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Islamic Studies

Save the Sisters!

By AbdelRahman Murphy

I get some interesting looks when I suggest that the physical barrier that was recently put up between brothers and sisters for Jum`ah at my school be taken down. They probably think it is odd that a bearded, refreshingly conservative, practicing Muslim brother would dare suggest that there be nothing but chairs separating the brothers and sisters during the khutbah and salah. But I have good reasons.

It began last year, when the older generation of our MSA was completely phased out when the last few students who participated in the “glory years” finished their degrees and graduated. Then, a new group of brothers and sisters took the reins and inherited the responsibility of leading one of the largest Muslim student organizations in the State, if not the country.

For the most part, the new Shura (Council) kept with tradition in most practices of the previous MSA. The prior Council’s success with establishing such a large Muslim body on campus was proof that they were doing things right. So, it was a no-brainer to stick with what they did. There were a few things, however, that changed. One of them was the issue of setting up a barrier for our Friday prayer to physically separate the men from the women. This barrier, I was told, was to protect the khateeb from seeing the women while he was speaking, so he can focus and control his gaze. This was a more intense measure than what the previous MSA Council did; they usually lined up a row of chairs to designate and distinguish the men’s section from the women’s.

“Modesty,” you say, “is an important value in Islam, AbdelRahman. Shouldn’t you be a proponent of a tall physical barrier to promote ideals of modesty?”

That’s a great question, reader. I definitely support modesty between men and women in Islam, most definitely. But this situation is a bit different.

Anyone who has taken a speech class – scratch that, anyone who has ever talked to another human being knows that not all aspects of communication are verbal. When we talk, we may or may not make facial gestures, hand motions, and other physical movements to help get our point across. In fact, studies show that 70% of communication is rooted in something called paralanguage: an auxiliary form of communication that includes everything except speech. In this specific example, the aspect of paralanguage that is most important is called kinesics — more commonly referred to as body language. Putting it in simple terms, the motions a speaker makes during his speech directly improves or worsens the delivery of his message.

Do you see where I am going with this?

When I had presented this concern to the brothers who coordinate the Jum`ah khutbahs at my school, one of their responses was a small retort that shocked my ears and saddened my heart. With an uninterested face, he replied, “it’s not even obligatory for them to come anyways.”

In an event as important and essential as the Friday khutbah, we cannot compromise the effectiveness and impact that it can have on any of the attendees, and that includes the sisters. In fact, the sisters may be more important attendees in certain cases than the brothers. The average brother, though he may not realize it, has many more opportunities to interact with Islamic scholars, teachers, and personalities than the average sister does. For most sisters, the Jum`ah khutbah is the only time they can attend a direct discourse from a respected speaker, outside of conventions and special programs that come every so often.

Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best. These same brothers who feel the need to unnecessarily force women behind a blanket are also those who complain most about the onslaught of liberalism and feminism against our sisters. If they would only realize that their unnecessary repression of Muslim women is a direct cause of the future mothers of our Ummah lashing out in rebellion. There is a balance we must achieve, however fine the line may be.

Living in America — and now more than ever — it is essential that we provide as many educational and social opportunities to our sisters as possible, and this includes the Friday khutbah. Do not let our sisters be spiritually handicapped by not allowing them to have the full heart-changing experience of a good khutbah. We need to make sure they have full access to receive the complete message on Fridays, to be able to see what is happening so their hearts are energized for the next week — whether it is at home or at work.

But more importantly, let us be careful not to reinforce the idea that sisters are second-class citizens in Islam; that a room with a garbled sound system and terrible ventilation is sufficient for their educational needs. Even more importantly, let us refrain from strengthening the notion that they should not even come to the masjid — because if we do not have strong, educated, spiritual and active sisters in this Ummah, we are in deep trouble.

May Allah guide us towards what is best, and He knows best.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Do you agree? Disagree? I would especially like to get the sisters’ feedback (both for and against the barrier).

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  • I think you might be getting a bit too riled up over a simple barrier erected to separate men and women at Jummah. And really, a barrier is a more appropriate choice because a row of chairs just seems… cheap.

    Not that repression of women in Islam, liberalism/feminism, rebellion aren’t interesting topics of discussion but slow down there.

  • Surely it would be easier for one person to lower their gaze, i.e., the khateeb, than for an entire group of people to be inconvenienced, i.e., the sisters placed behind the barrier?

    People make speeches in front of mixed crowds all the time, e.g., presentations during class, a meeting at work, even a speech at a convention, yet they do not go crazed with lust, because they realise subconsciously it is not the appropriate time and place. They are usually too nervous (even if they seem outwardly confident) to have such thoughts… and if they stared at any one individual for too long, everyone would think them odd. So they avoid that, and usually never keep their sights on one place too long.

    Is it so hard to take this lesson to the Jumuah khutbah? As long as the space and congregation is large enough not to feel too “cozy” (and in the case of the post, the author states it’s one of the largest MSAs in the country), then I don’t see the need for the barrier, other than to incorporate ideas people think make sense, when they don’t really…

  • Btw, I am a sister… and not a particularly “liberal” one at that. Nor do I argue against separate prayer facilities for men and women, cos I do appreciate the privacy. It’s just sometimes the barrier thing goes a bit too far, and as the author points out, is sometimes more of an expression of an incorrect mentality, as opposed to a symbol of true modesty and virtue.

    That is all… for now. Allah knows best, as always!

  • I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does that a brother wrote this. I think it might be better to get the sisters’ perspective about the barrier as the views of sisters are diverse on the issue, esp in the context of a Masjid.

    That being said, I disagree w/ the barrier in the context of an MSA. The goal of an MSA should be to build a model Muslim community on campus. To have a dynamic Muslim community means two different things in the context of the barrier 1) there MUST be interaction b/w genders to some degree and 2) you are going to have Muslims at varying degrees of practice. If in my MSA we had done such a thing (even w/ chairs), it would have meant alienating those Muslims who were new to practicing Islam, and who later become the backbone of the MSA. Secondly, it would have alienated the sisters, by making them feel even more marginalized than they were. Thirdly, its border-line hypocritical to go to class, have conversations w/ professors & students of the opposite gender & then erect a barrier b/w you and Muslims of the opposite gender. It’s not practical in the real world & Islam is a practical religion.

  • As a sister who has experienced both types of environments, I feel that the best solution is to have a type of type of tv screen where the sisters will be able to see the brother giving the khutbah without the women being seen. To have no real barrier between the men and the women will surely lead to Fitnah. I am a college student myself and know that not only is the problem with the brothers seeing the sisters and becoming distracted but in this day and age of sisters searching for good muslim husbands and only getting to interact with muslims every week at the masjid, lets not let friday khutbahs turn into us checking eachother out.

  • This is an important point to bring up. This ‘simple’ situation can directly relate to Islamic classes, MSA lectures, short talks and so on–any means of Islamic education where women receive guidance from. All of this matters. Lets face it, for the most part–at the big lectures, classes and Islamic events that the community flocks to, the speaker is almost always a man.

    I also think the point that br. Abdelrahman–if not elaborates–but sheds light on many, many issues worth venturing into as concerned Muslims. Namely, the issue of practicing Islam in America. How can we effectively benefit and function as a citizen in the West (not Saudi, Kuwait, Pakistan..etc.) while abiding by and not distorting the tenets of our religion. It is possible with Islam.

    If you think my comment went waaaay off on a unrelated tangent, I disagree. I don’t think it’s so unrelated/irrelevant to the issue as you think :-)

  • Jazakum Allahu khayran for the post brother. I appreciate your concern.

    However as a niqaabi sister, I would prefer to have the barrier up versus only chairs. Even besides the niqaab, I would still want the wall because I don’t have to worry about seeing brothers and getting distracted myself.

    Furthermore, besides the fact of lowering the gaze, having the barrier would decrease mixing AFTER the prayer and would give sisters more time to just chill and take their time.
    Really, there will be a lot of different opinions because this is based on personal preference. I don’t think the sisters who read this will unanimously agree on something. Allah knows best.

  • From outsider’s perspective, Khagan, I can understand your thoughts on the issue. Maybe it seems a bit overboard.

    However, I’m actually from the same area and have attended that MSA’s khutab before, and alhumdulillah have some context as to what’s going on there. So inshaAllah it’ll help to try an understand Br. AbdelRahman’s concerns a bit more and focus on the main points.

    Usually with most issues, we tend to focus on assessing the net result before the analyzing the source by which it came. Here we’ll look at both.

    Side 1 – Against The Mentality

    “It’s not even obligatory for them to come anyways.”

    This mentality is destructive. Here we had a genuine concern for the sisters on campus, a dialogue as to how to address it, and the conclusion is since it’s not wajib for them to attend, we should basically not really pay mind to this issue, and thus, not pay mind to the sisters. Even if that’s not what the brother meant, and we think the best of him and hope it’s not, that’s completely what it is coming off as.

    Firstly, if we wanna talk about looking out for the women, let’s look at the Prophet (SAW) who (1) specifically said to not prevent women from coming to the masjid and (2) appointed certains times during the week to specifically teach only women after being approached by the Sahabiyat about learning their Deen. Part of the Prophetic tradition is to actively look out for our banat and ummahat (daughters and mothers).

    Secondly, if we wanted to live by way of only fulfilling our wajibat (obligations), then we should basically shut down all MSA activities. Holding Jumu’ah at a university isn’t obligatory on us anyways, when there are neighboring masajid that are close enough by. The on-campus brothers should be able to arrange rides with the commuting brothers and drive half an hour everyday, pay oodles for parking and attend Jumu’ah at the local masajid in the area. But it just so happens that we do have Jumu’ah, we do have an MSA, we DO go beyond just fulfilling our obligations!

    And that’s the whole point; living Islam with ihsan (excellence), and not living minimalistic Islam. And based on that, we should never ever use our minimum obligations as a scape for slack in community affairs. The need for spiritual uplifting for sisters in university years was discussed adequately by Br. AbdelRahman.

    So the mentality of give the sisters just what they need minimum needs to go.

    Issue #2 – The Barrier/Pardah

    In our community (and perhaps others) this issue has become quite big, probably bigger than it needs to be. I personally have found myself on the ends of both, and currently, am not entirely sure as to what is the ultimate and final solution. Perhaps it differs between the different subsets of the community, meaning it depends on which masjid/campus/setting you’re in. Even if I think a barrier is better, which in some cases I do, I don’t think it’s absolutely a must without any second thoughts.

    I feel that the main problem here isn’t whether the sisters can see a khateeb’s hand gestures or not. It’s getting rid of the mentality that exists from Issue #1. Perhaps we should look into some questions that the other side should be asking.

    • Did putting up the barrier drastically reduce the amount of Muslim sisters attending Jumu’ah on campus? What is in some of our sisters that makes them so turned off about a barrier?
    • Have there been complaints from them that not being able to see the khateeb made it harder to benefit from the Jumu’ah khutbahs?
    • Can we have our more active sisters try and reel in other sisters in for Jumu’ah, like a dawah project type initiative, regardless of the setup of the Jumu’ah venue?

    So on and so forth.

    I think, AbdelRahman, you should discuss any findings on these to help strengthen your position. Otherwise it’s an argument made against the barrier based on the basis of kinesics and not on the actual documented effects the barrier has had on our sisters themselves. Basically, what NA said, let’s hear it from them firsthand!

    JAK for the article, and I agree: “Save the sisters!”

    Saqib

  • Khagan – It’s hard to imagine it, but to be honest the chairs functioned a lot better. But in regards to your point. If they had put it up just as a separation, as a distinction between sections, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The bigger deal is the attitude that sisters don’t have a place there, the response, “they don’t even have to come to jumuah anyway,” highlights a common attitude found in masjids across America.

    As someone who has a mother, sisters, and a wife, I’d like all of them to attend jumuah, and would hate if someone tried to hinder their experience because they didn’t “have to go anyways.”

    And really, this post is just concern over the direction we’re headed in terms of how we deal with the women in our community. While the barrier may not seem like a huge issue to some, and while it may seem like I’m going over the top defending sisters, I’m worried about how a mindset like the one described above will affect our communities in the long run.

    Good points Saqib.

    To reiterate, I’m not against the idea of a barrier itself, whether it be chairs or a wall. I’m not a sister, so I’m not sure how the sisters feel about having chairs vs. a wall vs. a different room. I’m also not a liberal person who thinks we should all mingle and hang out together after jumuah for the sake of unity. I wholeheartedly push the idea of a modest environment and having separation/separate seating at all public events (classes, conventions, weddings, etc).

    My main concern is the attitude, as Saqib highlighted. If the sisters feel more comfortable in another room, then I fully support that choice! My main point is to take them into consideration when making these decisions, and not neglect their right to be part of the community.

    Maybe I should’ve written that more clearly in the post, sorry about that.

    NA – I totally agree that it’s not fully my place to comment on an issue that deals 99% with sisters. But as I’ve mentioned, as a brother, son, husband, and insha Allah future father, I don’t want the sisters who are directly related to me (or any sister for that matter) to be neglected due to insecurities of a few close-minded brothers.

    Afrah – Another good point, what’s the balance between setting up a healthy environment for both brothers and sisters and not making one group feel unimportant or unwanted? In this particular case, there are two completely separate entrances on either side of the room, one for sisters and one for brothers, so no interaction goes on at all alhamdulilah. But I do agree with your concerns, totally. And I think the TV screen idea is a practical and effective idea. In masaajid it would probably be doable, but not in a makeshift room for Jumuah used by an MSA.

    Jazak Allah khayr for the mature discussion, everyone.

  • Hah, hey man, it happens. I’ve written a few posts here and there where I’ve failed to get my actual point across and in the end it makes it as if I’m saying something else or forgetting to mention something important.

    With that said, let’s hear from more sisters…

  • I think the title of this post overstates the matter at hand. As individuals we are entitled to our personal opinion of how we feel towards something yet we should not assume that our position in itself defines how everyone else should perceive that particular matter.

    Not to undermine the significance of non-verbal communication, I personally feel the barrier does provide sisters some room for privacy. If someone has to take their scarf off or relax for a bit they could do that without worrying about distracting the khateeb or any of the brothers for that matter.

    Having said that I do agree that after weighing the benefits of each option, we should eventually go for the option which seems to yield more benefit for those attending the Jumu’ah prayers but the decision should not come out of one’s personal biases but from a collective decision of what is considered to be beneficial for the community. Wallahu ‘Alamu wal Musta’an.

  • The issue of barriers, yay or nay, is an interesting, neverending debate. Good topic to bring up on a blog in a general, anonymous kinda way, but I’m not so sure about publically nailing one’s MSA on Imam Suhaib’s blog on this issue. Not saying it’s bad, more like, not sure, feels like murky waters are being tread, and from my own days of MSA experience, this would simply add more fuel to the fire, wallaahu a’lam.

    My general rule, if the people who are affected aren’t complaining too much, better to just let it go, otherwise the resulting drama and gossiping that ensues just makes the environment and the relationships among people worse.

    I gave a talk recently at the Loyola MSA’s shura training meeting, and the whole controversy of wiping over socks (I can’t pray behind you if you wiped over your socks) came up, and I told them, look, I wipe over my socks too, but if it’s a big deal to someone and it’s causing fitnah, it’s not that difficult to take off your socks and wash your feet, just do it and save the ill feelings.

    If sisters are complaining, that’s a whole ‘nother story, and it should be worked out, and I think the sisters should be at the forefront of that.

    Siraaj

  • Jazkallahu khairan,

    I hope everyone here is aware that in the time of the Prophet there was NO barrier. This is actually the Sunnah. So of course when reading the many texts which clearly prove this point, I asked my teachers why all masjids have barriers?

    The strictist approach is that this barrier reflects something that was introduced in the time of the Prophet (saws) which is no gender mixing and that if their technology and building abilities were more sophisticated then without a doubt the Prophet wold have had some barrier made. The other opinion is that the truth is that it is a result of almost a unanimous ijtihad based upon the reality that there arose some physical fights and fitnah in and out of the masjid because of some men (supposedly) staring at other women’s wives in the masjid.

    Based on the more realistic second opinion I would say that the reality is according to local culture. If not having a barrier is more beneficial and there arises no fitnah as a result then we should follow the Sunnah of Rasoolillah (saws). This is the opinion of Dr. Ali Sulayman Ali who allows this practice at his masjid in Canton, MI.

    Wallahu a’lam

  • Salaamu alaikum
    Lol you guys are debating the barrier.

    In Durban, South Africa, where I live, we aren’t even allowed entry into 99percent of the Masaajid.

    And if we are, it usually isn’t the Masjid per se, but a tiny, damp room, where it’s difficult to even hear the Imaam, let alone see him!

    The organisation I run is always faced with the issue you are discussing: to erect the barrier or not; and I’m not talking within the context of Salaah (hopefully we’ll get there some day); I’m referring to seminars, conferences etc, which we host.

    From a legal point of view, I have found Sh. Salman Al Awdah’s piece on this the most convincing.

    From a personal point of view, I prefer no barrier…the barrier for me definitely has the effect of making me feel ‘excluded,’ lowering my attention span, making me less conscious about my adab in terms of seeking knowledge, and making the speaker seem less accessible to me.

    However I must add: my brother and I travelled to another province with another brother and sister team once for an Islamic conference, in which there was no barrier; the brothers occupied one side of the room, the sisters, the other. Whenever we were together, the brother would keep asking me to enquire about specific sisters he had seen, whom he had found attractive, and it got me wondering if the absence of a barrier provided a distraction for the brothers. Obviously Salaah is a different scenario entirely.

    was salaam

  • AsalamuAlaikum,

    JazakAllahuKhairan for this post!

    While I completely identify with most of the points, I recognize that sisters will differ about the barrier issue based on personal preferences and it’s okay =)

    What I think is important is that anyone who wants to attend should be able to and should also be able to maximally benefit from the gathering and a visual connection with the speaker is really a huge part of that. Especially since we’re not just showing up for the “brownie points” but to inshaAllah learn, grow, and hopefully benefit from attending. While a physical separation does provide privacy for the sisters, it may also cause some sisters to become completely uninhibited and talk during the khutbah, distracting the other sisters who are trying to pay attention, and sadly this happens alot.

    Ive also come across the complacent “they(we) dont even have to go attitude” from many sisters, so I definitely feel this post brought up alot of issues that really need to be talked about in our respective communities.

  • “While a physical separation does provide privacy for the sisters, it may also cause some sisters to become completely uninhibited and talk during the khutbah, distracting the other sisters who are trying to pay attention, and sadly this happens alot.”

    Muslima: My husband (AbdelRahman) and I were speaking about EXACTLY what you said just a little while ago.

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Whether one agrees with the barrier or not, I would like to thank all of you for posting with responsibility and respect for each other. One of the goals of the site is to provide folks a stage where they can talk, feel comfortable expressing themselves and interact.

    This issue is one that is based on different legal interpretations and applications of certain texts. Therefore, it is important for us to realize that we should not get to over worked over this issue, but discuss it in a way that is better. The problem with these issues is when they become the benchmark by which the community is judged and held accountable. So instead of becoming a means of plurality and maturity, they become rulers by which every community member is measured. What needs to be pondered is, is it allowable to turn such issues, where the differences are acceptable, into means of strife and hardship in our community? Is it allowed to practice intolerance with other valid fiqhi opinions [wiping over the socks] to the extent that the followers of those opinions feel intimidated, unwelcome and forced to alter their normal practice?

    Siraaj: while I agree with the warmth of your intentions, I think you should teach these sockist folks by saying, “Would you guys pray behind Imam Ahmed?” It was, and is with conditions, the opinion of his school. [note sockist was used as a joke only and not to hurt or harm anyone :)]

    SDW

  • Asalaamu alaikum,
    I have hated being in a stuffy closed room, with radio waves being picked up and broadcast with the imam’s khutbah, or no sound, or too much sound.
    The best solution, if possible (depends on the building), is to offer both public space and private space. There was a masjid somewhere near Boston that had a rope barrier between the men and women and then off the sides of the central hall were extra rooms that one could sit in with more privacy.
    We NEED jummah, as mentioned, we don’t often get much else in the way of opportunity to connect and revive our spirit. I do like to be able to see who is speaking and if it is a discussion , be able to interact.

    A “side room” would be great for anyone who might need to breastfeed, or take off their niqab for awhile, or do some contemplation without distraction. Men might also benefit from a quiet zone of their own.

    At the very least welcome the sisters to the back of the hall for any type of educational lecture or Q&A.

  • Sister Fatima, do you have any link to what Shayk Salman’s commentary on this issue is?

    While a physical separation does provide privacy for the sisters, it may also cause some sisters to become completely uninhibited and talk during the khutbah, distracting the other sisters who are trying to pay attention, and sadly this happens alot.

    Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do remember that my sisters are always mentioning how it’s difficult to hear the khutbah due to the loudness of the sisters. At my local masjid, the front of the woman’s side can see the Imam (they are above the brothers), but the back is completely isolated.

    It seems to me that there is a possible connection in being out of sight (out of mind, for some), and losing focus and even beginning conversations during the khutbah.

    AbdelRahman

  • Assalam alaikum. Thank you for your post on this interesting and controversial subject. It is good to know that brothers are thinking about this topic, because sometimes I feel that it is something dismissed as a trivial issue. A few of my thoughts are below…

    I grew up in a community in America often seen as “liberal” – we have a barrier in our prayer room, but it is a partial barrier, one that can be seen over. And rather than splitting the prayer room so that all the men pray at the front and all the women pray at the back, it splits the room so that men pray on one side of the room, and women pray on the other (so that in effect, rows of women and men would be standing side by side, if not for the partial barrier).

    I have visited several mosques in America and across the world, and I have always been turned off by those that relegate women to a demeaning status or worse, provide no place for women at all. I don’t blame women who prefer not to come to the mosque when what they are offered is a tiny room in the basement, the floor covered with empty rice burlap bags, and a small TV screen, precariously mounted on the wall, flickering on and off (note: this is an extreme example, but it was an American mosque). And I must commend the few women who do show up when they are clearly being discouraged to come at all.

    Like the original poster, I find the attitude of some brothers that the sisters don’t have to be there, destructive, and even counterintuitive. One of the greatest advantages of being a Muslim woman in America, I have always believed, is the opportunity to take part in the community that grows up around a mosque. Unlike my grandmothers, aunts, and cousins in India, for example, I have the chance to visit a mosque regularly, daily even, if I so choose, and learn from the imam there. My understanding in Islam is increased when I am able to meet with other Muslims in a halal environment and have discussions with them about our faith. I have found, through conversations with my relatives overseas, that the way we understand Islam can be very different. Whereas I am prone to asking after the reason behind things or exploring more about what Islam teaches, they are often concerned only that Islam teaches something and they must do it. I do not mean to suggest that one approach is better than another, but surely women should be given the option to choose which is right for them. I would also think that most brothers would want their Muslim sisters to have a chance to learn from the imam and other scholars, as they will ultimately have a large role in raising future Muslim children. And I think that this would be especially imperative in an MSA environment, when many are in the process of becoming and taking on responsibilities as adults, and considering their futures, with marriage and children included.

    I graduated from college only a few years ago, and I am currently in graduate school. My MSA in college, mashaAllah, was very active, and it also wrestled with issues of gender interaction, though not in the context of a barrier since we did not have a mosque space to call our own. The Juma’ah prayers and prayers at MSA events did not have a barrier, the rows of women simply prayed rows of men, with a gap in between. The MSA at my graduate school does the same. The local mosque here, which mostly students attend, has divided the mosque between the brothers and the sisters. Each has a separate entrance. Since I’m not a brother, I’ve never seen the brothers’ side, but at least the sisters’ side is adequately and comfortably furnished, the TV is mounted safely (this was a concern of mine – the last thing I need is to be doing sajdah and I have the TV fall on my head!), and the picture and sound comes in clearly. It’s not my first choice of a setup, considering my upbringing in a “liberal” community, but it is a setup that both welcomes and encourages female students to attend the prayers and sermons, and provides a safe haven for sisters who want a more conservative environment.

    I think such a balance can be struck in both MSAs and mosques, if both brothers and sisters carefully think about this issue. Ultimately, though, I feel that it is important that sisters feel welcome to pray and take part in the activities that an MSA or a mosque offers. It really is for the betterment of the entire community.

  • Assalamu Alaykum

    Subhanllah, a very recurring issue in MSAs, but not an issue worth splitting the community over.

    I believe this was mentioned before, but a lot of times in masajids and communities, the very issue of the barrier has become the difference between staying with the community and splitting. For some reason, people make this issue such a big deal, when really, there are more important issues plaguing the grand Muslim community.

    One thing we need to realize is that there is nothing wrong with putting chairs or a sheet in general (note that I say ‘in general’). This becomes a problem when it conflicts with the Muslim community on campus.

    What do I mean by this?

    Some Muslima may look at this huge white sheet as really, really, strict. Just the very sight of this huge barrier may make them feel as though Islam is a strict religion, the women are not wanted, so on and so forth. It may remind them of those days with Maulana saab and his stick. As a result, they may not want to come to MSA anymore because they may think that MSA is strict may not believe that MSA cares about the Muslima.

    If this is the case, if these are the vibes the big, white sheet is giving off, then this is a problem. A white sheet is nice. I personally wouldn’t mind a big white sheet. However, if it causes Muslima (and not just any Muslima. Muslima who are struggling with their deen) to leave this gathering where Allah (SWT) forgives all of your minor sins, if it causes a muslima to miss out on a salah that they may forget to pray later on, a salah that can get you so many rewards on the Day of Judgment, and a khutba that may remind them about the Day of Judgment and save them from the hell fire, then I don’t think it is worth putting up sheet for all of this, when you can just as easily put chairs.

    You have to look at the priorities of people. especially when you are in a leadership position. The shuura must look at the dynamics of their community and deal with it in accordance to the level of their Islam. In other words, the leadership has to take steps so that the Muslim community can truly become closer to Allah (SWT). If people feel unwelcome by seeing a white barrier, that’s not good. MSAs should propagate a sense of welcome, not a sense of you are not welcome.

    Those are my thoughts. Please forgive me if I have offended you. If I have said anything wrong, I ask Allah (SWT) to forgive me.

  • To build Imam Suhaib’s point about plurality and maturity, I think one thing I appreciate about the religious diversity within the American community is that in many cities, you can attend mosques embodying different practices of conservatism. The fact that Muslims could potentially free-flow attend mosque to mosque, without necessarily agreeing with the practices is something special.

    That pluralism and inshallah a tolerated pluralism is what makes the American Muslim experience special. America is a place where various strains of Islam and its practices come together in a way you don’t find in Muslim majority countries. Over there, its blanket homogeneity–which is a lot easier to learn than our more complex, sophisticated heterogeneity. I say we continue to learn, debate, and build, but recognize we can value and maintain our multi-textured mosque experiences.

  • I for once, am completely against the idea of having a separate room with tv for sisters (no i am not a feminist nor am i a liberal Muslim- Alhamdulillah)

    I have been to Halaqas with that setting and i can assure that i came out having learning almost nothing- Why? Because the sisters were busy chit chatting, the kids were crying, the cell phones were ringing…It was more of a social event as oppose to a learning opportunity. I have stopped going to Halaqas with that setting as i believe they are waste of time for me..Why would i take 2-3 hours out of my busy schedule to go to a Halaqa where all i will learn is how to baby sit?????????

    Sisters have a tendency to talk too much and boy do they talk! Even in Al-Maghrib classes, if the room set-up is brothers in front and sisters in back, it becomes extremely difficult to focus..why? Because sisters think they have a license to keep talking, whispering, passing notes, sending SMS’s, giggling during the class…(why do they pay so much money just to come to class for chatting? Do these ‘students of knowledge’ know the etiquettes of being a student of knowledge? One of the primary is not to talk when the teacher is talking, its simple as that however such simple rule is just not so simple for MANY MANY MANY sisters)…However if the room is set up (side to side) then i always sit in first 2-3 rows as the front rows tend to be less noisy..Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen that most of classes in our Qabeelah were set up side to side..

    I can care less about how the room is set up and where the barrier is as long as i am provided with an environment where i can see the teacher, where there is absolutely no noise, no disturbance during the class hour! An environment where i can absorb all the material without having to worry about anything else that is going on!! My question is, is that do-able in a TV-room? or with a wall-like barrier?

  • I agree with what’s been said about the barrier being almost like a mental barrier to the khutbah. I’ve actually dosed off during a khutbah when I couldn’t see the khateeb (on more than one occasion, unfortunately!) When you can’t see the speaker, and you can only hear his voice, it starts to turn into background fuzz getting in the way of figuring out if that person in front of you is your friend, or just someone with the same hijab.

  • Salam,

    I never thought of this issue in such a way before. It’s good that the “it’s-not -obligatory-for-them-anyways” mentality was brought as it certainly leads to problems of all sorts especially when it is applied to other areas. This negative mentality that leads to all sorts of inconveniences for the sisters. AbdelRahman, I definitely share your concern about this. I wouldn’t want our mothers and sisters being left isolated from certain activities that they may want to partake in just because some close-minded brother out there doesn’t feel the need to make an effort for them because he feels that it’s not obligatory for them.

    That said, the barrier issue is a very complicated one. It’s not so black-and-white as some other people have painted it as. The arguments on both sides are quite compelling. On one side, it may make sense to have a barrier to provide for a certain level of privacy and to provide for some sort of a “safety shield,” so as to protect the brothers and sisters from gazing at each other.

    At the same time though, it also makes sense to remove the barrier as it will provide for better communication between the khateeb and the sisters and it will do away with the problems of sisters feeling isolated.

    Every MSA out there is different. Some MSA’s have problems with too much intermingling between the genders while some MSA’s are better off in that regard. It’s kind of hard to decide what would be a better choice. Perhaps, each MSA’s should be examined on an individual basis? Or maybe not? I’m kind of confused. Perhaps, Shaykh Suhaib Webb can shed some scholarly light on this issue.

    Anyways though, thanks for bringing this topic up as it allows us to address certain problems that affect our community.

    Masalaama

    PS – The one-way mirror idea sounds pretty neat.

  • Guys its not necessarily about the barrier, its about the MENTALITY behind it.

    Sadly sometimes I see this mentality among the more ‘conservative’ brothers as well, who go to extremes to avoid any contact with sisters.

  • Salaam Alikom,

    First, Ramadan Mubarak, May Allah guide us and accept from us this month of blessings, Ameen

    Second, ABSOLUTELY, WITH NO DOUBT! You are correct, not only does it take a chunk out of our esteam, but it has its own mental blockade to the actual message that the khutbah is, sisters start talking, getting distracted, distracing others, ect…. Ur 100% in the right move on that. I wish the women in the ummah could know that there is still hope in going for jummah. InshaAllah may Allah make it easy for you and may your message be heard louder then this moasjid you attened. Ameen

    Jazakullah khairun, Masalam,

    هبهب

  • On a side note I think masjids like Islamic Foundation (Villa Park) in Chicago have a sweet set up, Sisters get a bird’s eye view on a giant second floor balcony. at MCMC in central jersey, sisters have a dark tinted window from the back (I dont think its dark when looking from the back tho)

  • Assalamu Alaykum,

    Again, thanks for the awesome discussion. I feel like we’re really identifying issues that need to be discussed, and having Imam Suhaib as an outlet to a nationwide (worldwide, even) audience is alhamdulilah a big blessing. Everyone make du’aa for him and his family, their protection, and that he continue to help Muslims insha Allah.

  • I think it’s imperative to have a direct interaction with the khateeb and how can do that if you can’t even see him? With all due respect, I know that the purpose of the separation is to guard chastity but I think we’re all grown ups and intelligent enough to understand that we’re participating in a religious congregation and it would behoove all to leave the perversity of the human mind outside.
    Comprehensive interaction is an extremely important part of learning. It’s not enough to just read books and commit to memory what’s being read and if this is the case, then you might as well just stay home.
    I say keep the barrier between the brothers and the sisters, because it is a religious gathering and not your secular lecture class, and do away with the barrier between the sisters and the khateeb.

  • Also, I must agree with the author of the article that many times the barrier is an incorrect expression of a mentality. It is without doubt that we mix tradition/culture with Islam and forget that what’s traditional or cultural is not necessarily promoted by Islam. I know I’m deviating from the point here, but there are women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other areas that are suppressed vehemently. They’re not allowed to go to school or choose a career or walk down the street without a mahram. Islam doesn’t deny a woman her basic rights or treat her like a second class citizen. It is tradition and culture that are the real oppressors. So the pressure builds and builds and builds until it defies all laws of scientific reasoning and bursts, and then you have a rebellion!!
    My argument is that if you don’t educate the women of your society, you will not produce good civilians. If you don’t have good civilians, how will you produce good leaders to lead you?? These are things to think about.
    Unfortunately, the men that practice these suppressions are too arrogant to cogitate on these issues and ultimately, their pride is the cause of their demise.

  • Siraaj: while I agree with the warmth of your intentions, I think you should teach these sockist folks by saying, “Would you guys pray behind Imam Ahmed?” It was, and is with conditions, the opinion of his school. [note sockist was used as a joke only and not to hurt or harm anyone :)]

    Y’know, I know it, and you know it, and you even brought it up during the Ramadan program you did at UIC, but the funny thing about people who take that opinion, their muqallid to their teachers and Siraaj (or anyone else on that MSA) is just a layperson. We don’t have the authority to influence them.

