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

med sisters series: Shannon, OMS3

The Med Sisters Series is a series of interviews of women in various stages of their careers in medicine: pre-med, medical school, residency, fellowship and attending physicians. As women, I believe we face unique challenges within any field, medicine included. As I’ve moved along on this journey, I truly believe one of the biggest support systems we have is each other. Society works so hard to pit women against each other in every situation you can think of but, as feminists, I think it’s so important to combat that urge to try to ‘beat each other out.’ There’s room for all of us on the other side of the glass ceiling. The goal of this series is to shed light on the challenges women face in the field of medicine and how they achieve a work-life balance that works for them. This blog has always been a place for me to share the realities of this journey, both the highs and lows. I thought of this series as a way to share the perspectives of the other extraordinary women on this journey too.


Shannon is a third year osteopathic medical student in Washington with her husband and adorable puppy. You can follow her journey at her Instagram.

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Q: Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

A: I am the first person, let alone the first female, in my rather large southern-based family to pursue a career in medicine (other than a dermatologist uncle who married into the family, that is). My passion for the sciences started at a very young age, and it was not uncommon for my parents to find me downstairs in the guest bathroom “operating” on baby dolls and delivering stuffed puppies. Actually, much to my mother’s dismay, my imagination ran wild and I would use ketchup for blood, toilet paper rolls as leg casts, and even “hire” my younger sisters to join me as a medical assistant and receptionist. Needless to say, the passion never died. Although my original intent was to pursue a large animal veterinary degree and specialize in equine medicine, my allergies to all things with fur caused me to reconsider that dream. After shadowing multiple veterinarians in the local area, and struggling to stay hive/sneeze free, I finally gave shadowing people in medicine a go. Ever since then, the desire to be a healer has not dwindled, even when the journey as brought tears of frustration.
Q: How do you stay motivated on the difficult days?

A: There are many days when I have to remind myself of the advice I’m about to share. This learning process is too challenging to just breeze through without some sort of self-care routine. So for me, this comes in several forms: 1. I am an avid equestrian and have owned my baby girl, “Annie” (she’s a Morgan mare) for 13 years. My evenings or early mornings spent in the quiet of the horse stable, cleaning out her stall or lunging her in the arena, are some of the most rejuvenating moments. 2. Photography has been an interest of mine for several years, and just recently has also helped produce a small spending income for me as I enjoy capturing moments for other people. Using my free time to take pictures and edit images for clients is incredibly life-giving. 3. Quiet time with my hubby is key. This often looks different for us: watching a fast TV show before bed (we love Modern Family and Parks & Rec), having him sit on my [[tired]] feet while chatting on the couch, or making a meal together. He’s my confidant, encourager, and non-medical source of relief.

Q: If you could go back and be a premed again, what would you do differently?

A: Do better in organic chemistry! Ha. Just kidding. Well, maybe not… in all seriousness though, I wouldn’t change a thing. I attended a wonderful private school in the heart of Seattle called Seattle Pacific University. I obtained a major in human physiology and two minor degrees in chemistry and psychology. It was actually really nice having my psychology courses to balance out the hard sciences. I would highly encourage other pre-med students to consider thinking outside the box, in terms of a major or minor, and pursue something that fascinates them (as pysch did for me) and allows them to possibly stand out more during the medical school application process.

Q: How do you balance marriage and being a medical student?

A: I’m the first to shout from a mountain top that, I LOVE MARRIAGE! It’s truly no secret of mine. My husband and I met during the last semester of our undergraduate years, and dated for 2.5 years before sealing the deal December 2013. To be very honest, I remember thinking to myself that I would ultimately marry someone from medical school or residency and end up as a doctor-duo. But gosh, I am so glad that this was not part of my story and that my husband found me when he did. It has been the biggest blessing to do life with him on this rough and beautiful journey. His abundant support and non-medical perspective has been a breath of fresh air since the beginning. We take our marriage commitment very seriously and as such, we make sure that to set aside time for just us, at least once per week no matter the craziness of the calendar. These “date days” are the highlight of our week, even if they consist of just staying home.

