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Nereema, the sitting, & sisters’ spaces

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.

Masjid An Noor – A western Comment

With the opening of Masjid An Noor Friday before last has come discussion in the public forum (ie national media) of the dissonance in contemporary Barbados of the building and opening of a mosque ‘without adequate sisters’ facilities’. Included in the discussion were excerpts from a Facebook page (relatively scathing and harping on the disrespect to sisters etc), and excerpts from an interview with the President of the management committee of the masjid, comments on Brass Tacks (popular talk show where members of the public call in and talk), comments by various muslims, a letter to the Editor citing women’s rights in Islam including the right not to be barred from the mosque and ending with a call for solidarity and the signature of a muslim female (name suggests female).

Amongst the reported comments of the Pres, were that (and I paraphrase) some of these  women have become western and wanted women’s rights.

Sometimes rhetoric becomes so ingrained in us that it is accepted as truth. And ever so often, that rhetoric must be demystified. Or the false truth perpetuates. Not that it may not have been true at one time. But many times we do not pause to question “Why?”. I am the first to say that I am generally non questioning.  But for me, gone are the days of labouring under  colonialism or perpetuating the divide between ‘western’ and non-western values. I am born and bred in the west. As was my father’s generation. I am many things, described in many ways. Muslim first and foremost. Female. Western. Literate. Etc. A hefty portion of the west is made up of muslims. As is the east and whatever falls between the east and the west. By now there are at least 2 generations of Barbadian muslims who have been born and bred in the west. Have we seen or understood that what happens in New York happens in Mumbai either first second or simultaneously? I am western. And so I have access to government social welfare cities transportation health care education community debate a voice. Islam gave me all of those as well. And has been so giving for more than 1400 years. Let us stop touting the non-west as the cream or morality and good. (Female infanticide was abolished with the coming of Islam – does that still occur in the non-west?) Allah swt tells us that he made us different so that we can know one another . And He swt tells us to enjoin good and forbid evil. He swt tells us to be and do good. Those are not limited to whether we are born or raised in or migrated from or to the east or the west or any place in between. Our ability and our inclination to adhere to the commandments of Allah swt are not circumscribed by geographical location or origins. Our Allah swt is Lord of the Worlds Master of the Day of Judgement. He swt  has created the heavens and the earth and everything therein.

The Pres is also reported to have said that a space had been provided for women in case they needed to come and what I interpreted as an example was cited – as when wives would accompany their husbands going for obligatory prayer. Yesterday I accompanied my husband (and my sons)  going for obligatory prayer (and my daughter accompanied her father and her brothers). BD and I enjoyed the comfortable sisters’ prayer space that had been provided. But not provided for sisters who chose to hear the weekly sermon mandated by Surah Jummah in the Holy Qur’an  or pray the obligatory prayer behind an imam. I have written that last statement because it is my conclusion drawn from the absence, whether by oversight or design (and sometimes those two terms can be coterminous) manifested by the as yet unpiped or unwired audio reaching (in error, or was it by subconscious design, I had typed that word as ‘teaching’) the designated Sisters’ Prayer Area. Perhaps it is just that BD and I didn’t understand how to activate the audio. (Dare I comment that it is reported to me that there are speakers even in the men’s ablution area? Perchance none of the audio cable was auctioned after jummah prayers  yesterday? Because all had been used up?)

Masjid An Noor – Jummah No.2

 

Today is yawm ul jummah. And a public holiday in Barbados. An occasion on which my family (BH, NoS, BD, Youngest and I) try to attend jummah salaat together at the same masjid.

So today we attended Masjid an Noor together. Parked near the entrance to the entrance to Sisters Prayer Area. BD and I entered and turned on the fans and opened the windows. Prayed the 2 rakaats. Then the 4.

Time for the khutbah approached. We could hear nothing. Regrettably.  Regrettably the assurance of the brother in grey has not come to fruition. So we exited went to the kerb and placed our prayer mats thereon. Very hot sun today.

Listened to the adhaan and the khutbah. And prayed the 2 rakaat in jamaat.

Prayed the rest inside the carpeted walled interior of the Sisters Prayer Area.