    Nor, for that matter, does anyone else outside of their madhab. Believe me, some of the teachers have passed fatwas against learning from AlMaghrib because of either isnaad issues or classroom set up issues (can’t learn from an academic classroom, must learn at the feet of some teacher in a broken masjid / classroom that even the amish would consider rustic). Most of these kids have sworn bay’ah and sworn off thinking as well, so engaging at that level, more than anything else, is counterproductive when you consider:

    1. The chances I have of convincing them
    2. The potential ensuing disruption of any semblance of unity and
    3. The greater issues ahead of us

    My hope is that if I can lay down the groundwork for cooperation and respect now, then that can serve as a foundation for greater work to be accomplished in concert when the time is needed, rather than having to overcome bitter feelings from minor ikhtilaaf.

    Siraaj

  • ‘Salaam `alaikum

    I must say this article made my jaw drop – literally. Barak Allahu fik for writting this article. Its touching to know someone with the mindset you have for standing up for the sisters. It is difficult in some areas for sisters to even be heard – and this is something hard to come by. To have a sister be at the forefront of this issue when a brother (probably the one who stated that sisters arent even obligated to come) will most likely shut out a sisters complaints. This isnt just an issue of the barrier, its an issue on all scopes relating to sisters. Im not saying to sympathize with the sisters and “oh poor us” but its touching to read an article like this written by a brother who deeply cares for his sisters in Islam. It restores my faith in the Ummah that we can still function as a society that cares for each other Alhamdulilah.

    Just the other day I was at an event lead by Sh Suhaib Webb, and we had to ask the masjid board if we would be able to come downstairs. Half of them were against it, and half of them were for it. Alhamdulilah sisters moved downstairs (and there are other issue’s why sisters probably shouldn’t be downstairs along side the brothers, their sitting posture, some of them started to doze off.. ) But when I went upstairs, it was hard hearing, you couldn’t hear all the comments being made by the audience, and you miss out on what the jama’a is talking about while being isolated in a room with a camera. The T.V doesn’t capture everything (Even if half the sisters were pressed up against the glass window to see what was going on below) I’m sorry to say. So even that has conflicting views, I must say being upstairs was much more comfortable Alhamdulilah. Yet this is a minor issue compared to the overall support for sisters.

  • Is it not the case that the women at in the Prophets mosque could see the Prophet and he could see them and that they prayed with no barrier, but possibly with simply a gap?

    People from the ahadith you can tell that there was no barrier in place to seperate the men and the women.

    I do see barriers in western mosques, mainly due to space and allowing seperate entrances – so maybe the barrier came about due to architectural reasons more so than just theological. In the east, the mosques are large and open, allowing women to have a simple barrier if none at all.

    If you go to some of the major mosques, they don’t have a ‘women’s section’ but rather a space for women, without barriers.

    People may think this barrier is a non-issue and should not be dealt with, but in reality it is something from the sunnah (in the mosque at least) and is a sign to the women folk, that they need to engage and to be engaged with. We should not prevent the women from coming to the mosques – so provisions must be made – and this is set by Islam, so do not deny them.

    That is my opinion, correct me if I am wrong.

  • Asalaamu alaykum,
    I am a sister, in my opinion it is situations like the one you have spoken about above which give people like irshad manji a bigger voice.
    What I would be interested to know is, if a woman speaker came, would the brothers particularly the one who said “its not obligatory for them to come anyways,” be prepaired to go and sit behind the barrior?

    I thought talking with women from behind a physical screen only applied to the wives of the prophet piece and blessing of allah be upon him and his family and companions.

    I am aware that some places have a movable barrior which goes down the centre of the room instead of across, so the speaker can still see both sides.

    The fact that so many people are saying that without one they have experienced people trying to find spouses, for me just highlights a different problem that needs to be look at within islam. That being people want to marry, find their own spouses but don’t know how, and feel they have no opportunity to do so due to no mixing being allowed.

    I grew up not knowing about islam and was never really a Christian, but I have been to church for a number of things mainly weddings and such, I have always noticed the difference in the lack of family in Islamic talks. What I mean is if I am sitting in a totally different room and need something from my husband or my kids wanted him what could I do? Nothing, in church I could, or have some one just tap him on his shoulder for what ever urgent reason it might be. I am blind so would need my husband to find me afterward, If there was a parcial barrior he could just search for me, but when it is a full barrior or a totally different room, sisters do tend to do things like uncover or what ever and you get the sense that no brother for what ever reason is ever allowed to enter that place.

    I can’t remember who I heard say it now, but I heard a shaykh say something along the lines of why is it women are totally avoided in mosques and lectures etc, but outside you might see a girl from your university brothers, and just be like oh how are you what have you been up too etc, without giving it a second thought.

  • Assalaamu alaykum,

    How about following the example of our Prophet (pbuh), instead of coming up our own “better version of islamic morals” ?

  • I agree with you 100%. You use common sense and common decency and respect toward women to reach the conclusion that in fact, a barrier is unnecessary.

  • Salam

    This is my first comment on this site. Mashallah, I am really impressed by this site. The depth of knowledge, and the nice way people disagree with each other really stands out. May Allah bless all the contributors, Ameen.

    A few years ago I was in a mosque in South Florida (can’t remember where exactly). The Imam was an Arab, and 100% Salafi (don’t get me very wrong, very nice brother). He absoultely wanted to accept no way other than the sunnah. well, a sister in the mosque starts putting up a curtain, and he starts screaming “We will only have this sunnah in this mosque!” The point is, IMHO it’s more important to try to stick to the real undisputed sunnah, rather than simply assuming that the most conservative route is the sunnah.

    Then there was this other mosque in Mass., where the Amir was a subcontinental Tableeghi brother (another very nice brother) – and Tableeghis also try and go strictly by the sunnah. In this mosque, the ladies section was downstairs and totally isolated from the main hall. Well in one Juma khutba, he starts talking about how women shouldn’t come to the mosque at all. I had a long discussion about him with that. His proof was the hadith where Ayesha(RA) said that if the Prophet(SAW) had known about how things turned out, he (SAW) would not have permitted women to come to the mosque.

    And another Imam I talked with said that living in the USA, it is almost fard for women to come to Juma as it may be the only chance they get to pick up Islamic knowledge.

    BTW my personal take (with a wife and 3 daugthers) is that women should be encouraged to come to the mosque as much as they can, if only to feel a true Islamic atmosphere which rarely exists outside the mosque.

  • Asalamualaikum wrt wb,

    Some thoughts come to mind:

    1.) Sisters should be encouraged to learn and gain beneficial knowledge. Some brothers attend a masjid several times a day, and sisters usually don’t have this luxury.

    2.) The Prophet (pbuh) taught, the best of lines for the brothers is the first, and the best for women is the last. That is, modesty is from the Sunnah.

    3.) The Prophet (pbuh) used to let the women leave first, then the men.

    4.) Even if a woman is not praying, she can benefit from the Khutbah.

    5.) If brothers and sisters are wearing proper hijab and clothes, and discipline is observed, fitna is reduced.

    Allahu ‘alam.

  • Assalaamu alaikum,

    JazakAllaahu khair for bringing this up AbdelRahman.

    In all honesty, I never thought about this issue.(in regards to MSA Jumuah barriers) Obviously there is a problem in many of the masaajid where the sisters are thrown into the closet literally and we send the kids back in there as well. That issue has to be resolved. Shaykh Yaser Birjas believes that this the responsibility of the Imam to take initiative and make efforts to engage the sisters.

    With regards to Jumuah on MSA campus and the physical barrier, erecting a barrier is simply a Band-Aid over a bigger issue. In my MSA, which was known famously (or infamously depending on your perspective) to be one of the most strictly conservative MSAs in the country we never had a barrier for Jumuah or for meetings. However you would rarely see unnecessary intermingling between the genders either. If there is an atmosphere of haya’ then there is no need for a barrier. If there is a problem with lack of haya’ a barrier will only cause rebellion. The focus should be on building haya’, which is an element of building sound, upright character. Hence, I don’t agree with having a barrier.

    As for the khateeb, I can say from personal experience that you cannot see the sisters even if they are in the room because they are in the back. I mean it’s not physically possible to not lower your gaze unless the room is very small. Usually we would get about 50-60 people for Jumuah and about 15-20 sisters. They would line up against the back wall and the room was big enough where this was not even an issue.

    MR, I’m not sure I agree with your statement because every khateeb has their own struggles and flaws especially in MSA where alot of the khateebs are the students(assuming they at least can give khutbah according to the basic fiqh requirements). However, if you mean that the khateeb is ogling the sisters in the khutbah itself, yeah that cannot be tolerated.

    Finally AbdelRahman, just be careful when suggesting ‘change’ when it might split the MSA into barrier vs. non-barrier factions. I believe someone mentioned that it is not an issue worth splitting the MSA over. I know you have the unity of the Muslims at the front of your mind and you would always consider that but these small things can sometimes snowball. I assume such suggestions may have come from the sisters themselves and when that occurs, it should be resolved within the MSA board. I am also in agreement with Siraaj about posting this on a blog because it could have negative repurcussions in the MSA. However, the point itself is definitely valid. And Allaah Knows Best.

  • Assalamu alaikum,

    Interesting Post!

    Since some mentioned that they feel the need to see the Khateeb, the following question came to mind:

    Does the command for lowering the gaze apply to the sisters in this situation or not?

    I don’t really know the answer to this question and I think a scholarly response would definitely help.

    Also, regarding the issue of the barrier I believe that it truly does depend on the situation. I’ve attended small classes and halaqas where many of the sisters actually requested the barrier themselves since they wore the niqaab and wanted some additional privacy. And I’ve been to classes like Al-Maghrib and Zaytuna Minara programs where they didn’t have a tangible barrier, but Alhamdulillah, the level of modesty was not compromised. In this situation, with the MSA, I think it is better to go without the barrier especially since it wasn’t used before.

    My advice to all of you is to respect both opinions since there is some legitimacy to both claims. The people who advocate the barrier often cite the example of how the Prophet’s wives would teach from behind the veil and how people were still able to receive Islamic knowledge and transmit hadith through this medium. Whether or not this example was specific to the Prophet’s wives is an issue of debate amongst the scholars, and hence the difference of opinion.

  • assalumu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    I was able to read most of the responses but not all of them, so I apologize if I repeat some points that have already been mentioned.

    I feel the need to comment on this post seeing as I go to the school that’s being discussed.

    First, I’d like to comment on some thing that has been said. A few people stated that this so-called “barrier” gives the sisters more privacy ie. to take off their hijabs. But that’s the thing, this barrier isn’t a full barrier. It covers less than half of the sister’s side. Not to mention, it’s fairly short. So when the brothers and sisters are standing, they can see each other clearly. The point I’m trying to make is that if they want a “barrier” put up, then it should be a full barrier, not partial because I see no point to the one we currently have.

    To state my opinion, I personally prefer no barrier. I’m the type of person that needs to look at the person when they’re talking because I feel like I pay more attention that way. It’d be safe to assume that most people feel the same way. I mean, if someone were talking to you and you weren’t looking at them, but rather at the floor or whatever, wouldn’t they stop talking and ask you whether or not you were listening? It’s like we automatically think that because a person isn’t looking at us while we’re talking it means that they aren’t listening and their attention is elsewhere.

    wAllahu a3lam. Allah (swt) knows best.

    InshAllah I was able to put my thoughts clearly into words.

    May Allah (swt) have mercy on us and forgive our sins and guide us to the straight path. And may He (swt) accept our fasting and our duas and our prayers. Ameen.

    was salamu alaikum

  • And isn’t it sad that some of the ones who hold the opinion of “that they don’t have to come anyway” so aggressively are women!

  • His proof was the hadith where Ayesha(RA) said that if the Prophet(SAW)
    had known about how things turned out, he (SAW) would not have
    permitted women to come to the mosque.

    This is not a hadith since it is not something that the Prophet (PBUH) himself said, rather it is an observation or an assumption, which should be well taken as it is being given by one of the most knowledgeable women in our history. However, as we all know the Quran was sent down for all times, and places. Allah knew, no doubt, all that was to come. And as it is said in the Quran to follow Allah (Quran) and the rasool (The Sunnah), we must recognize that since it was not done at the time of the Prophet that it is something that we are really arguing for no apparent use. If they had wanted they could have used bricks, or rocks and stones to create a barrier os the argument of materials not being available is invalid. Furthermore, the observation that Aisha (ra) made should be recognized in correcting the behavior not the collective practice. What i believe was intended by her remark was to make the women aware that their behavior was not becoming of the beliveing women and one that the Prophet would not have approved, so that the women should realize and correct their behavior, not to stop them from coming all together. It is like in some places if you go to the mosque in Ramadan for Taraweeh you will find many youn men just lounging around and goofing around, does that mean that the mosque should stop holding Tatrweeh prayers? That would be ridiculous, rather it should deal with these issues in other manners.

  • Furthermore, I may have a comment which my be a little controversial, but one of the things I read was that people were saying that sometimes a man might inquire about one of the women he saw, because he found her attractive or whatever. Let me say this cautiously, so what is wrong with that? What I mean to say is that, obviously people do need to get married, and it is the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) to see the person and to see them properly. What is a better place to see someone than the mosque. i would argue its better than hanging out at the mall and flirting. if a man happens to see a sister, whom he finds appealing at the mosque, and then he inquires about her, i think this is a rather respectable manner. At least he or she knows that the other person is connected to the mosque, and is religious.

    Of course i do not mean that they should let this all interfere with their prayer or ibadat, but i want to also touch upon the othe point of prayer in congrgation and for Jumah. Why is it after all obligatory upn men to attend Jumah prayer and even rest of prayers in congregation. One of the reasons is also so that the muslim brothers will continue to meet each other on a regular basis. it is for a healthy apprpriate social interaction as well. Especially living in the West where most of the time is consumed with others things of a routine which is so busy surrounding, work, school, kids, family, etc. Jumah also gives the opportunity for the Muslims to come together and meet each other and spend time with each other.

    It is not obligatory on women. this does not mean that they don’t need to come. rather it is a mercy upon women that it is not obligatory for them to attend because if they are married they might have small children, or they are menstruating, or they are not feeling well enough. So it has been made easier for them. So they get the extra reward even if they prayed at home, But lets say they arrange their schedule and complete their chores in such a way so that they they could attend the congrgation then they would also get the reward of praying in congrgation, as well as the reward for making the extra effort to do so.

  • “And isn’t it sad that some of the ones who hold the opinion of “that they don’t have to come anyway” so aggressively are women!”

    Indeed, though not as sad as the multitude of men only mosques here in the UK.

    One thought, what about the 4 to 10% of Muslims who are Gay or Lesbian? Ok they aren’t supposed to exist but they do believe me and you’ve all probably prayed alongside them many times in your lives without even realising it…

    At the end of the day we are all human beings and there will always be a barrier missing somewhere for someone and anyway as Muslimah correctly states – “The barrier is not necessary according to the Sunnah so why bother?”

  • Juma should be about about strenghting your iman and if you are making it into a “checking each other out session”, work to change it. During the prophets age, women would go to him and ask him questions in search of knowledge and truth. Us women should concentate more on the khutba then on the men. Its true that this day in age we might be “distracted” by eachother more but why cant we change our mindset and go for the sake of allah. Maybe by just chairs, our modesty will grow.

  • I’m giving khutbah at a local MSA and they take foldable tables and set them up long-wise across the front of the sisters as a “barrier.” As I give khutbah here, I can see the sisters, but at the same time I can’t. Kinda “symbolic.”

    Just gotta remember to look out for them by not looking at them. Not a big deal either way.

  • Salaams,
    Since it is a Friday prayer khutbah, I would suggest a barrier be present but with a tv monitor placed at a height in the sisters area so that all can see the speaker clearly.
    I have been to a few mosques that practice this and so far everyone seems to be satisfied.
    Usually after the prayer/khutbah, sisters and brothers can be seen interacting outside the mosque for whatever reasons (all good & minimal of course ;) ) so there isn’t any weird culture of sister-brother talking & healthy interaction being forbidden at Islamic centres.

    However if it is an Islamic workshop or class lecture, then I would suggest no physical barriers be made because interaction by asking questions is an important part of group learning and of course the sisters are expected to be given equal opportunities as the brothers.

    Jazakallah for bringing up this topic. May Allah reward your good intentions.

  • After reading the comments- I remembered the mosques I visited that had partial barriers (with a tv monitor too lol) and a small space separated by curtains & a mirror inside for when sisters need to take off their hijab or breastfeed. They can still hear the khutbah from there. This is all located on the second story though and when I say partial barrier, it is because some sisters can look below & see the brothers area clearly (bird’s eye view).

    Also, the mosques I wrote about in my last comment had sister areas that are well lit, well ventilated, carpeted and as beautiful as the brothers area (in terms of furnishing & materials provided like tasbih, quran, prayer mats etc). I guess maybe that is why there were no complaints and the sisters seemed satisfied with the arrangement despite there being a barrier.

    I think solutions differ depending on the community you are addressing. it might be good to hand out surveys to the brothers & sisters at MSA with specific questions to see what they want & decide from there.

    However the attitude of
    “they don’t even have to come to jumuah anyway,” definitely needs correcting.

  • I could only take the argument that “it’s not a part of the Sunnah anyway” seriously if I had more knowledge about the adherence to the Sunnah of that individual making the argument.

    Basically, if people who fervently adhered to the Sunnah, all of it, did not worry about a barrier for that reason, then it’s a valid point to me. I have not yet met such a people. All the people I have seen who live by the Sunnah, anywhere in the world, erect barriers between the men and women if they are side by side or in small areas, otherwise the women are situated at some distance behind the men in larger Masjids.

    “What i believe was intended by her remark was to make the women aware that their behavior was not becoming of the beliveing women and one that the Prophet would not have approved, so that the women should realize and correct their behavior, not to stop them from coming all together.”

    Here’s the thing, nobody in the world would admit that any Muslim women today are more religious than the women of the first few generations, the very same women about whom Hazrat Aisha (ra) was speaking. We know we (men and women) are far worse off in our religion than they were.

    Islam is truth and truth isn’t graded on a curve.

    I bet if Hazrat Aisha (ra) could see women today, then she’d probably panic and do what she could to ban them from coming to the Masjid altogether. That would be the logical extrapolation of her position. She was upset enough at people who are light years above us in religious and spiritual station, how would she be towards us? She probably wouldn’t stop there and do something about the men too!

    Heck, I’m not sure the Sahaba would even qualify many of us as Muslims or our buildings as Masjids except that we label them as such. Wasn’t there a hadith to the effect that Masjids towards the endtime would be full of people but little believers?

    We should stop trying to equate ourselves with the righteous generations of Muslims before we’ve mastered the Deen. If I find people who avoid areas of doubt because they’re scared of the consequences (from Allah) and worry about their Deen sincerely, I follow them. If I find people who are busy drawing extravagant parallels between our generation and the first generations, using brilliant reasoning to write thesis papers about stuff all to that effect, I proceed with caution.

    I have found much more of the latter in my lifetime.

  • Assalaamu alaikum,

    Ramadan Kareem.

    Generally, I like the barrier concept as it defines and demarcates a separate space. By having it, it can mean that there is a definite space created for the sisters (not the opposite, that she is not welcome).

    On the issue of not seeing, even in masajid where I have attended jumuahs — unless you are man in front row, I think there are issues with being able to see the khateeb and all his gestures and movements anyway. It’s not like we’re in theatre sitting — I often cannot see the khatib because there are numerous heads and backs in front of me, he may be on the short side, etc.

    We are not used to having/expected to have the khateeb’s gestures visible as it would be in a one on one conversation or as a televised address. That is not the format of most masajid, certainly not historically.

    I think in general our culture is over visual. We need to listen with our hearts more.

    I tend to look down while listening to a khutbah. I don’t know if that’s my own way; but I find it helps me concentrate on what I’m hearing, plus it helps me avoid eye contact with people around me who might find it an invitation to talk.

    An effect of the barrier I don’t like is that the women tend to misbehave more. That is an intra-sister issue that they need to resolve. They need to behave and listen to the khatib whether men are around or not. They need to have self-respect and respect for each other. In separate room masajid and upper balcony masajid, even where sound quality was excellent, my experience has been many women break out into loud conversations during the khutbah, walk around in disorder, lie down, etc.

    Does this change if in same room without barrier? I’m not so sure. I’ve seen a sister taking a cell phone call and talking for a few minutes in the middle of the khutbah in a masjid where she was sitting on a chair in full view of the khatib.

    Another consideration is the type of barrier. Is it a low lattice structure, high fence, curtain, separate room? Are any masajid using one-way mirrors or similar material? I think the way the barrier is designed can have an impact.

  • In response to K.G. I am always surprised by those ho make these arguments, when it comes to women issues. First of all, most Muslims do strive to follow the sunnah in religious matters. Obviously there is a difference. The way all Muslims around the world over generations make wudu, is a sunnah, it was taught to us by the Prophet. The way we make Hajj, the way we break our fast, the way we pray, etc. these are all actions we follow basically based on what the Prophet taught us and showed us. Now the Prophet used his hands to eat, now does that mean we must eat with our hands, if we do, that is very good because we are doing out of love of the Prophet, but if we don’t that is not to count against us. In matters of religous practice is where we must follow the sunnah. Think about it, there is no act of orship which is dones which does not follwo the Sunnah. There might be differences as to the Sunnah, even for minor things such as the placement of our hands while in prayer, but the differences are based on what the Prophet did, now everyone agrees that during the Prophet’s time there was no barrier between the Men and women duing prayer, Prophet Muhammad taught us that the men line up in rows in the front behind them imam, and the women line up in rows behind the men. This is the only aspect of religious act in which there is a need for people to change what the Prophet did.

    Why are we all so obsessed with the “sexy” issues, are so small minded and immature that we can not get past these issues? This is why there is so much rebellion and aversion that sets in on young peoples mind, because we make it so obvious to them, by being so obsessed with these issues. Imagine i we never made this an issue, and we did it simply like the everything else, went to mosques prayed like the Prophet did, there would be so much harmony in the minds of everyone. No feelings of resentment in women, and maturity in the minds of men, and the young would never wonder as to what is it actually they are afraid that even prayer is senationalized.

    And K.G., while no doubt there was something totally unique about the people of the prophetic period, especially the Sahabas, I think that is a very subjective observation for you to make that the women from the earlier years were mor religous. I would say that no one has a right to make that assumption. Because we do not know that, only Allah knows what are in the hearts of the people. And persnally I know many , many women, whom I think are extremely religous, Allah loving and fearing woen. I disagree with you whole heartedly, I may be mistaken and if I am please someone let me know, but there is no proof that although Aisha (ra) made that statement, that she ever actually made any attempts to stop women coming to the mosque. She (ra) was a strict follower of the Prophet’s ways, furthermore, she was a woman herself and she did not stop going to the mosque.

    It’s interesting that you simply say that she would do something about the men, but you don’t say she would stop them from coming to the mosque. When specifically and clearly the Prophet made it clear that not even the husband of a woman can stop her from going to the mosque, then who are we to stop them. Who is anyone to stop them, when the Prophet made this clear. Do you think that if such was the case that we are making the argument of that there is a difference in the behaviors that Allah did not know this. And when Allah was guiding, taching and relaying his message to teh Prophet (saw) that he did no know of this and could not have relayed this message to his Prophet os that he could told us. See we need to understand and be clear, the Prophet’s sunnah of what he did and how in ibadat and guidance he relayed upon is was from the direction and approval of Allah, how can we forget the ultimate point. When initially womn dressed openly, Allah relayed to the Prophet in directing as to how we should appear in public. In the beginning drinking was allowed, and then forbidden, Muslims prayed in direction of Jerusalem, and then changed back to Mecca. See how laws were layed out. Many a times it happened that during a conversation, speech, act that the Prophet was engaged in that it happened that he would receive revelation about that specific act, or words, or situation.

    The argument that has been layed out then could then be applied however one chose. People aste too much water while making wudu, htey splash and make such a mess that often the masjid bthrooms are really a mess, so lets stop washing our arms, and feet three times, lets only do it once. Or lets stop women from going to school altogether, becasue many of them go just for an outing, or lets stp them from getting higher edcation or professional degrees, because they put their marrige off and then many of them can’t get married, or hey like K.G. said many people go to mosques for socializing and it might be a sign of the akhirat, so lets not build anymore mosques, and lets just pray in open air in a park instead.

    It is rather absurd, instead of changing the behavior we are trying to change the rules and ways. A question I have is what about all those women who really do go to the mosque for reflection and peace and prayer, and listening to good speecehs, and in imprving themselves spirtually, what about them and the harm you will have casued them. Becasue in my humble opinion and observation, most women Alhamdulillah do come to the mosque for that.

    Oh, and while we’re at it maybe seeing all the fuss and noise the children cause (especially when there are a lot of them) the Prophet (SAW) may have banned children too from the mosque.

  • Furthermore. let me also clarify, that when I wrote :
    The barrier is not necessary according to the Sunnah so why bother?

    This was a retort in respnse to the one who made the comment to Brother A.R. Murphy that:
    “it’s not even obligatory for them to come anyways.

    Also Brother Murphy tells us that: “they usually lined up a row of chairs to designate and distinguish the men’s section from the women’s.”

    This is fine and makes sense. But Notice that Brother Murphy was told that the barrier was told that ”
    “This barrier, I was told, was to protect the khateeb from seeing the women while he was speaking, so as to help him focus and control his gaze.”
    My respnse to this was “WHAT!!!” So when he looks at the men he does not lose his focus and can control his gaze, so he has a problem simply in making a khutbah to control his gaze and to help him focus??? Now i am sure this was not for any specific khateeb, but rather something that the organizers thought of, but what are these people thinking and on what grounds and with what reasoning. The Prophet Muhammad and the sahabas interacted with women normally. And here these people are suggesting that a khateeb would not be able to focus and control his gaze while making khutbah!!! I’m sorry but I don’t even want to waste my energy and bain cells trying to decpehr, and make an argument gainst this, but does this seem rationale to anyone out there?

  • Abu Majeed on lowering gaze only when desire aroused:

    so if a brother i’m working with lowers his gaze only after we’ve been talking for 10 minutes, I’m on notice he got aroused during the conversation? Yuck.

    by the way, how does that work exactly? how exactly is he checking on his desire meter? Double yuck.

    i’ve posted on this before. it really bothers me. as a muslim woman, i don’t want to have to deal with or have in any way on my mental or physical landscape any man’s arousal or non-arousal or potential arousal other than my husband’s.

    i take the preventive actions – hijab, being business-like, etc. – to divert that kind of staring. yet some men apparently on going to INSIST on that. subhan Allah.

  • I have given a khutbah before at the school that (I believe) ARM is talking about, and I don’t even think that the “khateeb getting distracted” is an issue.

    1. The sisters are far enough (behind at least 4/5 rows of brothers) where you can’t identify any features.
    2. The points I would look at while I was speaking were a) above the sister’s heads, b) the leftmost brother in the last row, c) the rightmost brother in the last row, d) brothers in the front
    3. I was too busy focusing on remembering what I had to say next, then to try to make out what the sisters looked like.

    I don’t think that should be the reason for the barrier going up.

    Now what might be an issue, is when brothers walk in, it’s easy for them to take a glance at the sisters (as well as the sisters). So I think the sisters should have a vote amongst themselves if they want a barrier.

    I myself would not have a problem with a barrier, but these days any conservative opinion is looked as “ultra-conservative”. I’m afraid this might be a step towards the possibility of the MSA splitting up into 2 groups (as has happened in other schools!) if enough people are upset about it.

  • ARM brings up a good point which has been brought up many times and it’s sad that we still have to argue about this. Barriers should have been done with a long time ago.
    However, I don’t believe the sisters need to be ‘saved’. Maybe you didn’t mean it to come off that way…by stating we need to be saved comes off a bit degrading. Sisters/brothers need to work together to have these issues resolved or any other problem(which again, the barrier is a symbol against this kind of attitude).

    This is a whole other issue in itself, but;
    “(no i am not a feminist nor am i a liberal Muslim- Alhamdulillah)” -quoted from …’s comment.
    What’s wrong with being a feminist or liberal? As if it is a sin and you are thanking God you’re not one of them. Everyone should be a feminist. True feminism is just the fight for equality and the promotion of women’s rights and interests. It emerged because of oppression. Movements don’t just come about for nothing. Feminism only exists because it does have an opposing force.

  • I think an important point mentioned earlier is the Da’wa factor and having the masjid or prayer area inviting to the women who are not really practicing, who’s faith might be weaker, who may already preconceived notions of women being treated unfairly. This isn’t a small group, there are many women in the community who feel this way, often the only time they are seen is during the Eid prayer. Maybe if we were more inviting more of them would come. However, this also has to do with the all-important mentality issue mentioned, we have to go out of our ways to welcome and invite and bring our women to the masjids. Subhan Allah, I know some brothers whose wives are out shopping or wasting time during the prayer time because of this very reason.

    Another thing I wanted to comment upon is the mentioning of how the barrier is more convenient for the niqabi sisters. With all my respect to these dear sisters, they are a small minority of our community, we must also look at the benefit of the entire community and not just those who already visit the masjid. We should ask ourselves: where are the other sisters? Especially considering the unfortunate fact of the sisters who don’t understand the adab of the khutba, as the Prophet (pbuh) forbade speech when the imam is on the minbar; the Hanafis went as far as saying even sending praise upon the Prophet (pbuh) is forbidden except in the heart. Maybe they should be taught this.

  • whats wrong with a barrier. I’m sorry to say but a lot of the comments mentioned above are of a defeated nation. Why are we being apologetic and modernist in attitude. Why do we have to always follow what the west does.

  • The concern has nothing to do with being apologetic or doing what the west does. If one reads the article carefully, one will find that it has to do with catering to the needs of a significant part of the our community, sisters – half of our community; many of whom are struggling to hold on to their deen. And this isn’t about whether or not its Fard for them…its that their Islam is hanging on by a thread and Jumu’ah is what is keeping that thread strong.

    If Jumu’ah is the only Islamic connection for many sisters, and the rest of their week is spent partying, clubbing, or doing other things, and THEN you come and tell them that they have to sit behind a screen – they will feel excluded, and rightfully so and stop coming – and this has happened.

    Thus in order to have precaution by putting up the screen, you now would have turned away Muslims from the remembrance of Allah. A greater evil – based on an ignorance of the Sacred Law and an overzealousness with implementing rules and laws with no respect to their effects.

    ws
    AS

  • Thus in order to have precaution by putting up the screen, you now would have turned away Muslims from the remembrance of Allah. A greater evil – based on an ignorance of the Sacred Law and an overzealousness with implementing rules and laws with no respect to their effects.

    Is that a fact or an assumption?

    Siraaj

  • And if one would red the comments carefully and completely they would see that we are not trying to follow the west. Astghfirillah, please read and understnd, in fact we are saying the opposite, and that is that we are urging the need to follow the way of the prophetic period, the suunah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). THERE WAS NO BARRIER IN DURING TH PROPHETIC PERIOD!!!

  • One thing we have to keep in mind, as Muslims, is that guidance comes from Allah (swt), not a passionate speaker with a fiery lecture. Going against the will of Allah (swt) does not bring His guidance.
    Now, what I’m saying should not be misconstrued as the brother’s comment on which this entire article is based has been misconstrued. It is true, that the prophetic period had no physical barrier, but if you read the accounts of the time, the women came for the night prayers when it was dark, and when Rasoolullah (saw) finished prayer, he would sit, facing the qiblah, and wait for the women to leave before he would turn around himself, and this is our Prophet (saw) who was a model for us to learn from, and was cleansed of these illicit desires.
    Also, another insight into the women of the time: when the ayah of hijab came down (yes, there is an ayah of hijab in the Qur’an that applies to all Muslims, not just “fundamentalists”), the Sahabiah turned towards the wall and walked home sideways, so as to cover themselves as much as they could before putting on proper hijabs from home. And those who could not buy more cloth to cover themselves properly, as in their hair, they would rip the extra cloth from their clothing to cover themselves because THAT was the commandment of Rasoolullah (saw), and those were the women of the time, the models for the women of today. So if people don’t feel the pardah is necessary, then they should reform their lives to fit with the people of time when there was no pardah.
    If we go and look at the Prophet (saw)’s masjid itself in Madinah (thus proving it’s not desi culture to have a physical barrier), no one would think of checking the opposite gender or looking at them lustfully, as one would think. Thus, the Saudi government should feel complacent with a mere separation, yet they still put up a physical barrier between the men and the women, and have designated times in which only the women come.
    The masajid are supposed to be fortresses for the believers, a bastion of Din in which people must concentrate on their Salahs, and thus Allah (swt). In this day and age, it has transformed into any ordinary hotspot, or for the lack of a better term, a breeding ground for young Muslim men and women.
    One final thing must be kept in mind, as one of the shuyukh said quite appropriately: The basis of all hikmah is the fear of Allah (swt).

