Do we need a ‘females-only’ mosque?

Published: February 8, 2015

Muslim women kneel for the prayer service at the Women's Mosque of America in downtown Los Angeles, California January 30, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

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

Almas Akhtar

A Michigan based writer who enjoys travelling and watching movies and who runs a Facebook blog named Tuesday talk.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Salman Shareef

    Where are you people heading to on the name of liberalism ? Your actual Problem is that you don’t want to offer prayer behind Male Imam.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/MalikSaabSays MalikSaabi

    If this mosque puts women on the actual path laid out by the Almighty… good; if it’s a women-vs-men thing then it defeats the very purpose of a mosque & islam & prayers etc. Seeing mosques as “men strongholds”? Wanting power/control over who runs a mosque? Hmm… and here I thought a “Muslim” went to a mosque to establish salah…a connection with the Almighty, not with the ego.
    Anyways. A prayer for those operating the mosque: may we impart Islamic teachings as they are and always have been, as opposed to cherry-picked portions to conform religion to, and appease, the society of today. Real guidance brothers & sisters!… aim for that.Recommend

  • Usman786

    we are already divided. Donot create your own sect. The dress of ladies in above pics speaks it all. Go to churchRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    “not many women feel comfortable going to such mosques alone, with so many other men around them”. Well then they should feel really really uncomfortable going about their lives in the western society.
    I see people with free time and cash who have nothing constructive to do to be honest. I am personally really against spending on new buildings while there are people living on the street.Recommend

  • jee non

    Same happened to these mosques also … like Shia/Ahmadi mosquesRecommend

  • deep

    This is a lousy move – you need mixed congregations – then you will not have certain mullahs waxing eloquent on the 72 virgins and the need for the woman never to say no to her husband – you can sample any of the sermons on MemriTV. Women need to rudely shake the status quo.Recommend

  • zain

    its strange that on one hand west promotes mixing of different genders including co education etc and other hand appreciates women only mosquesRecommend

  • Hazrat Islam

    Women/ Girls only mosque is un-islamic. This is not sanctioned by Allah (SWT) and Prophet of Islam.Recommend

  • BE

    “I see this step as a progressive one – one which showed the world that Muslim women are taking matters in their own hands now.”

    You simply can not find anyone more stupid than muslim women.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t both men and women perform the Haj together ? So, considering that this is in America I think its a step backwards for women.Recommend

  • Mohammed

    As long as something does not harming anyone else, then one has all the right to do it. A women’s mosque is certainly not harming anyone. If it makes certain women feel empowered and provides them a comfortable environment to practice their faith, then we should all encourage it. We should all be able to do what we believe in. I shall go a step further, If there are also women that want to participate in a mosque in a non-segregated environment, then they also have the right to do that. Actually that is what happens at Kabbah in Mecca. Live and let live!Recommend

  • Xyz

    What’s wrong with the dress….or do we again go into the age old nonsense of defining who is a Muslim or not, or who is a better muslim or not on the basis of what a person is wearing ? Or would you expect women living in west to wear a burka and not integrate with the rest of the society ?Recommend

  • Xyz

    Why is it unislamic? Rationale ?Recommend

  • sidra

    Utterly senseless…does this gal know anything about how females should be following the mannerism of worship in Islam? Islam, by no mean belittles the status of women in society. Encouraging something that is not at all, the essence of Islam is tantamount to demeaning Islamic Values. I wonder, how we manage to relate every single issue on earth with man-woman inequality. Attire of the women and the apparent environment in above picture discernibly explains what good such mosques would do to women.Recommend

  • Shariq

    Like Shia/Ahmadi mosques?Recommend

  • chona

    what happens when imam is under going monthly four five days away from prayers. someone else becomes imam? give us a break. women imam or high religious figures are not natural because of physical monthly conditions. Islam recognised and made it easier.

    Islam has relaxed even prayers for women. These liberals want to make it difficult. strange. Prayers in jamaat is not binding on women. juma prayers also not binding on women.

    its not a case of inequalities, it’s case of Allah making praying easier for women, so that they can pray in safety and pardah of home.

