Recently a number of Saudi newspapers carried a report concerning possible new prayer arrangements for women at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The new arrangements are based on proposals made by a special panel formed according to directives from Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed. The panel was composed of representatives from the Makkah Governorate, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs and the King Fahd Institute for Haj Research. It proposed that the present prayer area for women at the mataf (circumambulation area) be shifted to two other locations on the ground floor on the northern side of the mosque. The panel members said that women would thus get a larger prayer space in the new area compared to the present one at the mataf. They said the new area was away from places of overcrowding, the mass movement of people and the focus of television cameras, thus ensuring the safety and privacy of women and allowing them to see the Holy Kaaba but avoid the disruption of tawaf (circumambulation).
As this proposal was made without considering the views of women, I thought it my duty to express my opinion of it with the hope that the panel's proposal is rejected. It not only goes against the message of Islam but also wounds the feelings of Muslim women.
The main problem of this proposal is that it denies Muslim women the right to pray at the holiest place on Earth, near the Holy Kaaba, where prayers are answered and where the faithful can achieve better devotion and closeness to God. This is also one of the factors that differentiate prayer at the Grand Mosque from prayer performed in hotels overlooking it. Throughout Islamic history - from the earliest days of Islam - women have never been banned from praying inside the mataf or any other parts of the two holy mosques. There have, however, been many recent restrictions on women praying and this new proposal is simply further evidence of this.
The religion of Islam was revealed for both men and women. Both sexes are equal when it comes to performing their religious duties and in terms of rewards and punishments. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has instructed that women must not be banned from mosques. Despite these facts, we have observed that the general trend at the two holy mosques is to restrict the prayers of women and limit the areas where they can pray - as if they were a nuisance to others and unsuitable for those holy places. Some even think that the presence of women in the mataf will affect smooth television coverage of prayers inside the mosque and it would be better if the women had been confined to their homes.
We have also seen people widely circulating certain Hadiths, whose authenticity is doubtful, that it was better for women to pray at home than in other places as if the status of the two holy mosques is lower than that of a house.
Women, especially those coming from distant lands, face many problems and constraints at the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. The revered Rawda Shareef is open to women only a few hours each day while most of the time, it is for men only. Women, unlike men, are not allowed to face the grave of the Prophet and can only pass by the side of it. The same is also true for the graves of the early Caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar; women can only pass by them - not face them.
Whatever the circumstances, no Muslim can seriously entertain the idea that the presence of women in the Haram disturbs worshippers and visitors. We don't hear the same said about the presence of men. Are the prayers of men somehow better than those of women?
Let us return to the Grand Mosque in Makkah where women are often driven away by officials - both male and female - who tell them to complete their prayers quickly and generally interfere with the women's prayers and meditations. At present, women are limited to an enclosed area in the mataf from which, if they are sitting, they are not able to see the Kaaba. The area is small, confined and similar to a prison and is often moved depending on seasonal demands and a variety of justifications. Now the proposal is to remove this prayer area from the mataf once and for all.
My contention is that the panel should have made its proposal without denying the rights of women. In Islam, the only instruction regarding the prayers of women is that they should not pray standing in front of men and, in our times, woman pray in the last rows or on the upper floors of mosques.
In order to allow women to pray in the Grand Mosque in the proper manner, let us allocate a special area for them beginning from the Kaaba and ending at masaa (the running area between Safa and Marwa). The width of this area could be determined based on field studies conducted by the Haj Research Institute on the number of women who come to pray at the mosque. If this were done, the equality of sexes promulgated by Islam would be achieved.
It would also protect women from prejudice and ensure that no men prayed behind them. Moreover, women would be able to pray in comfort, sit closer to the Kaaba and achieve maximum devotion and closeness to God.
I hope the officials will base their final decision considering the rights of women. I pray they will not implement any proposal which violates the spirit and message of Islam that was sent for all of humanity without any discrimination.
Hatoon Al-Fassi is a Saudi writer and historian based in Riyadh. She can be reached at: [email protected]
As for careless photographers and insensitive editors I find the wrong sort of close-ups offensive. And I let those feelings be known. While I don't really know what people to whom I have expressed such feelings actually took to heart they did at least seem to be listening.
To Zakia, Sayeed Ali and Nazli, Please read the article carefully. Yes, in fact all of us disagree with the proposed plan of the Saudi authorities i.e to keep the women out of the Grand Mosque.
Look, the esteemed writer is disagreeing with the Saudi proposal. So, therefore if you also disagree with the Saudi's authority plan, then YOU MUST BE IN AGREEMENT WITH THE WRITER. Therefore on the actual record, there are no dissenting opinion FROM THE WRITER.