  • Look, as human beings, we all have opinions that we can argue out in discussion such as this. In the end, however, there is only one correct opinion, and that is the will of Allah (swt). In the Qur’an, in Surah Nur, it commands the men AND women to lower their gazes, so the entire idea of having an open space so that the sisters can see the khateeb is invalid. So the view of the professors of these speech classes or these psychology classes who emphasize the need to see the speaker to understand the speaker goes against the view of the Qur’an, and that, I believe is where the conversation ends.
    The important point here is the mindset we must have. If the social climates in these colleges, mainly in the Muslim organizations, are not conducive to a physical barrier, that does not mean the physical barrier itself is wrong. It means there is a problem with the environment and the mindset we have towards it. Maybe the ‘baby-step’ method needs to be adopted to address this issue and work towards the higher goal, but just because a large group of Muslims disagree with the higher goal does not make the goal wrong.
    It’s all a matter of mindset. We can align our opinions with the opinions of Allah (swt) in the Qur’an, or we can be so audacious, and consequentially foolish, to disagree with it. Regardless of our course of action, the opinion of Allah (swt) is always right.

  • The women in this society are so desensitized that it makes no difference whether a man woman sit next to them or they sit next to. If I am sitting in a classroom, a lady who is a pure product of this society, muslima or not, won’t really mind sitting next to me. However, a woman who has been raised as a good muslima won’t sit next to me and will probably sit next to another female. There would be more fitna if she had sat next to me compared to the amount of fitnah if a non-muslima sat next to me. The Muslima isn’t used to that type of immodest interaction. Alhumdulilah, we, the people who attend Jumua and are attempting to attain Allah, have been blessed with this gift of modesty. lets not get our logic interfering with islam. Sure, some may think that in order for the sisters to benefit, it would logically be more productive for their to be no barrier. but, then again, it was the logic of Shaytaan not to bow before Adam (alayhis Salam) when he said “I will not bow since I am made from a superior thing, fire, and he is made from something inferior, mud”. Our logic will most likely be fused with our desires and our absence of knowledge. Going to college makes everyone think they are scholars and really knowledgeable people. However, we aren’t and no matter how much we won’t want to accept, we are subject to Allah’s rule. True logic would say that “hmm, if the Lord of all the worlds ordered the veil, and the prophet(alayhis salam) did not permit the mixing of genders in anyway, it would do me best to follow their orders and methods to attain jannah”. In the end, the point is jannah, and no khutbah will get us that. Only the barakah and rahmah of of Allah can get us jannat as Khalid said. Also, the issue isn’t only about the khateeb looking at the girls, but about the girls looking in the guys section, even accidentally. Even the accidental glance can cause havoc upon havoc. A girl who normally used to lower her gaze, once just saw a man accidentally and she gave up her studies, her family, her young daughter, her husband, and her future chasing that man and chasing hell by being in illicit intimate relations with him. I think there should be a barrier. Actually, they should have salah in seperate rooms. There is more barakah for a woman to pray at home than in the masjid aren’t ordered to go to i’tikaaf unlike the men. Their i’tikaaf is at home. There is hikmah in that because the Hakeem said it. Also, whoever wants it, remember one thing leads to another. no matter how much we reject, the story of how people in the past starting worshipping idols started just by remembering their dead pious. This thing can lead to another in the future. Have some sense and understand that not every guy is a “good” guy. he is almost beastly inside and is really lustful. All that can be released by the glance of one woman. lets not get to ahead of ourselves and make our own fatawa. people love being important and giving their opinions. In reality, it only matters what Allah and His rasul (alayhis salam) have said. I am sure that if the girls really care about islam and getting some knowledge, they wouldn’t be spending so much time wasting it, as for the guys. Listen to a speech or two, and have a coke, i’m sure that’ll help.

    Inna Allah ya’lamu al haq, innahu Al Haq. Inna Allah ya’lamu anna zalika an nissa fitna lil rijaal. wa li man qala ayyi shay ghair zalik, inna hu la ya’lamu ayy shay. Inni a’lam anna zalik la a’lamu ayy shay.

  • Salam,

    @Khalid:

    You are right in saying that it is only correct to follow the will of Allah (swt) and that it is INcorrect to follow those opinions that are opposed to the will of Allah (swt). However, this issue isn’t about following the will of Allah (swt) versus not following the will of Allah (swt). This issue has to do with differences in opinions between LEGITIMATE scholars (all of whom, we’re going to assume follow Allah,swt). Please recognize that there are a multitude of legitimate scholars out there that follow a variety of different yet legitimate opinions. Just because your favorite Mufti/Shakyh/Maulana doesn’t happen to agree with them, doesn’t make them wrong. Also, please stop pointing fingers; No one here is being “audacious” enough to go against the will of Allah (swt). Like I stated before, this is about a DIFFERENCE of opinions between LEGITIMATE scholars. Also, I think that it’s absurd for you to assume that the opinions you favor yourself are Islamic and all opposing opinions (that you don’t favor) are un-Islamic. The “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality is ridiculous and leads to widespread fitnah. Please be tolerant enough to accept opposing opinions and not brand them as being un-Islamic. And please stop imposing your view of Islam upon everyone else.

    @Read me:
    You seem to be a classic example of the mentality that this article is critical of. You think it’s a good idea to stuff the sisters into separate rooms. However, let me ask you, have you talked to any sister? Have you asked them for their opinions to see how they feel? The sisters don’t need a brother like you deciding what’s best for them and what’s not. They are old enough and mature enough to decide for themselves so if decide to do something that’ll affect them, ASK THEM ABOUT IT and DON’T DECIDE ON YOUR OWN WHAT YOU THINK IS BEST FOR THEM!!

    Also, you seem to talk about the dangers of not having a barrier. According to you it’ll lead to fitnah and everything will go wrong. However, have you considered the opposing view? Have you thought about all the negative issues that HAVING A BARRIER could possible lead to? Please sit down and think about it. There are already issues with sisters being left alienated and not feeling welcome inside Masajid. There are issues with them not having the same opportunity to gain knowledge as the brothers do. Like some of the people above said, the Ju’maa khutbah is one of the few opportunities that sisters have to learn something Islamic. If we hamper their experience, then where will they go? Will we send them back to the kitchen to prepare a meal of biryani? Will we stuff them in a hot stuffy room where they can barely hear the khateeb? Please don’t forget that we are talking about the mothers of our Ummah here.

  • Ok, please don’t take our words out of context I am not at all a proponent of putting women in a hot, sticky room and away from knowledge. We can put them in a room with ac. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, don’t misconstrue our words. Women are deserving of education and some may argue that it is more important. An African proverb goes something like “educate a man, educate a person. educate a woman, educate a community”. There is a necessity to educate women, especially this society where a Muslim doesn’t know whether he follows Isa or Jesus (alayhis salam). Anyways, the point is the that is necissary. however, we should never go against the Shariah or prophetic way to accomplish that. Islamically, as stated in hadith, the curse of Allah is upon the looker and looked upon. It is vital for both genders to lower their gazes, not just one. Also, if you really care about the sisters, you who care to make sure that the eyes of no pervert falls on the faces or bodies of our sisters. This goes for everyone. The bigger the barrier, the less the ability of lustful men to gaze upon the beauty of our sisters. I hope that no desire builds up and enflames the hearts of anyone for a haraam and illicit relationship. I mean we get to come to the masjid and listen to the Khutbah of such great people, we might as well, at least for one day, obey Allah fully. That is a blessed way and in no way should that status be degraded by such foul ideas of taking down the barrier. Basically, for every person who has a view other that the view of the quran and Ahadith is wrong. He/she should look inside his heart and figure out the logic is of no use and probab;y that logic is tangled with desire and shytaan. Allah knows best and that is why He said the quran, not any random “cool dude”. These rules are here for us to follow. Look, all this argument is going nowhere. we are just being broken apart over some issue. Look, lets let the girls decide. I am sure that they will make the correct decision. If they have enough intellect to come to a University, the should have enough to know right from wrong. The brothers also have a say because they are the ones giving khutbah, unless some of the brothers want the girls to give khutbah. I think that would be an awesome way to empower them and give them the knowledge of spreading the message.

    Anyways, we speak from our whims. Let us get a truthful scholar on the topic. Respected Shaykh Suhaib (DB), what have you to say on this topic. Please, lets not just talk. please decide something so that all this argument can finally end and we can go back to being brothers and sisters.

    JazakAllah hu khairan

  • Assalumu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

    @ Brother Read me:
    You’re doing the same thing again that the brother above pointed out. Please stop assuming that the opinions that you subscribe to are Islamic and that everything else is unIslamic. It is highly disrespectful of you to do so and indicative of the lack of Adab. Also, You stated that you want everyone to back to being brother and sisters. However, let me tell you, everything was fine in this thread until you came and started openly disrespecting everyone else. There was an open discussion going going on where everyone was talking about the issue in a civilized manner. But then you and that other brother came and started accusing people of going against Islam and the Sunnah. And now you suggest that this discussion is going nowhere.

    Also, If you’re going to talk about unity, then look into yourself please. In your own post, you denounced the idea of taking down the barrier as “foul.” Let me ask you, is this respect? How are you going to achieve unity of you consider everyone else’s ideas as being “foul”. Brother, please learn what the word Adab means and please put it into practice.

    Also, you talk about the intellect of the sisters. According to you, they should have the intellect to decide and come to the correct opinion, which in your case means that there should be a barrier. Well, lets just say that they don’t happen to arrive at your opinion. Then in your case, would you say that they don’t have enough intellect, huh? Once again Brother, please have some Adab for those that disagree with you.

    And Allah (SWT) knows best.
    May Allah (SWT) shower his blessings upon us, ameen.
    May Allah (SWT) give us the true understanding of Islam, ameen.
    May Allah (SWT) give guidance to this Ummah, ameen.

  • Truly brother Abdul Latif, you have said correct. I ask pardon form those on the thread for being so “disrespectful” on the thread. Ok, I’ll be respectful. Please take put up the barrier and please utilize proper intellect in deciding whether to put the barrier up.

    C’mon brother. I mean, you incorrectly analyzed what I was saying. I was actually being respectful when said stop arguing. Also, stop disrespecting me. I feel my rights are at stake. Don’t judge me. And, if you want to judge my comment, please do so appropriately. Aren’t you being a little harsh pointing out my harshness? Look, all of this is going nowhere. I can sit here and write a huge rebuttal to your rebuttal but I won’t. Lets stop arguing, seriously. Instead of finding faults in others opinions, lets come to a conclusion on what to do.

    And in no way am I saying that my way is right and all others are wrong. i said the Quran is right and all who oppose it it are wrong. I am more open to sin and error than this economy is open to an even deeper economic drop. I really hope that I didn’t come off as offensive or vindictive. And I really hope I am not giving a bad image of muslims in general

    What do you say brother Abdel Rahman? Lets stop this nonsense and come to a proper judgment. Alhumdulilah we are all adults here, no?

    I ask forgiveness from the brothers and sisters that i offended. Please forgive me.Latif man, I am just playing. You guys are getting too worked up. Lets just get together an eat soem Giordanos or something.

  • Brother Read me….dear muslim brother, I am a little disturbed by your views and comments—let me first say that, I had decided not to particpate in this debate anymore, because really, barrier or no barrier is really a petty issue, there are so many more–much more important issues, but what troubles me is that as long as we have these type of attitudes how can we move beyond and get to the important issues, these are the attitudes which believe have kept us back and contributed to Muslims be held back—

    With all due respect you say that do not take your words out of content, but this is what you said:

    —“Sure, some may think that in order for the sisters to benefit, it would logically be more productive for their to be no barrier. but, then again, it was the logic of Shaytaan not to bow before Adam (alayhis Salam) when he said “I will not bow since I am made from a superior thing, fire, and he is made from something inferior, mud”. Our logic will most likely be fused with our desires and our absence of knowledge.”

    How can you analogizing the logic of a barrier with the that of Iblis/Shaytaan’s–I am very much at a loss of how could you do that?

    —–“true logic would say that “hmm, if the Lord of all the worlds ordered the veil, and the prophet(alayhis salam) did not permit the mixing of genders in anyway, it would do me best to follow their orders and methods to attain jannah”. In the end, the point is jannah, and no khutbah will get us that. Only the barakah and rahmah of of Allah can get us jannat as Khalid said. Also, the issue isn’t only about the khateeb looking at the girls, but about the girls looking in the guys section, even accidentally. Even the accidental glance can cause havoc upon havoc. A girl who normally used to lower her gaze, once just saw a man accidentally and she gave up her studies, her family, her young daughter, her husband, and her future chasing that man and chasing hell by being in illicit intimate relations with him”

    there is so many such thing as this above that you said, which disturbs me…would you then say that we should not allow the women to even go to university, attend classes, to shopping, pretty much any where, because like you said and it is in the quote above, even an accidental glance can cause havoc, so in order to keep that from happening shouldn’t we just keep the women home?

    Secondly , dear Muslim brother with all due respect one simple question……did not the Prophet (saw) say that all women and children must come for Eid prayer and these prayers were held in open air area, during daylight, did not the Prophet (saw) even permit a woman to live in the mosque for some time….
    did not the Prophet Muhammad (saw) prohibit even the husband of woman from forbidding her to go to the mosque, so brother logically, i ask you who are you to tell a woman where she should pray or not, or to say any of these things you have said, which may Allah forgive me, but i find to be very destructive and troubling, and i pray to Allah that such attitudes are not held by any of our leaders or great sheikhs and scholars.

    Recently we have been talking a great deal about getting involved in public service (politics, government) in the US and how imperative it is for Muslims to active, your viewpoint would eliminate women from this completely.

    Having had the honor of hearing Imam Webb recently, I am pretty sure he does not hold such attitudes.

  • At our university in London, women would just pray behind the men without a barrier. However, in certain instances there were so many men that we were praying so close together my head almost touched the foot of the brother in front of me! After this, we had a curtain separating the women’s section from the men’s section, which I personally felt was more appropriate. We could not see the khatib but it was ok because he was always very vocal and passionate in his khutbas, mashAllah. We benefitted greatly with the comfort of being in our sisters’ only environment.

    I think this sort of thing really depends on the circumstance.

  • Asalamo alaykom,

    I totally agree that our sisters need to be not only allowed but also welcomed to attend khutbas , especially at this point of time and in this country where Muslims need the very same fuel of Iman and taqwa that the Sahaba (RAA) acquired for 13 years before the haram and halal came down,

    but i think we if were to put the mentality issue on the side and look at the barrier thing, there is one issue that needs to be addressed, which is the fact that many sisters come to the musallah area dressed not appropriately -at least not from an Islamic perspective -a problem that the Muslim community at the time of the propohet SAAW didn’t face… if there is a way that all the sisters can comply with the Muslim dress code, then there is no need for a barrier -in my opinion- just like the time of the prophet SAAW, but if not, then a problem still persist whose potential solution is a barrier!

  • I know that brother “Readme” is a very knowledgeable brother, so I have utmost respect for him and his thoughts and opinions, but I do have one correction to make:

    aren’t ordered to go to i’tikaaf unlike the men. Their i’tikaaf is at home. There is hikmah in that because the Hakeem said it.

    This is another example of cultural views of women holding them from their rights, in my opinion.

    Shaykh Muhammad AlShareef answered the question “can women make ‘itikaaf?” on the AlMaghrib forums:

    When the Prophet’s wives would request from him to perform i’tikaaf in the masjid, he gave them permission. If it was better or permissible to do i’tikaaf in one’s home, he could have told them that, but he did not. Sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

    http://forums.almaghrib.org/showpost.php?p=163458&postcount=2

    Also, on Shaykh Salman al-Oadah’s website IslamToday, in the fatwa section:

    Question: What is the ruling on i`tikâf for women? Can they observe i`tikâf in their homes, or must they go to the mosque?

    Answered by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî, former professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh

    I`tikâf is Sunnah for both men and women. It is authentically established that the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed i`tikâf in Ramadan and specifically during the last ten days of Ramadan, and some of his wives used to join him in i`tikâf. They continued to perform i`tikâf after he died.

    However, a woman may not perform i`tikâf in her house, since i`tikâf is by definition a devotional retreat in the mosque. She may observe i`tikâf in the mosque if the mosque has an area set aside for women and she knows that she will not be confronted by any dangers, trials, or temptations.

    And Allah knows best.

    http://islamtoday.com/show_detail_section.cfm?q_id=228&main_cat_id=9

    Let’s be careful not to let our cultural traditions debilitate the rights of half of the Ummah.

  • Priorities people, priorities. In fact, someone should write a book about the Fiqh of Priorities. I’m ignorant so I don’t know if one exists.

    Prophet (S) changed people based on priority. We need to make sure we remember that. Before we start talking about why we should put barriers up, please examine the seerah of the Prophet. Examine and analyze how he dealt with people, how he changed society in a manner of 23 years. It is absolutely crucial that every single Muslim has a correct understanding of how the Prophet changed society, why he made the decisions he made.

    Islam is not a male dominated religion, it is deen for all human beings, men and women, to follow.

  • Ok, I still see rebuttals and thoughts but no ideas. C’mon people, think. Think of a way to end this problem. Make your brains bleed. What should we do. I think we should raise some money and build a hot, stuffy room for the sisters in the back. Any others?
    I kid, but seriously, what should we do with the problem? The whole point of this article was to give us some benefit fro the words of Br.Abdel Rahman and give some ideas…

  • Assalumu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

    Brother Read me, I apologize if I came across as harsh but the only reason I may have seemed so was because there were some things that you stated the seemed, for the lack of better word, disturbing. Also, I was responding to your second post. You had a particular attitude to this that was prevalent in your first post and you seemed to repeat it even when another brother had alerted you. Also, I apologize if you felt judged. What I had done was merely point out certain parts of your argument where I felt that the principles of adab had been compromised. Also, I apologize if you felt that “your rights were at stake,” however, this statement made me chuckle more than anything, especially considering that we’re communicating across the internet, and unless someone bans you from posting or something, your rights aren’t exactly “at stake.” But anyways, I apologize brother.

    Also, with regards to rebuttals and thoughts–that was the whole point of this article–to discuss this issue and contribute our thoughts. In the last paragraph of the article, Brother AbdelRahman was asking people to contribute with their thoughts on this issue and that is what they did here. Things may have gotten slightly out hand at times, but for the most part, this has been a civilized discussion, mashAllah.

    With regards to your last question, Br. AbdelRahman has already stated what he wants to do with the “problem.” The whole article was written in support of taking the barriers down at the Jumah prayer for his MSA. Also, he was trying to point out a certain mentality that exists among some brothers in his MSA. It is good that he brought it to attention.

  • Br. AbdelRahman has already stated what he wants to do with the “problem.” The whole article was written in support of taking the barriers down at the Jumah prayer for his MSA.

    Not quite – I was trying to convey the message that we should let the sisters decide, depending on how they feel (outcasted, isolated, just fine with a barrier). But I definitely did want to highlight the detrimental attitude towards sister. JAK for the discussion.

  • Ok I recognize that some people have various ways as to how they reach a ruling on a certain issue, I personally believe that if it is something connected with ibadaah, then we should follow the way Prophet Muhammad (saw) went about in performing and organizing the ibadaat. This is not an issue which is to change…it is not something that has just come up now and did not exist before.

    In any case i agree with Abdelrahman that let the women decide. However to offer an example of my masjid, we have some wooden moveable screens which we put up accross half of the masjid and the second half is left open, so whatever area a sister wants to sit she can do so. I like this very much, and compared to other masjids i have been to, i really love our masjid environment. i have been to many masjid across the United States and it is this masjid that honestly I have felt the best at, I literally and honestly feel so at peace spiritually and internally. i have been to masjids which were huge and big with plenty of space to hold weddings and events, however the room they set aside for the women to pray, is small, and has the monitor which doesn’t work sometimes.

    To me, if a woman or anyone coming to the masjid, is a very positive sign, especially for those living in the United States where one would think so easy to deviate. For them to come to the masjid is a sign that they do want to be close to Allah, that they do believe and that they are looking to come closer to Allah and their Muslim brothers and sisters. The wisdom behind making jamaat (praying congregation) and Juma so important, is that it keeps the people connected, so that they meet each other and care for each other and maintain a social connection and the community is strong which is so very important. The mercy Allah bestowed upon Women for vaious reason for example; having to care for children, pregnancy hardships, etc, in that Allah made it easy for women by not making it obligatory for them to pray in congregation, however if they want to take advantage of the benefits of doing so, it is available to them also.

    i agree with all those who have said;
    1. All women don’t dress appropriately
    2. Women will talk a lot
    3. Some young people will fool around

    However, this means that we need to teach them and show them so that they can correct themselves, instead of taking away the one good thing they are doing, which is coming to the masjid.

    Most women who don’t dress appropriately, mostly are those who don’t wear hijab…many of these women come from cultures for countries which although are Muslim countries, they do not emphasize the coverin of the head. So these women should people kindly taught about the importance and hukm of hijab.
    Young people who fool around should be reprimanded and should instructed by their parents how to behave.
    Parents need to take responsibility of their children, I would argue that if they weren’t allowed to come to the masjid, they would probably be fooling around at the mall, at least while you have them at the masjid you can get them and teach them.
    There are so many issues here that need to be addressed and maybe this article may help us in recognizing and trying to comeup with ways to solve those issus, and maybe we should leave this issue of barrier or no barrier, because honestly and i am sure most of you will agree that grown women who come to the masjid are doing so just to come closer to their Creator, they may be doing some things incorrectly, but just like when a non-Muslim becomes Muslim, and you teach them slowly and gently not expecting them to know everything right away, we should take the opportunity to show them the right way gently.

  • Assalamu Alaykum,

    I see some being are taking this to the heart :)

    The biggest masjid in Columbus if not in Ohio has glass barrier between the sisters and brothers. MashaAllah I really like this idea because it makes me concentrate. At the same time I am not very comfortable praying behind the brothers because they can see me and at times they can stare. There have been times when you can actually see them checking you or the sister next to you out after they finish their prayer. Now in order for us to have khushu’ we need to have separate room where we can’t see one another.

    The fitnah doesn’t only come from the brothers but it also comes from the sisters. I remember this past ramadan during taraweeh when sisters would fight over who sits near the glass. Subha’Allah it’s really scary. Sometimes sisters would actually come 1 hour early so they can get a good spot.

    Now I understand why you (AbdelRahman) would think it’s good idea but at the same time there are more reasons why it would be a very very bad idea. I hope you understand where I am getting at.

    So to make things easier for everyone and less fitna it’s better if the sisters and brother were separated. I understand why the sisters wouldn’t focus if there are barriers. But for me it’s the other way around. I can’t focus if I can see the brother are visible when they’re praying. Now if there are only chairs between the sisters and brothers some will be busy looking at one another or even talking to one another after or before salah.

    That’s just my opinion and also we can agree to disagree people so don’t jump to conclusion please :)

  • Oh yeah lets not talk about the dress code now. Some sisters won’t be dressed Islamic but at the same time they come there so there is even more fitnah and let’s not mention the fact that some wear perfume. All I am trying to say is it’ll be safe if we kept everyone separated.

  • Just a food for thought…at the time of the Prophet Muhammad as we all know there was no barrier…(and women prayed during all times of the day, so let’s not go to the point that it was dark when they would pray, and also there were the munafiqs and those whose iman was weak at that time too,)
    But leave that for a minute…as an anology, women (and men)were told theat they should cover and dress modestly before going out, but they were not stopped from going out, and at the same time both men and women were also told to lower the gaze, now we cant stop people from going out and about their business in school, shopping, work, etc. so how they behave and how they act is the test, now how about in prayer, what was ordered was that men will pray in front of the women, even a husband prays in front of his wife (if I am not mistaken), so that their gaze will not fall on them so as to distract their prayer, now if Allah arranged the way men and women would stand and pray, he could have ordered that their be barrier separation in their prayer, and so therefore anything beyond that is the test for all us individually as to how we behave….I understand that some people follow the concept to stop anything that may lead to haram, but I can’t help but find it hard to believe that one doesn’t stop from going about to the mall, or park or anywhere else, where she may have a much more greater chance that someone may make some inappropriate advance or that she herself or her sister in Islam may act inappropriately, however at the masjid, where your very presence is saying something about where you are in your iman, you want to shut them out.

    Remember the Prophet Muhammad said that whoever changes or adds to the religion that which he has added or changed will be rejected, and that the acts of worship should performed as it was instructed

  • Oh and don’t worry, I am not at all upset, this is all just discussion, I understand that people have difference of opinion and I respect that, so this all just a discussion , and maybe a chance to learn from each other, and for us to learn too.

  • Giving a detailed answer to the question posed, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America , states:

    Both men and women are allowed to pray in the Mosque in the same Jama`ah (congregational prayer). When men and women are together in the Masjid then we should have first men’s lines behind the Imam, then children and then women. This is the way Muslims used to pray behind the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He did not make or ask his Companions to have a curtain or wall between the lines of men and women. (See Al-Sindi’s Commentary on Sunan An-Nasa’i, p. 798)

    According to the Shari`ah, it is not required to have a partition, neither of temporary nor of permanent nature, between men and women in the Masjid.

    It is perfectly Islamic to hold meetings of men and women inside the Masjid, whether for prayers or for any other Islamic purpose, without separating them with a curtain, partition or wall.

    It is, however, very important that Muslim women come to public gatherings wearing proper Islamic dress, for it is Haram (forbidden) for a Muslim woman to attend a public gathering without a full Islamic dress. She must cover her hair and neck with a scarf, which should also go over her bosom. Her dress should be modest and loose enough in order not to reveal the shape of her body.

    It stands to reason that partitions were introduced inside the Masajid later in Islamic history. This was done, perhaps, because some women began coming to Mosques without observing proper Islamic dress, or perhaps, some men wanted to discourage them from coming to Mosques. In the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) there was no curtain or partition in his Masjid, although women used to come to the Masjid almost for every prayer and for many other gatherings. It is, however, reported that they used to come to the Masjid dressed up in long clothes. `A’ishah, the Mother of the Believers (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the believing women used to attend the Dawn prayer with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). They used to come wrapped up in their long garments and then they used to return to their homes after the prayer, no one could recognize them because of the darkness. (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

    Jama`ah means a congregation of people who are praying behind one Imam in continuous lines without any barrier or interruption. As for people who pray behind the Imam, they should either see the Imam or see those who are in front of them. There is no Jama`ah when a person is in one room and his/her Imam in another room, the lines are not continuous and the people behind the Imam are also not visible, otherwise people would not have to come to the Masjid for Jama`ah prayer. They would stay home and pray listening to the loudspeakers from their Masjid or through intercoms. They could nowadays even pray Jama`ah prayer in this way in their own homes listening to the prayer broadcasts coming from Makkah and Madinah on their radios, television sets or through the Internet. But no jurists have ever allowed a Jama`ah prayer in this way.

    The definition of Jama`ah that I gave above is a general one and it is applicable to both men and women. Only in the case of necessity this rule can be relaxed. For example, if the Masjid was too small and people had to pray on different levels or in different rooms to accommodate every person then this would be permissible because of necessity. Muslims should not deliberately and for no reason bifurcate their congregation in their Masajid.

    If there is a concern that the lines of men and women will mix inside the Masajid, then there is no harm in putting a lower barrier, only to demarcate the separate area for women. But women should not be put in a totally separate room in the Masajid unless there is a shortage of space and no other proper arrangement can be done for them.

  • Responding to the question, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, states the following:

    Women used to attend the jama`ah or congregational Prayers and the Friday Prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to urge them to stand in the last rows behind men.

    At the beginning, men and women used to enter through the same door. When this caused overcrowding on entrances and exits, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him, said: “(It would be better) if this door is left for women.” Upon saying so, the men made that door for women, and it became known up until today as “The Women’s Door”.

    Moreover, women, at the time of the Prophet, used to attend the Friday Prayer; they used to perform the Prayer regularly and listen to the khutbah to the extent that one of them could recite Surat Qaf as she heard the Prophet recite it several times in the Friday khutbah. Women also used to attend the `Eid Prayers and participate in that big Islamic festival that included the old and the young, men as well as women, out in the open, all worshipping Allah.

    Umm `Attiyyah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated, “We used to be ordered to come out on the Day of the `Eid and even bring out the virgin girls from their houses and menstruating women so that they might stand behind the men and say takbir along with them and invoke Allah along with them and hope for the blessings of that day and for purification from sins.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

    Moreover, women used to attend religious sermons with men at the Prophet’s house and they used to inquire about religious matters that many women nowadays would find embarrassing to ask about. For instance, `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) praised the women of Al-Ansar for trying to understand their religion without being held back by bashfulness for they used to ask about such matters as major ritual impurity, wet dream, purificatory bath, menstruation, chronic vaginal discharge, etc.

    And when women found that men’s questions were taking most of the Prophet’s time, they plainly requested the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to make a special day for women. So the Prophet dedicated a day for them when he used to give them lessons and sermons. (Narrated by Al-Bukhari)

    Shedding more light on the issue, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America, adds:

    The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explicitly told men not to exclude women from going to the Mosque. It is reported that the wife of `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) used to attend the congregational Prayer in the Mosque at Fajr and `Ishaa’ Prayers. It was said to her, “Why do you leave home, you know that `Umar does not like that and he feels ashamed (that you leave home at that time)?” She said, “So what prevents him from stopping Me?” The person said, “It is the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ‘Do not prevent the she-servants of Allah from Allah’s Mosques.'” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

    It is not obligatory for women to attend the jama`ah or congregational Prayers at the Mosque, because they have other obligations as regards their home and children. However, if they have time and feel safe to attend the Mosque, in proper Islamic dress, then they should not be stopped.

    We should rather make our Mosques in such a way that men and women both have equal chance to pray there observing the rules of Prayers.

    Some people, in voicing objection against women going to the Mosque, rely on what `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said in this regard. She is quoted to have said, sometime after the Prophet’s death: “If the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have seen what the women do now, he would have stopped them from coming to Mosques.”

    But the great scholar of Hadith Ibn Hajar states: “This statement does not say very clearly that `A’ishah gave the Fatwa that women are forbidden to come to Mosques.” (Fath Al-Bari, p. 928).

    It is not known that any Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or a prominent jurist forbade women from attending the prayers in the Mosque. The custom of preventing women from attending the Mosques started later in times. This unfortunately has negative impact on many of our sisters, drawing them backward and making them ignorant of their faith.

    Women in the West go everywhere. They are in the markets, in malls, in restaurants, and in offices. It is ironic that some men allow them to go to all the places of temptation, but they want to stop them from coming to the places where they can pray to their Lord and learn about their faith.

  • assalamu ‘alaykum,

    I have been following this thread for quite some time and just wanted to add a comment myself.

    Personally, I don’t think women should ever, ever, ever, be stopped from gaining knowledge or from going to the masjid. As some of the other brothers and sisters mentioned above, I agree that just the fact that someone wants to come to the masjid nowadays is a huge deal. There have been many great Islamic civilizations and centers of learning in the past. The men were remarkable scholars, but women barely got the chance to study deen. As a result, there was no one to teach the children, and slowly the deen faded away from even those places where now it is just an echo of the past. When women study deen and have a love for it, they pass it on to their children in a way no one else can. Therefore, it is my humble opinion that women should never be stopped or even discouraged from coming to the masjid. Sometimes, we are not discouraged openly. Things like a smelly, stuffy room filled with crying babies can be discouraging.

    Also, at the same time, I believe there should be some sort of a practical barrier. By practical, I mean there could be a wall, but there could be a glass with a view from the women’s side for those who need to see the Imam. Or a television arrangement for those who chose to watch. Some may argue and ask what the big deal is when we see men all the time anyways at the mall, work, etc. But I personally believe that the masjid is a place we should be able to concentrate and not have to struggle to lower our gaze. We have to do that all the times anyways. To me, the masjid is like a safe haven, a sanctuary, where I like to go to revive and strengthen my Iman. I don’t want to have to concentrate on lowering my gaze. Therefore, I think we should have a choice when we go to the masjid as to whether we want to see the men or not.

  • We’re talking about MSAs here. The fact of the matter is this: if the barrier weakens the tarbiyah of the Muslim Sister, it should not be there at all. If it doesn’t AND the sisters don’t mind, then a barrier could be put up.

    Otherwise, chairs suffice to be a “barrier” during Jumah Salah.

  • Jumahs at highschools and colleges should be used as dawah tools to bring in the 95% of Muslims that do not practice, pray 5x/day, etc.

    We have been using jumahs in Ottawa, Canada as well as a few select areas in the Bay Area, CA to bring in Muslims you would never have dreamed of coming to jumah.

    In fact, some of the biggest DRUG DEALERS started coming to jumah and they changed their lives to the point where they started giving khutbas.

    We had sisters coming in in mini skirts eating food…and we let them simply because it’s dawah…and lo and behold these same people are the ones who would leave weeping and making tawbah and eventually deening.

    The jumah is simply a dawah tool to bring Muslims in and address topics that really matter to youth and students. You can’t do that at vast majority of masajid.

    O Youth of Islam…we have lots of dawah to do so let’s get started!

  • …I forgot to add: We never, ever, ever have barriers at our jumahs because we’re trying to do dawah to the 95% of non practicing Muslims including women…these are the same women who hate masjids and have been castigated by their own communities for their dress, etc.

    So we need to reach out to them with mercy…take down the barrier…don’t treat jumah as simply your obligatory prayer but as a dawah tool.

