Friday, July 3, 2009

Jum'a Thoughts: About the Partition

Juma mubarak everybody: About the partition/screen at the Masjid, I am a fan, if the partition is placed in an Islamic rather than cultural context. I prefer having the men and women seperate at the Masjid because when I worked it out in my head, there were more benefits than there were drawbacks.

#1 Women who wear niqab can remove it for salat. #2 There is no chance of socialising between men and women. In countries where the mixed Masjids still exist the culture does okay the mixing of men and women more, ect... For example, behaviour I have witnessed in Morocco. Yes the sahaba did pray with men in front and women in the back, but the Prophet sallalahu alahi wa salaam cursed their behaviour when they stood together in the streets intermixed and chatting for no purpose, so much so did his words have an impact on the women of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) that after that they used to walk so close to the walls that their clothes rubbed against those walls, to avoid going amongst the men in the center of the street. Which is, they went over and above what he told them to do. #3 If a new woman comes to the Masjid to learn about Islam and how to pray ect. it is not as essential that we focus on the state of her hijab first and foremost, we can focuss on things more important, ect. . #4 if one needs to loosen their clothes because of heat or a slipping hijab it can be done. #5 I have yet to see a woman who supports joining our Masjid side to the men's side (saying it is sunnah) wear anything close to what was worn by the women of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them). She is, at best (and I think that sufficient for salat) wearing what is pictured below: If she isn't wearing jilbab she was forbidden by the Prophet sallalahu alahi wa salaam from going out to the Eid place and participating in social life. If she refuses to wear jilbab to the masjid, or wear proper khimar, she simply cannot argue she is doing it because the women of the Sahaba did it because she is unwilling to do it the waaaaaaaaay they did. Aisha R.A wore something very similiar below when she went out to salat at the Masjid (only of a burnt-orangish yellow colour):
...which is not what most sisters who want to rid themselves of partitions and screens want to legislate is part of their daily dress. Sure, if you dressed as above, and acted in the manner of the sahaba in all public things, I would fully support having the mixed masjid back, with men praying at the front and women in the back. But you can't support one sunnah and reject the other.

Allah subhanhu wa ta'ala says: "And when you ask the ladies for anything, ask them from before a screen. That makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs." [Surah al-Ahzab: 53] For women to go about uncovered in the company of men is inarguably a gross violation of the command given in this verse.

