A Note About Opening The Mosques


By Fatima Fatima Est

More than a thousand years ago, some men wrote against the presence of women at mosques. Contrary to the Prophetic practice where men and women prayed together in the mosque even at night, the accretions of the legal opinions of these scholars over time concluded that women must be excluded from the mosques. Their reasoning – to prevent the means to a greater evil (sadd al-dharai), namely socialisation amongst men and women. Despite some small gains in the form of a few gender-inclusive masajid, to this day a majority of the mosques around the world either exclude women or limit their presence in the mosque.

Today a small group of Muslims, the very same who uphold at all costs the ruling against women’s presence in the mosque are arguing before the South African courts that it is unconstitutional, unacceptable, indeed deeply and spiritually painful that they themselves have been excluded from the mosques, to prevent the means to a greater evil, namely the spread of Covid-19. The national regulation does not privilege some religions or some people over others, instead it coincides with broad principles of maintaining public interests (al-masalih al-mursala), allowing both state and Islamic ethics to coincide on this matter, and so we think it should stand.

But from the women who have been excluded from the masajid for a 1000 years, simply for being women, we see what you’re doing and so we want to remind you that: 

  • you’re willing to spend hundreds of thousands sanitising your masajid, even fighting a court case to re-enter your masajid. Your lawyer told the honourable judge that you are sustained by your presence in the mosque, and so it appears that your masajid have replaced your Sustainer, your Rabb. When you excluded our sisters from the mosques all those centuries ago, we leant then already that we are only sustained by God who also assures us ‘wherever you turn there is your Lord’, 
  • our Rabb is indeed merciful, for under no other circumstance could you possibly have understood the pain of being excluded from the masajid which, as you correctly argued today, is the spiritual centre of the Muslim community. We’ve known this pain from the day we were born; and unfortunately, now you know it too,
  • this pandemic is a time for deep reflection amongst all of us, may your pain at the exclusion from the masajid also lead you to deep introspection, perhaps use your experience as a teacher to hold up a mirror that reflects your own behaviour and contemplate what it is that you have done in excluding women from the spiritual centres of the ummah – the community.

We don’t think you will change your views, because your misogyny and patriarchy runs deeply and is mostly unquestioned in your masajid – indeed some of you believe that Islam is actually a patriarchal faith. Despite having excluded us, know that we are not happy that you are now experiencing the pain that we have always experienced. 

What we are happy about is hearing you express your ideas about the centrality of the mosque to the community, and how difficult it is to be cut off from the spiritual centre of the community. We’ve always known this, even when you tell us to find solace in praying hidden in the darkest corners of our home, or when you build ornate mosques without a space for us to pray at, but always a kitchen for us to work in. 

You should have seen our shock when you even told the Court that the masajid are a refuge for abused women. Wouldn’t that be amazing, were it true! And God-willing someday we will make that happen. But for now, you will recall that when we ask for a divorce through your jurists’ councils you send us back over and over again, and when we complain about our treatment at the hands of abusive husbands you remind us to be patient; “make sabr” you say. So we offer you the same guidance today; have patience with this virus dear Muftis and Moulanas, with the will of Allah, fortunately for you it will leave some day, and you will return to the mosque. We, however, might be less fortunate if your patriarchy doesn’t also leave with the virus. 

The Qur’an tells us that after hardship there is ease. So, we pray that the pain you expressed before the Court and the hardship you are enduring now will ease as the virus leaves. When it does, remember a pandemic can be either a time of learning and renewal or people can display stubborn pride, takabbur, and return to their old ways. 

We pray that none of us return to our old ways after this pandemic. As you circulate WhatsApp messages with heartfelt supplications repenting our collective wrongdoings, perhaps think about this as one of them? As a community we can choose to use this moment to reflect and reform ourselves and consider what we need to learn from the pain of exclusion from the masajid. If those who have excluded women from the masajid choose to reform their ways after the pandemic and open the masajid to women then this experience and this pain may perhaps heal us all. 

