sisters in our masajid

I’m always wary of attending a different masjid for the first time. I feel anxious at just the thought of finding the sisters’ entrance, which always seems to be hidden for some reason. But I’ve been feeling really distant from God lately and so I decided to set my anxieties aside and join hubs for jummah prayers.

The “sisters’ entrance” confusion was so real the second I got there – while there were many signs for the “main entrance,” I knew this probably didn’t apply to me so I went on a choose-your-door adventure and opened up random ones until hubs finally found it. I walked inside so see this wooden partition standing between the men & women’s area and my heart sank a little. So much of really connecting with a speaker and their message requires being able to actually see them – see the body language, why he’s emphasized certain things, do some lip reading when you’re not sure what he’s said. So I walked over to a part of the sisters’ area where the partition wasn’t blocking my view. I set down my wallet and was about to make up my Fajr salat but immediately an elderly lady sitting in a chair started shouting that I need to go to the back of the room & stay behind the partition. I was so flabbergasted that I didn’t really know how to respond and just moved. If I had the chance now, I would ask her how my standing there affected her? I would ask why she believed this partition, something that never existed in the Prophet’s masjid, was necessary? I’d ask her why she thought it was SO horrendous that I wanted to see the khateeb that she started shouting in the middle of the khutbah to get my attention?

As I was trying to understand the khutbah from behind the partition, I noticed that there was a section up above for the sisters. I thought ‘OHHH, that makes sense! This is just the part for the women who feel more comfortable behind the partition or don’t want to go upstairs. I probably shouldn’t judge so quickly.’ So I walked upstairs and notice it immediately getting warmer and warmer. I also notice that the sound of the khateeb speaking is getting softer and softer. I walk inside the sister’s section upstairs and realize that, while I can finally see the khateeb below, I can’t hear anything he’s saying. There’s a screen and a speaker but neither is turned on. But I’ve missed most of the khutbah in trying to figure out how to actually see it so I sit down and try to listen. In the couple minutes that I was up there, I likely understood 3-4 words at most.

So again, I came back downstairs and found a little corner in the back where I could sit and somewhat see and hear the khateeb. Even when we lined up for salat, half a suff was empty because the partition did not cover that part. After prayer, I sat and thought about how blessed I am that I grew up at a masjid that, for the most part, tries hard to ensure women aren’t treated as second class Muslims. I thought about all the times I’ve been traveling and prayed in places where I could never connect, where I was but in an almost literal box & made to feel like I was only a source of fitnah for the brothers and not a woman who was there to better herself and deepen her relationship with God. Why is it my responsibility to ensure the men do not have any impure desires while we are in the house of God? I have just as much a right to be there as any other man and yet I’m often cast aside or made to feel like an inconvenience.

The only positive interaction I had was a sister who came to me after salat and told me she liked my hijab, with a huge smile on her face. She’s likely the only reason I would go back. If you see someone new enter your community, please treat them with kindness and compassion.

After walking back to the car, I started telling my husband about what happened and just broke down. After years and years of praying and worshipping in inferior settings, it just all came gushing out. I told him how jealous I was that he could simply walk into a masjid, sit amongst his brothers under wonderful lighting & fans and simply listen. How deeply hurtful it was to feel inferior in the house of God when my faith is the exact reason that I am a feminist. How un-Islamic all this is. He was immediately horrified and promised to talk to one of his classmates who is involved in the masjid about my concerns (ladies, marry a feminist – it’s seriously the best). And we drove off and got Rita’s and I tried to forget the whole thing.

And before I go and pass judgements on other communities, I have to recognize that mine is also very flawed: we don’t do right by families who come to the masjid with children, the leadership often makes very problematic statements, we lose children to suicide but no one ever makes mental health a priority. So we all have our problems, and while this was my first time attending this masjid & I may have just caught them on an ‘off’ day, I know that none of the other deeply rooted problems in our society can be corrected unless we allow women to safely enter and participate in these spaces.