I see the screen as a convenience/kindness for me, so long as I can clearly hear the khutbah. I am not supposed to be looking at the men anyways so those sisters that argue they need to see the imam to feel more involved argue something not of the sunnah anyways. Women prayed at the back of the men. They could not see the imam through the crowd anyways. What is important at the Masjid for women, is examining our intentions for going. We go to learn and to teach, since, our precence at the Masjid beyond Eid is not a precribed part of our deen, but learning and teaching and guiding public life in this sense is the correct sunnah. Also, if I did not have the screen, I would not be able to go to th Masjid on my own, as I now do, as I would have to be concious of being alone with men. I am often the first to arrive for certain prayers, and then a brother, and the two of us will be the only ones in the Masjid for as much as twenty minutes. If there were not a wall between us, I would have to leave, as a man and a woman are not permitted in Islam to be alone together, if that man is not her maharam. It is prohibited for men to join women in one place in the absence of at least one of the women's close male relatives. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade men and women from being alone together. He said: "Never is a man alone with a woman except that Satan is the third party with them." The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Do not enter into the company of women." I.e if the brother had proper adab, he would wait outside the masjid until a crowd of person entered in, but this is an inconvenience. The Prophet sallalahu alahi wa salaam said "No man should enter into the presence of a woman after this day unless he is accompanied by one or two other men." [Sahih Muslim].
Ibn 'Abbas relates that he prayed one of the Eid prayers with the Prophet (peace be upon him). He informs us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed and offered a sermon, then he went to the women and offered to them a separate sermon, admonishing them and encouraging them to give charity. [Sahih al-Bukhari]. Ibn Hajr offers the following observations about this hadith: "The fact that he went to the women separately shows that the women were assembled separately from the men and were not mixed in with them." [Fath al-Bari (2/466)]
Also, it is the sunnah for men and women to have seperate entrances at the Masjid, and for the women to leave first and not stay around at the Masjid to socialise. Do we do this sisters?
Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw men and women mixing together on the road upon their departure from the mosque. He said to the women: "Hold back a bit. You do not have to walk in the middle of the road. You may keep to the sides." The narrator of the hadith commented that after that time, women would come so close to the buildings that their dresses would sometime cling to the walls." [Sunan Abi Dawood with a sound chain of transmission]
Ibn 'Umar related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one of the mosque's doors: "We should leave this door exclusively for women to use." Ibn 'Umar, until he died, never again entered through that door. [Sunan Abu Dawood with a sound chain of transmission. Al-Albani says: "This hadith is authentic according to the conditions set down by Bukhari and Muslim."]
Umm Salamah said: "When the Prophet (peace be upon him) completed the prayer, the women would get up to leave. He would then wait awhile before standing." Ibn Shahab said: "I believe that he waited for a while to give the women an opportunity to depart before the men." [Sahih al-Bukhari]Ibn Hajr comments: "In the hadith, we see that it is disliked for men and women to mix on the road. How much more, then, should such mixing be avoided inside of houses." [Fath al-Bari (2/336)]
It was related in al-Bukhari that women at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not circumambulate the Ka'bah along with the men. 'a'ishah used to go around the Ka'bah at a good distance from the men and avoided mixing with them. Once another woman bade to her to go forward with her so they could touch the corner of the Ka'bah. 'a'ishah refused to do so. [Sahih al-Bukhari]
One of 'aishah's handmaidens came to her and said: "O Mother of believers, I went around the Ka'bah seven times and touched the corner twice or trice".'aishah replied: "May Allah not reward you for pushing your way through men. It would have been sufficient for you to you to say "Allah Akbar" as you passed by". [Musnad al-Shafi'i]
There are two things that this shows us. First, 'a'ishah did not hesitate to circumambulate the Ka'bah when there were men around, nor did she forbid other women from doing so. She only refrained from crowding into men and mixing with them and this is what she prohibited others from doing. This shows us in the clearest of terms that the mere presence of men and women in the same place is not prohibited.Second, the mixing and contact between men and women circumambulating the Ka'bah that unavoidably occurs during Hajj under today's crowded conditions cannot be used as proof that such mixing is generally allowed.
Firstly, the practice of the people does not constitute any sort of evidence in Islamic Law. Secondly, what is happening today during Hajj is unavoidable. It is permitted out of necessity and cannot be made into a general rule for all times and circumstances. It would be fruitless for us to try and demand that women avoid contact with men while circumambulating the Ka'bah during Hajj. It would be equally impossible to ask them to delay their circumambulations until the crowds depart, especially since the women on Hajj are always accompanied by the others who came with them who cannot be forced to wait around.
It is pure sophistry for anyone to use these exceptional circumstances to argue that men and women are allowed to mingle under circumstances where no necessity exists. It is just as baseless as taking the other extreme and declaring the mere presence or men and women in the same place to be unlawful mixing.
If we are not willing, at all times, to behave in the manner of the women of Sahaba, we simply aren't ready for a mixed masjid. That is my opinion. Some of the sisters in my own community aren't. I would love to see us reach that state of imaan, inshaAllah, and understanding, but it just isn't there, only the argument that we should have no screen, even if that screen protects them from themselves.
Of course, I do not support any Masjid, that uses as a partition as a means of pushing women out of their role of studying and teaching at the Masjids. If they take away her wudu facilities but the men have a fine one, of they don't have enough room for the women but have lots for the men on their side, or one cannot clearly hear the khutbah, then they are going against the manner of the Prophet sallalahu alahi wa salaam and the Sahaba in regards to the Masjid.


Coffee Catholic said...

"And when you ask the ladies for anything, ask them from before a screen. That makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs."

Wow! That's an awesome verse! What respect for women!

