okay everyone, i’m new to ramadan and i have a few serious questions for you all. i don’t mean to raise any difficult issues, offend, or cause any controversy- these are genuine questions, straight from my heart…so please treat them as such.
this is my second ramadan, but the first one in which i’m actually participating. last year, i sort of just watched my now-husband and a few friends go through it and helped cook for them. this year, i am observing the fast myself. while i am not muslim, i am still fasting for my own religious reasons and not just to “keep up” with my husband or to challenge myself or anything. i was raised a Christian (fasting is a practice outlined in the Bible, too, for many of the same reasons as in the Quaran) - and i am now, let’s say, interested in Islam.
i made my very first trip to our local mosque the other day for breaking the fast and to watch the prayers (i did not participate in the prayers, i simply watched and privately said my own). i have to say that my experience was a little disappointing and i’m hoping to find some insight from you all! in this mosque, the men were grouped in the front for prayers and the women in the back, behind a low wall. afterwards, the women were relegated to the basement, while the men had free range of the mosque (but most stayed upstairs). is this common? i guess that the genders are segregated to promote concentration on prayers, and to reduce distractions. but it seems too symbolic for me to ignore that the women have to stay in the back, and eat in the basement, while the men are in the front and eat above the women. i had the understanding that Islam actually promotes the equality of men and women (despite what the media may say), but my visit to the mosque has made me wonder! is that just a peculiarity of this particular mosque? maybe i am just being too sensitive about this?
also, as you may know, Christian churches are designed so that men and women sit mixed together during religious services and prayers, usually grouped in families. in my experience, this does a lot to bring families together and feel closer (to each other, while feeling closer to God). i remember some of the most beautiful moments between my mom and dad coming from watching them together at church. i guess i was disappointed because i think my experience at the mosque would have been much greater had my husband and i been side by side. as it was, i sat in the back and felt self-conscious. the ladies all just looked at me, a stranger, as a curiosity and never even offered so much as a smile to make me feel comfortable. truly, i feel that these ladies were far more distracting to me and my own personal thoughts and prayers than being near my husband would have been. i guess i’m just looking for anyone’s (man or woman!) input on this matter. why do you feel like gender segregation in the mosque is a good thing, why it helps you, what i should consider to open my mind to this a little more. what do you think i could do to improve my next experience?
i have TONS of questions to ask, actually, but i guess some are better saved for later (or for an imam!). these are just a few of the ones that really are bothering me lately, and i’d love to hear what you all have to say about these things.
finally, of course - Ramadan Mubarak!