First Women only Mosque in America

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Some people are upset that M. Hasna Maznavi and Sana Muttalib together with other women organized the first mosque for Muslim women in America. These are upset because they viewed this a bida, an innovation. Some called it a deviation and some termed it a Western conspiracy to destroy Islam within. 

The idea of a women's mosque is creating waves in Southern California and the discussion has begun about its relevance and usefulness. The women's mosque of America defines its objective in the following words: 

"The Women's Mosque of America seeks to uplift the Muslim community by empowering women and girls through more direct access to Islamic scholarship and leadership opportunities. The Women's Mosque of America will provide a safe space for women to feel welcome, respected, and actively engaged within the Muslim Ummah. It will complement existing mosques, offering opportunities for women to grow, learn, and gain inspiration to spread throughout their respective communities."

On Friday January 30, 2015, the Women's Mosque of America provided a women-led Friday jumma'a services for women and children (including boys 12 and under). Currently their plan is to provide this service once a month in Southern California. In addition, the Women's Mosque of America plans to provide programming, events, and classes open to both men and women that will aim to increase community access to female Muslim scholars and female perspectives on Islamic knowledge and spirituality.

But this does not convince skeptics as they call such a move an innovation and deviation. Well if it is bida or deviation, then it was the Prophet of Islam and messenger of Allah, who himself introduced this some 6 years after five daily prayers were made obligatory in the 15th year of his mission and in the second year after the construction of what is now known as Msjid Quba and Masjid Nabavi. Based on the statements of Prophet Muhammad, it can be asserted that women's mosque was the third masjid in Medina. 

It is reported in Masnad Abu Dawood, a book of ahadith (statement and actions of the Prophet) included in the six most authentic books on the subject by Sunni scholars of the subject that the Prophet gave one of his companions, Umm Waraqah, the permission to stay in Medina to lead prayers for her family and domestic helpers, men included, when she had gone to him offering nursing services to Muslims in the forthcoming Battle of Badr.

Umm Waraqah was a single woman and she stayed single until her death. She was very wealthy and resourceful. She was one of scribes of the Quran as well as an avid student of the Holy Scripture. Her knowledge of the Quran coupled with her piety was well known to the Prophet and his companions. She never married as she devoted her life to the study of the Quran. She recited the Quran beautifully and had memorized it.

It is reported that one day she came to the Prophet seeking permission to start a mosque in her home with proper facilities to have a call to the prayer as well as regular five daily prayers for her family, friends, and other relatives. The prophet blessed her and gave her the permission to lead the prayers. Thus she became the first known Imam in a mosque that she started in her home.

It is reported that Umma Waraqah continued leading the prayers during the Caliphate of the first and second Caliphs of Islam. Not much details are available about the activities carried out in her home-turned mosque. What is known is that she donated the entire property to the service of Islam. 

There is no statement of the Prophet that prevents women from organizing their own mosques or leading five daily prayers or running their own religious institutions. Some people justify their opposition to a women's mosque based on an advice that the prophet told a few Muslim women to pray in the darkest corner of their homes. This was meant to advise those who had asked him based on their particular circumstances and this statement cannot be seen as a general principle because he is reported to have said: "don't prevent women from coming to the masajid" even if you like them to pray at home. The presence of women in mosque is a well-established practice in Islam. 

Some people suggest that if women want to come to the mosque, they should accompany their husbands. This excludes unmarried women who do not have a male member to take care of them. In fact, the divine commandment to establish mosques is applicable to both men and women as both have been advised by Creator to establish prayer. 

There is no statement of the Prophet that says that women cannot give a khutbah, (surmon). The prophet spelled out the rights and duties that everyone should observer while visiting mosques and they are similar for both in essence.

Another example that sheds light on the issue of equality of men and women is that some people suggest that women should not go to the mosque wearing perfume. However, there is a statement of the Prophet suggesting that he was extremely fond of perfume and he encouraged people to wear perfume in public places including houses of worship. This statement does not exclude women. How can one deny women from following this example of the Prophet? Those who say that fragrance wearing women would distract men in their worship perhaps lose the essence of the faith and place undue importance to the notion of male exclusivity. Islam is a faith not created to favor men or women and focus only on the level of iman (faith) of either of them. If some men are unable to control their carnal desires, then they have to work on their thoughts and actions rather than denying religious equality to others. To say that women do not have desires and feelings is defying the laws of the Creator.