  • Salaam

    I have been keeping up with this post and am quite intrigued with some various responses. There has been some very good points brought up by many people. After sitting in the sidelines i wanted to put input in this discussion.
    Being a leader of an MSA is a VERY big responsibility, because you are running a large number of people’s islamic affairs. I am only stating this obvious fact because when the leader of the MSA makes a decision he should try his best to follow the sharia because if he fails, then not only is he hurting himself but many other people, and is responsible for them in the DOJ. Once you don’t follow the sharia you open the gate to haram and it can lead to a person to destruction. I believe muslimah stated something about a person staying away from haram and stated staying away from malls parks etc. One scholar was talking about this very thing and saying that we need to stay away from sins and the way to stay away from sins is to cut ourselves from the thing that can lead us to sin. For example, you shouldn’t buy a iPod if you know you struggle with listening to music. Your intention might be halal, quran lectures etc., but shaitan can easily push you over the edge and instead of listening to sudais, you might be listening to 50 cent or something like that. You shouldn’t put yourself in a place which can lead to haram. Because this, due to our nafs and shaitan, can push us towards haram. So if your problem is that you look at things you shouldn’t, dont go to the mall or store on a sunday afternoon in the summer. Hopefully we can benefit from this and we can leave whatever haram we are struggling with.
    So as an MSA we should stop the haram at its track before it can damage someone.

    The only way a person will be guided is through number one halal means. Sometimes we think by doing something against the sharia we are doing someone a favor. But it is the opposite. If we think we shouldnt put up a partition because it will turn some ppl away from jummah or any event then we are wrong. We are going to be responsible in the day of judgement for all these ppl that come to MSA events. So we should try to have a place in which we can minimize the interaction between the opposite gender. What happens after the event is beyond our hands but in the event it is all in the hands of the MSA.
    The only way a person is guided is because of Allah (SWT) and Allah (SWT) alone. No passionate speaker can do anything to a person’s spiritual heart unless Allah (swt) guides his servant. (May ALLAH swt guide all of us to the sharia and to the sunna.) There was this one scholar and through his efforts thousands if not millions of people have came closer to allah (swt). This scholar was anything but a fiery speaker. It is narrated that he tried to say a word 10 times once and the 11th time he just gave up. But due to his concern in his heart he was able to help out thousands. Just read the history of the companions and you will find some amazing ppl that affected hundreds because, not of the way the spoke, but the amount of concern and the ibada’. So regardless of one being able to see the speaker or not one will improve because of the khateebs concern and connection with allah swt. There was times when the students of a scholar werent able to hear their teacher let alone see him.

    So I personally think that an MSA should try their best to stop any haram to happen. Women are unfortunately aren’t dressed properly and it is not just women but men. Men sometimes get overlooked but you see so many brothers wearing tight shirts and jeans. Not only are men commanded to lower their gaze but women are too. Once the Prophet (SAWS) was sitting with two of his wives and a blind sahaba knocked on the door. The prophet (SAWS) commanded the two MOTHER OF THE BELIEVERS to do pardah. One responded that he is blind and the prophet (SAWS) asked them if they were blind as well. and they got up and left. So as an MSA where there is so much fitnah, women arent dressing themselves properly, men are doing the same, and so on so forth, it is my opinion that one should put up a pardah to help stop anyone from looking at someone or unfortunately something they shouldnt be looking at. One scholar said that one glance of a non-mahrm is like shaitan taking a poisined arrow and shooting in our hearts. We can get the arrow out but the poison will still be there. One look will last a lifetime.

    I have made many mistakes due to my lack of knowledge and the lack of understanding this deen. So if i said anything wrong please correct me and forgive me if i have offended anyone. and Allah (swt) knows best.

    • So a few modest but “not modest enough” women make the rest of us haram? I wonder what you do on the streets outside the mosque? Walk around with barriers? Do you only think of Allah in the mosque? I am a convert who hates the “separate but unequal” treatment. I like the idea of someone handing out hijabs or covers if needed, because what if, by chance, a future convert walks through the door. Is she to be sequested away like a criminal? I have a huge problem with barriers. What do the men get when they are dressed inappropriately? Nothing it seems. Ok, so lets let a woman hold the kutbah and put her on the womans side and give you men a closed caption tv, or better yet, only audio, AND all the children. What will you learn? For me, may Allah help me learn more of my new religion on my own I guess.

      • Assalaamu alaikum,

        I agree with Karen. I think its funny and really sad that dialogues take place at an MSA. Why, you say? Well, is it not true that all of the brothers and sisters are attending a co-ed university, that they sit in classes mixed with men and women all day, that they walk around daily on the streets mixed with males and females most of whom have little haya, etc. And yet they have the gall to want to wall up the sisters for the sake of haya for what, 45mins…and then see them in the parking lot/ all over campus? Oh, but right, haya only exists INSIDE the masjid…my bad :P

        Does it not seem a little silly to anyone? Am I alone in seeing the irony?

      • Assalamu Alaikum. I’m in total agreement with Karen. I’ve attended khutbas with and without partitions and I feel I get much more out of the experience without a partition. To be able to see the person who is speaking just makes sense in attaining the full experience of the speech and gathering together as an ummah. Men need to be reminded that we are both equally commanded by Allah (swt) to lower our gaze and to be modest. Follow those commands and gathering at the masjid without a partition shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve also read that during the time of the Prophet (peach and blessing be upon him) that there was no partition. And Allah (swt) knows best.

      • I too am a convert BUT I believe the barrier should remain along with accommodations for the sisters. If you really love Allah then you will obey His commandment and you will listen to our Nabi (SAW) when he said “Do not even go NEAR zina” – which means zina of the eyes, the tongue, the heart, the limbs, or the actual act of sex itself! Us women should not even be looking at the speaker because we are also commanded to keep our gaze lowered…so if we shouldn’t be staring at the speaker to begin with then does it really matter if we’re there with a physical barrier? We should be looking at each other and smiling at jokes or crying at emotional khutbahs. Us sisters should look to each other for that experience and support. If you complain that the experience won’t be the same then organize a bayaan or taleem with a woman speaker and feel the experience there. Even on Youtube when I’m listening to a lecturer I’ll minimize the screen, look down and really just listen to the speaker – Islam has such beauty, the Qur’an has such eloquence that you need not to see gestures to understand…After all, did Allah show us gestures so that we may me moved by the Qur’an? I think not – His words moved our heart. There are sooo many alternatives to making the sisters feel welcome and making the experience easier and more enriching more them – frankly I don’t think removing a physical barrier is one of them and Allahu ‘aalim.

        • Also, I’m sorry if anyone found this offensive – regardless of our different opinions we are ALL brothers and sisters in Islam so love between us for the sake of Allah should remain.. may we meet each other in Jannah =)
          As’salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        • Sister I agree with you, I am a Muslim woman who goes to the Masjad and I don’t see why all of these women are fighting so hard for this because as long as your in the Masjad, and your there for Allah why does it matter who you can and can’t see? who cares if I can’t see the speaker, I am not there to look at him, I am there to listen to him and the message he is sending. I think it’s silly that all of this drama is going on amongst Muslims because everyone is missing the BIG picture here! The shaytan is everywhere and it is easy for MEN AND WOMEN to get distracted by the opposite sex, so if there was no separation, and everyone is looking at each other and supposedly “listening” to the lecture, what benefits really came from being there at all? Something to think about!

        • +99999

          Masha’Allah sister. What a beautiful response. May Allah (SWT) elevate you and grant you the highest level of Jannah, ameen.

          Oh, but my comment was that you’re totally right, how can it be justified to stare at someone of the opposite gender when Allah (SWT) clearly states:
          “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that will make for greater purity for them…Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…O you believers! Turn you all together towards Allah that you may attain success.”
          And that’s also the way that the sahaaba (RA) used to learn from Aisha (RA) – from behind a curtain. They used to ask her all kinds of questions, from fatwas to mathematical and algebraic (Islamic inheritance) questions! If there was any better way to learn from and communicate with the opposite gender, the sahaaba (RA) would’ve practiced it, and Allah (SWT) would’ve mentioned it in the Qur’an. Indeed if we look at incidences and anecdotes from the early days of Islam, we’ll find that the curtain was a commonplace practice. Example: A woman was too shy to ask Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) about menstruation and therefore put a red apple across the curtain. Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) cut the apple in half, answering her silent question. (Don’t remember what cutting the apple in half meant – I think it meant you can’t pray while menstruating?) The point, though, is that at this time (during the first three generations – the salaf), women would ask Abu Hanifa (RA) from behind a curtain.

          All of the above said, if there were more female Islamic scholars, then women would be able to learn other things from them, like adab, akhlaaq, everyday living issues, etc., which cannot be easily learned from a man.

        • AA
          Sona I feel that your logic has been misguided and I am sorry. “After all, did Allah show us gestures so that we may be moved by the Qur’an?” He most certainly did, by way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He was the Qur’an walking, as was related to us by Aisha (ra). These barriers and separtations at the Friday prayer were not instituted by our Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) and therefore we should not institute a bid’a like this. I am sorry, I don’t mean to offend.

    • You have every right to your opinion. MSAs have every right to theirs in decided how to run a Jumuah. Personally…I am not for barriers. I once likened it to attending a live concert and then you can’t see the performance or they tell you that you have to be in another room and watch it on TV. Praying together is a very healthy communal activity…as it listening together. And I think it actually helps the imam to be able to see the women, because then he can know how they are reacting to him. He can see if he is offending the women or not. There is a special connection that happens between a public speaker and the audience that I don’t think can be recreated on TV or when a barrier is erected.

      In the end…it’s really on the women to demand there be no barrier if they are truly uncomfortable. It’s a free country and they have every right to hold their own Jumuahs if they want that. I really respect the Muslim women of China who opened ladies only mosques and appointed female imams. Instead of protesting and doing something negative, they did something positive and took responsibility for their Jumuah experience. The women can’t just hope the men will make improvements and suddenly take notice of their grievances. If it’s really an issue, it may be time to break off.

    • Asalam Aleykum,
      Thank you for bringing this issue up. If you go to hajj to pray at the Masjid el Haram, you’d be entering the Masjid with the men, in the same door, and you’d be praying side by side. Whatever you do during hajj – circling the Kaaba, stone throwing, climbing Mina and so on you do it with the men by your side. Now, I’m just wondering if the segregation of the sisters outside of Masjid el Haram is not our own making. Can someone enlighten me please?
      If allah (swt) allowed us to be together in Masjid el Haram, then why is it wrong to pray together elsewhere? BTW, I don’t know anyone who goes to mosque to socialize, if anything we pray and run back to work or home.
      So, sitting together just for the khutba/prayer, especially when the rooms were very small and inconvenient to divide like my MSA, division seems pointless. I think at times attendees were turned off by it(when they’re not able to hear what was said because of nature of the sitting arrangement.)
      Jazakalah kulukheyrun

    • Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,

      I’m a convert, one who converted by coming to Jumu’ah prayer without identifying myself as a non-Muslim. Keep that in mind when we set up our jumu’ah prayers. You don’t always know whose who.

      That said, I would like to point something out, something important, to me at least. Brothers always like to use the sisters’ inappropriate adherence to hijab as a trump card for any and all efforts to put us behind a barrier, in a basement, through an alleyway, or what have you.

      However, even in a Muslim run society, not all women are required to wear hijab. Non-Muslim for example, and also amat. check the works of fiqh; the fuqaha are quite clear on this point. My point is quite simple: a woman’s dress is not a man’s business, nor does her attire have anything to do with him. If hijab were about men, in a Muslim run society, all women would be required to wear it or not. But they are not. Therefore, brothers must learn how to worry about their own modesty, and let their sisters worry about theirs.

      • agreed, jazakAllah for this post. alhamdulillah this says it all.. it’s not that us sisters arent worried about our own modesty, but it feels demeaning having every ‘pious’ brother worry about it for us. And absolutely their intentions are most likely pure and good, but it comes off as overprotective and overbearing. If every brother worried about what him and his fellow brothers saw with their eyes, on the tv screen, through downloads, and while surfing the web, they’d have enough to worry about for the rest of their lives.

        As a sister, i shouldnt obsess over the porn industry and how men are increasingly victim to it more than the fashion industry’s impact on me.

        As a brother, i shouldnt worry about the fashion industry’s destruction of women’s hayat more than the porn industry’s impact on me.

        Women should worry about their modesty, and men theirs. Ill change myself first, then you. SubhanAllah, that’s the Prophetic example as well. Change what you can with your hands first.. but it starts with ourselves.

  • Assalamu Alaykum

    So first of all, I would like to know where in the Shariah it says that there is supposed to be a pardah, because I believe the fact has been established that the Prophet (S) never even used a barrier during salah. Although you mention that hadith of the Prophet at the end, you are going to have to explain “pardah” a little more. Did Rasul (S) mean to his two wives to literally put a barrier up, like in MSAs, or to put a hijab and a nikab? Aren’t those technically a barrier? Please elaborate on what “Pardah” really means and what exactly the wives did.

    Second of all, akhee, all you are talking about is lowering the gaze and being held accountable on the DOJ. You have to understand that being the MSA leader means more than just what happens in Jumaah Salaah: you are responsible for the tarbiyah, the development of the Muslim youth who come to your MSA. Imagine a girl in a mini skirt (lol, don’t really imagine it) coming to Jumaah salah after several years, for the sake of learning something. Let’s say she is really interested in what the khutba will be about, and when she enters, she finds a big barrier in front. What do you think is going to happen? More than likely, she won’t be coming to Jumaah again because she doesn’t feel welcome, she feels restricted. She could have been coming every single week, but because of the barrier, something that is not necessary in MSAs, she stopped coming to Jumaah. What will you say, MSA leader, to Allah (SWT), when he asks you on the DOJ, why you kept the barrier up, despite the fact that the girls are clearly running away from Jumah because of this? Rasul (S) said that if you don’t attend Jumaah salaah for 3 weeks, you are not Muslim. What about all of those girls who left Jumah, all because of a stupid barrier? For every single sister that leaves Jumah salah because of an unnecessary barrier, YOU WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for them.

    Now tell me what is more important, gaze or the akhirah of the sisters? When you talk about gaze, you are only thinking about brothers and about yourself. I say this to myself first and foremost. And I say this because I had this mentality too. However, we have to understand that the first revelation revealed to the Prophet (S), iqra, was not just a commandment to read. Allah (SWT) starts out with Iqra, or Read, and in the second ayah, says Proclaim. What does that tell you? Our job is to not only absorb this message of Islam, detailed in the Qu’ran, but also release it to the public. Our job is solely not looking at girls.

    As far as for brothers who are looking, then as an MSA leader, you need to, after Jumah salah, make sure to do something that will help keep these bros away from that stuff. Have a halaqa, or go out to eat. I’m telling you right now, if you think a barrier is going to stop guys from looking at girls, think again. Guys are still going to look at girls even after the jumah salah. They are still going to be looking at things that they shouldn’t be looking at at night.

    Thirdly, you are saying that it is Allah (SWT)’s will to change people. True. I don’t dispute you in that. But I remember Imam Suhaib Webb saying this in his tafseer of Surah Fatiha. He talked about his teacher at Azhar, who talked about the make up of a Muslim. He said that the Muslim is composed of intellectually superiority, tazkiyah tun nafs, and activism. The proof can be found in the early revelations of the Qur’an. The first revelation called for Rasul (S) and us as an Ummah to gain knowledge (IQRA). The second one, Surah Muzammil, calls Rasul (S) and us “to stand and pray” (Tazkiyah tun Nafs), and the third, in Surah Mudathir, calls for the one to “arise and deliver a warning” (activism). Does this mean do it once and leave the rest to Allah (SWT)? No. It means we need to be active every single day. Proof? Look at the example of Rasul (S). He constantly gave dawaah to his family and people, every single day.

    The point that I am trying to get at is that of course saying something once isn’t going to change a Muslim. You need to constantly be involved with these youth. You are a leader, and what is the job of the leader? To lead. Subhanallah, I give major props to Inspired. To be able to take people who were once drug dealers and turn them into great leaders, into Khateebs, that is what Islam is about. Let me remind everyone including myself that Allah (SWT) could have made us those very same people, selling drugs, doing so much haraam. But Allah (SWT) didn’t. He blessed us. Why? So that we can take these very same people and reject them from society? No. He gave us these resources and knowledge so that we can deliver to society. “Let there rise among you a group of people who enjoin the good and forbid the evil.” Do you not think that the circumstances we live in were no different then that of the Prophet (S)”s? Heck no! In fact, it was worse than today. And yet, Rasul (S) still kept preaching and spending time with his people. He never stopped, no matter what.

    Now let us look at ourselves. Can we honestly call ourselves Muslims, witnesses to the shahada, when we don’t even act like Muslims, act like the Prophet (S), follow Allah (SWT)? Ask yourselves this: if there are Muslims who are leaving Jumah salah, all because of a stupid barrier, how are you going to justify your actions in front of Allah (SWT)?

    Please forgive me if I hurt your feelings. Please forgive me if I offended you guys at all. Wallahi, I love the barrier, and I would like nothing other than the barrier. I understand what you are saying, Wallahi I do. But we have to look at the benefit of the Ummah. We need to put the Ummah before ourselves, that means guys and girls. Otherwise, we will be held accountable for them on the DOJ.

    I ask Allah (SWT) to correct me if I am wrong and to please forgive me for anything I said wrong. Anything good that has come out of this discussion is from Allah (SWT), and anything bad has come from myself or the Shaytan.

    Assalamu Alaykum

    • Walaykum salam akhi,
      Women don’t have to attend jumu’ah. Also, the purdah had existed since the time of the sahaaba and the salaf – this is evident of narrations by Imam Hassan Al-Basri (RA), Imam Abu Hanifa (RA), and others. They learned and taught from female instructors from behind a curtain. Furthermore, lowering the gaze is a commandment of Allah (SWT) to both men and women – not only men.

      With regards to the notion that “outside jummah everything is mixed, so why can’t it be mixed inside of jummah?’ – two wrongs don’t make a right. Under the same logic, people may also start saying, “We sit in classes side-by-side, so why can’t we also just pray side-by-side?” It doesn’t matter how people sit in classrooms at our universities, or how people interact in the public sphere – we have no control over that. However, we do have control over what we do with our own lives.

      However, in order to teach women, we should have more female scholars with their own halaqas and classes. Female students often feel more comfortable with female scholars and can ask them more personal questions without feeling shy. Additionally, female students can interact more personally with female instructors, thereby learning other good qualities such as akhlaaq, mu’amulaat, etc.

      • Salaam alaykum,

        I agree with the above reply [helloworld].

        It is interesting though that ‘purdah’ isn’t even an arabic word… It is used mostly by people of Indo-Pak descent.

      • It’s true, women don’t have to attend jumu’ah. Does that make it right to exlcude women from jumu’ah? From experiencing community with their Muslim sisters, from perhaps learning something from the khateeb? We need to be more concerned with the states of our hearts and how diseases of the heart manifest themselves in our lives. We need to teach people, young and old, what the adab of jumu’ah is, and keep repeating it until everyone adheres to it. It’s easy to say we should have more female scholars, but until that happens, it’s not right to keep women in the dark. Especially when women have the primary role at home to instill Islam into the hearts and minds of their children.

  • Salaam

    I think I may have not stated opinion as clearly as I should have. I am not saying that it is against the sharia to have a pardah or not because some scholars say that it is necessary and some say it is not. Regardless the reason why I believe that we should have one is that this will help stop a person from looking at someone we aren’t suppose to. A barrier will help stop haram from happening. I think everyone can agree to that. Since it can help stop haram, a leader should do his best to look out for the people and stop anyone from doing something thats haram (looking at something we aren’t suppose to).

    You are assuming that a person will not come because there is a barrier. You know what they say about a person who assumes (just joking). But honestly you can’t say that a person will stop coming because of a barrier. Some sisters will not come to jummah because there isn’t a barrier. So it can go either way. The girl in mini skirt might think it’s a good idea for the guys not to check her out or whatever. I mean we never know. I know some relatives that don’t go to the masajids where there is no pardah. So it can go either way.

    Since the barrier can help stop haram we should do our best effort to have one up. I may be wrong but didnt Umar (RA) prevented women to come to the masjid because they weren’t dressed properly and later only came in the dark (fajr and isha). So more or less it was a way to have a pardah.

    So your assuming that a sister will not come because of a pardah. There might be some sisters that will say I’m not going to come because there is a pardah. But there are some other sisters that want a pardah and won’t come because there is not a pardah.

    As for your question in the first paragraph, I am not exactly sure of how they did pardah from him. THis hadith is in Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi. But we can understand that they did not see him.

    • Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah,

      One thing we need to keep in mind is that the wives of the Prophet(S) had requirements that didn’t apply on the rest of the believing women, such as niqab, and some that for the rest were even specifically discouraged. They(R), the beloved mothers of the believers, were specifically forbidden to marry after the Prophet(S)’s death, whereas believing women are encouraged. So it doesn’t matter if they were required to put a barrier or not. The question is whether or not believing women were, and there is every bit of evidence to indicate that they were not.

      I think the following narrative summarizes this issue, and God knows best: Ibn Abbas(R) said: A beautiful woman, from among the most beautiful of women, used to pray behind the Prophet. Some of the people used to go to pray in the first row to ensure they would not be able to see her. Others would pray in the last row of the men, and they would look from underneath their armpits to see her. Because of this act, in regard to her, Allah revealed:

      {To Us are known those of you who hasten forward, and those who lag behind.}

      Obviously, her face was uncovered, but what is also striking is the fact that the focus of the verse was on them, and not her. No one, not the Prophet(S) nor anyone else, tried to discourage her from coming, or tell her that, since she was creating this fitnah, she should just stay home, and her prayer in her home is better. She was neither directed to cover her face, nor was she directed to stay away from the masjid.

      Someone suggested we should see how the votes come out? I re-iterate: non-Muslims may be interested in our deen, and by far, the highest number of converts happens between the ages of 17-25. i.e. predominantly people of college age. These MSA’s need to factor that in. It’s not just about them.

      As for what Umar(R) did or didn’t do, and I love and respect him, for so many reasons that I won’t get into. But that is still Umar(R) and not the Prophet(S) and I do not accept that we will use the actions of the Companions to overturn the actions of our Messenger(S). They continued to struggle with what he(S) sought them to teach them.

      Abdullah b. Umar reported that the Messenger(S) said: Don’t prevent your women from going to the mosque when they seek your permission. Bilal b. ‘Abdullah (his own son) said: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. Ibn Umar(R) turned towards him and reprimanded him harshly as I had never heard him do before. He (‘Abdullah b. Umar) said: I am narrating to you that which comes from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and you (have the audicity) to say: By Allah, we shall certainly prevent them. (Muslim)

      And some riwayahs have him even thumping his chest and others that he(R) wouldn’t speak with him for days after that. Clearly despite the esteemed and beloved nature of our salaf, they still struggled with how to deal with women.

      That folks is just one example.

      • thanks again for a great post. I wonder why we never hear of such vivid examples of disagreement on this issue (hmm… :/ ) these types of hadith rarely get discussed (even despite being authentic.. this one is in Muslim) they need to be brought to the forefront of conversations and such examples need to be considered, not swept under a rug. May Allah (swt) increase us in beneficial knowledge and action. (Ameen)

  • Assalamu alaikum brother Ali,

    You have some valid points, but just wanted to point out a couple things:

    1.) Are you sure sisters in mini-skirts don’t come to jumu’ah *only* because of the barrier? There may be other reasons as well. As I said above, if the sisters’ room is welcoming (meaning not a dirty, stuffy room), sisters will feel encouraged to come.
    2.) As far as I know, the missing-three-jumu’ahs-in-a-row rule is for men only. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, I think you may have misunderstood what brother Talib was trying to say. Brothers and sisters may misdirect their gaze at times besides jumu’ah, but letting it happen during jumu’ah is much worse. Jum’uah is a sacred day and time. The leaders of MSAs should try their best to keep it as halal and pure as possible–not think, “ok, they look at other times anyways, what’s the point of the barrier?”

    Just a couple of thoughts. No disrespect intended.

  • The MSA that [I think] AbdelRahman was referring to has finally arrived at a decision.

    They decided to place the barriers up. They’re using these big, large, cloth partitions that seem pretty high in terms of height. As to whether they consulted the sisters about this decision or not, I don’t know about it. However, I don’t think they ever bothered to do .

  • I’m not a scholar. But didn’t the Prophet pbuh talked to women in his time without any barrier? This is quite clear isn’t it? This closed mind, traditional (not religious), and destructive mentality must be abolished from the Muslim World. We need to understand the real message of Islam.

  • Maybe it’s better to let them erect the barriers, and if there is enough concern over them, then those members of the shura will be voted out in favor of people who are more in tuned with what is wanted.

    On the other hand, if they or others like them remain, then the opposite – this is what is wanted, and it will continue, insha’Allah.

    I’d say, leave it to the MSA board, and voice your disagreement either directly (and politely) through discussion, and through the ballot box of the MSA elections if need be.

    Siraaj

  • @ Br. Siraaj,

    I don’t know if everything will go as you say. It would be nice if it did, but I don’t know if it will. When issues like this show up, most people don’t seem to speak up about it. In fact, at the MSA that AbdelRahman was talking about, as far as I know, the only people to speak up were those in support of the barrier. These brothers that were behind the idea of the barrier have beards and wear thobes/shalwar-kameez and etc. and so, because of their physical appearance, are considered religious by most people that see them. I’m not questioning their religiosity or anything here, but I’m just letting you know that this is how people think. If they see someone the looks (stereotypically) religious, then they assume that they (in actuality) are religious.

    Because these people appear religious, some people will blindly accept whatever comes out of their mouth and sometimes will consider their words to be the words of Allah (swt). It is for this reason that, in my opinions, there were a bunch of people at our MSA that just blindly accepted what they had to say. What I’m trying to say here is that within every MSA, there is always a large group of people that are like the “masses.” They blindly go along with anything the MSA does, and do not question anything because they don’t seem to know any better. Often times, these people get affected by various things that the Shura will do but they will do nothing about it.

    As for changing the Shuras, the fact here is that Shura elections are often popularity contests. Some MSAs obviously have more of a problems with this issue than others but to some exent, most MSA’s are affected by this, one way or another. It is for these reason that those brothers that are thought of as being “religious” get to make it into the Shura.

  • Assalaamualaikum, jazakAllah khair brother for bringing up this important issue.
    I went to a masjid to hear Imam Suhaib Webb this summer and one of the things he applauded the masjid for was not having the sisters hiding in what he called “Guantanamo Bay” I believe. That was the first time I really thought about the issue. It was something I just kinda got used to. And it made me feel really good that people cared about and were thinking about such things. May Allah bless Imam Suhaib & his family. Ameen.
    So I read the post and most of the comments, here are my thoughts:
    -TVs for sisters is honestly really annoying to me. I can just watch a lecture on my computer if that’s the case, you know? Also, when there’s like a whole separate room for sisters like on a separate floor or something. There’s usually a lot of kids there making noise, and people that basically didn’t come to listen to the lecture. It becomes nearly impossible to listen to the lecture.
    -For me the best thing is the sisters being behind the brothers with a barrier that opens up in the middle so that those who want to, can see the shaykh and any blackboard/presentation he may have going on.
    -At our jummah, we don’t have a barrier, but the room is shaped so weirdly that it’s kind of a natural barrier. It works well alhamdulillah
    -I think in a lot of ways, it depends on the community. I’ve been in a very small mosque sitting behind brothers with no divider and felt completely comfortable because the community was like a family. No brother even looked at a sister except to say salaam or pass her a book or paper for the class,etc. I know in some places, I feel a lot more comfortable if there is some sort of a divider, because the brothers walk in, check out the sisters and THEN sit down. lol may Allah save us.
    -TOTALLY agree about the speakers tho. Honestly, the whole ummah needs to fix their speakers lol.
    – I think it’s a good idea to find out what the sisters in your MSA think. Maybe have an online poll? Would be funny if you were fighting to save them but really, they loved the barrier :)

    Thanks again,
    salaam!

    • AA-I want to add to the comment about children making noise etc. during the khutba. Many churches are designed with what they call “cry rooms”. Usually they are glass enclosures that are soundproof to an extent in the back of the back of the church but I have also seen them on the side. The sermon is piped in. The purpose is only to separate noisy children with their parent from disturbing the other congregants. But to relegate all women into these “cry rooms” is repressive. To remove women in total from the sight of the brothers doesn’t allow the brothers to develop their own sense of modesty. If they are so afraid of seeing women then it would serve them better to keep in check and increase their character by not looking with intent. Women who feel they have to hide from the lack of restraint by the brothers are not doing themselves or the brothers any favors. I think if brothers are weak to the point that they fear their own thoughts and behaviors in front Muslim women are not sincere in their own modesty. This, for me, is the real issue to be addressed and not a barrier that relaxes character- aoothu billlah.

  • I don’t know if everything will go as you say. It would be nice if it did, but I don’t know if it will. When issues like this show up, most people don’t seem to speak up about it. In fact, at the MSA that AbdelRahman was talking about, as far as I know, the only people to speak up were those in support of the barrier. These brothers that were behind the idea of the barrier have beards and wear thobes/shalwar-kameez and etc. and so, because of their physical appearance, are considered religious by most people that see them. I’m not questioning their religiosity or anything here, but I’m just letting you know that this is how people think. If they see someone the looks (stereotypically) religious, then they assume that they (in actuality) are religious.

    Because these people appear religious, some people will blindly accept whatever comes out of their mouth and sometimes will consider their words to be the words of Allah (swt). It is for this reason that, in my opinions, there were a bunch of people at our MSA that just blindly accepted what they had to say. What I’m trying to say here is that within every MSA, there is always a large group of people that are like the “masses.” They blindly go along with anything the MSA does, and do not question anything because they don’t seem to know any better. Often times, these people get affected by various things that the Shura will do but they will do nothing about it.

    As for changing the Shuras, the fact here is that Shura elections are often popularity contests. Some MSAs obviously have more of a problems with this issue than others but to some exent, most MSA’s are affected by this, one way or another. It is for these reason that those brothers that are thought of as being “religious” get to make it into the Shura.

    If that’s the case, then I’d say it’s better not to get people up in arms about something no one is really caring too much about. You may not always agree with your shura’s decisions, but let’s get real here, there are MSAs that openly flaunt the worst behavior in the world, and we’re coming down on brothers who took an opinion from scholars they trust.

    They were nominated and elected, and if anyone cared enough about the issue, these brothers would not be so in the next election. I’m a firm believer in actions and not excuses. If people don’t want to critically evaluate what these brothers are doing, and these brothers are not doing something haraam necessarily, then this type of discussion is counterproductive to the overarching goals an MSA needs to achieve in a given year. As I had mentioned before, these side issues will simply pull people away and consume energy (as it is right now) on discussions that don’t serve the Muslim or nonMuslim community at large on campus.

    As I said, if it’s that bad, if people are truly being harmed by it, then they ought to speak up – we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. If we don’t take responsibility for ourselves, then that’s by choice, not force. The very essence that makes us responsible before Allah subhaana wa ta’aala is that we have the free will to make decisions, even in the face of all the conditioning and environmental (over)stimulus we encounter.

    Siraaj

  • Siraaj said “I’m a firm believer in actions and not excuses. If people don’t want to critically evaluate what these brothers are doing, and these brothers are not doing something haraam necessarily, then this type of discussion is counterproductive to the overarching goals an MSA needs to achieve in a given year.”

    JazakaAllah khair for the great advice, bro. I always find your posts full of wisdom and lessons.

    • AA-
      I am sorry but this approach only sidelines the issues yet again. And it continues to marginalize the needs of the sisters. No one should assume that if there is no opposition voice directly in the face of it all that it doesn’t exist. Proper leadership should reflect the whole voice of its representatives. If the MSA feels that it is justified because it doesn’t hear the opposition or alternative approaches then that is just naive behavior and lacks real concern for its constituents. The truth of the matter is that leadership does not just represent those who voted them in but all constituents even those who were so marginalized they didn’t even give their voice to vote. If you feel justified serving only those who voted you in then you are missing the point of your leadership. I will pray for your guidance. InshaAllah.

  • Good comment brother Siraj. JazakaAllah Khair for the advice. May Allah (SWT) Reward you.

    Some claim that a barrier is biddah. Correct me if I am wrong but we should follow the sunna of the prophet and the one after him (companions). Especially the four khalifas after the prophet (SAWS). And didnt Umar (RA) forbid women from coming to the mosque. And when the ladies complained to Ayesha (RA) she said that this action was in the bounds of the sharia and not biddah. So the pardah is more or less like the action of Umar. I may be wrong correct me with hikmah if I am.

    But brother Siraj tore it up nonetheless.

  • These few hadith are not placed for us to comment on or say ‘great post’. These are solely for reflection on what we say. Do not use these hadith for ‘your’ argument for or against what you ‘think’ is right. Rather control your tongues on things you don’t have hikmah or wisdom upon and please don’t be ignorant. Brother Suhaib Webb has established this site not for the purpose of argument but his intention, I believe… and he can correct me if I’m wrong… is to bring only khair and goodness into our BLESSED lives.

    Narrated Anas (Allah be pleased with him): The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Hadiths to you is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.
    (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol 1).