Q: Does your faith play a part in why you chose to pursue medicine as a career and how you interact with your patients?

A: Absolutely. Faith is the cornerstone of who I am and what I stand for. My love for medicine stems from a place of awe as I see the intricate details of creation in every aspect of the human body. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my Heavenly Father for allowing me the opportunity to pursue medicine and use my training to provide healing in a holistic way, both physically and spiritually.

Q: Who is a woman in medicine you look up to and why?

A: Hands down she is the one and only: Florence Nightingale. I wrote an 8th grade English paper on this incredible woman and still have it tucked away to show my kids one day. Known for her stamina, grace, and compassion during the Crimean War, this gal earned the well-deserved title as “The Lady with the Lamp” because she would round on wounded soldiers at all hours of the night. No matter how exhausted I feel during a long on-call shift, or day on my feet, I always remind myself to emulate the attributes of Florence Nightingale. And most times, this reminder gives me the little extra pep in my step needed to finish the day strong.


Thank you so much for stopping by our corner of the internet Shannon! We wish you the best on your journey.

Past Interviews:

 

 

 

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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med sisters series: Racquel, MS3

The Med Sisters Series is a series of interviews of women in various stages of their careers in medicine: pre-med, medical school, residency, fellowship and attending physicians. As women, I believe we face unique challenges within any field, medicine included. As I’ve moved along on this journey, I truly believe one of the biggest support systems we have is each other. Society works so hard to pit women against each other in every situation you can think of but, as feminists, I think it’s so important to combat that urge to try to ‘beat each other out.’ There’s room for all of us on the other side of the glass ceiling. The goal of this series is to shed light on the challenges women face in the field of medicine and how they achieve a work-life balance that works for them. This blog has always been a place for me to share the realities of this journey, both the highs and lows. I thought of this series as a way to share the perspectives of the other extraordinary women on this journey too.


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Racquel is a third year medical student in the US and lives with her husband and her adorable dog Melo. You can read more about her journey on her blog and Instagram!

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Eid al-Adha

It’s been kind of serious on the blog the past couple posts so I wanted to keep things light and share how I celebrated Eid al-Adha yesterday! Eid al-Adha is a major holiday celebrated around the world by Muslims. It’s a celebrations of Abraham’s and his son’s willingness to sacrifice in obedience to God and God’s ultimate mercy. If you have any questions about the holiday or Islam in general, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer your questions!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to skip classes but decided to dress up a bit since it was Eid after all! I paired this royal blue top with black pants and the Steve Madden booties I got over summer. I don’t wear this top very often but I loooove the color. I love the way it pops and it looks great in a lot of different combinations. I also like the almost peplum-like way it falls.

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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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Eid celebrations! 

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all having a great weekend! Yesterday we celebrated the end of Ramadan with Eid-ul-Fitr and it was really fun (but also really exhausting..). In the morning we woke up and got ready for Eid prayer. Since the Muslim community has grown so much in the past few years, we’ve started having the prayers at the park across the street from the mosque. This year there were approximately 5,000 people at the prayers! It was suuuuuuper hot and we were out in the sun for the whole thing but it was still really great.

After we finish the prayers, we usually try to find the rest of our family and friends and wish them “Eid Mubarak” and there’s lots of hugging involved. This is a part of my clan:

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Eid goodies: chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Ramadan is coming to a close and that means it’s time to prepare for Eid celebrations! When we were younger, my friends and I used to give each other gifts but that tradition kind of phased out as we got older. Now I’m in this in between land of being a kid and an ‘adult,’ which means that some family members now expect gifts from me and my husband. They’re, of course, mostly joking but I still wanted to do something nice for the family without breaking our budget. Eid is a very food-centered holiday (yes, we do realize the irony of that after a month of fasting…) so I decided to bake something sweet. Hubby and I have been trying to modify our recipes to make them a bit healthier so I thought I’d try chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. We already had most of the ingredients at home so I just did a quick grocery run to get walnuts, oats and some things for the nachos I’m making for dinner tonight.

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