New PhotoBlog: Muslim Women’s Prayer Spaces

Since I mentioned at the end of my The Penalty Box: Muslim Women’s Prayer Spaces post that I had an idea in mind to create a photoblog showcasing some of these spaces, a number of people have encouraged me to follow through on the idea.

I’d like to be able to couple the pictures with responses from the masajid administrators and also from brothers and sisters that attend that masjid. I’d love for people to be able to participate and show us all the lovely prayers spaces they have visited as well as those unfortunate penalty boxes, balconies, and broom closets, which many of us have also utilized for prayer.

I just need a good name for the blog and I’ll start it up, in sha Allah. It’s unfortunate that it seems like the only place where we can have this discussion in our communities, is online. But I’m also willing to do the legwork to also actively seek out to hear from masajid representatives. The intention is not to name and shame but to seek accountability for actions and decisions and possibly to improve conditions and/or generate new ideas and to hear and see what works well in certain communities. I’d like to increase the understanding, not decrease it or perpetuate stereotypes.

This picture is from Al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta, they spent a lot of money but have excellent facilities for men and women.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

23 thoughts on “New PhotoBlog: Muslim Women’s Prayer Spaces”

  1. I am so excited about this, got to go get some new camera batteries! May Allah reward your for your good intentions, ameen. And if administrators have done nothing wrong, then they have nothing to be ashamed of right? 🙂

  2. Assalaamu alaikum,

    Over on your fb, there was a discussion going about the intentions of those responsible for the mosque. Whether or not it seems like they don’t care at all, or have purposefully given no thought to women, they are our Muslim brothers and sisters, and we should avoid attributing bad intentions to them. Give them as many excuses as we can, and assume the best.

    Still, the facilities themselves can be looked at.

    Funny you should put up a picture of Al Farooq. That is my masjid. Sure it is pretty. Women have nice facilities. But not equal. We are up on a different floor, and can view the “real” mosque through a laticed, glass window. There is no opportunity to participate. There are women’s classes taught by women. And there was a symposium for Muslim-Non-Muslim Relations in December where they did a panel on Muslim women, taught by all men!

    I was witness to a very sad sight when a friend of mine took shahada there. The imam gave shahada to her through the speaker, and she in another room. He went too fast, but she couldn’t tell him that, so she stumbled to speak after him. She didn’t know where to stand so she stood by the door closest to the men’s section. This brings me to another question, can women witness shahada. Always been a question of mine.

    However I know some of the ppl who run Al Farooq and they are generally nice, good intentioned ppl. But all that glitters is not gold. Women’s space in masajid is about much more to me than decorations.

    1. Wa salaam alaykum,

      Yes, women can witness a shahadah and in reality even though you may often hear some difference of opinion, you don’t need any witnesses at all. And Allah knows best. I’ve spent years researching the issue and asking a number of people of knowledge that I respect about the issue because I took my shahadah at home by myself with only Allah and the angels as my most blessed witnesses. I took a second shahadah two years later to get some loving and well-intentioned sisters off my back as they were concerned for the validity of my shahadah. I did it from behind a curtain, the brothers were just a few feet away on the other side and we could all hear and vaguely see each other.

      ‘Tis true the women are on a completely separate floor at Al Farooq isolated and cut-off from the life of the masjid, which you can see happening down below yet the space is clean and comfortable. I myself prayed maghrib there when I was in Atlanta and it didn’t make sense to me that women should have to go up to the second floor when clearly there was more than enough space in the main prayer area.

  3. Salaam Ify,

    This is such a good idea. Excellent job!

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to respond to anyone else comments from your original article ;-).

  4. Assalamu Aleikum
    This is a GREAT idea! ! !
    I will begin my photo-journey to help post the women’s areas at local mosques.
    Thanks!
    Fatima

    1. Thanks but nah man, I was hoping for something to that could equally apply to both the good spaces and the bad ones, otherwise I would have called it PenaltyBox. Brooke, I think suggested The Sisters’ Side, which I like but it’s a bit of a long url.