Wa hasbun Allah!  And for us, God is sufficient!

23 April 2020, South Africa

Featured image via Flickr

The views expressed here are the author’s personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Daily Vox. 


  1. Very well expressed sister. This is a beautifully written piece that dances the fine line of ‘double patriarchy’ – coined by political activist Houria Bouteldja – with grace and compassion. I applaud you.

  2. I find the disclaimer at the bottom of this article by Daily Vox rather hysterical and ridiculous. If this article in particular does not reflect the editorial policy of Daily Vox then I challange the editors to in light of impartiality to publish a article – any article – that opposes the view expressed above.

  3. Don’t be facetious or haughty Brother Adil: this is a standard disclaimer that all media outlets include. It does not necessarily mean that they disagree (or indeed agree) with the views expressed by the writer. In fact, if anything it invites opposing views.

    • As per the Daily Vox “Who We Are” page (https://www.thedailyvox.co.za/who-we-are/), it states: Our reporters seek to find, curate and amplify the voices of young South Africans.
      Hence, my challange to The Daily Vox stands: send your reporters to seek to find, curate and amplify the voices of young South Africans who oppose the views expressed in this article!

      • I challenge you to write an opposing view (I think it’s clear on which side of the divide you stand) and request The Daily Vox to publish it. This is better than to hear hear your continued bitching (how ironic?) about the disclaimer.

        And by the way bro I do see opinions from both sides allowed to be published here in the comments section.

  4. It’s time that women are allowed in the masjid .

    You read many stories of women entering Islam and the masjid being central to their revision .
    Let women decide to attend or not as Allah alone has prescribed ! Given the choice to attend or not !

    I applaud the people who have the courage to fight and allow women finally to part of the mosque and active in the community

    Perhaps begin and online partition – I will sign !

  5. Woman are not just meant to be in the kitchen or feeding baby’s or cleaning up after…Eve was created as a helper to Adam. To be on his side where the rib was taken.

  6. Dear Muslim sister..

    Do you not remember that it was Umar radhiyallahu anhu who first stopped women from going to the masajid?
    and why did he stop them from going?
    who was Umar radhiyallahu anhu and which generation was he from?
    Did Nabi ? not say, ‘the best of generations are my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them’?
    Did He ? also not say, ‘my companions are like guiding stars, whichever one of them you follow, you will be guided’

    The condition which was set down from the time of Nabi ? for women going to the masajid was that they should not beautify themselves and they should try to walk as closest to the walls as is possible so that they do not attract attention to themselves, also that they should either come to the masjid and leave the masjid before the men or after them so that there is no mixing of men and women even while coming and going to the masjid. Do you see these conditions being met by us women? Half of us do not even cover our faces which is a necessary act of faith, how will we fulfill these conditions?

    Do you also realise how difficult life would be for a woman if it was necessary for us to read every salaah with jamaat in the masajid? Do you see yourself waking up for Fajr, getting dressed because you know how can I leave the house without my makeup, without my newest bling abaya and matching shoes and handbag and actually being there on time to read the salaah with jamaat? and that’s besides if we have kids, or domestic workers at home, security etc

    ‘Perhaps you love something and it is bad for and perhaps you dislike something and it is better for you’
    Sometimes, we are not allowed to do things and that’s for our own benefit even though we do not see the benefit of it and we do not like it.

    I challenge you, as a Muslim woman who is complaining about not being allowed to read salaah in the masjid, I am quite positive that in your location there is a masjid that has ladies salaah facilities and no one will stop you from going to read your salaah there, go for every salaah and fulfill the conditions set out for women reading salaah in the masjid and make sure you are on time for jamaat, not forgetting to be earlier in order to read the Sunan where they are read before the faraaidh, and after a month or maybe less, you can comment again

  7. Praise be to Allah.

    There is no doubt that a woman’s prayer in her house is better for her than praying in the mosque, as is indicated by the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him). He said: “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosque, even though their houses are better for them.” (Reported by Abu Dawud in al-Sunan, Baab maa jaa’a fee khurooj al-nisaa’ ilaa’l-masjid: Baab al-tashdeed fee dhaalik. See also Saheeh al-Jaami‘, no. 7458).