Early Muslims understood the religious role of women in running their own mosques and in several countries, women have set up their own mosques. 

Such mosques can be found particularly in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Shanxi and Hebel. Some countries beyond China also have women-only mosques, but they are rare.

At the end of the Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, Hui Chinese women had begun to form their own mosques. For religious reasons, the Hui Muslim communities started to cultivate more theological learning among the women. As a result, women graduates served as Imams of women's mosques.

There are separate places of worship as women-only mosques in China and other places of the world including, Uzbekistan, Maldives, Sudan, Amsterdam and Berlin. There were women only mosques in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Somalia until recently, but they were closed down under the pressure of certain religious groups. There is nothing in Islam's Holy Scriptures that prevent a woman from organizing mosques for women. 

In fact, this is a welcome sign that Muslim women who have been marginalized in Muslim theological discourses for centuries are asserting themselves and carving a place for others who are still treated as second class citizens in none other than the house of Allah. The majority of women in the Muslim world are not allowed to visit mosques. In places, where they are allowed, there is no proper arrangements for them. In the houses of God, the treatment of women can be compared to how Rosa Park was treated, the African American hero of the civil rights movement who refused to go to the back seat because white men and women did not want blacks to occupy front rows. Unfortunately, this has been justified in the name of Prophet and perpetuated continuously. This is a move that those Muslim men who believe in the divine wisdom in creating both men and women with dignity and equality should wholeheartedly support. Additionally they should participate in the efforts to have a physical site owned by Muslims to serve Muslim women and others through the services led and run by women. In fact the project should be replicated throughout the country where women can produce their own scholars and speakers.

We are willing to accept the idea of a woman exclusive city, a women exclusive university or a gym or a swimming pool or a departmental store. Why cannot we reconcile with the idea of women running their own religious institutions including mosques.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor in chief of the weekly Muslim Observer and director of the Islamic Society of Nevada.

 


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  16 Comments   Comment

  1. Aslam Abdullah from usa

    Salam Brother Habib Siddiqui,

    I amaware of Zaid Shakir's response. I also read the responses of many others. But I do not agree with their opinions as they use their own subjective interpretation without referring to the objective criterion described in the Quran.

    Their premise is based on the notion of male superiority or higher status. I do not agree with this understanding of gender roles and I do not see the Quran an endorsement of male supremacy.

  2. Babandi A GumelI from U.K

    I m not being sarcastic but they should hire that lady Amina Wadood

    to lead them better than leading the mixed congregation which is

    not good for our Deen.

  3. Rashad Abdul-Azeem from USA

    Excellent analysis by Brother Aslam. I fully support our sisters and hope that they will establish more such Masajid that will produce scholars and leaders.

  4. Dr.Naiyer Habib from Canada

    Allah bless our Sisters in their Stand. Have such mosque all over the world. In my speech related to women problem I declared, "Muslim Women are given the most deserted place in the Mosque and are even prohibited to enter the Mosque while their Husbands, Brothers and Sons listen to the Pulpits and the Dominant Male Muslim leaders as obedient disciple. It must change."

    Muslim Women must go on, on their own specially where they face the problems of neglect and discrimination. They are not revolting against Islam.They are doing all these according to Islam as also exemplified in the comments of this article. They need to disregard "Women's Mosque? Women's Empowerment?" appearing on this site"

  5. abdulrahman from usa

    As usual, those who have their own agenda would twist hadith and verses of the Quran to fulfill their own vain desire. All of this is part of the end time signs. We have seen gay masjids, mixed gender masjids, and now women masjid. More and more bizzare things will keep popping up until the Mahdi comes. True believers need to hold tight to their faith.

  6. Shaheedah Abdullah from United States

    Why do they need an all women masjid when the masjid have a separate section for the women and a separate section for the men? When the Prophet Muhammad built the Prophet's Masjid, he made separate entrance for the men and a separate entrance for the women, and he told the men not to enter through the women's entrance.

