How to Respond When Women Feel Unwelcome in the Mosque

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Noura Shamma
Question: Assalamu alaykum,
Regrettably, there are some masajid where women are made to feel unwelcome. Though of course women can pray in the home, going to the masajid seems to me part of the call to seek knowledge. I would like to know the best way to respond, with proper adab and relying on the Qur’an and sunnah, when I or my sisters find ourselves made unwelcome.
Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
Assalamualikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraktu,
Dear Sister,
I pray insh’Allah you and your family are in the best of health and high Iman.
May Allah reward you for asking about an unfortunate situation that continues to arise in some mosques. Let me begin by saying I am sorry that you or any sister was made to feel unwelcome in any of the houses of Allah. This is not the way of our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
We must remember the mosque was the center of the community in Madinah and it was a place open for all, men, women, children, young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim. The mosque was a place of prayer but also of teaching, a shelter for the new immigrants and new Muslims, it was a the place of celebration when the occasion arose, like the walima of the Prophet’s, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and it was the place of governance and the court of law. I could go on, the main point is that the mosque was the vital center of the community and all were welcome and present in it.
Now given that the mosque played such a role in the life and well being of the community it is necessary that the Muslims know what is the proper adab/etiquette of the mosque and follow it consistently as was taught to the Companions by the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. So we have guidelines for how to attend and interact in the mosque in a proper fashion, hence it is not permissible to bar any group from the mosque.
While there is a general principle that the prefered place for prayer for women is at home, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t times and places when not only can a woman be at the mosque but it may even be important for her to be there. Hanafi ulama both in the Middle East and in the subcontinent have said that given the current situation when there is wide spread corruption, even in the homes with the presence of TV and satellite stations etc…, that for many women the mosque is the one of the last remaining places for her to find good righteous companions, to learn her religion and increase in her practice.
So women should go to the mosques. These ulama were saying this about Muslim majority countries so even more so when the Muslims are in a minority situation. Taking all these points together, there isn’t any shariah reason to prevent women from coming to the mosque.
Sadly however there are situations where some people feel that women shouldn’t come to the mosque and so even if the door is technically open, they directly or indirectly let the sisters know they aren’t welcome. So what should one do in this situation? Without knowing the specific situation we can only make general recommendations.
Always begin by returning to Allah for help and assistance in any endeavor and to ask Allah to purify our intentions. Secondly strive to remain calm and non confrontational in addressing the situation. This is the sunnah of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to address a shortcoming with gentle reminders, indirect statements that are understood but without pointing fingers and without anger.
Consider talking to some of the other sisters who attend that mosque and see if it is the routine situation or maybe it was a unique situation. If it is a frequent occurrence or is the general atmosphere of that mosque, consider bringing the matter to the attend of the imam or a member of the board in a level headed and non-harsh way; maybe consider when bringing the matter up, offer ways you would like to help out or at least let them know you would like to help and volunteer to expand the good the mosque is doing. Focus on what positive you can and bring up the issue within a generally positive tone.
Insh’Allah with patience and gentle nudges changes will come. At the same time reminding ourselves change takes time and continue to make dua and persevere in your quest for knowledge, Allah is with those who are patient.
May Allah grant you every good and tremendous openings and may Allah make our mosques places of welcome and benefit for all.
And Allah alone knows.
Noura Shamma