Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) in Lanham, Maryland

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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.

10 Comments on “Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) in Lanham, Maryland”

  1. Assalamu_alaikum Sisters,

    The PGMA Imam, board members and community fully agree that the sisters’ spaces should be as nice and accommodating as the brothers’ facilities.

    However the size of our community has grown rapidly, Alhamdulillah, faster than we can expand our facilities, thus the use of classrooms for overflow and Jumah salat in the past.

    To address this issue, the Shura has recently approved the establishing of two Jumah salats, starting February 18th, – one at 12:00noon to 12:30pm and the other from 1:15 to 2:00pm.
    How does this help? It will allow us to keep the pink musallah for the sisters, since we can hopefully accommodate all the brothers in the big musallah, InshaAllah.

    We have also on many occasions invited the sisters to pray the daily salat and participate in discussions, lectures, dhikrs, etc, at the back of the big hall. Some have taken up this invitation and some sisters prefer to stay in the pink musallah. Sisters who practice niqab, and mothers who bring small children prefer to stay in the pink musallah.

    We cannot require sisters to pray in the big hall when space permits, we can only invite them. Many sisters prefer the privacy of their own musallah.

    The TVs are in the musallahs, and yes someone has to turn them on. We have sisters who volunteer at the masjid who often take care of that, but if they are not there, then anyone can turn them on. Brothers prefer not to enter when sisters are there. Our second classroom musallah is in the process of being renovated with a new outside door and once these repairs are made, we will InshaAllah place another tv there.

    Incidentally due to a full time school at PGMA, we are limited in the use of space to accommodate the many congregants who attend the major prayers. Our situation is not perfect, but we are constantly working to improve the conditions for all the attendees of PGMA. And believe me, with an active sisters’ committee as ours, we are readily reminded of our priorities. Our sisters are our mothers, sisters, daughters, and grandmothers…we better do right by them.

    I thank you for your time.

  2. Ify Okoye says:

    Salaam alaykum Board Member,

    Thank you for taking the time to stop by and write such a detailed response. I would submit for your consideration that the classrooms could just as easily be used for the overflow from the men’s section, couldn’t they?

    No one is asking for women who wish to be separated to be forced anywhere. However, I do not appreciate being shunted to the classrooms for the Friday prayer and would not mind praying in the main prayer hall for the daily prayers so insha’Allah, when next I’m in the area I shall take you up on the offer. Having two Friday prayers may also help alleviate some of the crowding, which is a much better solution than forcing the sisters from a space ostensibly designated for them.

    I updated the post with a memory of one of my happiest moments in Islam, which occurred years ago at PGMA. I hope and pray that PGMA will once again become an open and welcoming community where men and women and children can come together and worship in full dignity and inclusion.

    • Haja Sssay says:

      I think when you go to masjid to pray just make yourself humble and pray ask Allah to accept your prayers and don’t be too concern about space because in Islam women are to be behind men so i don’t see any reason why men should be parked in one small room if their number is greater than the number of women and women have larger place than they need.

  3. Assalamu Alaikum,
    Sister Ify,

    I am indeed glad to hear that you’ve had some happy times at PGMA. I hope InshaAllah that you and many more Muslims will have more rewarding moments such as you have experienced in the past.
    We are blessed with a humble, older facility in which we constantly strive to provide a friendly, clean, harmonious environment for families, young and old, to
    be able to practice their deen.
    Due to the large number of attendees especially brothers, the decision was made to split the classroom section in two, keeping brothers in the southern half of the building, and allowing the sisters to use the northern rooms. We did this to prevent co-mingling between the brothers and sisters in the hallways, and to also keep some privacy for the An- Nur students and teachers during the crowded jumahs.

    Hopefully, InshaAllah, with the 2 jumah prayers we can have a more cohesive operation that pleases Allah swt. first and foremost and that accommodates everyone.

    Ps. A forum such as this can help us promote the many programs and classes that we offer to the community, InshaAllah.
    Ma Salaam

  4. […] latest post lamenting the gradual exclusion of women from the Prince George’s Muslim Association’s main prayer hall grabbed the attention of a board member, who took the time to explain how the […]

  5. […] a board member at that mosque who then commented on my photoblog post highlighting the situation: Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanhan, Maryland. Changes are underway, two Friday prayers will begin from March, insha’Allah and women will […]

  6. […] Recently, after publishing pictures and my own reflections of the experience at a local mosque, a board member at that mosque responded in the comments excusing the substandard accommodation and promising reforms and improvements in the near future. A […]

  7. […] when I prayed fajr at the Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanham, Maryland, I was the only woman in the pink musalla, the men were in a separate musalla, and I heard a loud […]

  8. […] when I prayed fajr at the Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) in Lanham, Maryland, I was the only woman in the pink musalla, the men were in a separate musalla, and I heard a loud […]

  9. […] PGMA, men and women pray in separate rooms but for this event women were allowed into the main hall both for prayer and to listen to the panel […]

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