Why, oh why? [Women and Masjid (Pakistani Perspective)]

Growing up in a family like mine, I never realy felt any biases against myself due to my gender. I had the same curfew time and went to the same educational institutes like my brother. I learned to drive pretty much the same time and interesting both of us were taught to offer salah by our grandfather too. In fact, a lot of the times it was my brother who thought I always got the advantage, being a girl, and got away with a lot of things and now wen I think back, I cant really deny that completely 😛

But as I grew older and started going to Pakistan more often (and then later lived there), I realized, things were ‘culturally’ very different from what I had been taught at home and from what I had learned from books. I am not saying that Islam really differs too much between the two genders, but the difference is way too visible in the predominantly so-called Islamic State. You know, as it is said, if you want to understand Islam, look at Islam itself and not Muslims. This saying started to become a reality for me.

Soon, I found out there is not a single masjid nearby where women could go to pray if they wanted to. Funny. Yes, I am a Hanafi and I always knew that Prophet Mohammed (SAW) encouraged women to pray at home but did that mean women are not allowed into the masjid at all? I started digging for answers and interestingly, I found a hadith which says:

Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Do not prevent your women from attending the masjid, even though their houses are better for them” [Sunan Abu Dawood]

Not bad at all! This was all very logical…something I knew already but just didnt know from where it came. Praying at home is better for women but Islamically, men could not prevent women from praying at the masjid. The meaning was straightforward: a masjid is supposd to provide proper facilities for women at masjid and then it is upto the women whether they want to go or not.

Now, talking about fiqh. Hanafis are usually the most strict wen it comes to women praying at the masjid and as it is the predominant fiqh in Pakistan, I really needed to know whether it is something cultural or Hanafis really believe that going to masjid is, in fact, haram for women. I found the following:

Hazrat Aisha (RA) has been reported to have said, “If the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was alive to see what women are doing now, he would surely have prevented them from entering the masjid for prayer just as women of Banu Israel were prevented” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Now the above is simply an opinion by Hazrat Aisha (RA), not a ruling. It is also of common knowledge that Hazrat Omar (RA) prevented women from attending masjid for prayer as part of the law during his reign without making it part of the religion itself. Futher, the fatwa on this matter must be scrutinized far more carefully:

“It is disliked for women to attend congregational prayers in the masjid even for Eid and Juma prayers, and even for old women attending night prayers, according to the more reliable position in Hanafi School, due to the corruption of time.” [Imam al-Haskafi, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/566]

So, again, it is disliked and not considered haram as the common misconception in Pakistan. Further, if you look at the Hanafi rules, you will in fact find various laws regarding how a woman should behave in a masjid if she is having her periods. Now , if according to Pakistani jurists, women are not allowed in the masjid at all, why do we need to talk about wat a women should do if her periods start when she is in the masjid?

And then at times I think, if women are allowed to go freely to markets, lawn exhibitions, fashion shows and social gatherings where men and women intermingle, often (not always obviously) in the most un-Islamic manner, then how can going to masjid be considered haram? Sadly, in a country like Pakistan, even the most religious women often have to miss their prayers because they were either stuck in a traffic jam or were buying essentials at a market. You would be shocked to know that most shopping malls in Pakistan do not even have a prayer room for women and interestingly, most shops remain closed till around 1 in the afternoon.

So what are women supposed to do?

Well, I guess just wat they have been doing so far…prayers can wait!

900 choohay

I am sure you have all heard this saying, ‘900 chohay kha key billi hajj ko chali.’

This has always intrigued me to a great extent but I almost always refrain from talking about it because it usually ends up in a really nasty debate. But well, isnt my blog the best place for controversies? It has always been so why not start a new one 😉

A friend of mine said to me just yesterday, “If you want to make enemies, try changing something.” Although it was said in a completely different situation, it fits quite well over here too.

We belong to a society where people like to poke their noses into everyone’s affairs, love to interfere and give unwanted/unasked for advices. So obviously when they see you doing something new, they will almost always shower you with not only stares but also offensive and lousy comments. The comments become even more coarse if your attempt is towards becoming a better muslim. And the best way to malign people trying to improve themselves is by reminding them of what wrong things they might have done in the past or they might still be doing, and it all might include the above mentioned saying.