While they were doing the announcements after salat, a group of young girls were trying so hard to see through the cracks in the partition. They’re young and curious and likely feel less than because they were barred from engaging and participating. They may grow up thinking that God believes them to be inferior and that’s why they must stay behind. But my young sisters: God does not think you are less. Man does. And he is wrong. You are queens. I hope that you learn that along the way. 

To all my sisters who constantly face these injustices: I’m so sorry. We must continue to work to better these spaces for us and those who will come after us.

You can read more about women’s experiences at various mosques at: Side Entrance

our three winners

‘They three,
Taken early by he.
They three,
Are part of We.’

– In memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, by Amjad Hajyassin 

our three winners

 

A year ago today, we lost three very special people at the hands of a murderer. I wrote the piece below after learning of their deaths as an attempt to process their deaths. It’s been a year and I still don’t understand. In the past year, it feels like things have gotten even worse in the U.S. for Muslims. There are hate crimes reported every week. My sisters in faith are afraid to wear hijab. A frontrunner in the Republican party openly declared that he believes that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S – and is celebrated for it.

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#sharkandrhymes

All this time off from school has really got me slackin’ on my blogging game, probably because most of my days lacked structure and I kind of just went with it. Blogging is a creative outlet for me so I don’t like to set hard deadlines for myself because I don’t want this to stop being fun. That said, there should be quite a few posts coming through in the next few weeks with updates on what I’ve been up to and some things regarding school. For more regular updates, follow along on Instagram!

So this past weekend one of my best friends from college got married!! It was a hectic, fun, laugh-filled, celebratory weekend. South Asian weddings can have a lot of different parts so I thought it would be cool to break down the events and share a bit about my culture!

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muslims on screen

In my previous post about Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me? I shared my excitement about seeing a South Asian female lead in a mainstream TV show because it really isn’t something that happens often. So imagine my excitement when I heard about Quantico – a show casting not only a South Asian female lead but also a hijabi Muslim woman!

The premise of the show is the following: nine (or so) months after they arrive at Quantico, an FBI training academy, the South Asian student Alex Parish (played by the actress Priyanka Chopra) is being framed – allegedly by one of her fellow classmates – for a bombing at Grand Central. The show presents both a timeline in the present and periodically flashes back to the students’ time at Quantico to give insight into who may actually be responsible for the terrorist attack.

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refugee crisis

Alan Kurdi, one of thousands of innocent lives lost in this crisis. His family has requested that this photo be used instead of the drowning one. This little boy sparked a fire under us when we became complacent about the atrocities in Syria and the current refugee crisis. Let’s not let the fire go out without doing anything to help the victims.

“You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” 
 Home, Warsan Shire

Enough is enough. Seriously, how is any of this real? I don’t understand how such atrocities can exist in this world for years on end and somehow the world keeps on spinning. I wish it didn’t. I wish it would just stop for a second so we could all be jerked awake to the many, many injustices that exist in this world. So that babies wouldn’t have to wash up on the shore for us to realize what’s going on. So fathers wouldn’t have to sell ballpoint pens on streets to make money to feed his family.

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reading recommendations

To me, reading a book is a lot like meeting someone new or making a new friend: the timing has to be right. Most of my favorite books are my favorites because I read them at the right time – during a crisis of faith, when I was broken hearted, when I needed inspiration – a time when I needed to read what I read. I think the best friendships start that way too, when you meet someone you really need in your life at that moment – or maybe they needed you. The books below mean a lot to me because they gave me a different world when my own didn’t feel like home. 

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faith and medicine, not a contradiction


I’ve been pretty open about my faith on this blog and while I don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation, I do realize that science and faith aren’t often seen on the same side of the equation. And while I respect peoples’ right to believe whatever they choose to believe, I thought I’d take a shot at explaining why my faith is so important to me and how it got to be that way.

“The wound is the place the Light enters you.” – Rumi

As many stories of ‘finding yourself’ begin, mine also starts at when I was lost and in a state of extreme despair. I grew up in a practicing Muslim family. My parents moved to the U.S. from Pakistan, where the official religion of the country is Islam. The vast majority of the people my parents grew up with were all Muslim. They never questioned Islam as a way of life because it’s all they ever knew. It was ingrained into every fiber of their being.

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