    No judge must give judgement between two people when he is angry.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    The man who is most hateful to God is the one who quarrels and disputes most. (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Do you know the thing which most commonly brings people into paradise? It is fear to God and good character. Do you know what most commonly brings people to hell? It is the hollow things; the mouth and the private parts.
    (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah).

    Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it, and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.
    (Tirmidhi).

    If you guarantee me six things on your part, I shall guarantee you paradise: speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfil your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your eyes and restrain your hand from injustice.
    (Baihaqi).

    Avoid envy, for envy devours good deeds just as fire devours fuel.
    (Abu Dawud).

    “Believers are to one another like a building whose parts support one other.” He then interlaced his fingers.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two if them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honour, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around the sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    What I have forbidden to you, avoid; what I have ordered you [to do], do as much of it as you can. It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their Prophets that destroyed those who were before you.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Allah the Almighty has laid down religious duties, so do not neglect them; He has set boundaries, so do not overstep them; He has prohibited some things, so do not violate them; about some things He was silent out of compassion for you, not forgetfulness, so seek not after them.
    (Daraqutni)

    Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al As (Allah be pleased with him): I heard Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) saying: “Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from (the hearts of) the people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead people astray.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol 1).

    Ibn Masud reported the Messenger of Allah as saying: “A woman is an object of concealment for when she goes out the devil presents her in alluring looks before men.”
    (Tirmidhi).

    A time will come to mankind when man will not care whether what he gets comes from a lawful or an unlawful source.
    (Bukhari).

    Do not ask for any high office, for if you are given it after asking, you will be left to discharge it yourself; if you are given it without asking you will be helped to discharge it.
    (Bukhari, Muslim).

    Woe to him who tells things, speaking falsely, to make people laugh thereby! Woe to him! Woe to him!
    (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Darimi).

    Sufyan bin Abdullah ath Thaqafi told when he asked God’s messenger what he feared most for him, he took hold of his tongue and said, “This.”
    (Tirmidhi).

  • When a man tells something and then departs it is trust. (What he told should be treated confidential).
    (Muslim).

    The things which I said were at the beginning of the post so those are between you ie. the readers and me. However, the hadith themselves are intended for the sake of knowledge and amal or actions/implementations of that knowledge. There they[hadith] are written in truth.

  • I don't know the right answer to this dilemma (if it is one) as I don't think I have sufficient knowledge on this topic. However, I thought I would point out the following flaw in the article….

    Anyone who has taken a speech class – scratch that, anyone who has ever talked to another human being knows that not all aspects of communication are verbal. When we talk, we may or may not make facial gestures, hand motions, and other physical movements to help get our point across. In fact, studies show that 70% of communication is rooted in something called paralanguage, an auxiliary form of communication that includes everything except speech. In this specific example, the aspect of paralanguage that’s most important is called kinesics, more commonly referred to as body language. In layman’s terms, the motions a speaker makes during his speech directly improves or worsens the delivery of his message.

    The Quran commands both genders to lower their gazes. So I think it can be safely implied that we aren't supposed to sit around and analyze the opposite gender's body language in order to accurately understand what he or she is trying to communicate. Have you heard the hadith about the first glace being forgiven…and voluntary subsequent gazes being disallowed? If yes, then how can it be said that paying attention to a speaker's body language is all right and essential?

    And seriously, from a Muslim woman's perspective do you think the haya-ful females of the Muslim Ummah would feel comfortable with the possibility that the movements of their bodies are being analyzed by the Muslims brothers while they are talking? That would be a really creepy situation to be in, to say the least.

    Also, please remember that Allah has effectively communicated to us through the Quran and the Quran in its current 'primary' form is a textual document (there is no audio or video to it). I don't think most of us feel the need to look at Allah or even the Prophet (sa) in order to accurately understand what the Holy book is saying.

    Finally, whenever religious matters are discussed the points that are being argued for should be backed up by evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah as these sources of evidence supersede any sort of para-lingual (or any other kind of human discovered) “evidence”.

    • Salaam Sis,

      With all due respect – the Qur’an says we are not supposed to stare at each others body parts in a sexual way, and guard our gaze i.e. be chaste. It does not say “body language”. Body language are gestures like nodding of the head, motioning of the hand, & expressions of seriousness, sadness, joy. They are not sexual in nature during normal conversation. We use these signals to aide our communication.

      Besides, if a Muslimah is observing Hijab – the brother will not be able to ‘analyze the movement of her body’ !!! Because she is covered and there is nothing to ‘analyze’.

      Also Sis, When you / If you go to the grocer, the butcher, talk to the postman etc you come across men right? Even if you are in Niqab you are using body language. Your posture, rigidity of shoulders, your eyebrow movements, your hand gestures are part of that communication. Body language per se is not ‘haraam’ to interpret… unless it is used for flirtation.

  • Salam,
    Most of Kinesics, body language, is picked up subconsciously. For example, when you walk down a busy road, why do you think that you don't run into the people streaming down the road in the opposite direction? Studies have shown that you actually, subconsciously, drop the shoulder in the direction that you are going and the person across from you picks that up and drops his/her shoulder in the opposite direction and that's why you don't run into each other. You can test this yourself by dropping the shoulder in one direction and then moving in the opposite one. You're almost guaranteed to run in the person walking your way.
    I applaude your Haya, but without me looking at you I can feel your “aura”. Try walking into a room where people are upset and see how that brings you down or vice versa.
    Nomad78

    • Gr8! So if it’s picked up subconsciously, then that means there is no necessity to look at a person when he/she is talking.

      And just for the sake of argument, I don’t think anyone can sense the aura of properly veiled Muslim woman. Her clothing would be too loose to offer any info on that matter! :)–unless you are talking at the nano level.

  • Look man if don’t have Islamic evidence to prove the wall should go down then you need to reconsider the facts that exposure of my family to the men of my community is unacceptable nor do i want to view my brothers family. I do believe that if a woman wants to go to the masjid no one can say anything and i recommended to sisters who’s husbands don’t deliver them knowledge to go and seek it. I don’t have any evidence to support that so I won’t make more then it is.

    Also we at our Masjid have a wall and do not mix male and female. however we have a camera hooked up into the main area with TV for the women to watch what is going on if you want to use that excuse for not having a wall. Also the nabi sallahu ahlihim to my understanding did not stand straight in front of women when he would talk to them in jamma he would turn half way as to not look directly at them if this is right and true then that is where your heart should be if I am wrong i ask you to forgive me and correct me so i don’t repeat this if it is an error

    and Allah the most high knows best

    I am sorry i don’t have the exact detail for my understanding the only thing i have is to listen to Ahmed Ali this strong human and listen to his work this is where i got the info from and i love Ahmed Ali for the sake of Allah and for the knowledge he passed on to inshAllah khair may Allah forgive you and make dua for me inshAllah

    • @ br. Abd, you should know that the rule in fiqh is permissibility. Hence, we don’t have to prove that the barrier should come down. You have to prove that the barrier needs to stay up.

  • […] … When you finish praying at Jumaah, the imam will usually do a dua supplication. …Save The Sisters! AbdelRahman Murphy Suhaib Webb – audio …You have to understand that being the MSA leader means more than just what happens in Jumaah Salaah: […]

  • Why dont you put a barrier of tinted glass ! Or tinted see through plastic so that the sisters can view the imam and not the other way around

  • Assalamu alaikum wa ramatullah wa barakatu!

    I believe that what the post meant was to alert both brothers and sisters about the seclusion of women to an area of the masjid that do not offer enough structure for them to better profit of the khutbah.

    I haven’t found anything that states it’s more desirable to have women separated by a physical divider from the men during prayers; and do believe that if it was meant for that to happen the prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) himself would have done that.

    As a woman I personally feel that in many masjids the designated area for the sisters are often too small, on the second floor of buildings or in a place of difficult access (and many of us bring children, their gear and strollers with us) and that in many occasions we can barely listen to anything being said by the imam.

    Women are your wives, your mothers, the mothers of your children. And all the knowledge we can get about Islam and all the participation we can have in the community will be for the profit of the family life and, ultimately, for the profit of the Ummah.
    Sisters, please think about it all and ponder as well. And if the current set up of your masjid is not appropriate, please speak to those who can help you change the situation for the better.

    If I said anything true, is due to the grace and glory of Allah. If I said anything wrong, it’s from my own faults – and may Allah forgive me.

    • @Brazilian Sister

      I also arrived at the same conclusion. Our muslim women are not educated, they do not know anything about Islam and they are the ones who are raising your children. We do not give them the opportunities to study closely with the scholars, we cant even ask questions during lectures. We have to go as far as throwing our question over the barrier and hopefully someone will give it to the sheikh and maybe if he feels like it he will answer it. You are distancing us from gaining knowledge. There is a different level of inspiration gained when learning from a scholar. Do not cast us aside because of your misinformed information concerning Islam. I challenge you to attempt to understand what it means to be a Muslim women in Islam in the United States. Islam gives us the rights but our very Muslim brothers and sisters take it away out of ignorance. Whether that is intentional or not is not the issue. People need to relearn Islam, not what is told by your parents or friends. Find the facts, question the sources and make sure you get your information from strong sources (i.e Quran and Sunnah). During the prophets time there was no barrier and should a sister have questions she could go to the sahabas and ask it freely. They were allowed by the prophet to take part in lectures. What about know. We feel the best place is for a women to stay home and not go anywhere. These are medieval influences that have set back our progression. In those times it was typical for people to have harems so they would hide their women away. We adopted such practices that women should stay home and only go out for emergencies.

      No disrespect to anyone but I honestly feel that people are not educated about Islam. I remember hearing this lecture of Shk. Yasir Qadhi where he mentioned that one of the sahabas was talking about the generation after them saying how he didnt recognize anything that they did which is Islam except for their salat and even that they were changing. How much do we really know about Islam. Women and me equally need to be educated. Knowing Islam, knowing our religion will allow us to deal justly with eachother and we have to make efforts to learn more about Islam. I dont believe Islam to be as difficult as people make it out to be, but with cultural influences that contradict Islamic teachings, and the ignorant teaching the ignorant, and our women, our mothers and in turn our children are uneducated we continue the destructive cycle that which we see in our current predicaments.

      Allah will not change the condition of people until they change themselves” [Qur’an 13: 11]

      Sit down and really read about your religion. Let us not continue to follow blindly a religion that we say we love but have no idea what it is. We believe putting on a hijab or having a beard guarantees us Jennah or that we are good Muslims. Learn your religion, learn the foundation of it and continue to gain knowledge.

      Forgive me if I said anything wrong. Anything wrong is from myself and anything good is from Allah.

      I challenge everyone , including myself to start a revolution of education, inspiration and knowledge (for the sake of Allah SWT).

      WaAlaikumAsSlam

      • Salams sister, just wanted to let you know that there are narrations of the Prophet (S) drawing a veil between himself and the female sahaaba, and also of the sahaaba learning from Aisha (RA) behind a curtain, etc. There are many narrations of the Prophet (S) and the companions interacting with people of the opposite gender behind a curtain. The reason why some people say “There was no curtain at the time of the Prophet (S)”, etc., is that they read a hadeeth that was narrated in the early period of the revelation. As time went on, the emaan of the sahaaba (RA) increased, and so the laws changed, until Allah (SWT) revealed the verse (translated), “This day I have completed your religion for you…”.

        Now, this is NOT to say that women shouldn’t acquire knowledge, etc. Islamic history is full of examples of great female Islamic scholars. It’s just that the way they taught men was from behind a curtain.

        Allah (SWT) says the truth: “That is purer for your hearts and theirs.” If there were any better way of acquiring knowledge from the opposite gender, it would’ve been mentioned in the Qur’an and used at that time.

        May Allah (SWT) guide us all, ameen.

  • I certainly wish the women’s side of the masjid was more well-taken care of, but I definitely understand the difficulty this presents to the caretakers of the masjid that are often men. :/
    I thoroughly prefer having a curtain/physical barrier. It HELPS you concentrate way more. I can focus on the message the shaykh is giving more than the way he looks or how long his beard is. Plus, I’ve definitely heard girls comparing guys in the masjid, of all places :( because they’re sitting right behind them!

  • I’m a sister. From Pakistan. I have attended both kind of Masajid… one where ladies pray in the ‘women’s section’ which is a small box room (I know not all Sis Sections are like this) and cannot see the Imam. And one where you CAN see the speaker, even ask him questions. Lets just say that when you have access to the main hall and can interact with the Speaker (i.e. ask him Questions and follow up) it is INCOMPARABLE to just hearing a voice. I loved the article and I’m so glad that Brother AbdurRahman wrote this. I think Brothers like this can make it easy for us women to have access to the mosque. Because when WE say this we’re just immodest fitnah-ful
    troublemakers & feminists…

    I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop with a very good scholar mashAllah, and to my PLEASANT surprise, the ladies were right there in the room, with the Imam in front of us! He could address us directly… he could see what our reactions were (whether we were dozing off bored, or nodding in enthusiasm). We could ask him Q’s, stop him when he was reading too fast and make him repeat things we didn’t understand. We could SEE his expressions, and knew when he was just kidding, or serious… or when he was about to make a serious point. When he paused, we knew he was just pausing to read something, and that there wasn’t a problem with the speaker! I felt like I existed, and that my opinions mattered to my fellow brothers.

    Observing the Imam we learn ettiquette and adaab!!! how he speaks, how he behaves, how he interacts. Had we just been hearing a voice – we would only hear the content. Why should I make the effort to just listen to a voice when I can hear the audio at home?

    It was like somebody took a plastic bag off my head and I could breathe! Sorry, I don’t mean to be melodramatic – but thats how I felt because this was the first time I got to interact with a learned scholar. Very first time. I feel blessed mashAllah. If the organizers and the sheikh had believed in screens & closed rooms for the sisters – I would have been deprived of the awesome experience I had.

    PS: The brothers and sisters didn’t even notice each other – we were so engrossed in the Shiekh’s lecture.

    • jazaki Allah khair for this. Indeed, when our scholars, leaders are up to the mark, the rest of us raise our standard of conduct automatically. The point is not to be the judge and jury but to spread ‘rahma’. Your words on how you felt interacting with a scholar, mashaAllah I can so attest to it too. It humbles one and teaches at the same time.

  • salamu ‘alaikum,

    to practice the sunnah, both brothers and sisters need to change…the deal: brothers, take down the barriers AND sisters be handed an abaya/jilbab when entering the prayer hall to wear during the khutbah. both sides comply to the deal. if this is a more liberal MSA with the majority of sisters in their tight jeans and barely a head cover, keep the barrier up to keep intentions pure. many ivy league schools, guys and girls post juma have social chat time…so juma is not held sacred it’s just another hangout…know that having graduated from a name brand school myself…you can see it in the eyes and the flirtatious fun ways of talking

    • with all due respect sister, what constitutes/defined as a hijab, in terms of the type of Islamic apparel deemed to be modest, was/isn’t specified in the Qur’an. In other words, the Jilbab/Ibayah isn’t the only form of hijab out there.

  • You see if the barrier stays, its all good. But If has to be removed then the women have to be veiled properly as in, in an abaya, that will be a barrier (many small barriers instead of one big one) in itself too. For hijab is obligatory upon both males and females.

    Let me reiterate an interesting contention by Shaykh Hakim Murad: “The veil covers the man’s eyes, not the woman’s.”

  • I have not read the comments. Just wanted to say that it’s pretty pathetic if a khateeb cannot concentrate or speak because of the presence of Muslim women, seated, wearing hijab. What happens to him at university or at work? Does his brain shut down? What about when he’s driving, or at the store? Can’t think there either?

    We cannot shut out 50% of our human resource as an Ummah and expect to reach our full potential.

  • I know this is probably a non-issue, but many seem to be complaining about the lack of good space for women in many Masjids. I agree with this. However, many of the newer purpose built Masjids have found many different ways to solve the issue. One masjid simply has a half barrier so that the sisters can still see, and are even in the same prayer hall, but since there is a barrier – which is about halfway in the room- they are guaranteed a place to pray that is equal to the brothers. I agree with the point that an Imam giving a khutba being distracted by women with hijab on is a big ironic, considering hijab is supposed to remove the distractions for the most part anyways. Also, I have seen masjids with second floors that are balconies, or have huge glass windows, so that they can see the khateeb etc. Also, this frees up more space when men and women are in seperate halls- I don’t think masjids always seperate them because they want to ‘hide’ the women or whatever, but it is true that they rarely seem to give the sisters adequate room for prayer.

  • Assalamu Alaikum,

    Although its been a couple yrs since this issue was first brought up, after reading through all the responses I feel the need to reply.

    I was the shurah sister responsible for getting feedback from the sisters at the msa br.AbdelRahman was discussing. I tried making a comprehensive survey asking sisters questions regarding a physical ‘purdah’ or curtain during Friday prayer. I will tell you honestly that responses varied from question to question. Truly not all sisters feel the same way about this issue, in fact there’s a wide range of beliefs and opinions on what the BEST Friday prayer set up is, and why.

    However, in response to the key question (do you want a curtain to be put up between the brothers and sisters during friday prayer) more sisters responded ‘yes’ than ‘no’. Not an overwhelming majority of them, but more. It was on that basis that our shurah decided to put a curtain back up.

    Now there were some drawbacks of the survey. First, there was a ‘neutral/don’t care either way’ option which I shouldve eliminated (in retrospect). Some girls had opinions (i know from speaking with them personally), but when given the chance to remain neutal on the topic, they did so for whatever reason, although the survey was anonymous.

    A more imp. concern was the surveys limited pool of respondants. I passed the survey during jummah for a couple of weeks (to ensure that any sister who was already a part of the friday congregation had a say), and around campus. I would say we got most of the sisters who were associated with the MSA, through going to the places where many muslim sisters hang out, or through friends and friends of friends.

    However, this meant that the survey did NOT reflect the opinions of those many muslim sisters who do NOT come to friday prayers at all (or who happened not to come those few wks), or who don’t associate themselves with the muslim students / the MSA in particular.

    But is that okay? Is it okay for our leaders/boards to base their actions (which will affect the larger community) on the preferences of ‘active’ members (usually not representative of the broader community). If we are talking about a united Ummah, then I guess not… we didn’t really reach out to Muslim sisters on campus who werent involved with the MSA, and their opinions (i believe) would have helped us see where we lacked.

    One outlook has been represented very well by ‘Inspired’ (who replied to this blog sometime in ’08). That was the outlook held by me and a few other members. Based on that outlook, our survey pool was not adequate, because it was not as comprehensive as it should have been. It may have been that the curtain was one of the reasons why certain sisters never came to the prayer in the first place. Since they never came, they werent part of the survey and could not give their two cents on the matter.

    Another outlook was that people who generally come to the khutbah might feel uncomfortable w.out a curtain, and that it would discourage some sisters from coming. There were one or two sisters, during the interim period when there was no curtain, who prayed on there own. So yes, the opposite effect is also possible. But does that reflect the majority of us? Not really. Anyway, students with this outlook also did not see the khutbah as a dawah event. They thought that it needed to cater primarily to the existing active population, that we should be catering to the opinions of those who are already at friday prayer, not asking ppl who dont come anyway.

    This leads to my main point. There are far bigger issues that were discussed by our shurah because of the curtain dilemma. In order to decide on the best friday sermon ‘setup’, every MSA (and masjid leadership for that matter) must first agree on the PURPOSE and GOAL of the friday khutbah.

    The question ‘what best exemplifies the Sunnah?’ (half the room w/curtain, half not; a full, large, solid curtain; a separate room; a line of chairs; some empty space) can be better answered if we first agree on the reasons we hold Jummah prayer. If we can agree that one purpose of the Friday prayer is to bring us together to attain some knowledge, stay in touch with the deen, and build a sense of community, and that fulfilling this purpose is an ESSENTIAL need for both guys AND girls, then we can try to talk to those brothers and sisters who say things like ‘its not mandatory for sisters to go anyway’. If we can agree that the foremost goal of Friday prayer is calling EVERY Muslim to the Faith (dawah) then we can continue the discussion about whether or not a curtain or separate rooms accomplishes that goal.

    BUT many people see the Friday khutbah in simpler terms, maybe just an obligation that has to be met. Before quoting hadiths based on one part of the Prophet (saw)’s life or another, we first gotta see if we’re all even looking at the topic in the same light. If the Sunnah is going to lead to a greater, stronger, more intelligent, more God fearing, and more supportive community of muslims and muslimahs, we have to see the Sunnah that way. That’s the kind of insight I found lacking when discussing the purdah. Our aims and motives were worlds apart, and they need to be explored more and hashed out. iA these types of articles can become a means to do that. Ppl need to step up and tackle these types of unpopular/complicated issues (which I appreciate you trying to do br. AbdelRahman).

    Walaikum assalam

  • Salaam Alaikum, As a sister that has learned so much from her college MSA, and especially from going to khutbah’s and classes on campus, it is unfortunate and truly disturbing that there are brother’s who believe that since it is not required for us to come, we are not given the same respect. Even the prophet’s mosque in Medina does not have a barrier! this is the Prophet, peace be upon him, who else do we have as a better example! And the Prophet himself would take time aside and teach the sisters. I believe that just because we are not required to come, does not mean we shouldn’t. This leniency is given out of the mercy of Allah, not his wrath. It is out of Allah’s mercy that women are not required to come to the khutbah, for various reasons. But young women such as myself truly value their time at the masjid, and it is a shame that we are not given the same respect and honor as men. We are all equal and should sit in one room as that.

  • This is a vital issue. As a woman and scientist, I find it incredibly demoralizing that in our mosques we are not given a space to raise our voices. First, I totally agree, that if I cannot see the khatib the experience of the talk is very shallow (and by the way we can focus on the khatib despite brothers in tight jeans you know, it’s rather insulting to think otherwise). To experience what I mean, I would invite brothers to go behind a barrier for once and listen to a speaker that way.
    Second, being behind a barrier has distanced us from being considered an active part of the community. I feel way more respected among peers in a scientific setting, using my brains and brawn to figure out solutions to current global crises than I do in my own Muslim community, where if I can’t cook a meal (which of course I can and excellently by the way) I don’t amount to much.

    One big reason the Islamic civilization lead the world in times past is the place it gave women. Right now of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, you’ve got 700 million absconding, or being absconded… so we are shooting ourselves in the foot with these ‘oh I’m so unsure of my iman it will crumble if I see a guy in tight jeans or a sister who’s attractive’ attitude. Seriously, grow up

    • I agree completely. Especially with, “lets invite the brothers to experience the barrier/closed room/ TV-screen-scholar”. Perhaps if the brothers looked at it from our perspective, they’d understand. It would make for a very interesting experiment.

  • There needs to be a part two of this article!

    Honestly, women’s space in the mosque is about so much more than the barrier. Truth is, in almost EVERY mosque and MSA I’ve been to, the barrier doesn’t keep men out, it only keeps women contained. I’ve been physically threated and called degrading names at the mosque – on the “women’s” side. My friends have been physically attacked. I’ve known women who went to the mosque to convert to Islam, were verbally attacked because they used the “wrong” door, and returned home as non-Muslims.

    A barrier can be well-intentioned but I’ve never seen it prevent the interaction of men and women. It’s gotten to the point though that good intentions are no longer good enough.

    Just my own, very sad sad experience. May Allah guide us all, ameen.

  • i don’t think removing the barrier is the best idea. You are opening the doors of fitnah even though your intentions may be sincere.

  • This might be a stupid question, but could it be possible to have a completely separated Jumaa prayer, and ALSO have two different speakers for the khutba: a male speaker for the men and a female speaker for the women?

  • How about like A sister said:
    – option 1. Women pray behind men.That way man want be conditioned to look at ladies adornments. Only way to look would be to turn around and and that would be very obvious to everyone and he want be able to continue for a extended period of time. And from a sitting position other men may obstruct the view.
    – option 2. Women pray behind men
    and they would be a barrier in between not tall enough to obstruct the view of imam for sisters. That could be chairs with white cloth like in a high end restaurants. And these chairs could be used by elderly and handicapped to pray on. i don’t think most elderly and handicapped would likely check out ladies. Moreover in the quran Allah svt says: it is okey if you open up in a older age.

    Yes, there might be little risks but for the greater good we could sacrifice a bit. And we should trust our Muslim brothers and sisters. I don’t think your mosque is under attack by mini skirted ladies and tight jeans brother. Even if they did, I believe your community has defense system to repel such attacks. And if you start loosing, you can always go back to old ways. Islam is a solution till the DOJ, I pray for Allah, so you find a solution to this issue.

  • Excellent article bro, thanks!

    I’m against the barrier but I do think there should be an area for the sister who are more comfortable behind a barrier (because of niqab or if they have children with them).

    Personally, it is very difficult to pay attention when the khateeb is talking and I can’t see him! And some women might do it unintentionally but because the khateeb can’t see them, they do whatever they want and a lot of them talk and disturb the sisters who are trying to pay attention. When the sisters are in a different world, there’s no way they’re going to be quiet either (this is mostly in masajid that are built with a barrier, not as much the make-shift partition).

  • By all means, take the barriers down (at least the majority of them). I have seen women completely abandon the Muslim community because they felt unwelcomed and that barrier was a big part of it. I don’t like facing a wall while I’m being talked at. I have a better idea, tell the men to lower their gaze and some of us ladies need to dress more modestly. That solves it instead of going to extreme measures.

  • I am a convert. What that means is that I need a lot of support and help from the Islamic community. In reality, what I got after my shahada was, “Here are some books, good luck, congratulations. Hopefully we will see you again at 9am study circle on Friday.”
    While every convert has their own story for converting to Islam, the reasons I converted to Islam seem to be completely irrelevant as a muslim woman living in the West. I still work, and as such I have to converse and interact with men. If I don’t support myself and my child, my family will not take on the burden of my expenses. If I leave the house in a hijab, I am not American because I am muslim, but when I enter the mosque, I am not muslim because I am American. I thought Islam was here to grant women equity, which is our equality. I still work, I still have almost no knowledge of Islam except what I learn online, and I have no shining examples of prayer to follow. Just diagrams and online posts. This for me seems to be such a lonely religion, very isolating, and extremely frustrating. I am at this point Muslim by word only. Now if I was to go down to my local Catholic diocease, I would be welcomed, helped, coached, and brought into the religion with knowledge and classes beforehand. The one person who has knowledge of Islam at the mosque seems to be the Imam, but alas, he is off limits to me as I am a woman. I can’t even look at him without being haram. I find this a hard pill to swallow when all day long to support myself I have to work. I see men all day long without barriers, and I am not enticed to do haram things. So to put a barrier up in a mosque and separate the men and women, which I understand was not done in the prophet’s time (pbuh) is devastating to me. For my children, what can I teach them? I heard once from a sheikh, if you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman, you educate a family. No wonder so many women converts I know don’t go to the mosque. There are too many obstacles and barriers, both cultural and physical. The rights women were given, which was a big reason for my conversion, seem to have been displaced. If there are women that want their own room, great fine, have your room, buy don’t deny someone like me the opportunity to learn without barriers, whether it is a Friday prayer, a convention, or something as simple as praying. I have never taken a course where I did not see the speaker or teacher. This is why this issue is so important to me.

      • Actually let me revise that, you summed up my feelings here:

        “I see men all day long without barriers, and I am not enticed to do haram things. So to put a barrier up in a mosque and separate the men and women, which I understand was not done in the prophet’s time (pbuh) is devastating to me. For my children, what can I teach them? I heard once from a sheikh, if you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman, you educate a family. No wonder so many women converts I know don’t go to the mosque. There are too many obstacles and barriers, both cultural and physical. The rights women were given, which was a big reason for my conversion, seem to have been displaced. If there are women that want their own room, great fine, have your room, buy don’t deny someone like me the opportunity to learn without barriers, whether it is a Friday prayer, a convention, or something as simple as praying. I have never taken a course where I did not see the speaker or teacher. This is why this issue is so important to me.”

        • Very well put. If women at the time of the Prophet prayed in the same mosque without barriers, who are we to separate them? Alhumdulillah, our mosque only separates the sisters and brothers by a one foot tall railing so that brothers don’t start taking over sisters’ space :). For me, it’s important to see the imam to understand him (remember, 70% of communication is not verbal).

    • Asalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatu

      May Allah grant us the strength to speak truth to power. Following the manner of one’s forefathers is no excuse in the eyes of Allah. Not for the father of Abraham (AS) and not for us.

      May we be incessant in our efforts to bring light to our communities by being intruments of Truth (Haqq), Mercy (Marhama) and have patience, resolve and persistence (Sabr) in the face of obstacles.

      We are not holier than the Sahabi. We should not be unwittingly holier-than-thou. It is a sign of ignorance and arrogance and presents an incorrect picture of the Deen. May Allah protect us.

      We should also be careful of whisperings of the deceiptful ones (waswasi) lead us to turn away from the Deen in the name of “reform” or being “moderate”. May Allah protect us.

      This issue is far from being academic in terms of being esoteric. The Path of Allah is one of Love and Guidance – of Light (Noor). We should certainly tear down barriers, material and otherwise, which were not clear Sunnah and which deprive women of their rightful place. We should cherish true Modesty (Haya) by brothers and sisters in dress, behaviourand interaction, radiating from within and apparent from without.

      The inestimable contributions, for example, of great women scholars of Islam, is today hardly acknowledged. Read texts by Sh Akram Nadwi and others. Barriers and isolaton will do little to encourage such scholarship anew. The majority of new Muslims are women. By the Grace of the Almighty, perhaps in spite of our example rather than because of it.

      Let us be better. Let us truly be One Ummah.

    • Assalam aleykum Karen,
      I’m sorry you’ve to go through this alone. I’m sure you’ve tried self study through google. There are some useful sites – though I don’t believe any of them to be complete authority on any one subject. Only Allah knows best.
      My experience is that not all converts WANT help or even accept help. Understandably, perhaps people refrain from crowding you because of that. Try making friends with the sisters and you’d be surprised.
      In my masjid there are more than 20 convert sisters and they just introduce themselves and ask anybody for help, and most everyone is accommodating. There’s a knowledgeable VOLUNTEER man who volunteered to meet and teach the new Muslim sisters every 2 weeks, and no question is off limit. They meet face to face as a teacher- student and the sisters are very modestly dressed. I don’t see a problem with that as most of them are married (as is the teacher) and they are in large group, in a masjid. Maybe you can set up something like this in your local masjid.
      My suggestion is try to call your local masjid to set you up with a volunteer mentor sister. Alternately, you could post it yourself at the women’s section in the masjid. Failing that, I would ask the imam to set up a class, just like my masjid did, though run by volunteers, for the new Muslims to be held once every two weeks.
      Let us know your progress.
      jazakallah

    • wow. That’s tough. But you know, it’s not haram for a` woman to talk [ask questions regarding Islam] to a male Imam. I mean, that’s the whole point of having an Imam in the first place. And just a side note…if you don’t feel welcome in one mosque – go find another that’s more comfortable. It’s a sad reality that there are men out there, who think they have the right to control anything Islamic – including issues involving women [and the barrier is one of them]. It’s as if they skipped out on the Sunnah [of the Prophet {SAW)]lessons and the intellectual/powerful women in Islamic history. May Allah (SWT) save us from being arrog/ignorant. And it seems as if people are using the word ‘haram’ way too freely, and using the term ‘fitna’ and ‘women’ in the same sentence – seriously, it feels as if we’re in the dark ages of the medieval-Judeo-Christian mentality or the current U.S Bible-belt community. help!

  • Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
    AsSalaamu ‘alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
    All Praise is due to Allah.
    Jazak Allahu khair for your efforts in bringing light to a topic which is clearly under-addressed.
    I appreciated hearing your outlook on the topic. However, I wonder why you did not site points from Quran and Sunnah to back up your opinion. I am interested in what these points may be. I found it very disappointing to read all the way to end without hearing any evidence and therefore, not learn much from this article.

  • Assalam alaikom,

    Great article and JAK for addressing this issue! Its one of particular importance to me, as ive been blessed with the privilege of seeing many masajid in america and im always very dissapointed when i enter a masjid with huge barriors. Not to mention that the men have a beautiful open area, while the women (at least in one masjid ive seen) are in a completely different small,cramped, building with nothing but the crackling speakers.

    Im all for a glass barrior, as long as there is sufficient room on the other side of the glass (which is always a problem). Or large projectors of the imam, which can be costly, but can be extremely helpful.

    SubhanAllah its always good to look back at the sunnah of the Prophet Saws, there was no divider. Plus the Prophet saws still interacted with women and addressed their questions in a respectful way, not to mention that some of his wives became great scholars of islam, may Allah swt be pleased with them all.

    In the mothers of the believers cd set, suhaib webb said himself, by isolating the females from the masajid we are turning away half of the muslims in our communities… SubhanAllah, something to think about

    Jazak Allah khair, please forgive me if ive said anything that was incorrect
    Thanks again for the post!

  • I have been going to a mosque that has the women’s section on the 2nd floor on a very large balcony overlooking the mens side. It was obviously built this way but one creative way for seperation but to allow for full view of the Imam. I don’t like the wall and have difficulty hearing the whole message when I can’t see anything. Side by side (all men on the left of the room and women on the right for example) would make more sense with a barrier down the middle, even if it is a rope to separate the two.

