighbors upstairs. My wife mentioned that even when the women were admonished, they continued to talk. I don’t blame them. I would too :-)

Advocate one space for all!

Image: Konya, Turkey 06/2011: Everywhere I went, I saw men and women praying together, many times near the front of the mosque.

21 comments

  1. yasmine says:

    PS: what also makes my heart happy is masjid al-iman in oakland, california, where the men and women pray together in one room — men in front, women in back, but at least in the same room, where we SISTERS can see and hear everything. i have never felt so fully at home in any other masjid.

  2. Irfana says:

    I agree with you, I dont go to masjids as often because I dont feel a part of the congregation and can never make a comment if I need to like the men can in front of everyone.

  3. Zaigham Faraz Siddiqui says:

    This practice of segregation is abhorrent. Women have always been treated as second grade citizens after the initial phase of Islam. Such a mindset is a direct result of certain Hadees. For example in one Hadees “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas, saying: I think the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.”

    This was fortunately refused by HAzrat Aisha when it was presented infront of her.

    Narrated ‘Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people).” I said, “You have made us (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away. for I disliked to face him.”

    Don’t know who invented these traditions or who misunderstood the said thing. There’s no way of knowing what was the actual thing that was said. Its clear the people who narrated didn’t understand what was being said or they might have made it up. Therefore, these Hadees should not be trusted no matter if they are in Sahih Bukhari or Sahih Muslim. May be then we can have an elevated status for Women.

  4. Enrico says:

    I dunno, but I thought one of the hadeeth said the best place of prayer is more to the front for men, and more to the back for women.

    About the women placed on the balcony above, well usually it happens when downstairs is full right? Or is it ALWAYS women on the balcony? Different countries, different tradition…

    On another note, the Syafi’i Madzhab in South East Asia states that if you touch a non-mahram when you have wudhu’ (ablution), then the wudhu’ is batal (canceled).

  5. sofia says:

    same thing happened at eid prayers in my community (as it always does). my whole life i’ve attending a masjid in which i sat in a curtained off balcony and in which there was much policing of women’s dress and behavior and movement.

    the ironic thing is that now that i’ve finally sought out a masjid with one prayer room for both men and women, i find that i police myself. believing that i should pray in a back corner, that my body should be invisible, and my voice should not be heard is a hard habit to break. this, even though in all other parts of my life i have a reputation of speaking my mind.

  6. Laura says:

    I have a confession to make (and already I’m sounding more christian than muslim). I’m a muslim convert who grew up in the United Church. I was out walking last week and passed a United Church with a board out front that read “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear,” the last few words of the amazing letter Jack Layton, recently deceased leader of the NDP party of Canada, wrote to Canadians on his death bed (check out the whole, beautiful letter here: http://www.ndp.ca/letter-to-canadians-from-jack-layton).

    So I went back to the service at that church this past Sunday and it was so lovely to sit at the front, to walk into a religious house and not feel like a problem, not feel like I might be trespassing because of my boobs.

    I stopped going to mosques after my first year as a Muslim. Walking into that church, participating in that service, I thought to myself “oh right! This is what a welcoming, loving, accepting, social justice practicing, non-misogynistic religious community and place of worship feels like!” It was marvelous. I’m still Muslim, but I think I’m gonna keep going to church.

  7. Mezba says:

    I think it’s a deep subcontinent desi mentality. I have attended West Indian mosques with men in front and women in back, and it was great as everyone could see the imam.

  8. Fizza says:

    Great post! I’m new to this blog – so glad I came across it.

    Laura, I’m a fellow Torontonian and attended Jack Layton’s funeral. I wish I could take your words, print them on large posters and plaster them all over our mosques: “I’m not a problem, or a trespasser just because I have boobs.” LOL! It’s disgraceful that we feel so utterly unwelcome and out of place in the houses of God. I happen to wear hijab, but whether I do or not, I should feel free to wander throughout my mosque as though it’s my second home, a place of spiritual refuge.

    It’s going to be up to us to speak out and take back space that is rightfully ours – definitely easier said than done.

    BTW, which United Church service did you attend? Years ago, I use to attend multi-faith meetings at Emmanuel Howard Park in Parkdale.

  9. Laura says:

    Hi Fizza, Thanks for the support and I agree wholeheartedly. Growing up in Toronto I attended Humber Valley United Church and while I was in Halifax I attended a service at St. Matthew’s United Church. Hijabman’s blog is an amazing refuge for me and, I think, for lots of us like-minded Muslims, but you’re right; we have to stand up in the places we’re not welcomed. My struggle is how that gets done. As a woman and as a white, convert woman no less I don’t get much of a voice and I’m certainly not considered credible. How do we make the noise that needs to be made and be taken seriously for it?

  10. sakeena says:

    Salam.

    During eid where I live, the men and women pray in a single room, and still the women don’t be quiet. So, putting us all in one room doesn’t change anything LOL! I notice a difference in ethnicities when it comes to which women are loud and which are quiet (which I won’t discuss). But I think that if the men want the women to be quiet, the imam has to shame the men about not teaching their wives etiquette! I’m too embarrassed and ashamed before Allah to be such a loud mouth, and if I were a guy, I’d be ashamed before Allah for not doing my job as the leader of my family.

  11. T Hoss says:

    At the Masjid in Makkah, everyone, poor, rich, man, women, tall, short, all pray together in one big space. That is how it should be. I have been to masjid where they don’t let homeless people in the musallah.

  12. hijabman says:

    The Masjid in Mecca is actually not like that anymore, in my humble opinion. Or atleast its getting worse. When I was there in 2006, during the adhan, the female guards would corral women into the back, into the women’s only sections, banging plastic cups in their faces while they prayed and stood their ground.

  13. Aliya says:

    Of course, on a practical level, one of the reasons why the women’s section is noisier is because children are placed with women in the women’s section. When more men take on childcare duties, they might realize that their section gets a little noisier too! (also, cheers to all the men who take on childcare responsibilities!)

  14. Regina says:

    Wow! As I keep on reading each entry in this blog, I feel more and more relieved to know that, yes, there are Muslims who dare to think for themselves and are not afraid to speak out. Congratulations, hijabman for creating such a wonderful virtual space.

    Now, if only I could find a community of like-minded Muslims where I live…

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