    May Allah give hidayat and stop these people from changing religion.
    Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    And what makes you a scholar of Islam? In the time of our Prophet PBUH, women were welcome in the mosque. It is a cultural perversion under the guise of religion to oppress women and confine them to home for cooking and child rearing.
    If women were accommodated in the mosques, there won’t be a need to establish a separate mosque for them. Recommend

  • XerXes

    “It is a cultural perversion under the guise of religion to oppress women and confine them to home for cooking and child rearing. ”

    You have no clue on , of what you are saying .Islam has always recommended women to stay home , as it is a protection for them . At the time of HP PBUH , women were welcome in mosques , and they are today too . There were no Women Mosques at that time . In the name of liberalism you are now going to say that women are now going to pray Friday prayers too , as it is ” a worship of Allah” .

    I can firmly say that you are a female too . And like many others , you are having a hard time accepting the truth that women were and are made inferior to men . It is just the way it is . Allah made you a woman , and put you in an islamic home , and you are just on the quest to make your religion ” correct ” as to serve your purpose .

    Go read some islamic history ! Women have always been discourged from leaving their homes . It is because they are women !

    (And the war of Men VS Women Begins !!!)Recommend

  • LS

    Anti Islam just because you said it? Produce a verse to corroborate..Though I would not be surprised since the scripture is heavily biased against womenRecommend

  • a r modak

    this may sound chauvinistic…………but a personal view

    there has to be a logical reason why women are/were not allowed in mosques……..if it was allowed then, those were people with taqwa, and morality was not at a low ebb as is now. when one looks at the gender make-up of other religions that permit both sexes, we hear of many cases of adultery and immorality, as a result of this inter-mingling….. the prohibition is based on protection——-men are, by nature, lustful, and the preponderance of females at mosques-some heavily adorned with state-of-the-art abayas, it may just send pulses racing. secondly, women are innately the guardians of our houses……….children, their upbringing, their scholastic progress-men are away at work, and the primary role of family building, nay nation-building is the forte of women.it is a status given to them by our beloved prophet-their reward? jannah——-a reward that is a pre-emptive gift from Allah just to safeguard our homes, our “khandaans”, our honor.Recommend

  • a r modak

    one more point-and this is a tribute to women……………..we are successful, good people because of our mothers, our good wives-who tended to us, the children and our name. the house is a woman’s mosque.she can do all her rituals “itmeenaan seh”-at her own pace, seeing to both house and her spiritual obligations.
    it also depends on the niyyah of women-
    today, facebook, a greater degree of womenly independence, has given rise to windows of opportunities!
    men see this as levelling the playing (pun intended) fields………
    .so, one can conclude, that the “ban” is based purely on protection………………….Recommend

  • Bebo

    Use your brain..if it was required than Prophet of Islam would himself establish one.Recommend

  • L.

    “Islam is Heavily biased against women” just because you say it? Produce a verse to corroborate. I have no reason to be surprised since because Islam provides the best of rights to women. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Since when do Ahmadis have separate MOSQUES for the two sexes? We are segregated, correct, but different mosques altogether? Nope. Recommend

  • Aliya U. Zaidi

    I personally do not agree with this concept. I don’t think segregating women is the answer to our problems. Women need be given equal rights in our mosques and their spaces in the mosques should reflect this. If this were to happen, there would be no need for opening up an all female mosque. I believe this will lead to more issues rather than solve problems.Recommend

  • Waqas

    so you are saying integrating with a society is better than following faraiz?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Since when did the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community have separate mosques for women?Recommend

  • SEEMZZ

    aameen.Recommend

  • SEEMZZ

    This is a lobby working against ISLAM. See the conditions of preachers, if this is what they preach then ISLAM is DOOMED! Also a woman can’t lead the prayers. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!Recommend

  • LS

    Use your brain too, just because there is no verse for it does not mean that its NOT REQUIRED. I know your type.. Keep the girls under the man… and don’t get me started on what is the status of women in Quran.