  • dear imam,
    i was very ‘proud’ of you for writting this, i have studied shari’a n law in sudan, we were discussing these matters with our sharia teachers etc.
    my point is, while the prophet (pbuh) used to talk with his sahaba, there used to be women sahabi present, i understand that they were veiled, but at the same time they could see the men. it really doesnt make any sense why women should be isolated when we live at a time when a womens face is no longer ‘3awra’ because we see faces everywhere :)
    i wear the hijab (not veiled) because i dont beleive my face is a ‘3awra’ believe me if i was so beutiful i would have covered my face. i also dont believe my hair is a ‘3awra’ as other women have way awsomer hair than me, but it was a personal decision, that (thank allah) i dont regret.
    not to get off the topic, people always tell me that i should stop shaking hands with men, and i dont see the necessity in stopping, i’m sorry but i believe i have good ‘eman in allah,’ that will stop me from ‘getting turned on by shaking a mans hand’, thats why i beleive men also have the same ‘eman in allah,’ for them not to need to lower their gaze, because looking at a womans face will not ‘lead them into whats haram.’
    dont get me wrong, i understand why at the time of the prophet people didnt shake hands with the oposite sex and women wore veils, what i’m trying to say is these ‘cultural customs’ are no longer an issue in our time. i must point out that these issues are more cultural than they are religious, we follow shari’a from the saudi’s but sadly we bring their ‘cultural customs’ into our religion.
    after studying Osool al fiqh, and understanding that customs (or culture) is part of religion, it makes me sad that people are negating their own customs as they believe religion negates their traditions, and adopting the saudi arabian customs.

    Thank you again for enlighting me,
    your sister Sara

    p.s for the people saying that u shouldnt go to the mall in the summer if u dont trust urself to lower ur gaze… really, is that how u much u trust urself…

  • Salam, I love this article.. In fact I had an issue with this years ago and so I sought out a fatwa from http://www.islamweb.net and they stated that women are not to pray behind a curtain or a wall in the mosque IF she can’t see the imam from behind these things. SOOO I refused to pray at any mosque that puts me in seclusion.. in fact I have actually walked into the men section and prayed with the men against the back of the wall. There was some who didn’t like it but oh well, I did it anyways..

  • I am a muslim sister, and am all for barrier between men and women, and between the Imam and the women, BUT it will be nicer if the there were projectors/big screens for muslim sisters to look at, because sometimes it gets difficult to focus on things if we cant see them. But we as muslims must keep the asul and principles of shariah intact, I would not go sit in a gathering which positions men and women so close they can see and smell each other. It is understandable that there are socieities where people have been completely de-sensitized by the social images and nudity being bombarded over them all the time, but that does not mean that we forego our values just because a certain number of sisters have been brought a certain way and they are unable to focus on what the imam is saying if there are no barriers between them, but yes their concern is valid, and it has a solution. Put up big screens and speakers for visible,audible experience. But lifting the barriers completely is just plain Un-islamic.

    The imam also has the right to protect his gaze, and since they are not used to stare around on so many women at a given time, it can be extremely distracting for their speech and eeman. For some it isn’t, and for some it is, so which approach do we adopt? the one that accomodates the both, WITHIN the Islamic guidelines, NOT PERSONAL preferences.

    And the sister who said that she has no problem shaking men’s hands because she doesn’t feel turned on by such a gesture, should really revise her concepts of haya, modesty and purdah. There are people who are not turned on even by a liberal display of nudity and explicit images, would that make it alright for them too?

    There is a sahih hadith that goes by ” It is better for a man that an iron rod passes through his skull, than for him to touch the palm of a strange woman”.

    When we submit to Islam , we submit completely knowing that ALL morals, all values and all logic is BEST ordained by Allah swt only, for the best of his Humanity. If some people start thinking that ” what I think is better ’cause it suits me better..” you are not following Islam, you are following yourself, and trying to justify it the other way round.

    Just because we get used to living a certain way, and it is does not affect us apparently, does not mean that it does not affect our state of mind, our state of spirituality and state of eeman.

    Peace to you all : )

  • I totally agree with what you said,the sisters are unfortunatly considered second class citizens in Islam in the Middle east only,not only in the states.I wounder why men do not understand the fact that women are the ones that raise children up,if you make and treast women to become weak and isolated,your children and thus the new generation of muslims will probably turn out to be weak and lack the knowledge about islam and the strength to make da’wa and spread the word of Allah.
    We have the complete right and freedom to attend masjids!masjids are not made for men only,get me one verse where Allah swt says that the masjid is a place for male worshipers.
    JazakaAllahu khayran.

  • Well im a sister and a convert to islam and I feel the barrier does deprive me.of the full benefit of the talk. One time a masjid had a lecture and sisters were put in another room and listened to it through speakers. It makes u feel not included. If were dressed properly I dont think its fare. As muslim men u have a responsibilty to lower ur gaze. I feel like if ur in the masjid and ur staring at covered muslim womrn with lust then u seriously need to check urself and have a bit more self control. I agree with this :p

  • Salaam Alaykum. The problem I have with this issue is that many women of the older generation feel so tied to their culture and their beliefs about the seperation of women and men, that they neglect to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (saws). Is Islam about being comfortable or is it about fighting our inner desires? What is the objective of the barrier? Many sisters feel more comfortable with it, and I charge them to ask themselves why. Why do they feel comfortable not being in the same room with the Brothers of your faith?

    We all have to control ourselves in the masjid. No matter what gender you are, the trial of lowering your gaze is real for everyone, but it shouldn’t be a reason to deprive anyone of their right to the public place of a masjid.

    I apologize, I haven’t kept up with all the comments, I’m sure all this was mentioned earlier. But I only mention this because this very issue is coming up in the mosque I recently started attending, and it is bothering me deeply. I have been confronted by a generation of Muslimahs who feel more comfortable behind a curtain, or even in another room. And this, I feel is the biggest problem my community is facing, miseducated Sisters.

  • Instead of presenting arguments in favour or against the barrier based on personal opinion, you should refer to Hadith and Quran. During the time of the Prophet [PBUH] and his companions, was there a barrier? If they didn’t have one, then we shouldn’t either. If they did, then we should try to understand the reasoning, the logic behind it, and adopt this approach.

    I used to attend a weekly dars and over there, they would have a barrier only between the audience; both parties could see the speaker. This seems like a very good way. If this is correct and appropriate, then you should certainly adopt this way.

    :)

  • I have been to a Masjid where the Men and women have a barrier- but they are side by side. The imam speaks in front of the men, but in clear view of the sisters. This is an extremely effective and fair compromise of both sides.

  • I think its much betta to have barrier but in equal way (not dark corner without AC for women)…
    and I have been to many khutbah where there was barrier and had no propblem, and could concentrate much better,
    but when guys infront of you you cant concentrate that much on what imam says!

    • Salaam, same here. I don’t want to pray close to the brothers, I do like the separation, except when it’s in the back corner of the masjid, as the previous sis said, with no AC and little sound etc. Especially when it’s near the door.

      I think it would be nice to have a special place for sisters with all the amenities, AC and speakers at least. I don’t like the curtain idea, because I want to see the Imam as he speaks. Anyway, just my thoughts. :-)

      • Why all this all-or-none? How about a compromise…a wall or curtain across half the ladies section? Then the women with opposite preferences aren’t shoving their preference on everyone?

        • Exactly! That’s how it is where I go to pray jummu’ah. They have dividers up across half the section and that balance works wonderfully :)

    • i agree with sister muslima I prefer the barrier much better. we can understand quiet well when we dont see the khateeb. At our masjid in Pakistan the khateeb is in another room and they dont switch on the camera on white screen either. i prefer it that way. however, we do have ac proper sitting, good sound system and a seperate entrance. ALHUMDOLILLAH

    • In my country, they put up projectors in the mosques so the women could see the khatib above the barriers and the khatib could not see them. The women would not even see the men, apart from the khatib. It is a win-win solution. f you could afford unnecessary expensive shoes, clothes, bag etc., why not invest your money in a projector, for the good of the ummah?
      Salaam..

  • If a woman was able to correct Omar bin Alkhattab during one of his khutbas, I highly doubt that there was a huge wall of a barrier between the men and the women…if it wasn’t necessary then, it shouldn’t be necessary now.
    The khateeb should also have better things to focus on than staring at the women sitting all the way in the back. What do the guys do after the khutba, when the same men and women are in the hallway together, with NO barrier? At least in the khutba you’re not even facing the women…this was a very important and much needed article…Jazakallahu Khair!

    • Yes, a lady corrected Omar R.A. during khutbbah..
      But they were behind the pardah/curtain. Men can listen women even if they are behind the curtains. :)
      And most of the muhadithah’s(female hadith reporters) taught women as well as men but behind the curtain..

      • Soul, I think that statement needs some support. From everything I’ve read, I find the opposite: most of them did *not* teach from behind a curtain.

        • AssalamOalaikum Sister

          I read it here and at many other places.
          interfacepublications.com/images/pdf/AKRAM_Article2.pdf

          [great info about Muslim women scholars]

        • Hi Soul

          I think you are referring to page 8, Section 4.1 of your link where it says “Al-Suyuti records this: ‘The ancestors learnt ˆad‚ths from `Aishah and other mothers of the believers, while they narrated hadith, from behind the curtain. (23) Al-Sakhawi relates how Aishah and other women Companions used to teach from behind the screen.’ (24) On certain occasions, however, where there was no possibility of any private interaction, they could teach directly, without a screen. This is illustrated in the account of how Ibn Rushayd studied under Fatima al-Batayhiyyah in the mosque of the Prophet.”

          We all know that the Mothers of the Believers had additional modesty & safety precautions enforced on them due to the safety issues at the time for them. This references does not indicate all women were told to teach men with a curtain separator – it only references the Mothers of the Believers. Secondly, I would be curious to see the Arabic if it references a veil or an actual wall/curtain to separate people. Could you find additional references that may provide guidance regarding non-Mothers of the Believers teaching men?

    • I agree with the sister, if there was no barrier during Omar(ra) time, we don’t need one. Women should attend Jumma on regular bases. I know for myself if I do not go to the mosque, listen to a sheikh or get some kind of spritual activity, Shetaan starts pulling me away.
      Sister should be able to come see the Imam and get the regular doze of spiritual uplifting. May Allah protect all of us from evil of Shetan and evil of Nafs.

  • Great article, I too feel that many brothers only know how to cover a sister up. They do not understand that just like men us women also have a thirst for knowledge that extends beyond appearance and domestication. JazakAllah for making that point.

    With regards to barriers, such as the one mentioned in the article, I think it depends on the situation. For instance at my ISOC (British MSA), we had two separate rooms for brothers and sisters, because there was not enough space, and even though the sound system did give us problems, we still benefited abundantly.

    If given the option of a big hall or open ground, I would prefer seeing and hearing the speaker, however, I think barriers are mostly put up for the sake of the brothers who find it hard concentrating when put in a room with sisters (even though they sit in mixed class rooms all the time), and if we can help them tackle this problem, then the sisters might be able to benefit more as well.

  • thank you so much for writing this..its nice to know a BROTHER can see our sisters side..sometimes muslims can make women feel so bad..this is from experience..non muslims treat me better then muslims..in my masjid they like made a small crowded room for women and we can barely sit..and the men get this huge hall..it is unfair..i dont know what goes through there mind..we are HUMAN too ..we are visual just like men..i mean men should have there own head and hijab..they should control themselves..they act like its always the women’s fault..there are limits..we should all try to do our hijab and modesty..atleast just let us sit in the back and look..why would the speaker even look all the way back at the women and be distracted..then that means the speaker has some issue in there heart..i dont know…im just so hurt by muslim brothers and sisters..Islam is not that hard we people just make it so hard..its just sad

  • so in my other mosque they turn off the lights in the women area in the back and like mothers have children with them and stuff and no one can see anything and its just a mess while the men get lights..they turn it off so the men cant see us in the back..i think women need more light then men because they have children and all..i mean men should be modest enough not to turn there whole head around to look at women..how much can women be modest seriously..everyone just attacks the women about there modesty and hijab..there are limits

  • I am one of those Muslim women who have immensely benefited from the excellent Friday khutbas. Since I do not rely on memory, I often take notes to consult later on. I have grown so much in Iman from these lectures, I cannot even express it. I am just grateful to Allah (SWT) for giving me and my daughters this opportunity to listen, learn and improve. Going to extreme lengths in matters of less importance than dawa and which hinders learning does not seem right. Allah (SWT) has commanded us to use wisdom, moderation and not make difficulties for others. Also it gives a salient message to Muslim women, that they cannot be trusted. I thank the brother for his support for us. JazakAllah Khair.

  • We often take our cultures as our references and mistake them for Islam, when even during the prophet’s time Alayhisalam, there was not a barrier…not even one of chairs. But rather the lines the women formed were spaced behind those of the men.

    Lets stick to the Sunnah errrbody

  • JazakAllah khair for this article. I’ve experienced several masajid/prayer spaces where sisters are definitely “second class citizens”. The sunnah is that the women pray at the back, without a barrier. I’ve experienced the sound system going out multiple times during salat, and in sujood in certain places the sisters cannot see what the imam and brothers are doing. So, like the another person asked the question about prayer’s validity if the lines are broken and the congregation cannot see the imam- what happens in those situations? I understand that in alot of masajid the women are not using their best adab and it becomes distracting for the imam, brothers, AND the rest of the sisters, and children can also be disruptive. But being a convert/revert mother myself, I know that I am the primary person imparting Islam to my children. It is difficult for me to attend lectures or classes because of my responsibilities with my children, so for now, jumu’ah is my primary source of Islamic knowledge. If I am not educated in my deen, I cannot pass that on to my children, who then cannot pass Islam on to their children. That is a huge problem. We need more brothers to stand up for the rights of the sisters and more sisters to demand their rights be fulfilled when it comes to participating at masajid and other prayer spaces!

  • Wow! All the comments are right on the mark. As a mother of 4 sons and 1 daughter it is my responsibility in America to teach my children about Islam. My husband works long hours. I get my knowledge from reading & Friday prayer.Unlike my nieces & nephews that live in Egypt who are surrounded my Islam and a mosque on every corner. My children only get what we as parents provide. All of the previous comments are correct. But, the division does not bother me personally,the crowded rooms and bad a/c bothers me more. I have made friends with a blind sister at the mosque, so a lot of times I think of her and close my eyes and listen to the speaker. Woman who have recently visited my mosque have had more problems with the sour ,unfriendly faces of the sisters, so I told them, to sit with me. I think this is a way bigger problem than anything,but maybe this is the cause of their unhappiness,I am not sure.I have lived in 3 different states over the last 20 years and this is the same problem in every mosque. The sour faces, hot rooms,over crowding,and bad sound and video systems. I know sisters that quit going with their daughters because of this, and this is leading to a disaster for our young woman. So please, Allah guide us.

  • SubhanAllah great article brother abdelrahman…in my masjid the women have their own section.its in the back and on the 2nd floor.Its not as big as the men’s section but its clean and air conditioned.The best thing about it is that it has a dark glass, sort of like a one way mirror, in front of it by which the women can see the khateeb and the khateeb can’t see them .I am sure its not the solution in many masajids but Alhamdo lillah.it worked in ours May Allah(swt) ease all our troubles and issues and grant us all patience.Ameen Ya Rabbal ‘Aalameen.

  • Asalamu alaikum

    Akhi AbudrRehman, I applaud you for taking concerns for your sisters in Islam, but there are things I disagree with.

    I live in NJ and have been to many masajid alhamdulillah. Some, like the previous comments said, treat the sister like second-class citizens. The worst I have seen is that women have to pray in the kitchen. And then there were masajid that have (mashaAllah) provided open, wide areas for the women, 2 large bathrooms with many stalls, and it is always clean.

    I live near a masjid that doesn’t have a barrier between the men and women, and let me tell you, it is a HUGE distraction, especially for the shabab. And the women (unfortunately) talk way too loudly, laugh way too loudly, draw attention to themselves, to the point that the shaykh has to say over the microphone “Sisters! Quiet down! If you want to socialize, go home!” It’s so embarassing for those of us who come to worship only.

    Not to mention (especially during Ramadan and Jumuah), the teenage sisters pray in the front row, and the teenage brothers pray in the back row, so close to each other. They even wave to each other when they think no one’s looking. And not to mention (and I do not mean to offend any sisters), but some sisters do not dress appropriately for the masjid. Skinny jeans and a see-through blouse, despite the little headscarf, is not proper hijab, and this clearly distracts both the younger and older brothers in the masjid.

    What I’m trying to get at: I think the barrier really does increase the level of “hayaa” between the brothers and sisters. Times have defintely changed since the time of the sahabah, when they were dress as “tafilaat” which means “tasteless” in Arabic. If one were to look at them they never looked attractive. Is that the case with the sisters going to the masajid nowadays?

    I saw a nice solution in a popular masjid I went to in Toronto, CA. There was a entire glass wall between brothers and sisters, the reflective kind that allows the sisters to see the brothers and the Imam, but doesn’t allow the brothers and the imam to see the sisters. The sisters pray comfortably, and especially for people like me who wear the niqab, I can pray assured that no brother will see me if I were to take it off.

    That’s all I wanted to say in regards to your article, but I do agree with you about your colleague’s comment about how it’s not obligatory upon us to attend the Jumuah. Still, we benefit from it but I truly, strongly believe that sisters should refrain from using make-up, perfume, tight-fitted clothing, and high heels if they plan to attend Jumuah.

    • I totally agree with everything you said.

      And I’m pretty shock that someone wouldn’t even want a barrier. The Muslims now are not like the Muslims during the Prophet Muhammad (SWT) time.

      • As salaam alaykum.

        Does this mean that there should be an innovation? Because a partition between men and women in the mosque is precisely that, or so I was taught.

        If women aren’t dressing appropriately, then something can be said about that. Send someone home to put some clothes on one time, and it will never happen again.

        As for the brothers, and especially for the *leader*, if to simply see a woman existing somewhere under a burqa is distracting to you, you are the one with a serious problem. At my masjid, some women attend so covered that I can only assume there are actual women under there. Could be anybody.

        And the person in the *leadership* role should be able to politely call the younger people, male and female, on inappropriate behavior, should be able to have a word with the parents of the kids who are flirting or wearing clothes that are too tight (male and female – and yes! women are every bit as visual as men), and most especially should have developed enough self control to be able to cope with the presence of fully-clothed women in a group in public and in the presence of their husbands.

        I apologize, I cannot cite source, but I have been taught that the use of a physical screen in the masjid is haram, because it was not allowed by the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and if I am mistaken, please instruct me.

        Salaam.

        • Taraweeh is also an “innovation” from the same “Innovator” – Sayyidina Omar al Khattab, radi Allahu anhu.
          wanna get rid of it?
          pretty scary to call it haram and to say that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam did not “allow” it. Please get your facts straight…

  • asalamualaykum

    jazakiallahu khayran sr Layla, I agree completely and I thank you for stating this position so eloquently.
    Coming from an msa where we almost always have a barrier (alhamdulillah), after only ONE event without it, I saw that it needed to go back up immediately. What can we say, this is NOT the time of the sahaba, and that can be seen clearly in how the young men and women dress and act. I’m definitely for the barrier, but I really appreciate br Abdelrahman’s concern for the sisters. jazakallahu khair br

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I believe a physical barrier can be challenging to a community’s maturity. We interact with people of the opposite gender on a daily basis, in the workplace, at school, public spaces etc. To become so fearful of a wandering gaze to the point that it cripples human interaction is worrisome. As human beings, we listen to tone of voice and observe body language and this can affect us in a range of ways from the way a message is conveyed to the way we take solace in each other’s presence to comfort one another and feel a sense of closeness with the community.
    We as human beings, have been bestowed with an extraordinary ability to feel love and respect for one another. I believe respect and seeing others as intellectual equals worthy of experiencing knowledge and spreading it regardless of gender is the strongest tool against a gaze that is disrespectful. Think of WHY we lower our gaze…it’s much more than a defense against sexual misconduct, it’s something that allows us to develop deep relationships and intimate understanding of another person beyond the superficial.
    My point is, the physical (like a physical barrier) will never be enough to guard against thoughts and actions that are shameful,a person who truly wants to do the haraam will always find a way. On a physical level, we can only go so far to prevent this, thus it is best to develop respect for one another which is born from a spiritual connection with Allah which is born from knowledge. A physical barrier does hinder attaining knowledge and it doesn’t create respect for the person on the other side of the barrier…it creates a fear and a subconcious resentment of someone we begin to view as “a highway to hell” for lack of a better term. But the greatest disadvantage that results from it, is a lack of faith in a fellow community member’s maturity and conscience, while perpetuating the erroneous image of a fragile and helpless woman who is threatened by the outside world.

  • As Salamu Alaikum, everyone,

    Should we not follow the sunnah of the Prophet (s), which is the middle way? Which is women pray in the back in the same room as men, with no barrier.

    We should be careful of arguments against following the sunnah – whether in a more liberal direction, or in a more conservative direction.

    Ie, the argument, ‘we are not the Sahabah, we are much worse than they are’ is not an excuse to leave the sunnah, but rather even more of a reason to stick to the sunnah of the Prophet (s).

    And Allah knows best.

    • Why are you all forgetting that it was Sayyidina Omar al Khattab, not some modern imam, who brought in the separating barrier between men and women. Was he wrong? do we not owe it to honesty and to our own integrity, as people who claim to respect (or even love) the 4 Rightly Guided Khulafaa and Amirs al Mu’mineen, to examine what his reasons for doing so were? and to reflect upon them? and to ask if they still exist or not? I don’t think these are arguments AGAINST following the Sunnah anymore than extolling the virtues of Taraweeh as we know it today, also a bidda hasana brought to us by Sayyidina Umar, is a rejection of the Sunnah or an argument against it. As you all know, it was not the Sunnah at the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam to pray Taraweeh in jamaa. Is praying it in Jamaa a rejection of the Sunnah?
      Let’s be a little more intellectually honest and fair in assessing these issues and not throw all sobre examination out the window just because our nufoos want something.

      • Giving people the OPTION to participate in Taraweeh is very different from doing an act relating to worship that PREVENTS a large percentage of women from feeling like they are part of the worship. Let’s give the women who prefer no wall a space with no wall, and give the women who prefer a wall the option to have a wall. What’s up with all the hate here, ladies? Why can’t we just give everyone options in all mosques so everyone is happy?

  • This is an issue that is made so complicated when it really is s simple as the author indicates. If you are afraid of the fitna of men, stay home. If you are a khateeb and cant concentrate because of seeing women, then I think the change needs to take place in your sick heart, not in the architecture of the masjid. Excellent article.

  • assalamu’aleykum
    in my opinion i believe that people who come to friday prayers for the intention of Allah subhana-wa-ta’ala will not be distracted easily by the other gender as there focus wil lie with the khutbah and salah,
    however, if the intention was solely for other purposes then no barrier can stop that purpose being fulfilled.
    this should not be an excuse to make the sisters feel like second class citizens and be given a tiny room in the back or forced to pray in the kitchen(as i read in previous comment).i have been to many khutbah’s were the sisters and brothers had no barriers and no problems arised from it. almost everybody was concentrating on what the ‘uluma were saying and the shaykh’s were focusing on the khutbah rather than gazing inapproproately at the sisters…..jzklkhayr brother for bring this up.

  • Rassoul Allah SAS has no barriers. When one makes the religion so rigid it breaks. Allah soubhanahou wa ta3ala said that he didn’t make this religion to be a burden. Do not forbid what God has not prohibited for you! Allah said it also in the Coran. Why forbid something that is not in the Coran as God said: I haven’t left out a small thing nor a big thing in this book soubhan Allah.
    “Christian” priests and nones put so much barriers upon themselves, we see the results. Chruch basements filled with dead unborn babies or pedophilia for exp. If an Imam cannot control his sexual impulses during a khoutba, then maybe he should let on that day someone else lead the khoutba. Allah made us a tribe so that we get to know one another, no to put barriers between us. It is so natural for a man and a woman to communicate in an open healthy manner. InchaAllah we’ll again reach that state.
    Allah 3alimou l’ghayb and hope he guides us all.
    Peace

  • Save the sisters? why? because the interpretations are phony? then the title should be SAVE THE UMMAH FROM IGNORANCE! We should all strive to think logically as the Coran is the most logical book and complex. We should read beyond the lines and analyze so that we move away from shallowness (in interpretation and behavior that is. InchaAllah Muslims will worry more about analyzing the barrier that was built by Dul Qarnayn to keep us away from Gog and Magog and the destruction of the barrier by God and the reason behind it – many parallel to today’s political history – rather than some non sense barrier in a mosque.

  • It seems masjid leadership needs an overhaul. National organizations need to lead an effort to encourage masjid’s to each put in place a Board of Director’s that is 50% women, and is comprised of people from different cultures.

    Women should have the right to follow sunnah and pray within view of the khatib. Men & women who disagree still shouldn’t have the right to take rights away from others. People who do want a wall should have the ability to pray behind one, but that shouldn’t force all women to pray behind wall. Form compromises, not absolutes. This is not a religion of extremes, so we need to stop being so extreme on this issue.

    If women are loud and distracting to men, then this needs to be addressed as these same women are likely loud and distracting to the other women as well. Women leadership at mosques need to have a discussion with the women after Jumu’ah about proper mosque etiquette, and have this discussion as many times as necessary. If they can’t keep the noise down – then make them listen in a separate room via speakers where they won’t be a distraction to others. If the problem is noisy kids – use a separate space for PARENTS with noisy children – men in front of that section and women in back of that section. Women also deserve to attend Jumu’ah in a space that is quiet and allows them to hear the khutbah.

    If there is a problem with men glancing back at women & vice versa, then at the end of the khutbah, leadership needs to discuss etiquette and how to properly be in the same space as the opposite gender, since the second they walk out of the masjid they will have to be in the same grocery store line, bus/train, walking down the sidewalk, etc. Don’t run mosques that act like alternate universes – run mosques that teach proper etiquette that can be applied outside the mosques as well. If there are men who still can’t behave, make THEM sit in another room instead of ALL women. Same for women.

  • Salams:
    I am so curious about this apparent inability to concentrate if folks pray together with no barriers. I took my law school exams with fellow students, male and female, and no one had trouble focusing on the exam. I had no trouble praying in the haram with plenty of brothers around me. I am so used to comingling in every part of my life, in traffic, at the grocery store, at the office, that praying together in one room without a barrier does not impact my concentration one iota. I am fine with the “barrier” if folks are culturally not used to comingling. I just find the support for a barrier truly odd in an American Muslim setting. I like to see my teachers when I am learnng, but my khateeb is typically a distant and aloof figure on the screen. The khateeb is often inaccessible. I once prayed in a masjid in Allentown, PA and in NJ where we prayed in one room w/o barriers. I wish this were the norm.

  • Right on, I TOTALLY AGREE! Sisters do need better accomodations in the masjids and elsewhere and we need to feel that we belong, we are muslims as well. And we need spritual nourishment as well. So who are the brothers to try and limit our god-given rights to knowledge?

  • May Allah bless you for an amazing article!! Just the other day, a man in the mosque made me cry because he was so rude when I started to pray in the back of the mosque:

    I was new to the mosque and didn’t have time to find the women’s section upstairs because prayer had already started and I was late. As I entered the mosque, he started hissing at me and telling me to leave, but I wanted the barakah of praying in jama’a so I started praying with the congregation right away. Then I could hear him bickering loudly with a bunch of men as I prayed (even though he should have been praying with us – the imam had started Isha’a already and it was almost over), and then as I was praying, he came toward me and started angrily SLAMMING down chairs in front of me. When I was in Sujood, I started sobbing and begging Allah to end the fitnah between the sexes in our Ummah. When I got up from sujood, a line of about a dozen brothers had formed a line in front of me to pray together – it felt like a barrier between me and the man (who I could still hear bickering with some other men and saying “AstaghfurAllah”). Alhamdulillah, it was like Allah had sent an army of angels to protect me and remind me that I AM a part of this Ummah, and I have every right to pray in the mosque as any other Muslim, no matter the gender.

    • Asalam alekum sister,

      My heart was truely pained when I read your post. Subhanallah, with the way Muslims treat each other in the masjid, whether it be men towards women, women towards men, men towards men or women towards women…..you’d think that as a rational ummah we would be MUCH more concerned with learning to give others their Islamic rights. You are right, you have every right to pray behind the brothers in every mosque in the world and that right was given to us by the Prophet(PBUH) himself. Will these people continue to defy the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH)? I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in your frustration. Let’s keep our entire ummah in our dua for clarity in understanding and applying our deen to our entire lives. Salam

  • This sister’s story is symptomatic of the changes taking place today…the dynamics of old and new and the challenges of holding fast to the sunnah of our beloved Prophet. May Allah give us all the towfeek to move from darkness to the light, to forbid what is wrong and embrace what is right. Alhamdulillah, I have been fortunate over the past 20 years or so to attend the Jummah prayer in a place where the women pray behind the men without any barrier, and I know that this weekly event has been very important in guiding me to the sirat-al-mustaqeen and bringing me closer to Almighty Allah, as it has been for all the other sisters who have attended through the years. May Allah bless all my sisters with similar opportunities so that the Ummah of Mohammad (SAW) be strengthened. Sisters make up more than half of this Ummah and if they are not properly educated in the deen, then tell me what does the future hold for us? Taking all the challenges mentioned above, it is past time for fitna…it is time for solutions. And Allah knows best!

  • I LOVE this article. Thank you so much for sharing! Jazaks brother, I wish more brothers thought like you. I agree that being in a closed room with a horrible ac system is absolutley wrong! but I also wouldn’t mind being apart from the brothers like some people stated. That is only for the women who feel the need to, but for me I’d want no barrier, only to sit in the back of them where I can focus. And if the guys are what your focus is, then people need to re-check their intentions. Those are the same men you see around you 24-7, just becasuse it’s a mosque with a speaker, what makes you think that’s the only time to be religious? So I agree and I am disheartened by this, but I am also very pleased with your mentality mashAllah. this is how it should be. Women…men… in islam are equal

  • Excellent article.
    I wish there are more men like you who would have the courage to speak up.
    This happens not only in Mosques but even during seminars and conferences. I attended a seminar of Al Maghrib Institute in May here in Edmonton,Alberta, Canada. This was my first and my last seminar as I was shocked and disappointed. All the men were given the front rows and women were given the back rows. I complained about it saying I’ve paid the same amount as men and I deserve to be treated the same. I explained to them I cannot hear well, they said it was policy of the Institute. This was enough for me to never go back again to any of their talks or seminars. What disappointed me the most is that after I sent an email to them giving them my feedback they haven’t dignified me with a response. But yet they kept spamming em with their advertisements.

    I am really tired of the way we are treated. I am almost 50 years old, and cannot imagine how young women can put up with this.
    I interact with men outside and at work but yet somehow at the mosque I cannot see the Imam nor address him. I switched mosques because of this. I used to go to the MCE mosque but we had a room upstairs and the men have a much bigger room. We cannot ask questions nor interact with the Imam. On few occasions I had asked to speak to the Imam and I was made very uncomfortable as it wasn’t an easy process: a guy talked to another guy who came asking who wanted to talk to him, who then asked me to go outside where the Imam was waiting for me to talk to him.
    I now go to another mosque, Rahma (part of MAC) where the separation is in the form of a small wall made of wooden box, but not high enough to block the view of the Imam. Sometimes I don’t even feel like going to events or participating to the Muslim community. I am a professional busy with my job, when I go to the prayers I take it seriously and don’t lek to chat with others. But like someone said in a comment if this is a problem then it needs to be dealt with by the Mosque leadership and not by treating all women as second-class citizens. I too find it very distracting when women talk.
    How about men who dress inappropriately? No one mentions that. Aren’t women supposed to be humans as well? How is it acceptable fro men to dress inappropriately or have their underwears show when they bow because if the low-rise jeans they wear…
    I am fed up with all this non-sense. The dress code applies to everyone, but unfortunately men seems to be able to do whatever they want and this is exactly why we have problems in our Muslim community in North America.
    In my household the same rules applied for my son and my daughter.
    How many Muslim men are truly following the sunna and not dating until they get married? Then they want to get married they want a pretty woman/virgin/intellectual…etc….
    How can we expect young girls to behave that way if they see their fellow Muslim men do the opposite and get away with it,
    I am sorry for ranting but I have an issue with the way women are treated in general by Muslim community.

    Sarah
    Edmonton. Alberta

    • Salaam Sarah!

      I hear ya! I feel the same way! JazakAllah for voicing it out sister. I also think that not all is bleak – given that Muslim women are gaining Islamic awareness and standing up for their rights (and many God-Fearing brothers are supporting them) inshAllah in the near future things will be much different :)

  • The best way is the moderate way. Let the women attend the massjid and let them sit at the back (as per hadith, best row for women is to the back) without physical barriers.

  • Asala Mu Alikum

    Bismillah All Praises and Thanks are due Allah swt and pbup Prophet Muhammed (saw)

    Jazakallah khair for the great post. This is a great post and a great concern to be brought up.We must handle this situation in spiritual and intellectual( shariah) way not by our dislike and likes, because if that was the case than we would have so many types of masjid and great example of that if you look at how many different types christian churches, which was based their dislike and likes of their religion.

