Second Class Believers: An Unfortunate Sign at the Masjid

The other day, I was praying fajr in a local masjid and I saw a sign that had been left over from the previous week.

Update: I just came back from the masjid and the signs were still there so I took them down as Ramadan is now over and I didn’t see the imam but I’ll try again tomorrow in sha Allah.

The sign read:

“For Sisters performing I’tkaf,

May Allah reward your intention and bless you for your actions.

In sha Allah, please remember that the small musalah will be used as the Brother’s overflow during Jumaah today.

Please fold your items and store them in classroom #6 by 11Am until after Jummah.

May Allah reward you for your cooperation with this request. Jazakum Allah khayran!

The sign doesn’t seem like much of a request, it’s more like a command. Requests can be refused, I wonder what would have happened had the sisters declined that “request”.

I stopped going to one masjid because it was their habit to kick the sisters out of the entire masjid and make us pray in an adjacent building. Alhamdulillah, the sisters fought back and took half of the masjid on both the upper and lower levels, which is more than we had before.

I was a bit surprised by this sign at this particular masjid because it is well-known to have one of the nicer prayer areas for sisters, in fact it is much nicer then the men’s section, which is rare especially as anyone who has been to the Islamic Center in DC for jumu’ah knows. I refuse to go to the Islamic Center for jumu’ah because the prayer area for women is so limited.

I don’t see why women should be asked or rather forced to give up their space in the masjid if we are truly valued as everyone especially those involved in public speaking or dawah love to give lectures and make a big fuss about the status of women in Islam and quote this or that ayah or hadeeth about the equality between men and women.

There is no reason why the overflow from the brother’s section could not pray in the rooms they set aside for the sisters and left the sisters both those coming for the salaah and those making itikaf unmolested.

In sha Allah, I’m going to try to speak to the imam of the masjid about this issue because it’s a bad sign when a masjid treats women as second-class believers. I hope there are some brothers and sisters of conscience that will stand up and refuse to accept or be an accomplice to the poor treatment of women at the masajid.

Umar Lee has a post on a masjid he went to in Fort Washington, MD that serves women before men at iftar, which is quite a surprise for a number of people. The masajid I frequent serve both men and women at the same time, usually in separate areas.

Being a girl in an Ibo Christian family, a black woman in America, a black girl with African parents in blackAmerica, a black girl growing up in a mostly white town and school, a black convert in the Muslim community, I’m used to being treated differently than some of my peers and counterparts but my parents instilled in us a sense of justice and to not accept or be afraid of challenging unfair and inferior treatment from anyone.

Alhamdulillah, that I didn’t know any Muslims or know about the idiosyncrasies of our communities until well after I had read the Quran, believed in Allah, and began studying the religion so that incidents that happened later after my conversion and continue to happen where I am treated as a second class believer have not affected my love of Islam or my emaan. I’ve seen other converts or potential converts flee from Islam but mostly they are just fleeing from the way some Muslims treat their co-religionists.

From the Storehouse:

Women’s Jihad: Praying in the Masjid

Dispatches: Women only Jihad


  1. asalaam alaikum warahmat Allah wabarakatu muslim apple,

    eid mubarak! i appreciate this post. but maybe they did this because they expected more men than women and for that reason they wanted to keep them closer together separating the women from them? although it is important for us to be at the masjid, as its a positive feeling to be connected there with others, and listening live to an imam for lectures, or the recitiation of quran..or simply just being at a place devoted to Allah where everywhere else around your home is not. but having said that, there should always be a barrier between men and women in the prayer room for many reasons. 1. although it is fard upon us to lower our gaze we don’t always do that..and for men it is probably more difficult…2. women are not always dressed as modestly as they should be…3. within a small space why squeeze in men and women even though eveyrones lowering their gaze and everyones dressed as they should be? why even go there? and not go in the other room…

    here across the street from our home in madinah is a masjid that has an upstairs just for women. when i first moved here i was excited to take our children with my husband there for random salahs..several times i went and we never saw any other women there. it is not in this saudi culture to go to random salawat here at masajid aside from masjid an-nabawi ofcourse. i didn’t really get why then. but i continued to go and i would see sleeping bags and such..evidence that there were men doing itikaaf there (way before ramadan). then during ramadan came and we went there once instead of the haram and mashaAllah women packed their area!

