May be this would mean more coming from me as I’ve never been the popular woman at the mosque. When I enter the general prayer area, a lot of women tell me to stay to the side of the area so I can make quick runs after my toddler son and my disinterested daughter. May be because sometimes I hoped for them to be more inclusive. May be because sometimes I felt the segregation.
Masjid is a very serious place for most Muslims. Even though the earliest ones were built for fostering the feel of the community. And pray. And actually hang out also a little. And exchange ideas. Now some criminal attacks and our heightened anxiety later, masjid has become “that” place. It’s sad. And it also makes me worried about how my kids would find it difficult to find the haven in masjid that I have found so many times.
Masjid has its own environment and its own rules. It has its own universal warmth. It welcomes everyone. Yes, everyone. It’s an inclusive place. Then why have I felt a little non-included sometimes? I think the answer is in both I’ve treated Masjid and how people at the Masjid have treated me.
But it wasn’t until I started to analyze my behavior that I could ask for compassion from my sisters at the masjid to have some for me. The change had to start with me.
Trust me when I say! Looking critically at myself has solved most problems in my life. Including my feeling of standing alone in masjid. When I adopted masjid, masjid adopted me.
1. Knowing that Masjid is the place of خشوع و خضوع for most people is very important. This post is for women who are not compulsorily required to say their prayers at the masjid. So many women who are there are truly looking for the concentration and focus that they can’t find at home. Respecting this is important. I now take my toddler and my oldest into the play area for the duration of the jamaat. Afterwards I give them to their dad and say my prayers. It’s okay. I’m not required to be with jamaat anyway.
2. Masjid isn’t the place to be silly. Especially during Salah. That’s a huge faux pas and one that we can make quite easily when with friends and our family. It is a place of worship of the highest order.
3. Masjid isn’t a fancy dress show. Hard as I might find to be uber simply dressed in real life, wearing my best outfits to the masjid is slightly against the spirit of unity. What am I trying to do here? Find commonality or alienate people by looking like there’s a socioeconomic gap. Simply dressed women are more commonly found at the masjid so I’ll be just one of them. And will have more open communication.
In the same vein, discussing each other’s outfits regularly is also not a great conversation to be had in the masjid. Such conversations can happen occasionally. But when they happen frequently, may be we are noticing each other’s clothing more than each other. Women bond over fashion and personal style. But there’s so much more to bond over.
4. Looking for what’s available to eat and piling our paper plates with it and spilling all over as a result of over-piling is the single most uncool thing I could do. First of all, I can afford food every day Alhamdulillah. Masjid procures food for many people who can’t. Attacking food, eating more than others and then getting some for home is classless, insensitive and downright anti-community. I should leave food for the many who look forward to it due to scarcity at home.
5. Gossiping. We all probably have gossiped at one point or the other. But masjid isn’t the place for it. Any grievances and complaints can be discussed over the phone. I get distracted by juicy work friends stories all the time by the women in the next row while I’m trying to say my Salah. Says a lot about my attention but also a lot about how we could improve our masjid manners a little more.
6. Chairs are for people who truly need them. There can be young women in chairs. Assuming that I can be one of them too even though Alhamdulillah I can say prayers perfectly while standing, taking a chair and sitting on it and not budging when people want to walk past into empty spaces in the rows is not commendable at all.
7. I should follow the rules of keeping the masjid clean. Depositing my shoes in the designated area when I enter, disposing off my paper plates properly, not throwing candy wrappers around, maintaining the whiteness of the sheets by whatever I can do to not make them dirty is incumbent upon me as a community place user.
8. I don’t have to stick it out when my kids are being rowdy and out of control. I can go home. Usually, no one is enjoying this. Not even me.
9. Asking how I can help is the single most appreciated thing by the organizing sisters. They always have small tasks to delegate. One easy one for me is to watch the kids as my kids are there too. Another easy one is to make sure people put back the books where they took them from. One task that I was assigned last year and actually was uber simple was to make sure the water cooler was full at all times. I just had to let the organizers know by texting when it ran out. It gave me the sense of community and the feeling that I was being useful.
10. Last but certainly not the least, I don’t interrupt anyone who chooses to lecture about a certain topic and I’m not agreeing with them. Letting them complete their thought is very important and a necessary demand of basic etiquette. Sure it’s not the khutba but that doesn’t mean that it can be interrupted by our views of the topic. We can always make our own lecture in polite disagreement later or speak with the management about difference schools of opinions and how we think it could best be handled.
Dear Muslim brothers and sisters! Masjid is sacred, everyday and communal. So is our home. But we sometimes don’t practice the same etiquette for the masjid that we do for our home. We don’t think that it needs love, care and consideration that we reserve for our homes. We get upset with people if they treat our home with callousness. But we don’t get upset with ourselves for doing that to the masjid. Why?