Gender Love Inequality

It’s time to castrate Islam

To tell women to pray at home, especially during the last ten nights of Ramadan, is dehumanizing. I am not a houseplant or a goldfish to be left by the window. There is a reason we stand so close shoulder-to-shoulder in line during prayer at the mosques, because it is difficult to worship alone. It’s almost impossible for me stay up in my cement block graduate housing room, by myself, praying and reading the Qur’an all night. It is important for local mosques to welcome men and women. Without SALAM I would have been lost, as lost as I feel now in San Diego among the Muslim men’s club. It is time for the Islamic “brotherhood” to be castrated. I am calling out to my local mosques in San Diego and all other mosques, stop taking women out of the house of God. We have the right to worship with the rest of the Muslims whenever we wish. Imams please, I don’t need your duas, prayers, I need you to let me in when I am at the door.

“The last ten nights of Ramadan are approaching us.  I’tikaf will begin, starting tomorrow night, so come worship all night at the masjid. It is very valuable in your faith.  This is only for men, 18 and up.  Sisters, may Allah bless you and reward you.”

The Imam at my local San Diego mosque makes this announcement right after the night prayer.  I am disheartened by the lack of my invitation and even more crushed that women around me were not moved.

The last 10 nights of Ramadan are believed by Muslims to be better than a thousand nights of worship, specifically the odd-numbered nights.  It is recommended to spend the night at the mosque in worship. This recommendation applies to all Muslims, yet mosques only allow men.  It is as if the men who set these rules at the mosques, think that my vagina gives me the claim to faith without having to worship.

There are many reasons that I have heard of why women can’t spend the night, or sometimes even the day, in worship at God’s house with other Muslims. “Women don’t need to come to the mosque.”  “It is not an obligation for women the way it is for men.”  My favorite, “it is not safe.”  Not safe from whom?  Will the Muslim men turn around and rape us?

After worshiping in many mosques all over California, I finally found a mosque in Sacramento two years ago—while completing my master’s—that welcomed women and children to worship all night. Ramadan 2012 was the best of my 27 years of life. Now, after moving to San Diego for medical school, I’ve realized that the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims Center is an elf from Mars, visiting planet Earth.

The SALAM community has open hallways, where women are not pushed to a corner or upstairs behind shaded plastic walls.  We sat behind the men like the way Muslims prayed over 1,400 years ago.  Tissue boxes creating a delicate boundary across the grand hallway replace thick walls and dusty curtains.  So many times, had I used those tissues after powerful Khutbas (sermons) given by Imam Azeez.  Traveling Imams spoke to us, and some even came to the back and sat with us to address all of our concerns.  I stood in prayer with a community, stayed up with the community, ate with the community, and broke fast with the community.  I became a better human being because the community kept me accountable.  Nowhere have I seen more people come into Islam than at SALAM.

I never needed community since, while growing up, my Bengali immigrant mother forced me into a loner lifestyle of constant studying.  Now, as an adult, I have a dead father, an estranged mother, and brother, a non-Muslim sister, and friends that range from devout Christians to Atheists. I am alone yet surrounded by people.

Going through a divorce and not having a partner to eat breakfast with at 3:30 am, pray with throughout the day, and make love with into the night, I feel even more alone.  Although my tight jeans and open hair do not fit in with the women in black dresses covering them from head-to-toe, my lack of drinking, my fasting, and five-times-daily prayer doesn’t fit in with my friends either.  I stopped trying to fit in, but rather appreciate the differences in others and still find a sense of community.

In San Diego, the mosques are not open like SALAM, and I hardly see my friends who can’t relate to the 16-hour fast from food and water and the nightly worship after breaking your fast.  I treasure the community, but now I am back in an environment of non-Islamic Muslim brotherhood, which is not unique to San Diego.

To tell women to pray at home, especially during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, is dehumanizing.  I am not a houseplant or a goldfish to be left by the window.  There is a reason we stand so close, shoulder-to-shoulder in line during prayer at the mosques – because it is difficult to worship alone.

