So, originally I wanted the title of this one to be “this is the masjid, the pub is that way,” but I figured that might be too offensive and no one would even click on the link if I did that.
I have seen everything in the mosque. From small weird things to full-scale ridiculousness, people these days seem to have forgotten that the mosque is a space for worship, remembrance of God, and prayer.
And this is not just a cultural thing, because I have seen crazy things happen in every mosque, in every country I have been in, from England to Algeria.
I spent much of my Ramadan in the mosque in Algeria this past year, and I am so grateful to God for that experience, but the amount of chatter in the women’s section was astounding. The first time I walked in with my husband’s mom, I actually thought we were stopping off in a cafe or restaurant for some refreshment before a long night of prayer.
Nope, it was not a party, but in fact the sisters prayer hall. As the chatter grew steadily louder and louder and more women came in, one old woman stood up in the front and began to shout in Algerian dialect while waving her prayer beads around and pointing at people. She would often continue this even after the call to prayer and into the beginning of the prayer. And the same exact thing happened every.single.night.
Not exactly easy to focus on worship during a month of fasting when you feel like you are praying in the middle of the weekly sisters’ social.
And it doesn’t get much better at my local mosque here in London.
Here, the most popular mosque pass-time is not reading Qur’an or praying extra units, it’s arguing.
The other night, right after the evening prayer, a woman stood straight up and began to shout at another woman (about who knows what). That woman at first refused to engage, but then began shouting back.
They took it out to the hall and continued to shout at each other while putting on their shoes, and as they made their way down the stairs a third woman joined in the fray. The three made their way into the toilet where a fourth woman (the one who you have to ask for toilet paper, because she won’t put it in the stalls) began to insert herself into the situation.
At this point, I was so shocked that I was basically running away, but from what it sounded like all four of them continued out into the courtyard and beyond.
It was the closest thing to an Islamic bar fight that I have ever seen (hence the original name for this post), and it started RIGHT IN THE PRAYER HALL.
It is in this same prayer hall where women tug at my clothes and throw extra khimars over my head if I am not dressed like them, the same prayer hall where they fight over which way to fill in the gaps every time the imam begins prayer, the same prayer hall where one woman walks around snapping her fingers and pointing at people while barking her orders, the same prayer hall where phones ringing is normal background noise, and it is completely acceptable to pick it up and have a conversation.
How did it come to this?
How did the prayer room become the space for gossip, fighting, chatting and yelling? Who says that one woman gets to be queen of the prayer room and another gets to be queen of the ablution stations?
And how can we bring it back to being a space for prayer, remembrance, and quiet reflection?
I understand the need for community, but there are so many other ways to connect with friends. Get each other’s phone numbers and go to brunch before Friday prayers, or plan a sisters only potluck one night a week. The prayer hall is for prayer.
Some things that I do to help quiet the situation: turn off my phone before entering, and once I am inside the prayer space I pray my two units of greeting prayer, and then I immediately sit down out of the way of others and begin to read Qur’an or do some other form of remembrance of God. If I absolutely have to respond to someone else’s talking to me, I do not raise my voice above the barest whisper they would need to hear me.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this one- have you had similar experiences in mosques? And if so, how are you helping to remind others that it is supposed to be a sacred space?