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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

18 Things Sisters can do For the Local Islamic Center

The Islamic Center was never meant to be a "boys' club" as it has
become in a number of Muslim communities.

In the best of scenarios, sisters are given a clean, large space, and
contribute to the Islamic Center's upkeep and decision-making. In the
worst scenarios, there are those who would deny women the right Allah
and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) have given women
to go to the mosque.

And in between, there are those mosques which have small, cramped
quarters for sisters and no possibility for a say in decision-making. This
of course stands in direct contradiction to what we know of the life of
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the active role the female companions
played in the masjid. There are countless hadith where the participation of
women is clear. Furthermore, the Prophet (PBUH) in the following hadith
sahih expressly stated that women should not be forbidden from going to
the masjid.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: If the wife of any one of you asks
permission (to go to the masjid) do not forbid her." (Bukhari)

Given these scenarios, what are some practical things sisters can do
for their local Islamic Center.
Here are some ideas:

1. Do it for the sake of Allah

What other reason to do this than for the sake of Allah? None. Make
your intention clear, then assess what you can do. Insha Allah (if Allah
wills) you'll be rewarded for your sincerity and dedication.

2. Fight for your right

Do you know that you even have a right to go to the mosque? Request
the masjid board to provide the reference from the Quran or hadith for
denying women to go to the masjid. Provide the board with textual
references from the Quran and Sunnah indicating otherwise. This may be
presented by way of a letter or a presentation at a board meeting. Identify
brothers on the board and other community leaders who believe women
should not be denied access. These brothers will be important allies in
your struggle.

Don't make your struggle be seen as a sister vs. brother problem. It
is important to stress to the board that the participation of women in
the masjid is a God-given right. If space is seen as a problem, provide
suggestions as to how the masjid can become more sister-friendly.
Remind these brothers that while their wives go shopping, or some cases
work, by denying them the right to go to the mosque, they are being denied
the change to gain Allah's blessings through praying and learning in
the mosque. Denying women their God-given right to attend the masjid is a
form of zulm (oppression).

3. Clean up the Islamic Center

When was the last time you visited the Islamic Center? What was the
condition of the place? What was the condition of the women's section?
Of the women's bathroom?

Keep your area neat and tidy. Make the sisters' place spotless. Take
out the trash, wipe the counters in the washrooms, spray air freshener,
flush the toilets, do all that is necessary to keep the house of Allah
sparkling. We should be taking care of the mosques better than our own

Even better, get a sisters' cleaning crew in once a week to do the
dirty work for the sake of Allah. This will almost surely bring relief to
the brothers, who may shy away from the very thought of entering the
women's bathroom to take out the trash, for instance.

4. Food is power

When was the last time you cooked for lots of people? If your answer
is so long ago you can't find your large cooking pots, then dig them
out so you can cook for the Islamic Center.

Cook for the Islamic Center dinner or the Sunday school kids. Not
only will you be rewarded, Insha Allah (if Allah wills), but you will also
become an almost indispensable member of the mosque. Cooking is one
area where women are still in the lead in most communities.

5. Insist on Friday sermon topics of interest to sisters

Whether you know it or not, Imams can run out of ideas or topics to
cover in the weekly sermons. If you want to bring sisters' issues to the
forefront, what better way than to have a person in an authority figure
(e.g. the Imam) speak about it.

6. Raise funds for the Islamic Center

Alhamdu lillah (Praise be to Allah), the Muslim population in North
America is growing, and by extension, so is the need for larger spaces
in the mosques. Mobilize the sisters to do their own fundraising.
Whether that's through bake sales, collections amongst sisters' circles,
having a jewelry drive, etc. Choose the method, and once you've gotten a
significant amount don't just drop it off. Write a letter explaining
exactly who collected the money, why and how it was done. This will build
community solidarity between brothers and sisters for a common cause.

7. Hold study circles in the Mosque

Knowledge, in Islam, is not the reserve of men. Neither is the
mosque. Learning in the Islamic Center takes on a different meaning for moms
who are at home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with little to no
interaction with other women their age
Establish study circles in the mosque, and if possible, arrange for
babysitting. It's hard to concentrate on learning when you've got kids
running and screaming at the same time.

8. Set up a phone tree

Set up a telephone tree so sisters can tell sisters who can tell
sisters. This is a great halal use of the telephone for a good cause. This
phone tree can be used for informing sisters of an event or mobilizing
them for a cause.

9. Hold seminars for women in the Islamic center

This can be of an Islamic or of general nature. For instance, have a
seminar on breast cancer for women, or children's nutrition, or wife
abuse. Establish what the needs and concerns of Muslim women are and
discuss these. Try to enable women to access information and resources that
will help them address their needs.

10. Invite women from the neighborhood to the Islamic Center

Invite other women from the neighborhood to participate in programs
of general interest in the Islamic Center. Pay special attention that
women get invited in your Islamic Center open house.

11. Participate in the Islamic Center organization

It's bad enough that sisters are excluded from decision-making
processes in some Islamic Centers, but they should not let slide their
ability to vote for board members. While sisters should insist on
participating in masjid boards, they should use their votes to elect members who
will work for the best interest of the entire community and not just
certain sectors.

Hold an Islamic Center election awareness drive amongst the sisters
of your community and invite them to attend not only elections but the
annual general body meetings. Share your ideas and comments, even if it
means writing it on a slip of paper and sending it to the men's side if
you feel too shy speaking up. Better yet, delegate more outspoken
sisters to speak on behalf of those sisters who are to shy to speak

12. Volunteer for the Islamic Center library

Work to establish sisters' hours at the mosque library and contribute
to its upkeep by arranging the books. This will also give you the power
to suggest books which talk about the position of women in Islam or any
other topic, which some Islamic Centers may not even carry.

13. Be there for funerals

A number of Islamic Centers have facilities to wash the bodies of the
dead (Ghusl) before burial. While relatives and friends are usually the
ones who do this, there are always those whose relatives are abroad or
who cannot undertake this responsibility.

Form a committee of sisters to do this for women in need of this. Not
only will you learn about this aspect of Islam, you will be
contributing in a practical and very necessary way to the community.

14. Establish a sisters' welcoming committee

Get together with a group of sisters and form a sisters' welcoming
committee. The job of this committee is to make sure that when a new
Muslim sister or a group of non-Muslim women are coming to visit the
mosque, the atmosphere is open and warm, and they are made comfortable.

15. What is the budget for the sister's committee?

Make sure that the sisters' committee in your Islamic center is
properly funded. Develop a plan and a budget. Lobby the board and push for
budget approval.

16. Can you edit the newsletter of the Islamic center?

Newsletters are not a strong point in the Islamic centers of America.
Are you willing to take up this assignment? If you become the editor,
you will be well-placed to involve other sisters not only in the
newsletter but also in other activities at the Islamic center. Communication
is power. Control it. Even if you are not the editor, make sure that the
news, reports, and announcements of sisters activities in present in
the newsletter.

17. Get on the media committee

If your Islamic center has a media committee, become part of it. If
they don't have a committee, make a committee yourself. Sisters can
handle media in a far better way that brothers.

18. Women visiting your Islamic Center

Inform your Islamic center leadership to contact you whenever they
are expecting women visiting the center, they should contact sisters so
they can come and welcome them.



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