It’s almost impossible for me to stay up in my cement block graduate housing room, by myself, praying and reading the Qur’an all night.  It is important for local mosques to welcome men and women.  Without SALAM, I would have been lost – as lost as I feel now in San Diego among the Muslim men’s club.  It is time for the Islamic “brotherhood” to be castrated.  I am calling out to my local mosques in San Diego and all other mosques: stop taking women out of the house of God.  We have the right to worship with the rest of the Muslims whenever we wish.  Imams, please, I don’t need your duas, ( (prayers) I need you to let me in when I am knocking at the door of your mosque.

I am not a feminist. I am a human being, deep in my faith and wanting to be part of a community that I can worship with and not be ostracized for being born the way I was.


24 replies on “It’s time to castrate Islam”

salam sis, what is being done is unislamic and not the teachings of our prophet. everyone is allowed to go into the mosque. women were told it is “preferred” to stay home with double reward but you are allowed to go. This is my understanding. I also came across this
I really think this is a cultural thing and not an islamic ruling because around where i live muslims do taraweeh at mosque and stay at mosque and then drive home when they are finished worshipping and reading quran.

Suzanne… I love reading your stories, from Love InshaAllah to posts like these you are a very talented writer mashaAllah. I am sorry for what you are experiencing in SD, I too have been to Salam masjid and once you have been a part of a beautiful community like that it is difficult to find a replacement.

Thank you flowergirl for thE link! Where do you reside? I would love to live there where men and women worship freely.

good article and very relevant point. However, considering you are a champion for EQUAL rights; you definitely are a feminist.
my logic: there is nothing wrong with being a feminist, to me, the need for equal right is common sense. So there is no need to put out the disclaimer, ‘i am not a feminist’ as the only problem would be if people, not only women, are anti-feminist

Excellent! Agreed! I’ve never been lucky enough to find a SALAAM type center myself. All have been sort of wary of women. There is one masjid I sort of can tolerate and my family drives 2 hrs just to go. Otherwise we avoid masajid. It isn’t good for my mental health to deal with these ppl or situations.

Thank you Inaya, and that is an excellent point! I completely respect Feminists, and definitely not anti! I just personally don’t like labels, because I feel sometime people automatically assume they know what you believe before you even open your mouth. It took me awhile to even take on cultural labels like Bengali and American. I believe in human rights and I want to always fight for that, that is mainly why I decided to pursue medicine.

I still feel that way, just avoiding masjids. It brings down morale and then I have a hard time worshiping, I think that is why this Ramadan became a little harder.

I was sad to hear that a friend of mine had a distressing experience at her local mosque. They took over the sisters’ space for ‘itikaf so the women were not allowed to stay even if they wanted to.

I just did ‘Itikaf alhamdulillah. All the attention was given to the men doing it. They were completely secluded from the community, except during salah. None of the mosque leadership knew I was there nor did I ask permission- just brought my stuff and stayed for several days and nights. It was one of the most intimate experiences I’ve had with my Creator and I feel so blessed to have had that opportunity. I pray other sisters are able to do so in the mosque, if and whenever, they so desire. Ameen.

Sometimes you need to make your own way, bi’idhnillah.

Christina wow, that really is the most phenomenal thing I have heard! You are incredibly brave and a true activist– to enter Allah’s house at your own will, without the permission of man, MashaAllah. I pray that I get your strength inshaAllah.

Below are some hadiths on the subject. I do not think the Imam has the right to make the decision for women… However in a marriage I do think a man should agree. I would not stop my wife from doing and I would do it with her of course… Anything to bring us closer together and closer to Alalh swt… but the rule does exist so I posted some hadiths below for better clarity and understanding.