    Whenever a woman prays in a place that is more private and more hidden, that is better for her, as the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said: “A woman’s prayer in her house is better than her prayer in her courtyard, and her prayer in her bedroom is better than her prayer in her house.” (Reported by Abu Dawud in al-Sunan, Baab maa jaa’a fee khurooj al-nisaa’ ilaa’l-masjid. See also Saheeh al-Jaami‘, no. 3833).

    Umm Humayd, the wife of Abu Humayd al-Saa‘idi reported that she came to the Prophet (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I love to pray with you.” He said: “I know that you love to pray with me, but praying in your house is better for you than praying in your courtyard, and praying in your courtyard is better for you than praying in the mosque of your people, and praying in the mosque of your people is better for you than praying in my mosque.” So she ordered that a prayer-place be built for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she always prayed there until she met Allaah (i.e., until she died). (Reported by Imaam Ahmad; the men of its isnaad are thiqaat (trustworthy)).

    But the fact that praying at home is preferable does not mean that that women are not permitted to go to the mosque, as is clear from the following hadeeth:
    From ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah SAWS (peace be upon him) say: ‘Do not prevent your women from going to the mosque if they ask your permission.’” Bilaal ibn ‘Abdullah said, “By Allaah, we will prevent them.” (Ibn ‘Umar) turned to him and told him off in an unprecedented fashion, saying: “I tell you what the Messenger of Allaah (Peace & Blessings of Allaah be upon Him) said, and you say ‘By Allaah, we will prevent them’!!” (reported by Muslim, 667).

    But there are conditions attached to the permission for women to go to the mosque, as follows:
    (1) She should wear complete hijaab.
    (2) She should not go out wearing perfume.
    (3) She should have the permission of her husband.

    Her going out should not involve any other kind of prohibited acts, such as being alone in a car with a non-mahram driver. If a woman does something wrong like that, her husband or guardian has the right to stop her; in fact it is his duty to do so. And Allaah knows best.

  8. Why do we make Islam so difficult !!
    Just go look at how Cape Muslims have been accommodating women with no problems !

    Go visit houghton mosque and the Turkish mosque have been accommodating women for over five years now !

    Go watch countless YouTube videos of women attending mosque all around the world!

    Go look at Mecca , Madina , Al Aqsa and many many mosque around the world

    Don’t make it difficult , it’s not!

    Let our daughters , mothers , sisters also enjoy weekly jumaah ! Reality is due to women not attending mosque jumaah does not have the same feeling as we men have.

    Let’s open mosque to women to women who want to attend. Let’s not take away their rights !

    And of coarse in a organized shariah compliant manner adhering to rules of segregation !

  9. Do you see all the rules being adhered to in all of the places that you just cited?
    In all the mosques that you named that are already accommodating females, I’m afraid, hardly any of these ” Shariah compliant” conditions are met. Are those females Then, not getting ‘ sin’ , rather than ” thinking’ that they are actually doing something good???

    For the whole world to be doing something, does not mean that it is correct. Correct is what is determined by the Quran and Sunnah. That has been clearly and brilliantly explained by a previous sister here.

  10. So the God given RIGHTS of women are denied because the men will not be able to fulfill their RESPONSIBILITIES of lowering their gaze and resisting temptation?

    Why is the onus always placed on women only to prevent illicit relationships? Are the men so weak that they cannot restrain themselves? What has all the praying in the mosques benefited them then? Perhaps they should stay confined in their homes if they fall prey to their urges and desires so easily. And are we not interacting across the gender lines most of the time outside the mosques anyway? Islam has provided for us guidelines and etiquette with regard to our social engagement; we have to abide by them ALL the time.

