At the Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) in Lanham, Maryland women are routinely displaced from the pink musallah designated for them to make more room for the men who have a large musallah down the hallway, which is not connected to the pink one. So where do the women go? The women are shunted off to classrooms, only one of which has a television monitor. Please tell me again, how this demonstrates a respect for the dignity of women as full and equal spiritual beings? All things being equal couldn’t the overflow men pray in the classrooms or overflow men and women pray there that way no one is unnecessarily displaced solely on account of her gender?
Years ago, under a different imam, men and women prayed the majority of the prayers in the pink musallah with the women restricted behind large wooden partitions. If you’re tall like me when standing in salah, you could just see over the top of the wooden partitions. Then under successive imams this arrangement was discontinued and men and women continued to pray in their own separate musallah. A flat-panel television screen, which is usually turned off was added to the pink women’s musallah. Now, on occasions where a large turn-out is expected like Friday prayers and perhaps the tarawih (I’ve stopped going here for tarawih), the women are pushed out of their musallah and relegated to the two classroom musallah.
The reality of the situation is that the mosque is generally empty for the five daily prayers and all of the congregants could be easily accommodated within one musallah space.
I used to love going to PGMA for fajr and isha and any other salah I was able to attend but now I rarely go there except when I’m in the area and need somewhere to pray. I had one of my happiest moments in Islam at PGMA behind the wooden partition in that pink musallah one night after maghrib or isha. After the prayer ended, the imam Moataz al-Hallak began related to the audience the hadith in Arabic of the man who killed 99 and then went to ask an abid and an alim if he could repent. The amazing thing was that I had just begun taking a Quranic Arabic class with Dr. Mamdouh Mohamed and I realized that for the first time I understood the words of the hadith and could make my own rudimentary translation from the Arabic without recourse to the English translation that would soon follow. Amazing, subhan’Allah, I think I cried silently to myself at the happiness and joy of understanding the language of the Quran and hadith.
Asra Nomani, Khalid Latif, Zaib Shaikh, and Mohammed Hameeduddin spoke with Katie Couric to try to explain some of the misconceptions surrounding Islam and Muslims, and towards the end the discussion turned to mosques.
If someone visited your local mosque, what would they see and impression would the women’s area leave them with? Many Muslims are pleased to show visitors the main prayer hall but would be deeply embarrassed to show them the sections designated for women.
Thanks Asra for the “penalty box” shout-out!
I shared Asra’s incredulity when she asked what would happen if she came and stood in a parallel section in the front row and Khalid Latif claimed, “we don’t really have a front row.” Really? I find that hard to believe. I visited two mosques in New York City this past December and both had women’s sections on a completely separate floor with no visuals to the imam on main congregation other than through a television monitor hookup, which was always turned off during the prayer.