Space for women in Masjid, that is, room for women in Muslim community

By Najiya O.,,

Masjids have always been part of my life, having begun to frequent them at a very young age itself. The school I studied till 10th standard had a masjid in front, both being run by the same committee. When in 11th and 12th, masjid was still nearby, just that I had to cross to the other side of the road. College too had a masjid but there was no Juma over there. Sometimes the college allowed a jeep or bus to take students to the nearby masjid where women were allowed. But, when I was doing my PG diploma I could not go to any masjid for noon prayers or Juma since the interval time was very too little to go to the masjid at some walking distance.

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Masjidul Islam, Kaloor, Kochi

However, a question that has always been in my mind was one concerning the space for women in masjids. It was much less compared to that of men. When I brought up the issue with my father once, he told me about the past – when Muslim women were not allowed even to learn, leave alone entering masjids. Since even education was not there, there was no question of going out or working. Women were always inside the four walls of their house, and specifically within the four walls of the kitchen.

The situations changed when reformist organizations arose in the community. They advocated that women too should be educated and allowed entry into masjids. Though, they had to suffer great hardships (including physical torture) for voicing this view. Once they entered masjids and listened to Juma sermons, women realized their real status and position in Islam. They began to get educated. They began to get to know the world around them.

Entrance of women in masjids was a revolution which resulted in increasing the awareness and knowledge of Muslim women. Beginning of women’s education and later educational upliftment were other results of this revolution. But even now, several masjids do not allow the entry of women. Of course, a sea change has come in the matter. Now, in those masjids where women are not allowed to enter, separate rooms are allowed within the masjid compound where women can offer namaz.

However, all these facts took me into having a look at the space for women in the masjids of Ernakulam city where I live today. There are many masjids in and around the city but those that allow women’s entry and are easily accessible from the city are only below 10. The masjids are well-kept and neat, in the women’s area too. However, since a majority of women go to masjids only for Juma, few women can be seen in masjids in other days. These masjids are indeed a great relief for working women and students as well as women travelers.

Woman going to the Masjidu Da’wa, Kaloor, Kochi

The Darul Uloom Masjid and Darul Uloom School at Pulleppady in the city are run by the same management. The girl students and female teachers offer their namaz at the masjid. Women from nearby places also come there for Juma. The masjid can accommodate more than 300 women in the ground floor and first floor.

The Madeena Masjid can be accessed both from the Chittor Road and the MG Road. Here, the women’s space is in the first floor. However, a small area that can accommodate around 10 people is demarcated for women in the ground floor. This is a great help for the aged and sick who cannot climb stairs. Altogether, the masjid can accommodate around 200 women.

The Salafi Masjid near the High Court is very helpful for the Muslim women who come to the court for various needs from different parts of the state. The masjid is only walking distance from the court. However, only about 70 women can offer namaz at a time there. The Salafi Masjid at Kadavanthra can accommodate only about 75 women at a time. In both masjids, the women’s area is in the ground floor itself.

Masjidul Islam is located near the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium at Kaloor, a major centre in the city. Unlike other masjids, here men’s area is upstairs. Women’s area which is in the ground floor can accommodate more than 200 women. The Salafi Masjid at Vyttila is famous in the city for its centralized air conditioning. Here, women’s area is upstairs. Around 300 women can offer namaz here at the same time.

The only masjid which is comparatively less in neatness and tidiness is the masjid at Broadway, the main shopping centre of the city. The masjid is easily accessible from the various government offices, schools and colleges in the neighbouring area. It is extremely helpful for the good number of women running and working in the various shops in the area. Marine Drive, a major tourist attraction in the city, too has got only a walking distance from the masjid.

There are some other masjids too, but they are not that easily accessible from the city centre. The Masjid Fathima Suhra on SRM Road (between Kaloor and Ernakulam North) can accommodate around 100 women in the space allotted in the first floor. The Masjid Da’wa near Kaloor can accommodate around 300 women at a time. The masjid near the Collectorate at Kakkanad has room for only above 50 women. This masjid is of great help for the Muslim women working at the Collectorate and various government offices nearby as well as those working in the Cochin Special Economic Zone, which is located at a small distance.

Masjids are many and now women are allowed to enter them too. But still, the Muslim community has a long way to go to accept women as fellow co-travellers in life, in the Islamic life. And women too should realize their position in Islam, and think about their condition now. Indeed education is the key to success. And creating awareness among women is the key to success of the Muslim community.

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