    We have great islamic tradition of spritiual and intellectual scholars of females and males and many of this issues we are facing now, were already dicussed in previous generation by our great scholars. We have been neglecting large amount of our pervious text.

    After Prophet (saw) died, Aisha (ra) taught many of the Shabas (ra) hadiths behind the curtains because she was one of muhaddithat that time and we had great tradition of other female scholars throught out islamic history. Unfortunately that tradition female scholar has been deceased and PART OF OUR PROBLEM OF THAT IS, WE (brothers) HAVE NOT DONE A GOOD JOB OF ENCOURGING OUR SISTERS TO BE SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL LEADERS.

    As of now it really boils down to getting a legal opinion (ijma) for the rightly guided scholar who has knowledge of the of his people in the area he lives and is legally certified by a teacher to give a legally opinion on this issue.

    As for the writer of the blog i would say, it is a great concern to be brought up and May Allah reward you for that but we need to look at it in a professional and traditional way instead of taking a oneway street. Each masjid are different inside so in each community the sisters need discuss thier issues in there halaqah or there weekely gathering and should address these concerns to imam or the committees of the masjid.

    As for us brothers, we are lacking in full filling our rights (haqq) towards our sisters in the community and this ummah. Many of our problems will be slove if encourage our sisters to be great scholars and exemplars in the society.

    And the last thing i want to say to All my sister, remember modesty is the essence of our Deen.

    Forgive me if I offend anyone.

    Allah swt knows best!

  • With no offense, but this idea will be inviting the fitnah of free-mixing to the masjid, which can lead to serious consequences. As far as the gaining the knowledge of sisters is considered, in today’s era it has become more easier than ever through internet and media. JazakAllah. Allah swt knows best

    • Here we go again,
      You are suggesting that sisters can gain Islamic knowledge through the internet. Does this mean they don’t need to go to the Mosques?
      The internet has its pitfalls as anyone can post and pretend to be expert in Islam. I am very careful on the use of Internet.
      No one here is encouraging “Free-Mixing” as you are suggesting.
      I believe there is a greater danger in excluding Muslim women from the Mosques than in allowing them to pray behind mean with sufficient space and no physical barrier that prevents them from addressing the Imam.
      Excluding ou young generation of women from participating in the Mosques’ affairs will just encourage them to participate in the Non-Islamic and non-hallal activities other youth organize.
      If the two I would much prefer allowing our young girls to feel comfortable going to the Mosque.

      Again this is my opinion.

      Sarah,

      • I totally agree with you, Sister Sarah and respect your opinion, and brother Ubaid you have a point but from what I’ve seen (from both extremes) is that the best way is to have some sort of barrier-any barrier-in the masjid, and then have a way that the sisters can hear the imam and SEE him clearly. The Imam should also provide a few days a week where he gives a sisters-only class, or fatwa discussion so that sisters do not feel shy when asking questions that concern the women.

        Sheikh Al-Albani, a well known scholar of our time, I ask Allah SWT to have mercy on him, gave a fatwa which was BASED on ahadith of the Messenger peace be upon him and on the wisdom of the Salaf after him, that if a woman is to create ANY sort of distraction to the men ESPECIALLY during the Friday prayers, then it is prohibited for her to attend. Prohibited.

        And why is that? First of all, it is FARDH (obligatory) for the men to attend the Jumuah prayers. If they do not attend they are sinful. It is also obligatory for them to attend the 5 prayers in the masjid (as long as the conditions allow, i.e close to the masjid, good weather, not a danger, etc). It’s NOT obligatory for the women to attend ANY prayer in the masjid, rather she can go because she WANTS to, and because especially in the West, we need to have some sort of Islamic environment, or Islamic refuge to go to. Many Muslim women also forget about the hadith stating that a woman’s prayer in her home is more rewarding for HER, and this is a mercy from Allah.

        I agree completely that the rights of the women in the masajid (and in general) have been ignored and even neglected at most times, but at the same time we do not want to go overboard in our “freedom”.

        And yes, it’s not our problem if the brothers of the community do not want to be pious (not lowering their gaze, being chaste) but why aren’t we addressing THAT issue first instead of jumping into a solution that may or may not work? Let’s first teach the shabab to fear Allah, and THEN they will be mature enough to one day pray in the same room together, with the sisters behind the brothers.

        One more point, and I’m just going to say this because it’s annoyed me in the past few months from what I’ve seen in the news, but breastfeeding is EXTREMELY hard when there is no barrier available in the masjid. In order for a sister to nurse without being exposed to a man in masjid with no barriers, she would have to turn her back to the imam or just leave the masjid because it’s not comfortable at all. I’m a nursing mother, and I rarely get time to go to the masjid, so when I do go I’d like to know that my masjid would accomodate me and all other mothers with small children.

        This is my opinion and if I said anything wrong then may Alah forgive me.

  • may allah bless you with his mercy , brother u made a valid and worth while point – worthy enough to discuss , women need to have a barrier while sitting in the mosque indeed – but however many people have differing view” talibul alimu farizatoon ala kulli muslimin wa muslimatin” the gaining of education is a fard on every muslim men and WOMEN … most of us forget this hadith.. thanks for sheding light on our hardened souls..

  • Asalam alekum,

    I left my position on our mosque’s BOD over this very issue. I follow sunnah and the sunnah is women behind men in prayer. Not in another room, not in a basement, not in an upper level, not to the left, not to the right.

    I am not sure why people feel the “need” to add to our religion and make every excuse in the book to do so.

    We must remember that Islam was sent to humanity in a time of EXTREME social ills, which make any of the issues people bring up today to support separation or barriers ridiculous in comparison.

    With that said, we can’t always assume that it it always the fault of the brothers that sisters are treated in a second class manner. In our masjid it was a group of EXTREMELY aggressive sisters who finally were able to force the separation and now they have their own room to the side of the main prayer hall where they can talk when they want to, take a nap when they want to, etc. Anyone who tries to pray behind the brothers is treated with nothing less than contempt by some men and most of the women.

    I not only gave up my BOD position but also going to the mosque entirely. I do not want to have any part of innovation and if the mosque will not provide a place behind the brothers for me so that I am able to follow sunnah, then I am better off at home. Maybe the fact that I am a revert makes the whole issue clearer to me than sister’s who are raised within cultures that teach them their place is in a walled off space. ISLAM teaches otherwise.

    • I am not a revert and I still have issues with it. I grew up in North Africa, spent half of my life there and 1/2 here in Canada. I have given up going to one of the mosques here in because of the physical separation and the inability to interact with the Imam. I don’t go to the mosques often because of a number of things: women who don’t look after their kids and let them run around, or women who talk amongst themselves instead of respecting others who want to listen.
      The new mosque I started frequenting 2 years ago has a babysitting are upstairs at a cost of $2/hr and yet no one uses it.
      I work full-time and cannot afford to go often to the Friday prayer, and when I go I like to listen ti the Khutba and focus on that but unfortunately often I can hear kids crying, running around or cutting in front of me while I’m praying.

      Men can be very mean and disrespectful towards women. 7 years ago, a young girl came to study for a year here in Alberta from France.
      One day as she was walking she was so happy to see a mosque. She went knocking on the door. She was not wearing the hijab but she was decently dressed with a long coat (it was in winter between -10 and -20 Celsius) the guy who opened the door shut it when he saw her after making a mean remark on the fact she wasn’t wearing Hijab.
      She went back crying.
      How can we possibly cal ourselves Muslims when we treat each other like this?
      The story above of the sister “End the Fitnah, End the Bid’ah” reminded me of the story of my friend. It is so sad, and I hope the younger generation will be successful in changing things. I don’t mean to be negative but the frustrating has been building up now for years.
      May Allah help us improve things in our Mosques.

  • Thank you for a much needed article. For all those concerned with ‘fitna’ in the mosque, due to the absence of physical barriers, even as the world outside of the mosque we live in, from universities, to work, to grocery stores continue to exist without these walls, I would propose something: how about if we emphasize on fighting the ‘fitna’ within ourselves?
    the blind are not sinless because they are blind, and the sighted are not sinful because they can see.
    Jazakalah khair

  • Today, there are multiple ways of learning about Islam, based on what you’re comfortable with. Those who are busy or do not learn from sitting in a room listening to lecture can learn by research: reading or viewing lectures online as per their convenience. Others can attend focus groups. I think this article is about a society in which women are quite comfortable and un-self-conscious in the presence of men, which maybe a good thing in a way, but I believe it is always best to be a little self-conscious so that you filter what you say and keep a check on how you behave in the presence of the opposite gender.

    In Saudi Arabia, there is almost no interaction between men and women, and there are designated public spaces (including ladies’ malls) for women alone, designed exclusively to cater to women’s needs than to a common denominator between men and women. To be honest, the common denominator system rarely exists, because almost all spaces are designed considering men (ie the majority) as the users. So women rarely get justice in mixed spaces. Saudi Arabia being a rich country with considerable wealth allotted to religious development, women have as many facilities as men in mosques: separate entry spaces, lighting, ventilation, air-conditioning, sound system, and ablution spaces are often larger and specifically designed for more convenience to women. Women feel free and do not need to keep adjusting their hijab or lowering their voices, or being careful about not attracting attention to themselves in such spaces. So it is possible to learn and be part of the Islamic community without having to share space with men or even to interact with them, as vice-versa.

    In India, it is almost the opposite. Hardly any mosques have women’s sections, forget asking for equally comfortable facilities. It is very uncommon for women to visit the mosque, as women have been homemakers for centuries and have always taken the option of not attending the qutbah or prayer in jamaat. As a result, there are no qutbahs that address women’s issues, on the contrary they create a more male-centric/ male-dominant feeling in their all-male audience, which is not very difficult to create. Which puts off women from starting to consider going to a qutbah. Now, as more women are working, and becoming independently mobile, many new malls and corporate companies have designated prayer rooms with air-conditioning and plush mats, as well as chairs for the elderly. During Islamic delegations, open-air arrangements are made without visual barriers but demarcations between men and women. Women, being at the back can hardly see the speaker, being so great in number (usually in black garb) can hardly be seen by the speaker; screens are put up to relay the image of the speaker to the audience in the distance. However, these spaces are privately-owned and the decision to provide these facilities was with the owners. The Muslim community needs to take the decision to include women in the public realm with a view to helping women become better Muslims and valuing women’s contribution to society.

    Women need to stop aspiring to become the human ideal, ie male. The male is hardly an ideal; men and women are different and will never be able to be comfortable in spaces designed for the opposite gender, or in spaces designed for the common denominator.

    • @Fatima
      Saudi Arabia is far from being a model of Islam. The way they treat women is far from the Islamic tradition: women can’t drive, can’t vote, or go out alone.
      As for the Saudi men I have seen how they behave the minute they step outside their country.
      I will never take Saudi Arabia as a reference.

      Unlike in Muslim countries, Muslims are a minority here in North America. We need to feel a sense of belonging to the Muslim community.
      In Muslim countries it is different the Mosques are mainly a place to pray. In North America the mosque is more than a place of prayer. It is a place where people meet, where events are organized for the Muslim community etc.….

      As for interacting with the opposite gender why is it wrong? I interact with the opposite gender at work, outside in the public space, why not in Mosque?
      I disagree with your reasoning.

      The Muslim world wouldn’t be so backward if Muslims were not so concerned about petty things and technicalities such as women being hidden from view inside the mosque, or whether to wear Niqab or Hijab. I wear Hijab but this doesn’t make me a better Muslim than one who doesn’t. Those same men who are so strict about it are the ones you will find talking freely to Western women and chatting at length with them at work or in public places. I have witnessed many times their hypocrite behaviours.
      One need only go to mosques to see how the Muslim community behaves whether during Eid prayers, Ramadan or Friday prayers: rude to each other, inconsiderate of others and not welcoming of new people.

      How about men? Why don’t we talk about the way they dress when they go to the Mosque: low-cut jeans that reveal their underwear’s when they bend, tight pants…the dress code applies to men as well.

      We need to respect both sides: Women who want a physical barrier and those who don’t. I like to be able to see the Imam and hate having a physical barrier, as long as there is enough space between the men’s section and the ladies. I don’t like it when I am being pushed to the back or in an isolated room full of out-f control children who make so much noise I can’t even hear

  • I recently attended a lecture by Imam Suhaib Webb in Boston. The only barrier was a rope down the middle of the prayer hall. This allowed sisters and brothers to sit up front near the Imam. I loved this setup. It makes me feel more involved and important. I believe that men are more then capable of controlling themselves in this setting and physical boundaries are not necessary.

  • As a sister, I personally disagree with removing the barrier between the men and women. One small fitna leads to another until we begin thinking that a sin is not a sin anymore.
    Now, I don’t mean that women shouldn’t be allowed during kutbah or in the masjid to gain valuable knowledge, but it’s unfortunate how women dress coming into the house of Allah. If every women that walked into the masjid wore a niqab and abaya then I wouldn’t see the need for a barrier.

    There is no hidden meaning from a kutbah in terms of gestures or body language other than the actual words that come out of the mouth, so for this we only need our ears.

    “Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best.”

    Brother, this is a western ideology and sisters roles are regarded just as important in Islam. Our roles are different from our male counterparts but this doesn’t mean we are any less. When we fulfill our roles in Islam, InshaAllah there is barakah in our lives.

    Living in a western society, we sometimes associate our lives with ideas of the kufar and sometimes we need to step back and realize what our position is in Islam and the beauty of sisters and brothers roles as prescribed in Islam.

    • @ Asma
      “so for this we only need our ears.”
      This is far from true. It is a known fact that communication doesn’t consist of listening only but of many other aspects such as body language among others.
      As for wearing the Niqab this isn’t required in Islam and is rather a Bidaa from those who wan to impose it on the rest of us. I went to Hajj last year and didn’t have to cover my face, and went around the Kaaba without any physical separation between men and women.
      Again I believe there are more important issues facing the Muslim community than
      wether a woman should be wearing Niqab or not.
      Salam

    • I agree with you. And no, niqab is not an innovation. Rather it is an innovation to call it an innovation.

      And to the sister who said she attended Hajj without covering your face, that was your choice, but if Aisha r.a and the female companions used to cover their face using the Jilbab-not the niqab, like they did on normal days.

      And everyone is whining about how hypocritical the Muslim men are…so what?! Does that mean we also have to hypocritical? Does that mean we also have to be immodest in the way we act?

      And everyone knows that we interact with the opposite gender on a daily basis OUTSIDE the masjid, in school, at work, when you’re at the grocery store, but why do we have to be our masjid’s environment, the only place that can be as close to the Sunnah as possible, just like the outside world that is full of haram and misguidance?

        • Actually, covering of the face during hajj is forbidden.

          And the masjid clearly isn’t going to be turned into a mall or an office romance situation. What we need is to stop imposing our preference on everyone, and allow those who do not want the barrier to not have a barrier in an area. And to teach both genders how to behave around the opposite gender and to politely teach those who need help in behaving appropriately around the opposite gender. If this can’t be taught at a mosque, where can it be taught?

  • I definitely agree with the writer here and am happy he has mentioned the fact that many men say, “they don’t need to come to the masjid anyway”. I myself have received this response from someone who I asked to escort me to the local masjid.
    In Pakistan Alhamdulillah it wasn’t such a problem for me that we were separated from the men because they were many opportunities for me to find alimahs to help me out with any problems. When we moved to Malaysia, it proved to be a big problem because we didn’t know any female scholars. The masjid I go to, however, has a great system where the women’s area is abovestairs and overlooks the men’s area. That way there are no distractions for anybody and it’s very easy to locate your brother or father when the prayers are over :)
    But I definitely agree with the writer and am grateful he brought this issue to light. Those women who don’t rely on reading on body language are lucky, but I am unfortunately not. The expressions on the speaker’s face and their body language emphasise points they are trying to make and have a greater effect on you – they move you.
    I believe there should be no barrier, or only a small one if there is, between the men and women.

  • Thanks for posting about this Imam Webb, I strongly think in an informal prayer setting like those held on school campuses should not have a barrier, it is true, facial expressions and gestures are important when it comes to listening to a speech and also, people are easily distracted i.e. day dreaming, playing with random objects, talking etc. when they can’t see the speaker. If the barrier was SO necessary than there would be barriers set up in all of our mosques. If the speaker is speaking to a large body of Muslims (especially since Jumah prayers have a large turn ount) and can’t lower his gaze (even when all the girls are wearing hijab because they are going to pray) than I suggest getting another speaker.

    • ALHAMDOULILAH the words taken right out of my mind, not to disrespect the speakers but if they can’t peak to me without having foul thoughts then I wouldn’t feel comfortable with their advice in the first place. We all are tempted sometimes but we have to own our thoughs and try to control them

  • Keep the barrier add CCTV. We really don’t need to be in with them anyway, they’re so weak; we don’t need to be party to any excuses that they can’t concentrate on the Khutbah because we’re smelling so good and looking all pretty and colorful etc. etc. appreciate the concern but we’re alright.

  • Great article! In some ways, I think some khatibs need to be reminded or aware that women are present in Jumah, because they tend ot speak in third person about women or wives, and talk about how husbands and mean need to go home and do, rather than speaking to the women themselves. Furthermore, I never understood this notion that women are not obligated to go to Jumah. Where does that come from? I’ve read the verse in Qur’an about the Friday prayer and it makes no distinction about men or women leaving off business and traffic for the prayer. Nor have I heard anything about women during the Prophet’s time, not being obligated to attend Friday prayer. Any answers?

    • As I believe, the allowance has to do with women taking care of the children and the fact that, if everyone is going to jummah, it will be hard to find child care. It’s a woman’s choice if she wants to go or not. Also, there is a hadith that says something to the effect of:

      It is better for a woman to pray in her court yard than in the masjid, it is better for a woman to pray inside of her house than in her court yard, it is better for her to pray in her private room than in the oppenness of her house, and it is better still for her to pray in the corner of that private room.

      Not word for word but it goes something like that. But if she wants to go to jummah then she can as the khutbah’s can be a powerful spiritual rejuvination.

  • AOA Sister

    Can’t agree more with you on this issue you have raised. As they say a picture is better than thousand words, likewise during any lecture/khutba/seminar body language is more important than the words and if you deprive your audience from this key factor, the essence of attending a live lecture/khutba/seminar dies.

    JZK

  • I would love to see a speaker since it helps me connect with them and their emotions and passion on what they are speaking of, that’s just me I’m a visual person and I would love to be seated with my sisters but I don’t understand why there has to be a problem where ne shouldn’t be when one the room can b divided in half with a side for male n the other females. I’m a young Muslim and I have been always told it’s better for me to pray at home but sometimes I want to actually take the time to go to the masjid and surround myself with other practicing muslims and learn a thing or two instead of being at home watching tv then I will try to find other outlets for social life when I can make the masjid my spiritual and social combine.

  • JazakumAllahukhayrein, this was a beautifully written article on a much needed subject matter. It’s not just about this specific issue, but how we as individuals and a community view/support the issue of equal access, opportunity, knowledge, participation, etc. for men and women in the Ummah.

  • Salaamu alaykum from South Africa…

    The brother raises many important points, insha Allah this will encourage change.
    However… “Modesty,” I say, “is an important value in Islam, AbdelRahman.” :)
    And we should remember it swings both ways… so the sisters have to compromise a bit, in not being able to see the speakers actions/expressions, but insha Allah the barakah from this sacrifice will result in greater knowledge & acting on acquired knowledge.

    salaamu alaykum

  • I disagree. There should be a separation! And if you are worried about the Khateeb’s expression (facial, hand, etc) not being seen to our women’s side, then place a tv or something (which is common in many places). I really do not feel comfortable praying where I can see the men.

  • Just wondering. Why do some sisters feel uncomfortable when they sit close to the brothers? I thought it is the other way around. We men feel distracted if we see an attractive woman infront of us because it makes us want to look at her, and especially in the place where you are doing any action like just listening to a khutbah. But what is the case with sisters ?

    • Actually, in my opinion..it is not ‘uncomfortable’ feeling that we are talking about here. Men are distracted when there are women around and wanted to look more than once, this applied the same for women. But I won’t call that uncomfortable. Nafs are a very strong desire, so even when the bad intention is not there, the desire just to see will still be there because we human are all weak when in comes to temptation of the beauty (man, women, other creatures, etc.)

  • When a person(s) looks a us again and again or stare us instead of listening imam, that make us feel uncomfortable and it divert our attention too.

  • Salaamun Alaykum

    I would be interested in finding out what are brother AbdelRahman’s thoughts now that he has had about 3-4 years of feedback, both from the sisters and the brothers.

    As for my personal feedback, I would say a few different things need to be looked at:
    the quality of speech (speakers v/s proximity), the most benefit to the sisters, protecting both the brothers and sisters from distractions and fitan and also looking at the “additional” purposes of any potential barriers that would be put up.

    Finally, I would say the decision should lie with the Ameer (who has the enormous responsibility that he will be asked about on the Day of Judgement) and the rest should accept his decision.

  • Lets focus on what the sunnah is. Sunnah is to not have a barrier. If the prophet wanted, he could have had a barrier between men and woman in his mosque, but he didn’t.

  • Salam,

    Honestly my preference is that there be a curtain or barrier of some sort. This is not to put down women in any way, rather it is only for modesty’s sake and to prevent fitna. I asked my wife and she agreed with me on this point.

    To those who say that there was no barrier in the Prophet’s mosque, I disagree. We cannot be sure that there was no barrier. We only do not have any specific narrations about there being no barrier but there well have been. Not every single moment of the Prophet’s life has been recorded and we do not have any pictures of his masjid looked like in his time. But we do know that he had a separate door for women and we know that women dressed far more conservatively in his time than they do today. In fact Aisha (ra) said if he knew how women today dress then he would have prohibited them from even coming to the mosque. So sisters can come and benefit from the knowledge but my prefrence is that they dress modestly and be behind a barrier. There is too much temptation in this society. Even Imam Suhaib said once that zina is a big problem in the Ummaah today.

  • As salamualaykum

    i think 1 thing you have forgotton is that when we sisters pray behind the men, but we are in another room etc and there is a problem with the sound system OR we come in to join a prayer, we have no idea what part of the prayer we are in.

    i have had this happen during eid prayer when the sound system cut out for a bit and we were making sujood, but the brothers had fineshed praying and we were still making sujood till some one else made takbeer and we finshed praying individually. i have also had this happen when the sound system is fine, but we have joined the prayer and there is no one else there so we have no idea if the imam is saying Allahu akbar and doing sujood or standing up or what? so being able to see for that reason would make sense.

    i thought women also were supposed to lower their gaze? so even when we are listening to a talk at home if it has a video there are times when i dont bothering looking unless there is a need, in which case you usually hear the speaker say and if you see/ look at/ then does the action.

    one last thing about kids. they are banned from many masjids these days at least in some of the countires i have been in (never been to the US). how will the sisters learn how to behave if no one will teach them the ettiqutes of attending a masjid, ie correct hijab, not wearing perfume to the masjid etc but it needs to be done with wisdom.

    how will the children learn to love the masjid if they are not welcome in it?

    mums and dads need to teach their children, mums and dads who dont know wont teach their children anything.

    1 thing i hate and have seen is that when there is a mums and kids room, theres no point going. i have been to the masjid in ramadhan many times as there are some masjids that have mums and kids rooms. i avoid those rooms because the kids in there are going wild, mums are talking and it makes you wonder why come to the masjid?

    there is one masjid here that i have heard the shekih who comes to do taraweh there every year encourages the parents to please bring their kids to the masjid, he says Allaah swt has blessed us so bring your blessings to the masjid and let it be a source of blessing for us. mashallaah.

    before i had kids i also thought mum and kids rooms where great !!!!!!! then i had kids and realised that unless some one explains to the parents to bring somehting and keep the kids calm they are not going to learn.

    if you stick the kids together in a line to pray, they will mess about. the children should be praying with the adults, boys amongst the men and girls with women, NOT next to each other but between the adults, that way they will behave.

    i dont bother going to the masjid hardly ever, though my kids love it and ask to go. i dont like having to explain that banning kids from the masjid is not the sunnah. i can understand it having seen the way some parents let their kids behave but banning them wont help them to improve, educating them might help?!

    ramadhan comes every year and every year i am surprised that my sisters can not remember to bring a small thing for the little ones to play with while they are praying, instead i have had mums take things from my kids while i am praying and give it to their own kids! my kids at the time where the quite roll over an take it types, still are. so then i would get them coming up to me upset that they took my book/ toy etc and wont give it back! then i have to get it for them and leave!

    There are many ahadith that talk about the Prophet sws having his grandkids climb on him, holding them in the prayer etc. the men would be at the front the women at the back and from what i heard little kids would play around in the middle, between the 2, little kids as in younger than 7/ 6 as we know 7 year olds are supposed to be praying and we have read that one of the companions was 6 when he was leading the prayer and his shorts/ clothes were such that he was not covered properly so some one suggested they get their imam proper clothes.

    There were also cases of men being exposed while praying, as they wore sheets. so the prophet sws instructed that women should stay in sujood till the men have stood up properly and the back rows for the women were best and the front rows for the men are best,etc so theres all this to learn about praying and also men are suppoesed to be covered too, tight trousers that show your awrah when you sit or bend is not correct covering for men either. your supposed to have loose clothes over your awrah not tight trousers and pants and a t-shirt does not cover the awrah either, unless you buy a really long one!

    reflective glass sounds like a good idea, or parts where there is a curtain and parts where there aren’t a curtain.

    islamic education is needed a lot for all of us sincerely, smiling is a sunnah sisters to sisters. brothers to brothers. the masjid for some people is like a community centre its the only local thing where they have contact with others and if you make it unbearable for them and push them away you might have set someone adrift who ends up going away from islam.

    masjids i thought were the centres of the community in the prophet sws’s time?

    sorry for the long ramble

    wasalam

  • Very interesting article traditionally in the time of the prophet saw the women and children would pray behind the men. Sisters are missing out on the imaan boasting recitation which you need some times in jama’a. The prophet saw used to hold special halaqas for the sisters. We just don’t have that in the pro-dominantly sub continental mosques in London. Alhumdulilah with the advent of islamic weekend courses sisters can gain much needed knowledge and by the way during these courses men sit at the front and women behind. I was in sweden once and sisters were freely walking around the mosque (not salah time) I found this strange because my only experience of mosques is a male only environment. I can understand the case for fitna but it is up to the brothers to ensure sisters have equal facilities because we are their providers and protectors. Allah knows best.

  • At the end of this, it somehow seems odd to me that an article of this caliber would be proposed/penned by someone who is not a scholar by any means (mind anyone who tries to refute that point, i know AR Murphy personally) & then commented by majority of individuals who also have no islamic authority/ijaaza to try and validate their own opinions (even-though i don’t know them personally, the absurdity/lack of research in their comments reveals their ignorance)

    All that I am saying is that the question of whether ‘an act needs to be implemented or discarded’ is the responsiblity of scholars expert in the particular fields of hadith, history & jurisprudence… And if the general mass of muslims is so concerned regarding a matter that they end up writing 250+ comments on a single article, than maybe they can re-prioritize their lives and spend 200+ months to study their deen under ‘practicing’ scholars (western & eastern); both males and females alike.

    • Remember that when the Prophet (saw) wanted to make a decision, he used to consult his Ashaba (companions). Now why would the Prophet (saw), the most perfect being to live, need the opinions of his ashaba? Because he didn’t want to make a decision they weren’t in favor of. He wanted to build a strong community who, gives opinions, and advice each other. You are stating that this matter should be decided by the Ulumas and Sheikhs? I believe that the people (brothers and sisters) should have a say in this matter. As for the people whom you state might not have the proper knowledge; it may be that they have more knowledge than you suppose. Do not judge them by how they word their thoughts or response to this subject.

      And mind you (everyone) during the prophet’s time, there was no physical barrier between the men or women. Let’s revive the Sunnah.

      J’zakallah Khairan.

      • The Sunnah is also to not pray Taraweeh in congregation. Is the correct way to undo the positive ijtihaads made by the centuries of Muslim scholars and rightly-guided? The Sunnah is actually to understand the Hadith: “The Ulema are the heirs of the Prophets” – this means, we should respect what they have recommended to us to protect the spirit of what Sayyidna Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasalam brought.

        • Actually, because of that, according to the Maliki school, it is preferable to not pray tarawih in congregation.

          And if by positive ijtihads you mean the ijtihad of the barrier, Ibn ‘Abbas(R) was against it. When the statement of our mother Aishah(R) reached him of her saying “If the Prophet had lived now and if he saw what we see of women today, he would have forbidden women to go to the mosque even as the Children of Israel forbade their women”, he(R) responded by saying that the Prophet(S) did not in fact see it and did not forbid it.

          In other words, she(R) was speculating as to what he would have done.

        • sorry, excuse me: In other words, she(R) was speculating as to what he, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, would have done.

      • let me remind u dea about hazrat umer(r.a) he stopped women fa goin to mosque….
        as Prophet may peace be upon him said
        “Mere baad koi nabi hota to umer hota..”

        • Lol ‘sheikh’ Suh, you’ve got to be kidding right. Women were never stopped from going to mosque, IF it happened it was for certain once-off reason, doesn’t mean for the rest of eternity women can’t go to mosque. Get your facts straight. Islam is not a sexist and chauvinistic religion. That’s the beauty of it.

  • Lets face it. Islam, as practiced by VAST majority of Muslims today is a “man-centered” religion. Men lead the prayer, they are most (a very BIG most!) of the scholars, teachers, speakers, writers, doctors, engineers, etc.

    In other words, most Muslims are disillusioned about their religion, imposing their imagined reality on God’s perfect reality. After all those most dear to God are the ones who are conscious of Him, not the ones of a certain gender!

    • what’s wrong if men led the prayer and lead in other ways? this does not mean it is man-centred! i know that as a woman i play a fundamental role and in fact am at the CENTRE – of the home, the community, the family. but i am not interested in seeing our Ummah go down the beaten path of feminism that has brought so much havoc upon our lives in the west, our families, and our communities. Let’s not make the same mistakes. Islam has always been a religion and worldview that honors the unseen and honors the non-leader as much as the leader. you don’t need to be front and centre in Islam in order to be of value. and numerous hadiths point to this. so let us be careful to not be seduced by the western way of seeing power relations and get stuck in that rut.

  • I agree totally….I have been to various mosque that push the women to a small corner in the back of the room with a curtain separating us from the men & the sheikh. Many times we are struggling to clarify amongst ourselves what was even said by whoever is giving the khutbah because the sound quality is horrific. It is as if we are being told in so many ways that “you should’ve stayed home where you belong.” Those are masjids that I now have abandoned. I have also been to masjids that have an open forum and the sisters and brothers are sat accordingly so that we are seperate but we will all reap the full benefits of hearing and seeing the message being delivered. These are masjids that I prefer to draw myself closer to. How to get all mosques on the same line of thinking will be quite the challenge but it is not impossible. I suggest we share this article with any mosque or islamic forum (be it online or in person). I want to thank Brother Abdel Murphy for so eloquently stating what most sisters could not say or were afraid to say because they feared being shunned and banned from the masjid altogether. Jazakallah khaiyr.

    • you said: It is as if we are being told in so many ways that “you should’ve stayed home where you belong.”

      no one said that to you. that is your interpretation. fix the sound system and you will be able to hear. why do you HAVE to see and be seen? haven’t we had enough of being in the male gaze to appreciate some private space when it comes time for focusing on God?

      • to questioning
        you so right
        it is enough! we are always exposed to men in our education,college, working etc… also in praying… no!!!
        we as women most of us very happy with seperation,
        we are more comfortable with physical seperation
        now our moslims using western cliche toward the women…

        if there are some technical problem in the mosque for women side, like microphone or etc.. fix than one not fix islam according to technical problem
        bye the way if the muslim women want to see body language of khateeb while he is giving sermon they can do it with data show camera like video conference mode
        just lets only discuss the technically fixing female side of the masjid instead of fixing our deen

        • AGREE WITH ay and questioning….
          “if there are some technical problem in the mosque for women side, like microphone or etc.. fix than one not fix islam according to technical problem”.i too agree with the video conference idea…

  • Salam, this really seems like a non-issue. Most mosques I attend fro jumah usually struggle to cater for jumuah, with most of them offering 2 services. All available floors and rooms are used to seat as many as possible, including seating outside. This means that only a small proportion of the attendees can actually see the imam (those who came at least 30 mins early). As such, sitting on the second floor of the mosque, I do not feel disconnected as long as the speakers are functioning properly.
    As an aside at university it is often the female attendees who are more attentive, with a large proportion of male attendees thinking to themselves as soon as this khutba and prayer is over I am relieved of the duty and can go back to work etc

  • Topic is catchy, but obviously the content is addressing the western/US teenager mind. Youth is mostly vibrant, unsettling, and by the time it settles (15-20 years past puberty) – many MISTAKES youth make, are realized when the EYES/MIND really open – that’s why it is said – in Islam you really grow up when you are 40+ or past the HAZY phase of your life/youth. If only the youth FOCUS on Islamic teachings (Hadith/Quranic laws of leading our life) through these vibrant years – one is ensuring him/herself – the security from youthful-mistakes! But very few who are guarded/guided are distinct from a PLENTY OTHERS! May Allah(swt) protect the Muslim youth from youthful-mistakes, ameen!