  5. Assalaamu aleykum,

    I can’t wait to see this photoblog. I have not been to many different prayer spaces so I don’t have many “stories” myself. I can tell you that I’ve never seen the women’s prayer space at our masjid where I live because it is up a steep, narrow flight of stairs and I am disabled. I don’t go to the masjid other than for tarawih during Ramadan (because then we can pray with the men downstairs) for this reason. Alhamdulillah our sort-of-prayer-room (it’s the MSA’s but not really – we can’t decorate it or anything) at the university is more accessible. But one day I’d like to go to jum’ah.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing this 🙂

    Wa’salaam,
    A’ishah Hils.

    1. Wa salaam alaykum Noor,

      May Allah azza wa jal make it easy for you and for all of brothers and sisters that only have recourse to inaccessible facilities. It always ticks me off to see that.

  6. As Salaamu Alaikum:

    It would also be nice to see some of the prayer spaces of Jewish women. A lot of their spaces are in the balconies.

    Nice interfaith project, lol!

    Anyway, I’ll send my masjid’s pic soon, Insha Allah. Am also going to Istanbul at the end of the month, Insha Allah, and will be sure to snap some shots there.

  7. I wish you the best with this project, but I have to say that this is not the first time a sister took to the internet to write about the unequal, undignified spaces in the masjid. Even before the Asra woman did it, sisters were saying it. I remember reading things on the internet about this 8, 9, 10 years ago. The PBS show about relion, speaking of faith, did a story about this. There was even a blog project taking photos of masjids and their accommodations for sisters a few years ago. What’s changed? Nothing. The sisters who did this were ostracised, said they were exposing the sins of other Muslims, giving ammo to the kufar, etc. Maybe it will be different for you, and I hope so, but I just have to point out this is not the first time even the photo project has been attempted… and I personally do not have hopes for any changes from the brothers who run masjids. They don’t care about us, they don’t care about giving us equal spaces – or even clean, well lit, heated / AC’d spaces.

  8. Asmaa-
    Do you know where the prior photoblog was/is? I’ve been following the Muslim blogoshpere and sites for over a decade and I missed it 😦 It would be nice to refer to it to see how we can improve on the project, which brings me to what I wanted to comment…

  9. I like OurSide with a tight heading that explains your aim.

    So, yes, my gut reactions are to kind of shame these masjids that have really failed their communities, but that is not effective strategy for change. Some people really do care more about how they appear to mere humans more than how they appear before Allah, but public shaming would just be waste of time and a fitnafest.

    A couple years back Ingrid Mattson sat with the sisters in our community and one of the many thing she discussed with us was the dynamics of how masjids spring up. It seems that what my community is going through is completely typical. Money has been being collected for a masjid for many years with the intention of building a dream masjid and in the meantime inadequate spaces are being rented which mis-serve the community. Two things she discussed which I think are relevant here:

    Many of these communities are CLUELESS about how to open/build a masjid similar to those dreamy-eyed small business owners. So ISNA has/was putting together a package that explains how to do it. Just like small businesses, start-ups and other various organizations should always study successful similar projects to learn how to essentially recreate one. Most small businesses fail because people don’t do their homework. Many of these masjids fail their community possibly because they don’t understand what their community needs or how to provide it. They just know that a prayer space is needed. This is why highlighting the Good Masjids is just as important as demonstrating the shoddy ones. Insha Allah masjids, present and future, can really learn from the project. In a facebook conversation we were wondering if the masjids with better accommodations for ALL community members also provided better services for community members. Maybe this project will help to demonstrate the necessity of providing a Good space to build a Good community.

    And the second thing is, Mattson encouraged us to not wait for the brothers (masjid board is majority brothers as well as the brother who is the–forget the Arbaic word–“keeper of the masjid”). She encouraged that we could and should start-up services while (continuing to wait a lonnnnggg time, alhumdiAllah) for this (dream) masjid to be built, insha Allah.

    It does seem that sisters have very little say and power in masjid admins and planning. This project is an excellent way to demonstrate (TO DO SOMETHING) to masjids how they are failing AS WELL AS how the could/should improve and why. Insha Allah.

    And a picture is worth how many words? Much better than JUST bloggin about it, yeah? And the contacting masjids that Muslim Apple said she would do may make the difference between insular blog whining and community activism.

  10. a brilliant idea. may i suggest that as you take pics of women’s spaces you also take pics of the main/male space in the same mosque and if at all possible get a sense of where the two space are in relation to each other. that could tell us so much more about the dynamic of the two spaces.
    best of luck with the project,
    fatima seedat

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