    If you lived by the Quran you would not be using Internet, Car, Fans, Electricity, Processed food, computers and would not be commenting here because none of this is written in Quran… DBRecommend

  • LS

    Women are in space and you are stuck in 14th century. If men left women alone and not prayed on them like vultures then they would not need your so called protection.Recommend

  • Skeptic

    If your religion openly discriminates.. Then there is something wrong with your religionRecommend

  • Zen

    Here here, our men and a few women have risen up again against something that is a positive initiative. If a woman can give a majlis in Muharam, she can very well do so on any other day as well. Stop with this closed mindset people! This wasnt practiced during the time of Prophet saw? Honey, mobile phones werent used back then either. Learn to live in your age. Move forward, expand your horizon. Being stuck in past means not moving forward. And if its wrong, its Allah’s who will look after the matter. You dont need to worry.

    Mosques and Madrassas were allowed to host terrorists or dead bodies of young, raped children either but yet… Nevermind, you go ahead with your Biddah Biddah Biddah mindset. Recommend

  • Zen

    Women were always discouraged to leave their homes? Hahahahahah. Hazrat Aisha went on to fight Imam Ali a.s.

    Hazrat Khadija sa was a businesswoman. Damn…she shouldve stayed at home. Bibi Fatima gave a sermon at Fadak in front of many so called muslims of that time to claim her right. Was she wrong too then? Prophet saw ‘s daughter was wrong? Bibi Zainab gave a sermon in Yazid’s palace. She shouldve rather stayed at home and not accompanied Imam Hussain a.s for Karbala cuz you know…women should stay home.

    YOU can keep YOUR women at home. Dont pose your idiotic rules on othersRecommend

  • siesmann

    Right!Typical Pakistani response.Put everything on the west,and keep your head in the sand.Recommend

  • siesmann

    That is why Muslim world has stayed behind all other cultures.It is only Muslim men that are so lusting,none in the west gives a second thought to a women scantily clad.Recommend

  • siesmann

    And Ahmadis should be thankful they didn’t do so.Otherwise rabid mullahs would have burned them alive.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Who is stopping women staying at home if THEY WISH SO?.A lousy excuse to suppress women.Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    Don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions and think rationally.

    Rest assured, I have been a male since my birth and that won’t change simply because you ‘firmly’ say so. I am, however, closely related to wonderful, pious women in my life including my mother, my sister, my wife and my two daughters. Please take the time to read through history and you’ll learn that Islam taught us to put an end to atrocities on women when the ignorant people were burying daughters alive. Don’t forget the first Muslim was a blessed woman, Um-ul Momeneen Khadija (RA) who also happened to be a businesswoman and continued to be so even after she was married to our Prophet (PBUH).

    Early Islamic history that I read has women even in the battlefield and business among others. Have they fabricated a different Islamic history in your land-of-the-pure?

    By Allah’s standards, people are only superior or inferior based upon their piety, not gender. (Al-Hujraat:13) It is presumptuous for you to think that you have the authority to determine who is inferior.

    We don’t need to ‘correct’ our religion; just need to understand it correctly without biases of upbringing in certain cultures.

    What you may not know, in the US, a mosque serves not only as a place for worship but also for families to get together. Some of the mosques here are run by people who think like you and treat women as second class citizens (‘inferior’ in your terminology). Want to know more? Watch the documentary at http://www.unmosquedfilm.com/ That is what is driving some women to have dignified places of their own.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Rabid mullahs or mullahs in general are nothing to be feared of. We don’t do things in accordance with or even considering the opinions of such hateful people. Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    Living by the Quran does not imply avoiding modern products and services. I suspect you meant ‘by living the lifestyle of the time when the Quran was revealed’.Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    Reminds me of an incident a friend related from his experience at Hajj. While circumambulating around Kaaba, it was time for prayer and the person next to him asked “what should I do, there is a woman on my right?” His answer was “pay attention to what is in front of you (the Kaaba) and not to your right or left”.Recommend

