Do we need a ‘females-only’ mosque?

I have realised that a lot of good can come to individuals if they attend prayers in a mosque.

Almas Akhtar February 08, 2015
January 30, 2015, was a defining day for Muslim women in the United States. Close to 150 women gathered at the Interfaith Pico-Union Project, in Los Angeles, at a mosque to offer their Friday prayers. However, that wasn’t the unique aspect. What was unique was that while there are many mosques in the US which accommodate women, this particular mosque was built just for them.

For the first time in the US, we were introduced to the idea of a females-only mosque, which is managed and administered by women alone.

After the prayers were offered, the women gathered around the khateeba (one who delivers sermons) who was willing to answer their questions regarding this revolutionary step. This idea of starting a females-only mosque was Hasna Maznavi’s brainchild and she was supported by her friend Sana Muttalib to make her dream a reality.

Sana Muttalib, Co-President, and M. Hasna Maznavi, Founder and Co-President of the Women's Mosque of America prepare for prayer service in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 30, 2015. Photo: Reuters

In the US, like in most other countries, mainstream mosques have segregated areas for women where they can come and pray behind a male imam. This area is usually smaller than the one for men and often not many women feel comfortable going to such mosques alone, with so many other men around them. This mosque would work as a haven for those women who wish to freely pray along with their fellow female Muslims.

Muslim women from all over the world are welcoming this idea with open arms on social media. While many are terming this step as liberating for Muslims everywhere, I believe that this mosque represents women empowerment.

Our religion has given women a very high status – as family members and as individuals; thus, there is no restriction on women when it comes to setting up their own worship places. I see this step as a progressive one – one which showed the world that Muslim women are taking matters in their own hands now.

Ideally, I would have liked for men and women to share their place of worship, since they are equal creations of God. However, seeing how 90% of our mosques are for males only and even those which accommodate women are administrated by men, I feel that this step is a prominent success for women around the globe.

This can inspire other women, in other countries, to initiate similar ventures and create a place where they are able to pray and mingle freely, and with comfort.

Muslim women arrive for the prayer service at the Women’s Mosque of America in downtown Los Angeles, California January 30, 2015. Photo: Reuters

It is not necessary for women to pray in a mosque according to the teachings of Islam, true. They can pray at home too. So I am sure that many would question the need of this mosque. I was raised in Pakistan, where women usually don’t accompany men to the mosque for prayers, except maybe for Taraweeh during Ramazan. Thus I understand the grounds for such arguments.

However, ever since I have moved to the US with my husband and kids, and since I have started accompanying them to the mosque regularly here, I have realised that a lot of good can come to individuals if they attend prayers in a mosque. Also, it has helped me understand that, like everything else in life, it helps a lot if you perform prayers with fellow female friends; the mosque no longer remains just a place of worship – it also becomes a centre for socialising with other people. Praying like this has increased my support system in the US and spending time with other women in a mosque has been liberating.

Personally, I would like to go and pray with all my family members – male or female – for Eid namaz and to socialise after prayers. But that cannot happen for now. Even if I go with my male family members, there will always be segregation, which would prevent us from socialising. Perhaps in the future we might be able to move towards a system where such an idea can possibly be conceived, on a larger scale, everywhere. No one expected to see a females-only mosque come about, so I am optimistic for newer progressive outcomes.

While I am still sceptical about the finer details of this new mosque, I believe that it is a step in the right direction nonetheless and should be adopted by others as well.
Almas Akhtar The writer is a blogger, author, an ardent cricket fan, a movie buff, and an avid traveler. Her latest novella “The Fearful Lion” won an honourable mention at the 2018 New York Book Festival.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


XerXes | 8 years ago | Reply I would like to apologize for what I said before . I still stand firm , but I do Realize that i certainly did not use the correct words to express myself. First things first , I completely agree with your statement . By Allah's standards, people are only superior or inferior based upon their piety, not gender. (Al-Hujraat:13) . Never did I say that If a man is not pious , he will enter Jannah on the basis that he is a man . Nor will a pious female will enter Dozakh because of being a women . But you must accept that there are differences between the 2 genders , that can not be ignored . You posted so many examples when Holy Prophet's close women went out of their homes . But didn't you notice something ? Firstly they all had a Strong reason to go out . I mean one had to go out for a war , and the other had to do something important . Sadly, when you compare it with today's times , you should notice that there are no wars going on , nor are there women as pious as they were in HP's time . One does go out , to hang out with friends , or go partying . Try to understand that these deeds are not themselves bad . The problem is in our own dirty mind. Why Go Out When you know that people are gonna stare at you ? Keep in mind that i am not condemning the going out part. This does not mean that one should stop education or stop going outside . This makes me remember a tradition : I dont correctly remember who it was , but the tradition says that Allah has Stopped the coarse of time 5 times in history .One of them was when Hazrat Ayesha was out , and 2 of her head hair were straying out from her dupaata . Another Hadith says that a women will take herself and her husband , brother and father with her to jahannam , if she goes out of her home without dupaatta and strange men lay their eyes on her .Here i will Quote from Quran : In Surah Al-Ahzab, Allah addresses the wives of Prophet Muhammad [صَلى اللهُ عَليهِ وَ سَلم] with specific commands to guard their chastity: وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَى وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا “And abide quietly in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the old days of pagan ignorance; and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and pay heed unto Allah and His Messenger: for Allah only wants to remove from you all that might be loathsome, O you members of the [Prophet's] household, and to purify you to utmost purity.” [33:33] we can not /should not doubt chastisity of Hazrat Khadija , or other women at that time . Sadly , we cannot trust of our ownself , nor of the community we reside in . I can never dare to condemn a place where women gather to pray and do dhikar of Allah . It is surely a very good thing . But calling it a mosque is preposterous . According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, “And stay in your houses” means “stay in your houses and do not come out except for a purpose."Thats all i want to say .
Muhammad Naeem Memon | 7 years ago Kindly do not use short form of Holy Prophet صَلَّى اللهُ تَعَالٰى عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم.
mazus | 8 years ago | Reply Great web site you have here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care
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