"Never is a man alone with a woman except that Satan is the third party with them."

I'm really happy to see those words because I've always, even as a firefighter sleeping in a bunkroom with men, had misgivings about men and women being alone together - or close "friendships" between a man and a woman, etc.

It's good to see that I'm not some freak with a mental problem!!

What is a Masjid?

Coffee Catholic said...

P.S. I forgot to ask: what do muslim women do with their children and babies? Do they bring them to the mosque for prayer time?

I like the idea of men and women sitting on opposite sides of a screen. It used to be the norm for Christians to at least sit/stand on opposite sides of the church. I'm not sure if there was ever a dividing screen?

Sarah Plain And Short said...

great topic, I never thought of it that way, thanks :)

you should see how ppl act in some masajids now after jummaah. very sad indeed with men & women socializing :( (im talking about the States, but it probably happens in Canada were there is a larger muslim population)

Amber said...


Very interesting post. What is the first picture of? I realize it's a ceiling, but from where?

Also, forgive my ignorance, but what do you consider a proper barrier? A curtain, a half wall? Separate rooms or building? And does it need to be men in front of the women if they're in the same room, or divided down the middle? I've seen people talk about/wish for all of the above, so I'm just curious if there's a 'right' way, or just certain criteria that need to be met. I did read the post twice, so if I missed this information in the post, I apologize.


I don't know if there was ever a screen, but I've seen old churches where the men and women had separate entrances.

cairo girl said...

OKay, I live in Egypt and have frequented many masjids and NONE of them are mixed......there is usually a womens balcony or another the huge historical masjids there are partitions. Now the little masjid across the street from my house is typically used just for the neighborhood men. the women tend to pray at home. also the masjids in the malls always have a complete separate musalla for women. i am curious where u got this information, as i find this statement very odd. also, most masjid have a deda (like an maid) that has prayer garments to give women that don't wear hijab properly and direct them where to make wudu etc etc.

Pixie said...

Coffee Catholic: the masjid is the proper term for the Mosque:D

Lisa said...

I miss our masjid here in Austin that was mostly niqaabi's. It was so much fun to discuss niqaab there and just be with them, with absolutely no worry of a man coming over. The one problem for me was the tea being on the men's side and not having a husband to bring me any. But, this of course was my own fault :)

Great post sweetie, I love how you think of things. Love you lots!

Laura said...

as salamu aleikum pixie.

i was wondering if you could maybe do a post about how islamically correctly meet a future husband... maybe u did that already, so i am sorry if i could not find it.
me for example, i live without my family and therefore have no male family relative that could present me a future husband. also since it is inappropriate to go out "looking for someone" i wonder how it happens that you meet someone...
Maybe its just a sister who presents you someone?
i would really love to get an advise from you.
jazak allah kheir and masalamah.

Pixie said...

Cairo Girl: soooo sorry. That was a typo. I was talking to a friend on the phone as I wrote this:P

Pixie said...

Amber: Any screen is good for me so long as what is being said on the other side can be clearly heard. For poorer Mosques, a curtain is practical (like our University one) but bigger Mosques can usually afford a nice screen or wall:D The best I have seen are upper balconies where women can look out but not be seen...

Pixie said...

Laura: InshaAllah yes. but email me bm_pixie @ and I might be able to help you beyond that even, lol.

Anonymous said...

Coffee CAtholic,

the more conservative Menonite congregations still divide for church services with the men on one side and women on the other as far as I am aware. Historically, Orthodox (Russian; can't speak for the rest) partitioned the men and women worshippers (this practice was abolished by Czar peter the Great in the late 17th/early 18th century). I likewise have heard of churches with separate entrances for men and women, and, in some older small churches I've attended, this, in practice would still be possible, as would separation (I've been to plenty of churches; even smaller ones, that have a balcony).

