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According to the Mosque Study Project, conducted by CAIR in 2000, women comprise only 15% of the mosque attendees

during a Friday prayer. Karen Leonard, in Muslims in the United States: The State of Research, cites Ihsan Bagbys research on AfricanAmerican mosques. Bagby found that in 81% of immigrant mosques women pray behind a partition or in another room. Comparatively, in only 30% of African-American mosques does this practice occur. Javed Memon, in his survey sample of 600 women found that A preliminary review of data suggests that levels of dissatisfaction among Muslim women who have attended American Mosques are high. He attributes the trends of women only mosques and also, the more recent confrontational stance women imams or mosque pray ins, as a direct result of this isolation. He also states, that a large number of women are satisfied with the way things are, although they would prefer a change within the hierarchy. Yes, brothers and sisters, I did finally hear it for myself. Two days ago, I attended a meeting at a masjid that promises change, the reduction of generational gaps and what not, and yet when the most important matter of the all important barriers came up, the matter was diplomatically relegated to sisters who prefer to be secluded. Every mosque has had the barrier discussion. So sacred it is to the new era of young women, that even Zarqa Nawazs Little mosque on the Prairie addressed it and more recent Muslim comedians like Azhar Usman poke jokes to create awareness about it. Yet when push comes to shove, when it was the moment of decision on behalf of the youth at this new masjid, the veil of deceit shifted a bit to have the verdict handed down by the aunties 6-8 plus feet of partitioning in front and behind the sisters, all in a congregation hall of three rows (dungeon anyone?). To say that my experience at this meeting was unreal, is an understatement. Although the women boasted about their achievements, they were unprofessional and rude with the tact of a banshee. They insisted their organization goes through constant tarbiyah trainings and ensures people in power are thoroughly trained before they are given active roles. Even before being given a fair hearing, I was told that the organization has been running a certain way and I need not come in and impose my ideas. Cry me a bucket; the masjid is one month old! A friend of mine joked that the Aunties and Uncles Syndrome is epitomized by Hosni Mubarak. They hold dearly to their reigns of power and leadership but live in a disconnected world. These aunties typically live in seclusion from society, socialize as cults, and have no real life integration within society. On one hand they organize Family Carnivals at the masjid (with intermingling in a fun context) and on the other, they abolish the sunnah of the Prophet Pbuh by constructing barriers during salah in fear that men might look at them. The youth that visit these mosques are attending universities and schools, working in professional fields in co-ed environments. What message, but that of hypocrisy, are we really imparting to our youth by imposing apartheids on them in the masajids especially if the Prophet pbuh never did?

It is falsely assumed by some Muslims that the more rigidity they impose, the better their piety level. If excessive worship carried more reward, we would be doing three sujjoods instead of two. SubhanAllah, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh and his wives are the best of examples. If it was more pious for women to be behind barriers, the first women to be sanctioned behind barriers would have been the most chaste, the wives of the Prophet pbuh.

We have two neighboring mosques as prime examples of the fitnah that the excessive apartheid causes. One mosque has 8 feet barriers, the other has only chairs. The mosque with the 8 feet barriers will always have teenagers in the parking lot, whereas when we visit the mosque with the chairs, even during tahajjud time, there isnt a single person in the parking lot.

When I told a friend of mine that the auntys at our local mosque want to install tvs in a room for us to be able to see the khateeb, she asked me: why go to the masjid then? I can watch and listen to lectures at home. Why go to a masjid only to be removed from the congregation and shunned into a room with a tv? I can listen to the taraweeh at the Kaba from home, why would I go to the masjid to watch our imam on tv?. Typically, in Arabic language, the word jamah means standing together in continuation without unnecessary barriers or interruptions. I remember visiting another neighboring mosque in Ramadan and being yelled at for not paying attention to the lecture between taraweeh prayers. Contrarily, when I attended a Masjid in another area where women were part of the congregation, separated by a short row of chairs, the women listened more attentively. There is an entire science dedicated to perfecting body language while delivering speech this is modern day science. By His Wisdom, Allah swt already made that apparent to us by allowing the Imaam to be visible to the women.

Although it is recommended for women to pray in their homes (Ahmad, number 27135), they are not forbidden from praying at masajids. If the participation of women in the masajids were meant to stay at a minimum, women would not have been asked to correct the imam (Bukhari, book 22, ahadith 295 and 296) by clapping their hands. This act would have been restricted for men alone.

Some people argue that the absence of the barriers applied only to the wives of the Prophet pbuh and is inapplicable to the times of fitnah that we currently live in. Islam came at a time when fitnah was at its peak. In Islamic history, the era of the Prophet

Mohammad pbuh is often referred to as the Dark Ages, simply because of the barbarianism, illiteracy and immorality that prevailed. Men married their daughters. If an era required stringent demarcations, it was then. Moreover, to believe that the method of the Prophet pbuh is inapplicable today, is to imply that God Forbidding, Islam is not for all times.

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! (Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 0890)

An aunty once told me that niqaabis would not like to be seen by men while at the masjid. Being a niqaabi, one is already not seen. Even if the niqaabis are required to wear the niqaab at the masjid, dont they keep it on during school, shopping, weddings, conferences etc anyway? Why then, is it assumed that it would be burdensome to keep it on at the masjid? Should the niqaabi women prefer to further seclude themselves, they are always welcome to pray in the back row, or in the corner. There are always nursing and childrens rooms as well. Aisha (rad) narrates that at the time of Prophet pbuh, women would draw their veils over their head during the hajj so their faces would be covered without the fabric touching their face. They were given many different options yet not secluded.

A friend of mine joked that the condition of our masajids is epitomized by Hosni Mubarak. The Uncles and Auntys cling onto power they do not wish to relinquish, yet refuse to keep up with the changing trends of society. They come with preset cultural baggages that suggest excessive practice translates to piety and therefore, refuse to budge in order to adopt a method of the sunnah that is more connected with Islam.

Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that Atika bint Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl, the wife of Umar ibn al-Khattab, used to ask Umar ibn al-Khattab for permission to go to the mosque. He would keep silent, so she would say, "By Allah, I will go out, unless you forbid me," and he would not forbid her. (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 14, Number 14.5.14)

Narrated Ibn Umar: One of the wives of Umar (bin Al-Khattab) used to offer the Fajr and the 'Isha' prayer in congregation in the Mosque. She was asked why she had come out for the prayer as she knew that Umar disliked it, and he has great ghaira (self-respect). She replied, "What prevents him from stopping me from this act?" The other replied, "The statement of Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) : 'Do not stop Allah's women-slave from going to Allah s Mosques' prevents him." (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 13, Number 23)