Please read carefully next time.
Wassalam. GOD Bless.
Dear Brother the conscious author of this article,
I whole heartedly agree with your views. I am a male Muslim who had once performed my umrah and I entirely disagree with the Saudi authorities ( if it is true ) plan to exclude women completely from the mosque.
Let us go to the fundamentals of the religion, the prohibition for women in a congregrational prayer is only that they can't be placed in front of the men or can't mix in the same row as men. Of course the " Adab " is also that they must not be seen too clearly by the men.
But to exclude them is wrong. Due to constraint of time today, I shall write more to express my opinion on this matter later. Wassalam. GOD Bless.
Brothers and sisters in islam. I totally support the writer views. I just wanted to let you know the picture for this article you used is having a image of a lady taller than kaaba. can you please change it to something appropiate. As we muslims both male and female has to repect kaaba.
or country in the west can ever conceive.
Malaysia take intensive courses as long as 1 year and mostly
longer to make ourselves as well versed and as near to
perfection as possile , to achive our hajj as "Mabrur" as possible
and we came with sincere wishes and ardent prayers for our
ourselves and families.We know that mothers' Doa will be
fulfilled by Allah, and know that at certain places are more
blessed then other places.
WHY ARE WE PUNISHED FOR BEING WOMEN AND BEING CHEATED
OF OUR RIGHTS ESPECIALLY WHEN WE HAVE NO OTHER
INTENTION EXCEPT TO BE FEELING AS NEAR TO ALLAH AS
POSSIBLE! WHY DO MUSLIM MEN HAVE SO MUCH INFERIORITY
COMPLEX AND SUCH INSECURITIES ABOUT THEIR ABILITY TO
TEAR THEMSELVES AWAY FROM FEELING SEXUALLY
THREATENED???? THIS IS OUR MOST HOLY PLACE OF DEVOTION
TO ALLAH!!!!FOR ALLAH'S SAKE SURELY THEY MUST AND HAVE
TO -PURIFY THEIR CARNEL INSTINCT FOR JUST THIS DURATION!
ALLOW THEIR WOMEN TO FEEL CLOSER TO ALLAH THEN AT ANY
OTHER PLACE OR TIME ON THIS EARTH.
I feel that such pitiful men can only feel they have"power "if they
trampel on the weaker beings and the easiest victims are
And they certainly show no respect whatsoever for the Sunnah and the Qu'ran and this article shows yet another example of their love for this world rather than for Allah and His Prophet. When we went for Hajj years ago, I faced the same problem of not being permitted to pray and meditate because I was female and somehow a nuisance. Their behavior makes me fear returning to my spiritual home.
Frankly, considering the Saudi aversion to what is good and right, such as preserving the character and integrity of the holy cities, we cannot expect anything even approimating fairness and justice to women or even the to the pilgrims in general who go through so much to be in Mecca and Medina, and yet face the destruction of what they love. The Saudis only care about their money and making a nuisance of themselves to the people who go so far and with so much trouble to filfill their obligations to Allah.
How dare they even thought of it?If more Space for circumambulation is required then let all step a little back,its starts from the rows of Men to rows of women .We never demanded equal area,but that which is ours is ours.Be Off..
I hope there is a way to correct it.
Does it matter my gender? The Holy Quran says that each soul earns what it gets, and that each man or woman is responsible for its own sins and its own reward. Am I angry? Yeah, maybe a little, because I really thought that Islam as practiced by muslims would be different that the hypocracy of the christians that I grew up with. But it isn't you see. Because humans are humans, the world over. This is a prime example of humans using the divine word to oppress those they perceive as weak.
I have spent 30 years struggling to just get a break, and have found that the issue is not a religious one, but a human one. I do not think I was wrong to accept Islam as the answer to life. But it does not help us as muslims, when our men are criticized as being oppressive to women, and we have WHAT to show for it?????
So yeah, I am a little angry, at petty little boys that want to somehow keep all their marbles and not share with their sisters. The Prophet, pbuh, did not see women as second class, and I fail to understand why those who claim to follow his example act as if they do.
So again, I ask you, what difference does it make if my gender is male or female? Would it make the points less valid?
Tag, brother/sister, you're it.
May Allah reward you for your defence of women! You are a jewel!
It appears that the Wahabbi influence is alive and well in Saudi Arabia. Inshallah one day the care of the Holy sites will be removed from the control of the Sauds and given to an international body of Muslim officials and they will decide the division of allowable prayer space. The impression I receive from the Saudi mandates is that they would just as well desire to remove women from the face of the earth. Too much of arabian custom is infused into their decisions. They seem to forget that they are but a small percentage of the total sum of the Ummah...why should a minority with such a disregard for the sayings and way of the Prophet (pbuh) hold hostage womens access to one of the greatest pillars of Islam..will we have different areas to live in Jannah? We will all stand as equals in accountability on the Last Day...so why the differences!
