“O humankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth…”
– Qur’an, Translation of 2:128
While driving to Worcester, Massachusetts this past weekend, I spontaneously decided to stop at the “Islamic Society of Central Jersey”:http://iscj.org to pray. It had been years since the the last time I took the time to explore ISCJ.
Back then, the Sunday school curriculum consisted of memorization as well as reading through various Islamic stories. Unfortunately, none of those ideas were applicable to my [then] current reality as a pubescent Muslim kid growing up in America. The lessons certainly didn’t contain anything about eating right, for instance. The closest they came to engaging my life outside the mosque was the oft-repeated slogan, “Islam isn’t a religion; it is a way of life.”
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“Only a house of worship founded, from the very first day, upon God-consciousness is worthy of thy setting foot therein…” Qur’an, 9:108
I’ve been to mosques in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Canada, Argentina, Malaysia, and the United States. And I’ve only felt comfortable in a handful the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto is one of them.
Growing up in upper/middle-class white-suburbia without a mode of transportation, much of my life has been spent looking for a Muslim community I felt comfortable in. In fact, that was the primary purpose of HijabMan when I started it twelve years ago. For the last twelve years (!!!) I have been part of such a community on-line, but its members are spread throughout the world. And in 2004, I finally found them all in one place at the Noor Cultural Centre.
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“O Marium! keep to obedience to your Lord and humble yourself, and bow down with those who bow.”
— Qur’an 3:43, Shakir Translation
If you haven’t already noticed, the issue of women in mosques is gaining increased attention, especially in North America.* After reading a statistic from CAIR’s Mosque Study Project (PDF) finding that only 2 of 6 million Muslims attend mosques in America, I created an informal survey in October of 2003 and posted it on my web site. I sought to test my hypothesis that many women do not attend the mosque because of their dissatisfaction with their prayer space. Often times, the space allotted to women in mosques, if there is any, is not as nice as the space provided for men. In fact, some mosques partition the women’s section off, leaving them with limited access to the imam, or prayer leader. Women’s sections that double as storage areas or basements are not uncommon. The question that lingered in my head everytime I entered a mosque was “Does the lack of women’s equalspace and accommodation in the mosque discourage them from attending?” Over the years people argued with me, suggesting that if women actually attended mosques, their prayer spaces would recieve more attention. It became a classic “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” battle.
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