Today I attended …. pre funeral (I had to pause to check the definition of funeral) sitting of Sister N who passed away last week. She was from Guyana living and working in Barbados. I had never met her. She is Muslim.
Present were many persons. Different races possibly different religions (Caribbean muslims can dress like every other Caribbean person or in gear which might be identifiable as Islamic- but that is a post for another time).
Anyway, my non Muslim acquaintance told me about her sudden death. And I saw the Demise Note on the Muslim funeral announcements media.
I went. I viewed the body. I sat. I recited (quietly I think). I spoke to my acquaintance. When I looked around I could identify maybe at most 2 persons from the Muslim community. If their clothes were a guide. I had never met them either.
It brought to mind for me the misperception that Muslims in Barbados are recognisable by dress, and conform to a particular… well not brand, but let’s say socialisation of Islam. It is a misperception. Many dress in a manner not readily identifiable as Islamic unless at the mosque. Or in circumstances only visible to few. Many interact with persons of other religions.
For years I greeted persons dressed in seemingly islamic garb (alright, it might be stereotypical but I mean scarf and long sleeved clothing for women and topis and kurtas for men). Few responded. For years I have greeted persons I know to be Muslim. Some respond some do not. (This is in Barbados, in Trinidad everybody responds and everybody greets).
Which brings me to how and where do I meet muslims? On the street, in the marketplace, at work. At play? At the masjid? How do I meet persons at the masjid (ie Muslims) if I am denied access to the masjid.
I do not know if Nereema attended the masjid (which of the 2 with facilities for women, oh wait make that 3 now, out of 6) or not. But the probability of me meeting her there would have increased if there were sisters spaces at all of the mosques (yes I know you’re all tired of my whining about the mosque that’s 5 minutes drive from my workplace that hasn’t said it has a sisters space). And the probability of other Muslim sisters as well.
In Barbados when a Muslim person passes away, there is a sitting at the home of the deceased. Women go in numbers, sit with the female members of the family, recite Quran, do dhikr, offer support. And the visiting continues for some time after the burial. (Few if any Muslim women attend the funeral service ir prayer or burial.)That presumes many things. That the family members are Muslim, or if not Muslim, are conducive to observing Muslim funeral rites. That the home can accommodate visitors. Etc.
Today’s ‘sitting’ was at the mosque that I whine about. Well in an open area in its premises. Some months ago, a young child passed away. I did not know how or where to ‘sit’ with the grieving mother.
We need sisters spaces. At mosques. That ought to serve as a community meeting place for us sisters. (Do men really feel that we want to attend the mosques to ogle and jostle them,).
We need those spaces to commune with our Creator, our God, to meet and greet and mix with other sisters, sisters who have or don’t have families, sisters who have or don’t have friends, to sit in peace and remember Allah swt, to contemplate His word and His world and His many many favours, to hear His word, to learn, to share, to be. Yes, we can do all of that in our homes. But our hones are discrete units. Our sisters spaces at our mosques should be open to all sisters.
Postscript: I haven’t been back to Masjid an Noor so I cannot tell whether audio has been enabled for the Sisters Prayer Area. It had been my intention to attend on the night of the first Friday of Ramadan to offer taraweeh prayers. No, do not be horrified. To offer taraweeh prayers on my own. Its optional not obligatory. Haven’t gotten there yet. And the last 10 nights of Ramadan are soon upon us. Perhaps BD and I will make use of the Sisters Prayer Area on one of those nights. Perhaps.