    so why am i saying all this? because i guess with any masajid you kind of go with the flow of the the people to fit the needs of everyone. if you and all the other sisters prayed behind the men, and other men had to go elsewhere then those men would miss out on their opportunity to focus during their fard salah somewhat by not being able to see the imam during rukoo or sujood. but if you, me if i was there, or other women then inshaAllah perhaps there could be an excuse for us because it is not fard upon us in the first place and we are exempt from being there in the first place. so maybe this why the priority is on the men during congregrational salah, especially jummuah. Allah knows best.

    subhanAllah, here at the prophet’s mosque there are always people swarming in and out of the haram and men also have much more space…but again, its probably supply and demand..or thats how i’d like to think of it!!! 🙂 also, right infront of the kaaba in makkah if you see it on tv you can see there is a small area for women right infront of although rasullilah(as) didnt prevent us from attending the masajid..and even told us our homes are better for us in terms of reward..maybe the brothers use this hadith to justify limiting our space! but we have to think about their circumstances as well…and remember that we men and women are equal in islam even though we have different needs and have different ways of doing some things, because Allah knows our conditions (male, female) better than we know ourselves..

    forgive me if i’ve said anything in error..and all good comes from the blessings of Allah..

  2. Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh Suhaa, long time, no see, mashaAllah. I hope you are doing well in Madinah. Eid Mubarak!

    This particular masjid has two completely separate prayer rooms, the larger one is for the brothers and the smaller and a more comfortable one is reserved for the sisters. The rooms are not connected except by speakers and a tv screen.

    I just think its disgraceful to push the sisters out of their musallah to accomodate the overflow of brothers when the brothers could have prayed in those rooms or in the hallway or in the parking lot or on the grass and left the sisters alone in their normal musallah.

  3. eid mubarak sister. may allah reward you for your efforts and make your discussion with the imam positive and fruitful.

  4. in that case, i am totally with you on that…yeah, the brothers should have prayed elsewhere. in makkah, you see men and women’s area..but at certain times where salah has begun or right before the iqama you see sometimes groups of women praying infront of groups of men..because the men’s areas are packed and there aren’t any other options for them but to miss a salah..may Allah bless you and accept your deeds muslim apple. (i’ve recently posted, but i you’re right, i havent been blogging for a while..due to other responsibilities)

    barakAllah feeki ya ukhti,

  5. Suhaa: It just annoys me when there is a lack of space and rather than trying to work out an equitable solution, the first recourse to the issue is that the sisters are expendable. That seems like blatant disrespect.

    Sacrosanct: I only went to jumu’ah once at the Islamic Center in DC and it was so disappointing that I’ve never been back and have no desire to go back there although I hear and have seen pictures of the upstairs so one day I would like to see that.

    I think the lack of space issue is generally bogus and even it is a real issue, the way to effectively manage it is not by short-shrifting half of the community.

    At one local masjid that I love to frequent, the sisters are never kicked out of the musallah and are sometimes given space and comfortability preference during waleemahs and iftars.

    And I remember at another local masjid during Ramadan a couple of years ago, the brothers were forced to eat iftar outside while the sisters ate in a heated building and at the next board meeting the brothers complained (shall I say they sounded a bit like women) about being cold and uncomfortable and at the unfairness of the situation and the following year a solution was worked to accommodate both brothers and sisters.

  6. I still remember a sign I saw at a halal meat store announcing the time of the Eid prayer at a particular masjid (not mine). In big letters it said “THERE WILL BE NO SPACE FOR SISTERS.” Seriously. This is a masjid that normally has a separate room for sisters, and it has a big parking lot that could have been left empty for the overflow of worshippers. These incidents continue despite hadiths ordering men not to prevent women from going to the masjid, and specifically instructing that women should attend the eid prayer, going so far to indicate that even a woman who has no jilbab should borrow one in order to attend. All of this to accomodate men who are attending the optional eid prayer, although they can’t be bothered to attend the obligatory Friday prayers (because if they did, the masjid would be big enough to accomodate them.) It is ugly and backward, and I too am glad I didn’t know about this tendency before I converted.

  7. Asalamu alaykum Cozy Sister,

    I hear you, some of these situations are just outrageous. My first impression of a masjid and its community comes from the provision and accommodations made for both men and women in the masjid. If the women’s section is insufficiently small, cut off from the happenings in the brother’s section, or just neglected completely then that forms a negative impression of that community in my mind and I am not likely to want to return there.

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