‘We want to pray in mosques too‚’ says a group of Muslim women
The inequality at many Johannesburg and Durban mosques has outraged some Muslim women‚ who say that not only is there a culture of patriarchy and sexism in the mosques but the conduct is against the teachings of the Qur’an.
A video that emerged showing a man trying to stop women from getting close to listening to the Qur’an being recited at the Gold Mosque in Ormonde‚ Johannesburg‚ has sparked debate about why women are not allowed to worship in many mosques.
Nabeelah Khan‚ a follower of the religion‚ said that during Ramadhan women usually went to mosques on a daily basis to perform the Taraweeh prayer while the Qur’an is being recited.
“At every mosque there are separate sections for female and males. The women went to the female facilities first and there wasn’t a speaker‚ so they wouldn’t have been able to hear the Qur’an being recited.
“They wouldn’t have been able to perform their Salaah (prayer) properly. So they went into the mosque and didn’t go into the male section‚ they went to a room outside there and decided they were going to pray there‚” Khan said.
Khan said women have been battling with the inequality for a long time. “Why should we not be able to do something to be closer to our Creator just so that men will not be distracted? That’s a place of prayer‚ why are you even looking at a woman in a lustful manner? They now take Qur’an verses and twist it to suit their own agenda.
“It doesn’t say that we can’t go to the mosque; it says we don’t have to [but] it’s compulsory for men. In the time of our holy prophet women prayed in the mosques alongside men‚” Khan said.
Two women‚ Noorjan Allie and Shameelah Khan‚ have started a campaign called Women of Waqf‚ which seeks to create an inclusive space for women in the mosque. For the past month they have been sharing their experiences on their Facebook page.
“According to the teaching or the Qur'an and teachings of the beloved prophet‚ women can in no way be prevented from attending the mosque even though it is better for them to pray at home.
“During the month of Ramadan it is common practise for men and women around the world to pray the evening prayers in congregation with the exception of certain mosques in Johannesburg and Durban which belong are part of the IndoPak diaspora‚” the Women of Waqf group said.
They want all mosques in Durban and Johannesburg to open their doors to women while still adhering to the etiquette of the space. Woman should be able to attend prayers and lectures during those times‚ and should be allowed to pray in congregation‚ they said.
“It's ridiculous really. There is no Islamic basis for restricting access of women. What we are seeing is Indian men who are imposing their patriarchal culture on women without any basis. This culture is so entrenched in the community that it seems like its Islamic law.
“We don't see this in other Muslim communities. We don't see it in the Black Muslim community or in the Malay Muslim community‚” said Nelisiwe Msomi‚ a Muslim woman activist.
Msomi said not only does this oppress them spiritually; it so does emotionally and physically.
“The mosque is the centre of the Muslim community‚ and by excluding women‚ you are essentially ignoring our existence within the community‚” she said.
Part of the reasons why women are separated from men is to encourage both sexes to focus while in the presence of worship. These women say they are tired of how patriarchal Islam has become.
“It’s about not sexualising women in a holy space. As if our presence as women in the mosque is to turn men on. Rather than men focusing on their purpose of being at the mosque. They believe that women are better off praying at home. It's men who believe that a woman's place is at home. She shouldn't be working or socialising‚” Msomi said.
Referring to the Qur’an 7:31 scripture - which she quoted as saying‚ "Children of Adam‚ take your pleasantness to every Mosque" - Msomi said that “children” was “inclusive of all genders”.
TimesLIVE has made contact with the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa and the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. Neither had commented by Tuesday evening. This story will be updated should they reply.