    That is enough. People who want to change and alter the religion of Islam by innovating in it really and truly HATE Islam. And they are not pleased with Allah's religion.

    Allah said in surah Ma'edah ayah 3 "This day, I have perfected your

    religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for

    you Islm as your religion."

  7. M Islam from UK

    Hadrat Aisha said: "If the Prophet (PBUH) had lived now, he would have forbidden women to go to the mosque as Bani Israil did."(2)

    What made Hadrat Aisha say the sentence above was the extremism in their clothes and appearance. Some women started to come to the mosque by wearing perfumes or ornamented clothes and attracting attention. Imam Ayni who translated and explained Bukhari said the following related to Hadrat Aishas above-mentioned sentence: "If Hadrat Aisha had seen the bidahs

    (innovations) and prohibited things the women of our time performed, she would have said something more severe. Furthermore, the innovations that women of that time performed may be only one out of one thousand of todays women."

    While one of the Shafii Scholars, Imam Nawai said, "For a woman there is no better place than her home even if she is old, Abdullah bin Mas'ud (May Allah be pleased with him) said " a woman is awrah (needs to be covered). The time when she is nearest to Allah is when she is at home pointing out that the mosque of the woman was her home.

    In a hadith our Prophet (PBUH) said the following about the most rewarding prayer of a woman:

    "The prayer a woman performs in her house is more rewarding than the one she performs in the yard of her house. The prayer she performs in the yard of her house is more rewarding than the one in the mosque in their district. Their houses are better for them. (3)

    End of the day, we should fear Allah, our aim should be to get closer to Allah

  8. aslam abdullah from usa

    Those who are opposing women giving khutbah have failed to produce a single statement of Allah or the Prophet that prohibits women from giving khutbah or calls it haram.

    Do not equat Imam Shafai or Imam Hanifa with God or his messenger. Their opinions are subservient to Allah and his prophet

  9. milgo from US

    Here we go again....some women will always feel left out of their beautiful religion Islam. I think it is a self-esteem issue. Meaning always feeling like being seen and treating differently no matter what. Even when Allah says so.

    I would have preferred the sister to use the money she used to build the mosque for other charity purpose. E.g., build a school young girls in impoverished Muslim countries or clinics for women. Just a thought. There are so many other things we can use our knowledge and wealth than constantly complaining about Muslim women status in Islam.

    I think the sister is wasting her time. Not many women will be bothered to go to all women mosque. For me it already separates families, friends and just the Ummah from all over.

    I am a proud Muslimah and don't need to constantly demand my position in Islam. Allah has already granted me that status.

  10. Shaikh Noor from USA

    As Masjid literally refers to the place of sujood, in that sence Masjid can be build for the sisters. And remember Umm Waraqa (RA) just used spaces in her own home to where her family and friends(Mahrams) can pray together. All of the people withe her were Mahrams.

    But the problem is conducting daily prayers and Jummah khutbah by "Female Imam" in a regular basis.

    Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means"

    [al-Nisa' 4:34]

    Imam al-Shaafa'i said in al-Umm (1/191):

    If a woman leads men, women and boys in prayer, then the prayer of the women is valid and the prayer of the men and boys is invalid, because Allaah has given men the role of protectors and maintainers of women, and He has not allowed them to be in charge, so it is not permissible for a woman to lead a man in prayer under any circumstances, ever. End quote.

    Now if people started to question Al-Quran and the Imaams of Fiqh, and think people know better than the Imaams, then I just leave them with Allaah as they already are, the matter will be taken care between them and Allaah.

    Finally, if Rasool(SAW) wanted to appoint a woman leader to lead prayers for women in jamah regularly, He(SAW) would have chose Ummul Mu'Mineen A'isha (RA). She was the most beloved and most knowledgable female companion of Rasool(SAW) who herself narrated over 2,800 hadeeths of Rasool (SAW).

