I recently came across a discussion on social media regarding the lack of facilities for women in local mosques. The user titled her discussion "I'm renaming mosques with no facilities for women 'Private Members' Club for Muslim Men". It made an interesting discussion on how women were struggling, yet again, for access to their local mosques.
This subject has troubled me over the years. As a practicing Muslim woman, I really struggled with the concept that when I'm outdoors, I'm having to get home quickly to pray my Salah, as the nearest mosque to accommodate women would be a few miles away. And even if I made it to the accessible mosques which are usually quite large, I would have to fight for a parking space and try and get in on time for the prayers.
I watched men enter their local mosques to pray whilst I waited in the car to collect a child from school/college, knowing my prayer would be missed because I couldnt go into the same 'men only' building.
This is inconvenient in the winter months when Salah times are so close together and you are more likely to miss some of your prayers by not getting back home on time. Whilst there are mosques on every few blocks, I can't enter any of them because they have not provided any space for women to use.
Women were always encouraged to pray at home, so we enjoyed not having to drop household chores and go to the local mosque to perform our daily prayers...men have to, because they must perform prayers in the mosque or in congregation if at work. Praying at home for men is extremely disliked in Islam.
Women's roles have changed in the last 30 years, we are not home-based anymore. Women are now part of the workforce, they play a greater role in society, with more and more responsibilities out of the household. Yet their needs are ignored and they are prevented from using mosques in their locality.
So why are there so many local 'cornershop' mosques without access for women?
I understand some men use the Hadith where it was mentioned by the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), that it's better for women to pray in the home, which is really convenient for us when at home. I would prefer to pray at home when I'm home. But in the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), men and women could pray in congregation at the mosques.
Then theres the Hadith regarding not stopping women if they want to enter a mosque and pray? When I'm outdoors I need to perform my prayer on time, this Hadith would very much be applied in this case.
Another popular argument men use is that the Prophet Mohammed's (pbuh) wife Aisha (r.a), once commented on how the Prophet (pbuh) would forbid women of today from entering the mosque. This message suggests that women of today are so deviated from the message of Islam that their behaviour would warrant a total ban from using mosques.
Whilst this comment sometimes encourages self-reflection on our own personal journey, our devotion and commitment to Islam, I personally don't agree with a woman being prevented from praying in a mosque, no matter what. If Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) said not to prevent women, that should be the final say.
It's a very uplifting moment, for a Muslim to be facing the Almighty in prayer and invocation. To be able to do this in congregation has a powerful effect on a believer. I feel cleansed, at peace, and content after praying in congregation at a mosque. It also gives me an opportunity to meet and build relationships with fellow worshippers, to hear live sermons from various scholars instead of watching them streamed online. Having a person to speak to for Islamic advice and information is essential for local Muslim communities to progress.
There are so many benefits to be gained from using a local mosque, men enjoy these and have unlimited choices and access. Why not allow women to gain these essential spiritual benefits and pass them onto family and friends?
What do you think? Should we just enjoy the freedom of praying at home and not try to enforce women's presence in 'male only' environments?
It is my wish that one day I can also walk into any mosque to perform my prayers and savour that brief moment, where I am at one with, and speaking to my Creator. In Sha Allah!!