As a muslim woman I was sad to read about the proposal becuase it's a blessing to pray closer to the Ka'aba for all muslims. We respect our scholars and people who are incharge but it would have been better if there was a shura with ladies as well just to get an idea to how we feel about it. Also, the reasons that are given do sound legit but the solution by author also seems workable. In this day and age, when women are part becoming more active in most fields, we truly would appreciate our input. These things can be best resolved through dialog and with mutual respect. When muslim women are so active that they are driving, educating their kids, becoming professionals, shopping in the malls, they also want to be active with their mosques and religion. If they can do anything else but then quoted that it's best for them to pray at home and wallahi I know it is our beloved Prophet's hadith (PBUH), we become more inclined to the one which asks not to stop us or become more active with the house of Allah.
I just pray that these things get resolved with mutual dialog, respect for one another and understanding each other's stance on this issue.
and the leaders of the two holy sites must take this matter seriouslly, for us itsn't legal to argue much and rebell against our imams and our leaders and our imams should be easy and understanding
islam does not tolerate discrimation
and our holy sites have been hijacked isn't the two holy sites our capitals and our islamic centers? how dare you come up with such a sad and horrible news from our center of peace and justice
there is something weird going on,
opinion of women before implementing such law.
you do not seem like a female to me ,behind your words are a lot of anger and disrespect,that a muslim does not usuly have .
I am a muslim woman ,and I support our muslim scholers,Iam sure with all the scholers (Men& women)in Saudia if this desion was wrong ,they wont go for it,I have another question,did the writer send a letter to any scholer in Saudia,why is this letter ,here in Islamicity?When are we going to wakeup and know that (women issues)have become the skapegout for being upset with or against Muslims.there are thing that make us immotional ,but are nessary.
City do for pilgrims and for their own and other's righteousness,
the negatives cannot be ignored nor glossed over. I have seen
many woman's prayers interrupted near the sacred shrine and
my own prayers as a man were interrupted once when it didn't
conform to the wishes or ideas of one soldier or guard! This I
believe is complete and patently wrong and sinful behavior and
more should be done to communicate this clearly and directly to
other muslims and to those who do these things. The truth
should be told! La ikra fi Deen!
is there any action taken regarding the new plan of the saudi government, to not move the ladies prayer area away from Al Kaba? I believe it is duty upon all the belivers to `correct `the `authority.
The other point I wanted to mention is perhaps it might be better if there were diffrent times perscribed for men and women... this way there would be segregation of the sexes as well as all will get to perform their prayers etc.
Just my opinion though.. might not be the best.
Well, brother, let me tell you who we are. We are the ones who continue to suffer ostricization, exclusion and downright blatant disrespect from the men of the mosque. We are the ones in the closet, in the rafters, who have to strain to hear the Khutba, can't see, can't breathe and and quite frankly are sick and tired of being treated like second class muslims. The one place in the world that women are guaranteed equal access is in the Holy City, and now? Guess what? That is being taken away from us too, of course for our own good.
Brothers, we appreciate that you wish to protect us, but do us a favor, all of us muslim sisters. Remember that we are grown ups too, and don't think for us without our permission. And stop trying to pass off second class and second best as "protection". We are on to you.
Were women acompanying the Prophet(peace be upon him)segregated during tawaf?
prayer is in her home. But, the Messenger of Allah also said do not prevent them from going to the masjid. However, the point is that, if the Messenger of Allah say that your best prayer is at home, who should argue with this. The message has been revealed to him. These hadith is not weak, nor someone opinion. This is not to degrade women. The women reward will be counted equal to the men if they obey Allah Messenger. Allah does not allow anyone reward be counted less than others if it is according to the quran and authentic sunnah. Allah and his Messenger knows best. Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah.
It seems we (some of us men) feel good in down grading women and restricting their movements, all this against the teachings of Allah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)
Thank you for your article.
And with those words I find it impossible to actually say what is in my heart. Rasul Allah (SAW) reminded us not to act in anger so I won't. I pray that Allah (swt) guides this decision, it is categorically wrong to prevent any Muslim from reaching the Kabah. In these days we should be opening more and more equality for men and women not closing it down.
Peace and Blessings,
God Almighty and His Prophet(PBUH)teaching in the Holy Quran gives the Women their right and no man can take or misuse that right. And if they do are they forgetting this world well end one day and they will stand face to face with GOD.