I know I already wrote a post about the sometimes awful experiences I have had in women’s prayer spaces, but after an experience I have had here in Algeria, I just had to write a follow up.
This one, however, is not about the people inside, rather about the actual conditions of the prayer space itself.
The other day my husband and I were out and about taking care of some paperwork and the like, and it was getting close to time for maghrib prayer. He asked if I wanted to go see a really beautiful mosque that we were close to (our house is on the other side of town, so it would’ve taken too long to get there), and of course I said yes!
And he wasn’t lying; the men’s section was beautiful. There was a lovely fountain where you could make your ablution, and the whole interior of the men’s section was carpeted with lush (or at least it looked lush from the pictures he took) red carpet under a huge dome supported by marble pillars, and a stunning chandelier hung from the ceiling.
With the lovely tiled exterior and huge, decorated wooden doors, I was thinking that maybe I was in for a treat with the women’s section as well.
But it wasn’t even open. In fact, here they don’t open the women’s sections except on Fridays and Eid. So my husband went and found the imam, and asked if he could open the women’s side so I could pray on time. The imam went into the basement for a few minutes, came out with the super secret key, and opened the creaky doors up for me.
Side note: this is a best case scenario. One time my husband couldn’t even find the imam in time and I had to sit in the car and listen to everyone else pray maghrib while I missed it.
Inside, it was worse then even I expected. There were only two or three rows of carpet, not even completely unrolled on the dirty floor, let alone fully installed. The carpet looked like no one had taken a vacuum to it since they half unrolled them, and directly behind the “prayer space” was a huge conglomeration of old, some broken, desks and chairs and all manner of extra furniture and building supplies.
In the toilet/ablution area there were no lights, and electrical cords hanging everywhere. At least there was running water!
Next to the actual basement I had to pray in one time in London Bridge area, this is by far one of the worst I have seen.
I understand, a woman gets more blessing from praying in her own home. I understand that women are not really overly encouraged to come to the mosque if they don’t need to.
But it is 2016. Women have jobs, we study, we take our kids out, we go out with our husbands, we run errands. And sometimes it is time to pray while we are doing these things.
The Prophet (pbuh) said “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosque, even though their houses are better for them.” Narrated by Abu Dawud
Do you really think it is OK for me to miss an obligatory prayer that I could have prayed, if only you had unlocked a door? And why am I the only one who seems to think this is an issue?
As for the conditions of the prayer spaces once they are opened, I don’t even know why that is considered acceptable. What women come here to pray and feel comfortable? Who can concentrate on prayer while knocking into broken furniture, and putting their head on a visibly dirty carpet?
I know, part of the fault is with the women. If they took the time and effort to clean up the spaces when they have access to them, there would be far less of a problem. And if they all came together to petition for open women’s sections every day instead of just once a week, they might be able to affect a change there too.
But the first half of the problem is with the (presumably) men who build the spaces to begin with, and control them once they are built. It is as if the builders build the room, they begin to unroll the carpets, and then just throw up their hands and say “Ah, well, its good enough for those women!”
But let me ask you, if Khadija (ra) walked into this space right now, would you be confident in telling her this is where she has to pray? If Aisha (ra) was running late and needed to pray, would you feel OK with telling her she just has to miss her prayer because you don’t open the women’s section? Would you be OK with Maryam (as) or Asia (as) or any of the great women mentioned in God’s own words in His own book as role models for humankind praying amongst power tools, in a dank basement, on hard floors that just never got finished?
Well, why don’t the rest of us deserve the same respect? I am not Khadija (ra) or Aisha (ra) but it is my aspiration to be like them. And that means praying; praying on time, praying with concentration, praying sunnah, praying even when I don’t feel like it or I am very busy.
Prayer is obligatory upon both men and women, so why are only men accommodated to fulfil this duty?