I received one of the more interesting responses to the British documentary “Women Only Jihad” and a related post entitled “Women’s Jihad – Praying in the Masjid” from a sister in New Zealand. After encountering resistance from brothers at certain masajid and due to the lack of prayer space accommodations for women, some sisters have taken to praying outside at fajr on a mountaintop.
From Sister Fiona in her own words:
My story is from New Zealand.
A couple of us decided we’d pray on one of the beautiful mountains in our city (how appropriate to be on the sides of a volcano as the dawn light breaks into the sky). Most of our mountains scattered through the city are reserves and parks and public spaces.
We were seeking some way to show solidarity with, and respect for the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand as their forefathers lost substantial amounts of land in the early years of European settlement. Auckland itself is built on 25,000 misappropriated acres.
Most of our Muslim population has arrived in the last decade and so this history is not known to them. It’s like the butler (the European style government) has opened the door and presented himself as the owner, so we want to get past that to meet with the host. As Allah (subhana wa ta ala) has said, we are made of many tribes and nations so we can come to know one another.
The Maori New Year comes with the rising of Pleiades, known as matariki here. It signals the time for planting new kumara crops. For the sahabas (early companions of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) in Islam it would have signalled the time to begin trading in the first fruits. Praying outside and making invocations for the new year of our hosts also meant we had double the reasons for getting out there.
There is at least one masjid here that has no facility for women, and at least two others that are antagonistic (even erecting barricades to prevent women turning up for taraweh). This is the conviction of the brothers who attend there and cite the single hadith that involved the very old, incapicitated sahaba: Um Humayd. The Prophet’s (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) words of consolation to her have become more important than any other utterance by the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) or by Allah (subhana wa ta ala).
All the earth is spread for us as a suitable place for prayer (with three exceptions).
That sounds like an invitation to women who want to pray in congregation to “Get out there!” Of course we want to maintain our modesty as well which is why we haven’t chosen another time of day when we could become a spectacle.
Once the two of us had cased the mountain, enjoyed the experience, we extended the invitation. Rasheed Memorial Dawah Trust put it on their website. Sr. Tahira made all the arrangements with the council. She handled the finer details too, like lighting the route to our prayer space with solar lights and spreading huge mats (even arranging breakfast, an imam and a muezzin).
Through the early hours of the morning people just quietly came. Brothers and sisters of all ages, and how lovely to read Surah Al Fajr and to listen to the tafsir (explanation) for it as the dawn broke over the city. The air was cold and crisp and clear and we were mindful of all our brothers and sisters throughout the world who would have been cold throughout the night. The warmth came in the sense of community and in the absolute simplicity of the prayer.
The birds sang out their morning chorus from the trees, the flock of sheep that graze on this hill in the city, came running to the adthan and pricked up their ears as if to say, “Allahu akbar” along with us and of course they’re Muslim too.
We really don’t need flashy architecture and custodians of buildings.
And to Allah belongs all praise and thanks, the Lord of all that exists, the Creator and the Sustainer of the entire universe.
For more reflections and pictures of the event, check out the Rasheed Trust’s forum.