Monday, June 16, 2008

NO room for sisters in Puerto Rico's Masjids

Assalamu alaikum My brother islam:

Do you think for one moment that I would ALLOW you to cancel your trip to Puerto Rico? NO my brother, I know all about these conditions for years. It is your answer to the salat of istikarah. This is a sign that you must not falter, that there will be challenges and that YOU WILL conquer them for more rightous ideals.

ALLAH blessed you with years of training for this mission if only the big organizations like ISNA and ICNA could understand that ALL Latinos are crying along with you. We need you , moreover the UMMAH needs you. Don't let anyone stop you or believe for one moment that someone ELSE can do it better than you. That's exactly what I thought before I started PIEDAD.. "Oh dear,, I don't feel I can do this" That my friend was not me but the intervention of the cursed one. YOU have the commitment / NIyyat of purity that others do not have and I trust you wholeheartedly for this mission as do my beloved sisters in Islam.

Sending you there is not enough we must keep you based there and have you train others. Sending our sisters too as time permits for ALLAH's pleasure.

Wasalam, Khadijah

--- On Mon, 6/16/08, yusef maisonet wrote:

From: yusef maisonet
Subject: Fwd: FW: No rights for Sisters in Masjids
To: "Khadijah Rivera" , "siri carrion" ,
Date: Monday, June 16, 2008, 6:45 PM

As Salaamu Alaikum, first i had do dry the tears from my eyes , knowing that the sister that wrote this is from my Hometown Hatillo , Puerto Rico and she probaly knows my Family, The Maisonet's , i was cancelling my trip but after reading this Allah will not let me be still knowing that this is going on in my backyard, so please any brothers or sisters that can help me out with some expenses so i can make this badly needed trip please do.

Al Hajj Yusef Maisonet

asalaam ualaikum wahramatullah wabarkatuh
insha'allah you are all in the best state before Allah.

As Muslims, we become defensive when non-Muslims criticize our ummah. In particular, when comments arise concerning the hot topic of women and their "status" in islam—whatever this has come to mean.

The proof is in the pudding I always say, and on a recent trip to Puerto Rico to visit family members, I got a taste of some bad pudding. On our first Jummah there, my husband and I headed for the Masjid located in Rio Piedras San Juan. A small masjid which sits practically empty now.

Men and women are separated, placed in different rooms which becomes quite annoying because the women have no way of communicating any of their needs or questions unless they walk outside and back in to the men's section. We were in completely different rooms, ours being of course the lesser of the two. And by lesser, I mean they shouldn't have bothered to build the room for the women at all, what with the conditions that the rooms were in. There were many hazards—and I call them as such because they are hazards to the religious well-being of the women of this ummah and their offspring.

The room was a closet of a space that reflects not an ounce of distinction that the women have entered a place totally different from their own living rooms. There was not a stick of literature for the women to occupy their times until the commencement of the khutba and thus were left to jibber-jabber and waste the time away in futile activities. There was only one Qur'an in the entire women's section, with no translations for the mostly Puerto Rican attendees. What about the woman I spotted walking in without a hijab, curious and cautious? Where were the pamphlets to explain to her what Islam was? Where were the translation headsets that could allow her to clue into what the khutba was about? Oh did I forget to mention that the headpieces didn't work and the one's that did simply transmitted the Arabic khutba, because no Arab in the men's section was willing to translate. Why didn't the Imam translate?
Well here in lies another problem. The Imam's in these Masjids only speak Arabic. I find it strange that whoever is sending over these Scholars from the Arab world, fails to train them in the native language of the country they will be embarking Islam upon. And this was true when I went to other masjid in Puerto Rico, as well as Venezuela and Spain.

Our second Jummah was to the recently constructed masjid in my hometown of Hatillo. A beautiful two-story masjid, that looks like it was plucked right from the Arab world. But the place is a shell of a building now that the imam who was there died, may Allah have mercy on him and be pleased with him. Once again, the women were stuck behind a wall, the khutba was read in Arabic, and the only translation taking place was from an Arab brother who sat within a group of the latino brothers. Obviously, all of us in the female sections heard nothing, only weak fans to cool us from the heat and our hijabs, no headsets to hear the translation and no reading material. No one even thought to check in on us to find out if we were okay, or to ask if any Arab women was there to translate. We were all Puerto Ricans in the room and as one of the sisters so eloquently put it, "we walk out of here the same way we came in…empty". If the khutbah takes the place of two rakahs, then the sisters Jummah was incomplete that day.

Yes, yes, I've heard the script before…."more men attend Jummah for obvious obligatory reasons as opposed to women who can choose whether or not to attend." But the fact is that many women do attend Jummah. Jummah is packed with women, in all masjids I've ever visited, at times, crammed in together unnecessarily like cattle in a pen. The old-fashioned notion that we need to build a smaller section for women is ridiculous and does not fit what the reality is—especially with the issue of conversions. With more and more people converting everyday, and the rate distinctly higher amongst women, we need to bring ourselves from the outdated past in order to better accommodate our sisters.

These women attend jummah to learn something, to grown within the context of their new lives. And even if only one woman attended jummah in a particular masjid, the facilities where she must pray and learn should be an extraordinary space to bring her the comfort, refuge, and knowledge that she must carry to her children and the outside world. If we stuck to the absurd notion that women don't come to the masjid, and build masjids according to this obsolete way of thinking, how will we be able to fulfill our duties when hit with the reality? And the reality is this….

Adequate spaces for sisters is not enough…they must be sections that are exceptional for the sisters. Roomy so that each sister can attain a spot, in back of the men following the Sunnah of our Prophet, with sufficient reading material to occupy the minds, clean, catering to those sisters who bring have children, offering classes for all levels of learning and more. We must make sure the imam's being sent over from the Arab world learn to speak to the native tongue of the host country and we must ensure that classes, information and all types of growth are readily available to the Muslim women. If we boast about the status of women in Islam being superior to those of non-Muslim women, and then continue with such inadequate facilities and teaching modes to provide for them, then all we are doing is lying to the outside world and to ourselves. And what we are creating is a world filled with ignorant women who breed ignorant children. And for this, we will all be held accountable.


Say your prayers before prayers are said for you.

AL Hajji Yusef AL Ain

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