Saaidah Aaisha Radiallahu Anha reports that when the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam decided to observe itikaf he prayed in the morning and then went to the place of his itikaf, and he commanded that a tent should be pitched for him, and it was pitched. He Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam decided to observe itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan. Saaidah Zainab (the wife of the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam commanded that a tent should be pitched for her. It was pitched for her accordingly. Some other wives also commanded that a tent be pitched for them. It was pitched for them too. When the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam saw so many tents thereupon said; what is the virtue that these (ladies) have decided to acquire? He commanded his tent to be struck and abandoned itikaf in the month of Ramadhan and postponed it to the first ten days of Shawwal. (Sahih Muslim p.371 v.1)

A woman should do itikaf in that place where she normally reads her prayers. If that is not possible then she should designate a place and observe her itikaf there. (Maariful Hadith p.119 v.4)

With regards to your question that are there any ahadith clearly saying that women can do itikaf in their homes or somewhere besides the masjid.

Saaiduna Ibn Abi Mulaikah Radiallahu Anhu narrates that Saaidah Aaisha Radiallahu Anha would perform itikaf in a place between the mountains of Uhud and Thubair and her slave would come and lead her in the prayer. This hadith can be found in Musanaff Abdur Razzaq p.350 v.4.

Oh sister, you are too generous to make such a statement about me. I’m not either of those things, in fact I struggle in faith just as much as anyone else, nor do I consider it to be a feminist or activist thing to have done. The way I see it, is ‘itikaf is simply the time to seclude yourself away with God and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do that, least of all in His house. May Allah swt bless you on your journey.

I’m really sad to hear that you and so many other women have had bad experiences at the mosque. I’m so grateful that the masjid I go to is very inclusive. It is open all day to both men and women, women and children are allowed to do itikaf in the masjid, and the best part – men and women pray in the same room, with no barrier between them (except for a small part for the women who don’t want to be seen). At halaqas the imam always encourages women to participate, and he also has special halaqas for women only. And the imam is a sheikh! Alhamdulillah. I had no idea how lucky I am to have a masjid like this until I read the above post and comments.

P.s. a side note – the masjid is also diverse, not segregated by ethnicity like many mosques are, and interracial marriages are more common than not!.

Salam alaykum yo I clicked on your article because of the title because it’s pretty incendiary.

But what I find most compelling about the article and comments is sisters who are really trying their best to form a connection with Allah. May Allah grant all of us a closer connection. And if that means Masjids that are more open to women, then that’s where our community should be directed.

I see a profound lack of religious knowledge and power in myself and limited institutions to fix me despite myself. And I’m saying that as a guy. There’s lots of serious reflection, study, and action towards Allah to fix this.

Ps I think it’s the first time Ive read a religious woman use the word vagina in words lol. Fault me for being immature or insular or insulated. All probably true.

But in that statement I sense your angst and what youre trying to get across.

Btw the serious study and action required for this I imagine is on a decades scale, so people committed to the Path will have to be patient and pragmatic.

I want to be optimistic and forums like this inshA Allah will help put people’s minds right. But the internet is a pretty wild and ugly place often so I hope the light keeps guiding and protecting y’all

Thank you for the hadiths Daud, this is very helpful. When I was in Sacramento, the masjid there, SALAM, allowed women to do itikaf, and there weren’t any tents put up for us, so there wasn’t an issue of multiple tents getting in the way. I know I’m giving you the literal meaning, but that’s all I can do when you present an hadith that is an action but no specific saying or teaching. The masjids I have been are built grand, you don’t even know if someone is downstairs or behind you, because they are big, thus they can accommodate many followers and allow them to worship peacefully without getting in the way of another worshiper, Alhumdullilah!

I hope none of my words offend you, even “vagina.” I love words, and I try to use all the ones my brain can carry! My knowledge of Islam is very limited. Since I wrote this article, I really didn’t return to the masjid. So almost 4-5 months went by since I went back. However, I’ve been going through some really difficult times lately, and this past Friday I decided to return to this particular masjid for Jummah. As soon as stepped in, there was a sense of home and peace that overtook me. It really wasn’t the people, no one knows me or even speaks to me. But it was all of the people collectively, along with the sounds and scents, it made me feel that I’m not here alone. That is why I think all masjids need to work to equalize their invitations. Because man, woman, transgender, we all can feel alone and forget Allah is here right next to us.

Try ISBCC in Boston. Beautiful place that accommodates everyone. I used to do Itikaf there with my husband often. We the women got an entire floor for ourselves.

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