    I have to disagree with the author of the article in that the majority of mosques around the world do in actual fact have female attendees and have had them for centuries.This includes predominantly Hanafi majority countries, Arab and otherwise, and includes most if not all western countries. In many places women serve on the administration and education committees, as well as on the boards of trustees. Their Islamic leadership in many places is only possible through the mosques and is proving to be vital in dynamic societies.

    Where women are prevented from entering the mosques are in places where a certain brand of a static south Asian ideology is predominant, to the detriment of that society. (Thankfully that interpretation of Islam is, from a universal perspective, in a minority and waning.) Unfortunately the Muslim women of South Africa in many parts are victims of this narrow minded and outdated thinking of the dark ages. The participation of women in our mosques has been a continuous tradition from the advent of Islam and none has the right to remove it (not even the husbands)!

    I appeal to the leaders on all sides to open constructive dialogue and show courage in breaking with this culture and allow the women to exercise their CHOICE of attending the mosque wherever they may be. We cannot marginalize half our community and the great potential they have and the contribution they can make to the upliftment of Islam. It is time for the REAL leaders to stand up!

    • Is there something wrong with saying the word ‘Allah’ instead of God?

      yes, men have to lower their gazes but woman are responsible for what they give men to look at, where its necessary for men to lower their gazes, it is necessary for women to cover themselves AND lower their gazes

      Islam, the Qur’aan and Hadeeth is not based on where you come from and whose ideologies u follow, Islam Is, Was and Always Will be for all and for all times!

      I suggest you study the Qur’aan and Hadeeth / Sunnah of Nabi Sallallahu alayhis Wasallam in detail before making such backward comments

  11. Let me get back to the facts and continue to adhere to the wise and merciful way of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh – peace and blessing be upon him and his fellow prophets) of referencing people in general and not attacking any individuals.

    None of Prophet Muhammad’s companions dared to bar women from attending the mosques (in spite of the problems they may have witnessed at that time) and in fact they became angry whenever it was suggested. This is because the Prophet (pbuh) instructed them in a clear and forthright manner: “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosque if they ask your permission.” Incidentally, the last part of the statement seems more to inform the husband of the whereabouts of the wife in her absence; and any loving married couple who are in an equitable Islamic relationship will cooperate on both parts of this statement.

    Yes there are codes of ethics for both men and women and, just is there is a code of dress in Islam for women, let us not forget that there is one for men too. Both sets of codes have a minimum requirement as well as a preferred option, based on circumstances. The latter is more emphasized when attending the mosque.

    Nobody can or should defy the commands of God/Allah/Khuda/Modimo/UNkulunkulu/Dieu/Dios (words in different languages for the same Divine Being) and of His Prophet (pbuh). [Did you know that the Christian scriptures in the Arabic language uses the word Allah for God?]

    The statement that Umar (ra) “first stopped women from going to the mosque” is historically untrue and a malicious accusation against a very fair and competent leader. It is a known fact that he made a separate entrance for women to the Prophet’s mosque (still in use today, though it has been moved several times due to expansions) and that, according to Ibn Hajr in FatH al-Bari, his wife ‘Atikah bint Zayd was praying in the mosque the day he was fatally stabbed leading the prayer.

    Praying in the mosque is not a obligation for women, nor is it the men (by the majority opinion, thank God!). And there are times when it is more meritorious for a woman to attend the mosque, say for Jumah or Eid as indicated by by the Prophet (pbuh), or when it provides more spiritual upliftment for her and when she has nowhere else to offer her prayer (you know I’m referring also to when the females have to wait in the cars while the males go in and pray in the mosque).

    Let me remind you that not long ago there was staunch opposition in many places for a woman’s voice to be heard on Islamic radios and the argument was that it is Haraam (forbidden)? But now it is commonplace. Was it the legal recourse at that time that brought about the reversal of the “fatwa”? Do we want to go that route to give women their right to attend the mosques? I suspect that day will come, but we can avoid it and the embarrassment that come with it! May Allah help and protect us.


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