  • Tinkerer

    The only lobby in action seems to be that of the IGNORANT. Ummihaat-al Momineen A’ishah and Umm Salamah led other women in prayer and so did Umm Waraqa in the time of our Prophet (PBUH).
    If you don’t know, read books of Hadith. Don’t simply run to your semi-literate mullah for his version of what can and can’t be done.Recommend

  • Guest

    In Quran it is said to man to “safe your family from Fire” in Surah Bakarah. That’s more than enough to justify that man are superior to women.

    Please share your view of Status of Women in quran.

    As per your other comment that donot use fan, computers etc. Well that has nothing to do with your Deen. It is a facility. Use it or not you will not be asked about it on day of judgement. Prophet PBUH at his time used latest weapons to win war.

    As per the main argument is Masjid is needed or not well that’s latest Fitna nothing else. Next step which btw already happen in Britain a women Imaam leading prayers.Recommend

  • Farhan

    Even Saudis have women only mosques and they are extremely conservative!

    How can it be un-Islamic?Recommend

  • Salman Shareef

    Please mention where is that mosque ?Recommend

  • siesmann

    if men are so “superior”,how come top positions in almost all education institutions are bagged by women in Pakistan.Superiority must make people dumb!!!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    war against women has been going on for centuries.Now it will be war of liberation from men (such as you)who consider women “inferior”.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Yes, a religion that considers women inferior .Recommend

  • Ruby

    So the author is basically saying. Congratulate us. We ran away from the men and set up our own mosque. They are not going to allow us in their mosques. So we set up women only mosques and pretend that this will coerce the men into allowing mixed gender congregations. Ohh please congratulate us because we don’t want to fight for our place, we will simply make a corner ours.

    I see one positive though, for women who would not go out and socialize for other things in life, this is a good thing, something their family is also more likely to approve of.Recommend

  • LS

    No I am simply responding to OP who believes that anything that is not mentioned in Kuran is NOT REQUIRED.Recommend

  • Faisal Farooq

    Men only mosque and Women only mosque both are wrong because stopping men or women for worship is not according to Quran. Men and women can worship God together in a mosque. If women can go to markets then why not mosques? Quran does not forbid women praying at mosques.

    Prophet Muhammad (saas) had given clear orders to the men NOT to stop women from going to the Masjid.

    Yet another hadith records our Nabi as saying that if a woman wanted to go to the mosque at night, she should not be prohibited from doing so. (Bukhari, 10:162)

    Within the Masjid, the women worshippers were NOT separated from men by any screen or curtain, but they formed themselves into a line BEHIND the men. (Bukhari, 10:164)Recommend

  • siesmann

    if Islam isn’t,Muslims definitely are !!!!!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    You don’t, but they doRecommend

  • L.

    Not all, but many, yes. But then I can come up with the point that the whole media industry works on sexualising women and then blame all those who contribute to it.Recommend

  • salman bakhtiyar

    If its not practiced in prophet’s time and caliphs’ time its an aberration. Many of the mosques are including area for women prayers emulating masjid nabwis bab nisa. It won’t make sense to make it same size as men if the number of women is less. Women can ofcourse make center for community gathering where its only women and they get together to socialize and if there is time for prayer they can pray too.

    But having female only mosques is an aberration. I wonder if this mosque gets azaan five times a day like other mosques?Recommend

  • aamir

    no such mosque is required in pakistan… thanks keep it to usa ..don’t spoil our religion.pleaseRecommend

  • siesmann

    No,men made them run away!!Recommend

  • http://www.agaricpro.com mazus

    Great web site you have here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take careRecommend

  • XerXes

    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 .Recommend

  • Muhammad Naeem Memon

    Kindly do not use short form of Holy Prophet
    صَلَّى اللهُ تَعَالٰى عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم.
    Recommend

  • LS

    No, because its written in Quran. Not because I said it.Recommend