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Women’s Participation

Overview

The masjid is a place for spiritual growth and development for all Muslims, and should be equally accessible for both genders. The Qur’an has set the spiritual and moral equality of men and women in explicit and unequivocal terms: “ Allah has prepared forgiveness and great rewards for the Muslim men and women; for the believing men and women; for the devout men and women; for the truthful men and women; for the men and women who are patient and constant; the men and women who humble themselves; for the men and women who give charity; for the men and women who fast, for the men and women who guard their chastity; and the men and women who are exceedingly mindful of Allah” ( 33:35). Both men and women, the Qur’an stresses, have moral obligations to develop themselves morally and spiritually, and to fulfill their social responsibility. The masjid is, and has always been, the center of moral and spiritual learning and growth.

Likewise, the masjid is a public place for discussing issues of public concern and to respond to challenges facing the community. The Qur’an is also clear on the equal responsibility of both men and women for developing public good: “ The believing men and women are protectors and helpers of each other. They (collaborate) to promote all that is good and oppose all that is evil; establish prayers and give charity, and obey Allah and his Messenger. Those are the people whom Allah would grant mercy. Indeed Allah is Exalted and Wise”. (Al-Tawbah 9:71) Promoting public good and opposing evil are public duties equally required from men and women, and the masjid is the place where Muslim men and women can meet to plan community development and devise strategies for promoting public good.

Assigning women a separate and secluded space does not only go against Qur’anic injunctions and the practices and directives of the Prophet, peace be with him, but is detrimental to the spiritual and moral growth of women and the development of the community. Preventing women form gaining direct access to the main hall of masjid, where lectures and study circles take place, deprives them from taking active role in learning. In addition to the psychological and emotional feeling of not taking active part in the meetings, the ability to interact with the speakers, to ask questions and offer comments, is impeded.

Guidelines

  • Women are equal partners of men in building the community, reforming practices, and providing services.
  • Islamic centers should help Muslim women acquire leadership skills, and ensure that they are well represented on the governing body.
  • Women should be given direct access to the main hall, particularly during public lectures and study circle sessions. Walls and barriers that separate women and men areas should be avoided and removed, as they often lead to isolating women and reduce their participation in programs and involvement in activities. The community should, however, accommodate Muslim women who desire private quarters and choose to stay away from the main hall.
  • Islamic centers where women are integrated into the leadership of the organization have displayed higher level of performance, and are more efficient in outreach programs and activities.
  • The community must ensure that babysitting services are provided during prayers and lectures, to allow Muslim women and others to concentrate on prayer and learning.

WOMEN AND MOSQUES BOOKLET