    All I can say to my dear sisters, whatever you feel to do, just do it with care, and not to teach our new generation any Fitnah, and control your Nafs/Desires so they don't take over your Faith! And you already know there's not much known about Umm Waraqah (RA), but just try as much as you can be like the role model of the women, "Khadijah(RA)", "A'isha(RA)", "Fatimah(RA)" and "Mariyam(AS)" they are the true role model of Islam! You can't argue

  11. Shaikh Noor from USA

    I agree that a Masjid can be build for the sisters, as Masjid literally refers to the place of sujood. And remember Umm Waraqa (RA) just used spaces in her own home to where her family and friends(Mahrams) can pray together. All of the people withe her were Mahrams.

    But the problem is conducting daily prayers and Jummah khutbah by "Female Imam" in a regular basis.

    Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allaah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means"

    [al-Nisa' 4:34]

    al-Shaafa'i said in al-Umm (1/191):

    If a woman leads men, women and boys in prayer, then the prayer of the women is valid and the prayer of the men and boys is invalid, because Allaah has given men the role of protectors and maintainers of women, and He has not allowed them to be in charge, so it is not permissible for a woman to lead a man in prayer under any circumstances, ever. End quote.

    Now if people started to question Al-Quran and the Imaams of Fiqh, and think people know better than the Imaams, then I just leave them with Allaah as they already are, the matter will be taken care between them and Allaah.

    Finally, if Rasool(SAW) wanted to appoint a woman leader to lead prayers for women in jamah, He(SAW) would have chose Ummul Mu'Mineen A'isha (RA). She was the most beloved and most knowledgable female companion of Rasool(SAW) who herself narrated over 2,800 hadeeths of Rasool (SAW).

    All I can say to my dear sisters, whatever you feel to do, just do it with care, and not to teach our new generation any Fitnah, and control your Nafs/Desires so they don't take over your Faith! And you already know there's not much known about Umm Waraqah (RA), but just try as much as you can be like the role model of the women, "Khadijah(RA)", "A'isha(RA)", "Fatimah(RA)" and "Mariyam(AS)" they are the true role model of Islam! You can't argue with tha

  12. Annette Khan from USA

    Assalamu alaikum, As a convert to Islam from some twenty years ago, I can understand a woman's desire to draw closer to Islam and practice their faith. However, basing their creating an all woman's mosque on one Ahadith that may not be authentic is quite alarming. This obviously was not a common practice during the time of our Prophet peace be upon him. I as a woman myself know my place and embrace it. I don't wish to compete with men especially in Religion. We already have a beautiful status in Islam as believers, mothers, wives, and contributors in work and education. Unless we have ample and clear proof that this movement is permissible. I would be wary of the day of judgement. We are a society. We do not like it for men to prevent us from going to the mosque to worship as in some countries practice. This is cleary wrong based on sound Ahadith and Quran. Then why are we excluding Men? We should work together to improve our situations in our mosques so we get the full benefit of increasing our Iman. We are examples for our children. What does this say to them?

  13. sam from USA

    Assalamualaykum

    I think the author may not know of the authentic ahadeeth of the prophet(s):

    1.t was narrated that Zaynab, the wife of 'Abd-Allah ibn Mas'ood (may Allah be pleased

    with her and her husband) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be

    upon him) said to us: "If one of you (women) wants to go to the mosque, let her not put

    on perfume."Narrated by Muslim

    2.The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "Any woman who puts

    on perfume and passes by people so that they can smell her fragrance is a zaaniyah."

    Narrated by Imam Ahmad (19212) and al-Nasaa'i (5126); classed as hasan.

    It is dangerous to mention some ahadeeth in the article and ignore others as it misleads

    people and then the author would carry the burden of misinformation.

  14. Iqra from USA

    Quran: sura 9-107

    And [there are] those [hypocrites] who took for themselves a mosque for

    causing harm and disbelief and division among the believers and as a

    station for whoever had warred against Allah and His Messenger before. And

    they will surely swear, "We intended only the best." And Allah testifies

    that indeed they are liars.

    Al-Islam is a universal religion--for all people, men and women--emphasizing family and community (ummah).

    SATAN tempt you to deceive others in order to create, or maintain, the impression of being more spiritual