As a headcovering, modest dressing Christian (see and I understand the necessity for modest conduct and manners by women in the assembly, and see the benefits of a separated congregation. I've also been priveledged, courtesy of a dear Muslim lady friend, to attend the mosque and Talim (please excuse spelling) classes in a sister's home, where, upon one occasion, a gentleman came to present a lecture. he sat on one side of the dividing curtain between the room in which we sat and that in which he sat, and the respect and sense of freedom was profound.

There are several timely articles for Christian women to consider over at
of particular relevance are her articles dealing with Christian modesty for women, Christian modesty for men and one entitled 'Custody of the Eyes'; a practice all but forgotten in modern day Christian circles.

I admire you, Pixie, and fellow commenters here for standing up for what is right, when so many have let the side down, so to speak.


UniMuslimah said...

Salaam alaikum,
personally, I don't like partitions. If women want a seperate room for women who need to breast feed, niqabis who want to pray without niqab, etc. then fine. But personally, I always think of the accessability issue. I'm hard of hearing and rely a lot on lip reading, it's hard enough being at the back to catch what's being said, having something blocking my ability to see the speaker just removes any point of me going to mosque. I have deaf friends who are the same way- if they ever wanted to go to mosque, there would literally be no point in it because they'd be sitting in a room without a clue as to what was going on. I understand that sometimes mosques get full (alhamdulillah) and women need to be in a seperate room because of space issues, but that's special circumstances. I believe that women should have the option of either praying behind the men or in a seperate room. The best mosque that I've seen had movable cloth barriers on half of the room and the other half was open. So if more women wanted to be behind a screen, then they could extend the barrier, but for sisters who wanted/needed to be in the open, that too was an option.

I agree that too much mixing goes on after mosque, but I think the solution is educating Muslims on the matter, not just putting a barrier between them.

I respect your opinion on this matter and I can see the benefits in having a barrier, but I also think that there are cons for it and personally don't like it because like I said, if I can't see the speakers lips, there's no point in me going. And that makes me feel like I'm being chased out of the mosque.


Pixie said...

UniMuslimah: but you aren't supposed to be looking at the imam anyway--- your gaze is supposed to be lowered. So seeing him isn't the point of going. Hearing is.

Pixie said...

But if someone is deaf than I could see that the good in that...

Pixie said...

And wa alwaykom e salaam ramatullah wa barakto!!!!!!!!:D Oops, shoulda done that first. Forgive???

UniMuslimah said...

Of course! Like I said, I respect your opinion and do agree that there are benefits in having a barrier. I simply believe that because it's not manditory to have one and because it can cause hardship for some people that there should be some options for the sisters.


Anonymous said...

My Mother had a hearing impairment that caused her a degree of frustration throughout her life. I am curious (more aware of issues faced by persons with hearing impairment) as to the provisions provided within Mosques for worshippers with HI; especially those who need to lipread? What provisions are put in place for sisters with a hearing impairment who may need to rely upon lipreading? Are there deaf congregations with an imam who signs as there are in other faith communities? What outreach is there for the hearing impaired by the Muslim community to meet the needs of its own and to be more accessible for folk with HI, considering up to 1 in 5 persons will have to deal with HI at some point in their lives?

I've visited a few mosques and (as with many churches and other places of worship) been struck by the access (or lackthereof) for persons with a disability; In Australia, this is particularly noteable in my experience. As someone with a vision impairment of the Braille reading, Guide dog using variety, I am aware of the UK islamic ruling of 2002 that declared guide dogs acceptable for Muslims (though not, of course, in the Mosque) I am also aware of the Quran's availability in Braille and giant print; however, understanding among communities I've mixed in re persons with a disability is limited; I've even heard anicdotal tales where the prevailing attitude has been 'Well, if they're not able, they shouldn't be here' (from a minutely tiny proportion of the community of faith, thankfully). Additionally, if one needs to use a wheelchair for mobility, access to the worship space of many Mosques in my area would be difficult, and for women, imposible due to stairs, narrow doorways etc, non wheelchair friendly facilities for wudu etc.

I would hope the US, Canada and the UK would be working to make Islam literally more accesible to a sizeable chunk of the population who already face access and inclusion issues even now in 2009 in many areas of daily life.