Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
Recently, I have been involving myself in the mosque committee having pushed for a separate female committee that can have a voice alongside the mens’ committee. However, this has been met with much disapproval from older members of the community who believe that women should not be involved in serving the masjid.
My intention is to sincerely work to do good and follow the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). Is it from the sunnah for women to take an active role in the mosque (any hadiths etc.) and what should the role of the mosque entail in today’s society?
Also, on open days the mosque is so full that women and men cannot be segregated in separate rooms (unless of course for prayer) and as everyone acts in a respectful manner would this be deemed as Islamically acceptable?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam, I pray you’re well.
There is no issue with women serving on a mosque committee nor any other panel. Indeed, it is becoming more necessary to have women’s voices heard in places such as mosques and schools, as women form such an integral part of the Muslim community and are increasingly involved in every sphere of modern society.
We need to provide and support platforms for voices and contributions of neglected groups in our communities, such as women and youth, so as to be inclusive not exclusive and ensure that our Islamic guidance reaches everyone, not just the few. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) consulted his wives and sought their opinions in various matters.
Women often talk about the uphill struggle they face when working in conventionally male-dominated occupations, and typical mosque committees probably propose the biggest challenge!
Be sincere in your intentions, diplomatic in your dealings, always be respectful in your differences, but also stay inspired, resolute, and purposeful in your goal. Let your work and integrity win people over. Of course, make lots of du’a to Allah for guidance and help, and ensure all your plans and ideas are in accordance to the shariah.
You may have to choose your battles with the committee, by prioritizing which projects are most pressing and serve the community best. When you have successes and feedback, write them down and present them at committee meetings to show the importance of such outreach work. Perhaps over time they will realize the importance of your work and the benefit it has on the wider community.
Open Days and Gatherings
It is not impermissible for a group men and women to be in the same room, particular if it is a general open day for people to come and find out about Islam and Muslims. However, I would say the following in regards these gatherings:
1. If the committee strongly oppose the open days at the mosque on the grounds of gender mixing, then it may be better you arrange such events elsewhere such as a community center.
2. Unless for general talks addressed to all, where possible and in a very natural way, arrange for women to engage and talk to the female guests and men to male guests. There’s no need to be excessively strict, but some general guidelines and strategic floor planning would be a good idea. Don’t forget, it’s not only the male and female non-Muslims and Muslims in the room, but it’s also Muslim males and Muslim females in the same room as well. The latter actually requiring more thought and precaution, especially if young.
3. If the cross-faith gatherings are in more relaxed settings, such as coffee mornings etc., it should be gender separated, ideally in separate rooms, or at least one room divided into two separate and distinct areas.
4. Any gathering must ensure that there is a) no unnecessary intermingling (above what is needed for the general purpose of the gathering), b) everyone is respectful and modest in behaviour and dress, and c) it is free from unlawful speech.
And Allah knows best.
Please also refer to these previous related answers:
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.