Now, I would like to ask, if improvement is so loathsome, they how did Hazrat Omar (RA), who was once the greatest enemy of Islam, became one of the most loved companions of the Prophet (SAW), one of the most respected Caliph ever and of the Ashra-e-Mubashira? And to remind you all, Hazrat Omar (RA) was not at all like Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq (RA) who simply just believed whatever the Prophet (SAW) said. He had an inquisitive mind and always asked a lot of questions. An example is the time wen he was contemplating whether intake of alcohol is permissible or not:

“When the prohibition of alcohol was [being] revealed, Hazrat Omar (RA) said, “O Allah! Clarify for us the [matter of] alcohol with a clear statement,” thus the verse which is in Baqarah was revealed, “They ask you about alcohol and gambling. Say: In them is great sin…” So Hazrat Omar (RA) was called and it was read to him and he said [again], “O Allah! Clarify for us the [matter of] alcohol with a clear statement.” Thereafter the verse in Al-Nisa was revealed: “O you who believe! Do not approach prayer while you are drunk…” Hence, the herald of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) would call out when the prayer was about to commence, “Let no drunken approach the prayer,” and Hazrat Omar (RA) was called [again] and it was read to him. He said, “O Allah! Clarify for us the [matter of] alcohol with a clear statement,” so the verse was revealed, “…so will you not refrain?!” Hazrat Omar (RA) said, “We refrain.” (Al-Trimidhi)

So what will you call Hazrat Omar (RA)? I am sure this does not change your opinion about him as one of the best people to have served Islam. So why are we now so reluctant to accept people who are trying to change themselves in this era? Why do we have to call them terrorists? or brainwashed? or rigid? or mulla? On the other extreme are the people who would always tell you that you arent doing enough. They will tell you, in the most unpleasant manner that you are not covering yourself properly, getting eye brows done is haram or simply even using the Internet is haram (Unique has a great post on this here). Please, can we see them as humans trying hard to fight temptations? And why do we want people to be simply black or white? Why cant there be shades of gray? If things were so easily changed by 180 degrees over night, then why was Qur’an revealed in 23 years? Why were the greatest Muslims, the people who had the biggest motivation, the Prophet (SAW) himself, right in front of their eyes not forced to change themselves over night? Because, changes that happen slowly and steadily with time are more stable, firm and dependable.

So next time you see someone trying to make a positive change in his/her life, try to stay quite if you have nothing good to say. Dont be a demotivating factor if you cant be a motivating one.

Note: Unique has another post which somehow relates to this topic. Although its about a TV show which is about Non-Muslims ‘behaving’ like Muslims, I think its very relevant because most of us, even though born in Muslim families hardly know anything about Islam. So when we, personally, decide to follow Islam, it is pretty much like a Non-Muslim, with a Muslim name, trying to grasp concepts. You may also like to read a post on maqasid which talks about the same program.

Procrastination

No its not Twitter, Facebook or Google Buzz. It might be for the youth but for the majority of Pakistanis, its politics. And arent we always asking the most stupid questions. Here are some of the most commonly discussed unsolved questions and my answers (you dont obviously have to agree to them 😛 ):

Should Pakistan have been created?

It was created more than 6 decades back. Can we talk about improvement instead?

Kashmir hamara hai.

LOL. Is that a joke? We have already lost half of our country. We are finding it difficult to hold on to wat we are left with. What will we do with a part of land which is not ours yet?

Pakistan should be an Islamic State.

It was established as Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973 constitution.

Free judiciary (a.k.a. CJ mafia’s authority) will make Pakistan the most democratic, crime free country in the world.

Oh yea? Keep dreaming. It has only established a criminal, who attempted to murder the COAS, the most ‘trustworthy’ and ‘respected’ person in the country.

Only Khilafat-e-Rashida can save us.

Like Khilafat-e-Rashida saved the Khalifas themselves? I think we need to remind ourselves that both Hazrat Usman (RA) and Hazrat Ali (RA) were murdered by the so-called Muslims only. We only deserve people like Zardari to rule us.