  • I agree! As we all know, in an Authentic hadeeth the Prophet (saw) said “Do not keep you wives or children from the masjid” Do not prevent them, do not say no! Even during the Fajr prayers there were women who would pray with the men and Prophet (saw) and there was no “They don’t have to come” . Let’s revive our sunnah. The women are the ones who need the knowledge more than the men because they have the most impact on their children. After all the men are the ones who must leave and make money, leaving the mothers to care, raise, and educate their children.

    • everybody needs knowledge equally. there isn’t a question of who needs it more.
      May Allah increase us all in Knowledge that is naafi’ (useful)

        • Nobody can ensure that. But just because some people might do wrong things, nobody should forbid something for everybody.
          These things which are forbidden are clearly written in the Quran for everybody to read and follow that.
          The fact that the Quran forbids certain things means that everybody should be responsible what they do.
          Nobody should take the responsibility away from any person!

  • On a separate point, I think it is important to point out a personal perspective. The article may not be written by an esteemed scholar but the author evidently respects women and would like to see their contribution to society not masked. I really appreciate that sentiment and really hope that others appreciate it and echo it too. Women do not need to be hidden away in the knooks and crannies of society.

    • we are not hidden away when men give us safe space where we can be ourselves without having to worry about their dominant gaze upon us.

  • assalam aleikum, although i leave in Africa where i can issue of taking women as 3rd class in islam is falling behind slowly but its still present. in my opinion i think the barrier should be there between us and the men during lectures we cannot compare ourselves in ourtime with the khalifas during the prophets time because they were noble and a few of our men in our generation have reached the calibre of them. as a lady the same sititution befall us in our MSA and i stood ground for the barrier to be there it enhances modesty which has been emphasised in islam

  • Alhamdulillah, the article has articulated well something that I have personally felt about the requirement of reading body language,

    *especially in cases where the speaker is not a native speaker of my language and has a thick accent, or he is speaking in a language I am currently still learning.

    *similar meetings with khutbahs that require a power point presentation, which sisters can’t see through the wall.

    *sometimes sisters packed away in stuffy rooms with crackly whiney speakers tend to chat away with each other over the speaker drone, but if they are at least in the same room and can hear/see they will be quiet and actually listen/learn inshaAllah.

    Some suggestions for a barrier are, some kind of minimal net curtain pulled across and have the lights a little dimmer at the back than the front, so sisters can relax and have their privacy but may still see and hear clearly to the front.

  • I really agree – of our ummah girls should be given more importance of letting them listen the khutba – why our muslim women should be kept behind?
    -atleast not this contemporary time, they should be given value to understand Islam – listen and learn from friday khutba Which are really useful – and men should take the women to masjid.Im from India and here most masjids are close for women. Even when i specially talk to the imam for the permission then he said its very difficult to manage women in the masjid due to men as they cant lower their gaze.Therefore its better for to women pray at home as its not compulsion. I would love to go and pray five times in masjid with my husband. May ALLAH find a way out for muslim women.
    Islam is one for everyone- whether we are in America- India -Pakistan – or any other country. We all will be standing infront of ALLAH – on the judgement day there will be no barrier of any country. We all will be judge of our deeds – men will be judge by their own and women by theirs. So lets pray to ALLAH for every muslim women in the world to get right Islamic knowlegde and guidance from ALLAH only. InshahALLAH it will change!

  • since when is the home such a bad place that you don’t want to pray there? i just don’t get this mentality of wanting to rush into other spaces and wanting to be with men in order to feel validated.

    • As brother Murphy stated in this article many sisters do not get the opportunity the brothers do in talking to scholars and teachers etc. and that most of the time their “live” discourse with a respected speaker is at Jummah.

      Its not about being validated its about getting a more personal experience in learning the deen. Home is a great place to pray and we should all pray there often, but the masjid or anywhere jummah is being held is also a great place to pray. Its not rushing into a “space.”

      • then the issue should be setting up more learning opportunities for women including women teaching women. Christians are way ahead of us when it comes to women sharing women’s wisdom and spirituality with other women, and I think THAT is truly liberating – to see a woman drop science! awesome. that for me is way more empowering, if we are talking about women feeling empowered, welcome by Islam, and like authentic agents of this faith…than taking down a measly barrier. If there are still no women doing the preachin’, it doesn’t go as far as it needs to to make me feel like women’s scholarship and learning matter.

  • y’all are like 30 yrs behind on your feminism. read up. the new feminism is all about women’s safe space, and honoring the stuff that the old feminism diminished in importance by making women feel that traditional women’s roles, spaces, and activities were not valuable because they were not like those of men; the new feminism has gone back to re-value all that is feminine and traditionally so, in order to give importance to what women do and how they do it, and to not make the fatal assumption that what men do and where they are at and what they get is the be-all end-all.
    Muslims are always 10 steps behind. by the time they get where the west was at 30 yrs ago, they gonna realize that it aint’ that great, just as the west and western women are saying today. they are rejecting the idea that waht is male is good and what is female is bad. taht we need to take over the patriarchy to be free. we don’t. that’s not where it’s at, this thing called freedom. and this other thing called happiness.
    seriously, there’s a lot of joy and good to be found in modesty-ensuring structures that deny the male gaze and give us a space where we don’t have to cater to men. Yes, fix the sound system. yes, make the space nice and clean. but after that, honestly, i don’t have a need to be out there on display in front of the guys.

    • Assalamu alaykum questioning,
      Hilarious, but sadly, true.

      May Allah (SWT) give us all the ability to stand up for truth, and be of those who do not fear the blame of the blamers. Ameen.

    • This article is not about feminism its about granting sisters a chance to learn the deen. Whats wrong with that? That should never be a problem. If someone is muslim let them do it to the best of their ability. Give them a chance to learn. Male or female.

      • how does a barrier stop them from learning their deen? that’s a huge claim to make. you need to back that up. I learnt my deen with a barrier. Thousands of Sahabah learnt one third of our fiqh from Sayyida Aisha radi Allahu anha, with a barrier between student and Teacher.

        • When nonverbal cues is 80% of communication, then women behind a wall aren’t learning as much as if there was not a barrier. When women are too demoralized due to feeling like second-class citizens or not feeling comfortable in the segregated space, and this causes them to not attend the mosque to learn, this means the barrier is causing them to learn less. There is a reason why the Prophet didn’t have walls in the masjid separating men & women, so we shouldn’t be so quick to force the wall on all women due to the preference of some.

  • am a Muslim female, am in 3rd year of alimiyah degree and do full hijab and also in my last year of Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. i dont see any of the backwardness you people talk about. also, i dont see how removing partition helps us women, only makes us conscious of how we are sitting and if we are being noticed by the other side. Those who say there was no partition in time of Prophet(saw), then laws of hijab came late (comes in Surah Ahzab) and after they came, then hijab rules were enacted obviously.Before that, they hadnt been revealed.

  • I don’t feel comfortable with or agree with this whole movement to end female-only spaces of worship and contemplation. I am a strong Muslim woman, I am not scared of men, but I also do not want to always be in their view and in their company. I actually like being in the company of just other sisters, at times, and also being able to worship in a place where no man might be checking me out/distracted by me/distracting to me. I personally value women-only spaces – it gives me a break from having to be modest in my appearance and actions, and lets me just let my hair down – in this case, not physically, but emotionally. I don’t like the idea of having men around me when I do something as personal as praying. I don’t mind having women around me because they are my sisters.
    I have to wonder what is motivating people to take down the barriers and have men and women in view of each other, when we are all there to catch a glimpse of God, not to be distracted by a handsome man – and there are many, and we sisters are human, you know – or a beautiful woman – come on, again, we are all human, and we are attracted to one another. Give us a break from this type of energy, and let us just be in a place where our thoughts can be on God and on developing sisterhood.

    • Completely agree with you sister. I understand both sides, but I personally am much more comfortable with the barrier. People can bring up “This Shaykh said this” or “This Shaykh said that” and exhaust the topic so much when there are so many other issues we need to focus on as well. I’d ask any brothers to ask the sisters how they feel though, you may be enlightened.

  • I’d also like to know how you, Brother Murphy, reconcile your opinion with the views of the Prophetic Family: Imam Ali (as) is quoted to have said:

    Once we were sitting with Prophet Muhammad (saw) when he (saw) asked: “What is the best thing for a woman?” No one could answer his question. I approached Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) and discussed the issue with her and she immediately claimed to know the answer. According to her, the answer was, “The best thing for a woman is that she is protected from the sight of strangers such that neither does she have to see them nor do they get to see her.”

    I returned to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and gave him the answer. He (saw) asked at once, “Who taught you this answer?” I told him that the answer had come from Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa). Prophet Muhammad (saw) was delighted and said: “Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa) is my flesh and blood.”

    I find it offensive that you think you are saving us, and you are a man after all. Allow us to say what we want…and not all of us want to sit with you men and see you. Some of us actually don’t mind listening to the Khutba and keepign our eyes not on the speaker but on Allah. So please, include our opinions and concerns before you speak for us.

    • Assalamu alaykum Sr. Modern Muslim Woman,
      Honestly, more women like you should become influential ‘ulamaa…make no excuses for yourselves.

  • I do not wear the hijab and i currently do not practice all the aspects of Islam, and i normally have very “normal” interactions with men; however, i agree with the above comment. I do also value a prayer space that is women-only. I value the atmosphere that is so different and peaceful that can be achieved in such a space. I do believe it is one of the things that draws me to the mosque.

    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Ok but if you are committing sins, don’t tell any one about it, just regret it ask forgiveness from Allah and try to stop….remember the hadith about those who open up about sins….

  • I should clarify that strangers in the hadith in my comment actually should be translated as non-mahram men.

  • Assalam alaykum Brother AbdelRahman,
    thank you for caring about Sisters. I hope you will read our comments, as I thank you for sincerely asking: What are your thoughts on the issue? Do you agree? Disagree? I would especially like to get the sisters’ feedback (both for and against the barrier).
    I want to say that i disagree with your basic premise – the idea that one must see the speaker to get the whole message. If this were true, why do we listen to taped speeches, why do we listen to spoken word even? Why do we listen to lectures and other things, and get benefit? I think if we are honest, we can all admit that there is at least one good lecture we have heard in our lives, that was a voice recording of a live lecture, which we were able to take benefit from – perhaps even full benefit. The first Islamic revolution in the world, the Iranian Revolution, was possible due to the spreading of revolutionary ideas and spirit and theology through what? Through the use of taped recordings of taped recordings of taped recordings of Imam Khomeini’s talks, given in exile, in France. These recordings were spread and circulated throughout Iran and had such a huge impact that the population became followers of the lead of this Imam, and ready to launch a revolution, and they succeeded.
    Whether or not you agree with the results of this revolution is another topic, but my point is that the basic premise of your argument for taking down the barrier is not sound.
    I also want to add that while we may use scientific explanations about communication and what makes it effective, we should also add in the scientific studies of how visual stimulators can be distracting. And also about how men and women, when in each other’s presence, act differently than if they were in single-gender groups. There is scientific evidence to show this.
    And apart from all the scientific arguments, we should know that in the communication of spiritual knowledge and teaching, there are aspects that go far beyond and compensate for any problematics in the physical delivery. Indeed, there is a spiritual communication going on that should go from heart to heart…we should not limit communciation to physical aspects or means. We shoudl realize that Allah makes the khutba effective, regardless of whether the speaker’s body movements or facial expression can be seen. so, yes, physical aspects of communciation are important, but they are not the full picture.

  • you wrote: For most sisters, the Jum`ah khutbah is the only time they can attend a direct discourse from a respected speaker, outside of conventions and special programs that come every so often.

    actually, this is changing. Now there are female scholars and we all, especially the men who are concerned for the well-being of women, ought to check them out and support/promote them. I am a bit dissappointed that men who seem to care so much about sisters are not actually aware of sister scholars who are filling the gap and making traditional knowledge truly accessible to all women.

    I think it’s high time women started learnign from women scholars, and the men in our lives and communities supported and even promoted this….you mention that body language matters. well, other things matter to in teaching – including teaching by example. a man can never be an example of how to be a good wife, or how to be a good mother. but a woman teacher can. so please, let’s expand our horizons when it comes to Islamic learning.

  • I think it is wonderful that we all have different opinions. I think the problem lies when people want to impose their opinion on everyone. For those who want the wall, let them have the wall. For those who do not want the wall, let them have a section without a wall. Each perspective is valid and should not be minimized or attacked, and both should be respected and have the opportunity to be realized.

    • This is why i love the mosque at my college where there is a curtain hanging from rods in the middle of the prayer area, allowing it to be used/not used if desired by the sisters praying there. Theres a sign hanging by it that says, ” curtain to be used at sisters’ discretion” It allows for the kind of flexibility you suggest.

  • Not every man and not every woman is as strong as you. there are some of us who feel the presence of the other all over ourselves, even in our bodies. Yes, that might sound gross to you, but you know what, it is our reality. When someone of the other gender is around me, i feel it…i start to act different, i wonder if eye contact might happen, i compose myself a certain way to look more appealing, and i can’t help it! it just happens…i can barely control it. I can DEAL with it at work and other places, but it is really annoying and frustrating when that is all i am doing when i am at the mosque – fighting my urge for my attention to be on the other gender and the crowd of them just yonder – visible to me adn me to them. When i leave the mosque after an event or prayer where there is no barrier, i leave feeling ilke i did not gegt what i was going there for – peace, getting filled up with eman, etc…i just feel like i’ve been dodging bullets the whole time – bullets of my own nafs, my own desires, whatever you want to call it.

  • sounds like this is just the cool trend of the day. everyone is jumping on this bandwagon to sound like they are so forward-thinking. does anyone realize that this whole idea came not from the Scholars or People close to Allah, but from progressive Muslims who made documentaries and wrote snarky article about this back in the 90s? That poison has reached us and we think that to be better, we need to expose our women. I know that the women of my family like to be as honored and unseen as possible – for them, being protected from the eyes of men is a sign of respect towards them. They have no need to be on display, to be available for consumption, to be harmed by stares or looks of strangers.

  • I went to a masjid once where the prayer area for women was separate (very clean, with temperature control and good speakers)but they had a tv in the women’s area that would provide a live transmission of the khutbah. I thought it was a win-win. Women get their personal space for pryaer but they can also watch the khateeb go live and feel a sense of “connectedness”. Side note: I don’t believe the women praying in Makkah or Medina have barriers; just separate rows…

    • Actually in the prophets(pbuh) mosque in madinah, there are barriers! Proper ones, plus the women have a completely different entrance.
      As a niqabi sister I feel its much easier and comfortable for us to be behind a barrier…for me it means I can remove my niqab. And don’t we all want to be comfortable in the house of Allah?
      Also, about being able to see the khateeb in order to understand…..what about the thousands of people in makkah, madinah or even arafah on hajj? Do you think they are not enlightened by the sermon just because they cant see the imam?

      • As-salaam-u-Alaykum sister

        I understand what you mean but some sisters feel it is not fair that they cannot see the Khateeb, whilst the men can, in the sense that some of these sisters are ‘visual learners’. It is said about 70% of communication is non-verbal. Therefore, whilst you mention the thousands of brothers and sisters who listen to the sermons in Makkah, Medinah or even Arafah, we must acknowledge that regardless if it is a man or woman, many will not be able to see the Khateeb. However, in the local masjid situation, the women are the ones who do not get to see. Nevertheless, can’t this be solved by having a TV connected to the women’s side..that way they can see the Khateeb and learn (as well as feel more relaxed and have a cup of tea)?

  • If all the women of today would dress the way the Sahabiyas did, and everyone practiced lowering of the gaze, i would agree to have the separation between men and women taken down. But i wonder if there isn’t some wisdom in the fact that Khalifa Omar decided to put it up. Surely he had a good reason…we need to take a look at why he did that, as i think somenoe here mentioned. He knew a lot more than you and i, and had a lot more insight and foresight. He was interested in protecting people and making sure the spirit of the Message prevailed, not just the letter. If we don’t like his “bidaa” of putting up a barrier, simply on the grounds that it was not something that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam did, then we should also get rid of Khalifa Omar’s other bidaa on the same grounds. That other bidaa, as we all know, is Taraweeh.

  • I am also a little taken aback by people’s assumptions that the only way for women to learn is the khutba. There are so many places for women to learn now – online courses, women scholars (http://wbabdullah.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/on-female-scholarship/), and other fora. I also wonder how having up a separation prevents women from learning, benefitting, listening, or getting advice. If that really is the case, then it would mean that there should be a cap on numbers of people who should attend Juma at a specific location…because at a certain point, the line you are in, even if you are a man, is far away enough that you can’t see the Imam or his hand movements or facial expressions. At Hajj, we attended the Friday prayers. Most of us could not see the Imam, and i was right there amongst a bunch of men. At many masajid, whether you are male or female, you can’t see the Imam caus there are lots of people. So no barrier in these cases would mean i get to see the backs of a bunch of brothers. How helpful.

  • Good article to discuss. And again another issue where I think we miss the point. With my humble knowledge and understanding, to me it is not a question of barrier or the absence of one during Jummah Qutba. Islam taught us how to behave ourselves individually and collectively in all kinds of spaces, inside the Mosque, at Work, in the Market, at the mall you name it.

    I have seen marital issues arising as a result of two masjid employees a male and a female both married texting and flirting with one another. So barriers ALONE cannot shield us from common problems we see in Society. Rather we have to fear Allah (SWT) in all aspects of life inside the mosque, when we are alone, and elsewhere. Then maybe if we practice that, we will not need a physical barrier and we will have a spiritual barrier to shield our eyes from what is forbidden.

  • Salaam,

    As a fellow Muslim sister, I understand the brother’s argument in this article but I feel more comfortable with a barrier. But I agree that sisters should be more active in the Muslim community within limits of modesty.

  • Thank you for writing this. As a Muslim convert, I have a VERY hard time with the segregation of men and women in our Muslim community. I know it is not a fair comparison, as it is done out of misguided respect, but I can’t help comparing our segregation to the old segregation of the American South. One of these days, I just might pull a “Rosa Parks” on our back-row prayer arrangement!

    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Why don’t you bear it and focus on going to Jannah? Shaitan distracts us with little annoyances.

      • I personally dont have an opinion on the barrier issue. wither, you ware for or against, thats a matter of opinion. BUT! i must say the womens condiiton in the mosques i have been to are not good!

        i was traveling with my family once, and we needed to do salah, so we found a mosque. the men in my family had no problem getting it done, but the females had a tough time! they had a 6 foot by 6 foot room! this is not a joke, the were forced to pray in a TINY room how are you suppose to fit even 10 sisters in the room to pray?

        are they not muslims? are they not humans? are they not worthy of worshiping Allah in comfort and ease like the brothers do? ofcourse not! the brothers section should be EQUAL to the sisters section. we are created EQUAL IN religion. some mosques have a nice big room with AC, windows. new carpet. big front door. nice place to do wudu…then you have the sisters side with 10 yearold carpet. a small side door which is broken half the time. no windows..ect. it dosent make sense.

        I am a man, and i feel the women of our religion arent respected as they should be. the prophet muhammad delt with women kindly an respectfully. he made sure they werent facing hardship. now adays the idea of a muslim women as the author said is throw her in the kitchen and have her pop out kids. is this what islam has taught us?

        i am american, and if we muslims practiced islam and treated our women like the Prophet(pbuh) ALL of the women in the USA would flock to islam in the hundreds! because no relgion honors and protects them like Islam does. but since we refuse to embrace them and treat them as second class citizens, you see the sterotype of “women opressors”, which is simply not true.

        sorry for the rant…but we muslims must face the reality of our situation. yes its true its not an obligation for women to go to the mosque, BUT you cannot forbid them from going. they have an equal right, to a islamic education.

    • why? what about women’s safe space? have you not heard of that? it’s all about priviliging women. they are all over university campuses. but when it comes to Islam, we assume it must have bad intentions of women-hatred behind it.
      i wonder whose kool aid we drank?

  • Salaams, Mustafa – I am happy to see this isn’t an issue for you and that you focus on the big things. To many of us this isn’t a little annoyance- it is so major that it keeps some women from going to the mosque, from gaining peace at the mosque, and even from feeling like as a female that they have a place in Islam or that Islam is anti-woman. This can impact women having a place of Islamic learning (making them rely on less qualified places to learn) , building their Muslim support network (which means they may build their network with more non-Muslims who may not support their Islamic lifestyle). I know converts to Islam who occasionally attend church because they are desperate to feel like they are wanted, that they belong, and that they are respected. This issue, for some women, is so major that it does impact focusing on going to jannah.

  • Assalamu alaikum. I really appreciate and commend Brother AbdelRahman Murphy for speaking out in regards to this matter. I’ve read all the comments and I’ve noticed that everyone has personal preferences. Some women actually do like the barrier being put up and some do not. My own preference is to remove the physical barrier beause I find that it limits my ability to truly grasp and benefit from the khatib’s lecture. However, I do understand that some women prefer to be behind the barrier for privacy concerns and I think we all respect that. I have experienced being behind a barrier and not having a barrier. When it came to the private room with a speaker, women would talk amongst themselves and the video just wasn’t as interactive for me to pay attention. There were women who definitely could benefit from just a video mashaAllah. At my current masjid, we have no barrier however we do provide a women’s lounge that has a speaker for women who want more privacy.

    My point being that, we can make this better inshaAllah by having no barrier for the sisters who do not want it and provide a women’s lounge for women who do. As for the men who ask why women need to come to the masjid, please please try to see the insensitivity in that statement. For God’s sake please.

    • wa alaykumusalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I don’t see the sensitivity. It is better for them to pray at home.

      Also, if you want to see the imam so badly, lets install t.v’s in the sisters section so that the sisters can see the imam.

      In this fitnah filled world, the one place a young guy like me can find relief is in the Masjid. And now people are trying to take it away. What am I going to be left with>?

      • Gibran – Salaams.

        Sorry but it is not the women’s responsibility to control men’s gaze – it is the man’s responsibility. Nobody is trying to ‘take away’ your relief, just like nobody is taking away your responsibility. The mosque is the perfect place to learn how to control yourself in the presence of women, as there is a support network there to guide you. Where else should one learn?

        Last, a woman has the right to the masjid just like the man, and her access should not be limited unless it was done in the Prophet’s time, which it was not, so who are we to change the structure of the masjid? Society needs to stop removing women’s access, rights, and stop blaming women for men’s weaknesses. It is upon each of us to control ourselves, and not within our right to limit other people’s rights just because we have weaknesses.

        • “Sorry but it is not the women’s responsibility to control men’s gaze – it is the man’s responsibility. ”
          I never denied that. But there is no denying a woman has responsibility to clothe herself properly and behave modestly.

          Nobody is trying to ‘take away’ your relief, just like nobody is taking away your responsibility.

          Women have a responsibility to dress and behave modestly.

          “The mosque is the perfect place to learn how to control yourself in the Tpresence of women,”

          Mosques were made so I can learn to control myself in the presence of women? So there is no safe place on the planet is there?

          “as there is a support network there to guide you. Where else should one learn?”
          What support network?…..

          “Last, a woman has the right to the masjid just like the man, and her access should not be limited unless it was done in the Prophet’s time, which it was not, so who are we to change the structure of the masjid? ”

          No one is talking about banning women from the masjid. Where did you get that from? The barrier is not an innovation. We were commanded in a hadith to follow the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs. Omar RA is one of them. So the barrier is a good thing.

          If you want the barrier to go, then all women should start dressing and behaving the the Sahabiyat.

          Until then, you have no right to take this relief from me.

        • Gibran Mahmud > You can say the barrier is not an innovation. But it clearly IS an innovation, just one that has been accepted.

          I never said you were saying women were being banned from the masjid. I was making it clear that many women feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and challenged to follow along when behind a wall.

          You say “If you want the barrier to go, then all women should start dressing and behaving the the Sahabiyat.”. The Prophet never stuck all women behind a wall in the mosque, in markets, etc., even if a few of the women didn’t dress properly. Again, that’s beecause men have an obligation to divert their eyes. If men can’t control themselves, let them go into the basement for Jumu’ah away from others who may distract them. The prophet didn’t instruct us to handle this situation by sticking women behind a wall, and therefore women should not be forced behind a wall. The option is clearly fine, but it should be an option either way and for all.

          “Until then, you have no right to take this relief from me.” Actually, your relief is immediately gained by diverting your eyes. Just that simple. That’s the genius and beauty of Islam and the Prophet’s teachings.

        • “Gibran Mahmud > You can say the barrier is not an innovation. But it clearly IS an innovation, just one that has been accepted.”

          No it isn’t, unless your willing to say we should disobey the Prophet sallahualayhiwasalam even though he commanded us to imitate those after him, Abu Bakr RA and Umar RA. Even though he commanded us to follow the way of the rightly guided caliphs after him.

          “I never said you were saying women were being banned from the masjid. I was making it clear that many women feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and challenged to follow along when behind a wall.”
          Others feel a sense of peace, being alone with their Master. The masjid is a place for our relationship with Allah aza wa jal.

          “You say “If you want the barrier to go, then all women should start dressing and behaving the the Sahabiyat.”. The Prophet never stuck all women behind a wall in the mosque, in markets, etc., even if a few of the women didn’t dress properly. Again, that’s beecause men have an obligation to divert their eyes. If men can’t control themselves, let them go into the basement for Jumu’ah away from others who may distract them. The prophet didn’t instruct us to handle this situation by sticking women behind a wall, and therefore women should not be forced behind a wall. The option is clearly fine, but it should be an option either way and for all.”

          To be honest, I find this offensive. I feel like I sound like some raging maniac who can’t control himself.

          The woman of today don’t dress a fraction of the modesty of the Sahaba. The two cannot be compared. SubhanAllah, if the companions could see how our brothers behaved and how our sisters dressed….

          Women aren’t being forced behind a wall. They don’t need to come to the masjid in the first place. As the hadith confirm, the further inside a women is in her house when praying, the better for her.

          ” Actually, your relief is immediately gained by diverting your eyes. Just that simple. That’s the genius and beauty of Islam and the Prophet’s teachings.”

          I’m sorry, but you clearly are not in my shoes and not in the shoes of other Muslim brothers who are not raging maniacs but normal human beings who live in an era where the Muslim women do not have a fraction of the dress modesty the Sahaba did. And where Muslim brothers weren’t raised to have the haya of the haya of the Sahaba. This is just a fact-ask any scholar how the Sahabiyat used to dress.

          Lowering the gaze helps keep chaste. It doesn’t provide full relief. I don’t see why I need to be tortured in the one place that was made for me to remember my Master.

  • Hey, speaking of save the sisters, what about calling for a color revolution or regime change in Saudi Arabia? Anyone can be a mouth piece, how about a call to action?

  • I think the article made a very valid point. We can get distracted very easily, actually looking at the lecturer we do understand more and pay more attention. Why can a religious man not give a lecture to a group of women without lowering his gaze?? I think there is a problem of some men who indulge themselves in looking at women. There is no point of claiming submission to Allah if we are not obeying Him and fighting our desires.
    As a sister i personally am used to gender segregation so a barrier is not a big deal. But men should remember women are equal to them i.e in responsibility of our souls. Most mosques should be helping and providing services to women to educate themselves inshaa’Allah.
    May Allah forgive all the believing men and women. Amin

    • what about women looking at men? that is also an issue. women’s sexuality is recognized in Islam and there is supposed to be a means to limit opportunities to provoke unnecessary feelings through looking at each other.

  • It may just be an issue of organisation.. many masjids in general are not very well organised Ahmad pointed out above offering only 2 salat service, let alone a comfortable and suitable sisters space.

  • Jazaka’Allah khairan! I agree with you because I am a visual learner, and being able to see the Imam makes all the difference in my understanding what’s being said!

  • Assalamu alaikum. Very inspirational article, May Allah SWT blesses you. Honestly speaking, I agreed on more building more “space” in mosque for sisters cause in my country, Indonesia, even at my work place, space for sisters to take prayers with jamaah and follow lectures after prayers (delivered from men jamaah) are so small and sometimes because of the reason, many sisters just leave the masjid right after taking prayers without hearing lectures or because of the small room, we have to take turns because many sister also wait for taking prayers after us. More flexible concept about making “space” in Masjid for sisters is really needed. May Allah SWT makes all of us easier in finding knowledge about Islam, aameen. Wassalamu alaikum. Sister from Indonesia.

  • i feel so sorry for those women who do not feel ok or that they are respected unless they are in the same room as a man. it is so sad that many women still feel they need have their existence validated by the presence of men, and that if men are not around, their very being does not matter as much.
    you are there for God’s Message and to get His blessing, not to see or be seen or feel respected or make a political statement like rosa parks or anything else you think you need to do. God sees you right? now focus on seeing HIM!

  • O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good. (4.19)

  • All things that have value are kept in a secluded area.d fact dat a barier is put btwn men and women doesn’t mean dat women r less important.muslim sisters r princesses they r soo special that a place has been secluded for them.the most important thing is to get d message the imam is passing across.may Allah guide n protect us

  • I do agree, and honestly I’ve experienced this, not being able to see the speaker and merely hear him is very frustrating , its like listening to the radio.
    And We don’t need to attend anyways??
    Oh pleeease!

  • السﻻم عليكم…i have a suggession that may help solving this issue for both sides…. your side on removing the barrier so the sisters can see the imam’s body langues ….and the mangers side on keeping the barrier.
    So my suggesion is: KEEP THE BARRIER! ..infact..make it more like aprivet closed room for
    Sisters so they can feel more comfortable..but..stay with me its getting better..but a tv in it
    Thats coneccted to a camera thats facing the imam on the other side..so the sisters can see the imam but.. he can only see the brother..:-).
    Please send me back if you reseved the message ..ireely want to know how things are going to turn up to be…سدد الله خطاكم وحفظكم من كل سوء :-)

    • wa laikum salaam, speaking from personal experience, a private closed room is the ^worst^ place, the sisters just gossip and natter and you can never hear a thing the speaker is saying.

      there is only ever about three or four sisters who crowd around the screen/speaker to actually try to painfully listen over the noise, the only time the bulk of the sisters behave themselves (they keep quiet-for fear of distrupting the speaker and audience and actually listen) is when they are in the main room a decent gap behind the brothers.

      the idea of a seperate room works in principal but unfortunatly if you put the sisters in their own room with a tv, just becomes a social gathering (this may be the only time they get together with their friends) with the tv going on in the back ground. you can’t imagine how annoying this is if you actually want to listen and take notes, i know and completely agree that we sisters need a secure and private space to get together, “let loose/ let their hair down”, but during a lecture/seeking knowledge is not the place or time for that.

  • As-salaam-u-alaykum brothers and sisters

    I do feel the sisters do get short-changed by some of the brothers regarding the issue of praying in masjids.

    However I do know there are some masjids that have adequate spaces for the sisters, whilst at the same time there are masjids that do not have such spaces.

    A sister in Islam has flexibility – she can pray at home or at the masjid. Mothers, especially, who have little children do not have to pray at the masjids – they can equally pray at home – which is why Friday Prayers are not too incumbent upon them as they are with the brothers. However certain cultural traditions have seeped into the Islamic culture, and as a result there have been certain brothers (and even sisters) who feel that a woman praying in a masjid is a haram thing to do! ..they make it feel like that! lol.

    If that is so then why do men and women do Hajj and Umrah together?

    Also there are many hadiths in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim regarding women praying in masjids.

    1. Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 0890:
    Ibn ‘Umar reported: “Grant permission to women for going to the mosque in the night. His son who was called Waqid said: Then they would make mischief. He (the narrator) said: He thumped his (son’s) chest and said: I am narrating to you the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), and you say: No!”

    2. Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 0887:
    lbn Umar reported: I heard the Messeinger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: “When your women seek your permission for going to the mosque, you grant them (permission)”.

    3. Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 0886:
    Ibn ‘Umar reported: ‘The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Do not prevent the maid-servants of Allah from going to the mosque.

    4. Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 831:
    Narrated ‘Aisha: “Allah’s Apostle used to offer the Fajr prayer when it was still dark and the believing women used to return (after finishing their prayer) and nobody could recognize them owing to darkness, or they could not recognize one another.”

    5. Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 824:
    Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: “The Prophet said, “If your women ask permission to go to the mosque at night, allow them.”

    6. Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 832:
    Narrated Salim bin ‘Abdullah: “My father said, “The Prophet said, ‘If the wife of any one of you asks permission (to go to the mosque) do not forbid her”.

    Fact is women were allowed to go to masjids and still are.

    Now the issue is whether or not the sister going to the masjid, on a regular basis, is so adamant in doing that, that it affects the family life – I mean if she has to drive there everytime with the kids in the back seat crying and moving about whilst the masjid is not nearby – therefore creating more hassle than calmness. So the women have options and more flexibility :)

    And if we are to discuss this physical barrier thing, why don’t we do an experiment – one masjid has an Imam do 2 separate (BUT THE SAME!) lectures to men and women without a physical barrier, and one with a physical barrier. Afterwards we can ask the women via questionnaire what hey learnt and who was more attentive in listening to the Imam. After all Islam is about learning for our own benefits.

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