The Mosque as Female Space
Introducing The Women's Mosque of America
A Mosque of Your Own
Worship at the Women's Mosque of America is for women only. This is good because a woman's relationship to Islam is different from a man's relationship to Islam; and the Women's Mosque offers an opportunity for women to share with each other, explore traditional sources, discover their own voices, and work toward the well-being of all: women, men, children and the Earth. They do this as Muslims, inspired by the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and directives from the Qur'an. They understand their ongoing project as service to the Holy One in whose infinite heart all lives unfold. They are not victims of a stale secularism. They are, after all, Muslim.
Carriers of divine trust
Happily, the fruits of their work are available to all of us: men as well as women, Jewish and Christian as well as Muslim. You can find their sermons on their Youtube channel and their Soundcloud page. I offer one below; and if you listen to it, I think you will hear the fresh winds of the spirit of creative transformation at work in the world.
The "spirit of creative transformation" is a phrase used by process philosophers to name the activity of God in people's lives, in the larger world, and in the universe as a whole. This activity is good and life-giving, like breath itself. A Muslim will see this activity as the breathing of Allah, beckoning women and men to become fully human and fully humane, as carriers of divine trust in service to the world and themselves.
A complementary space not a contradictory space
What will come of this? Perhaps the end of the journey, God willing, will be the emergence of coed mosques that are egalitarian and gender-spacious. That would be very good; and we can hope that this emergence would find its parallels in many other of the world's religious traditions. But for these Muslim women, the journey toward coed egalitarianism best begins in a different place, given the male-gendered space of most traditional mosques. This need not be the only beginning. It can also begin in traditional mosques, even with the male-gendered space, as women exercise more leadership. The Women's Mosque of American can be understood as a complementary space, not an contradictory space. Good things can have multiple beginnings.
A room of your own
Recall Virginia Woolf's famous novel, A Room of Your Own, itself a bellwether for the feminist movement. The journey for these Muslim women begins with a mosque of your own. Their courage in creating and sustaining the Women's Mosque of America, and the benefits this has for so many, non-Muslim and Muslim alike, of whatever gender, is a gift to women, to men, to children, and to the Earth. Listen to the Kutbah below; you'll understand.
What is The Women’s Mosque of America?
The Women’s Mosque of America is a volunteer-run organization that seeks to uplift the Muslim community by empowering the women within it. The Women’s Mosque of America holds women-led Friday jumma’a prayer services for women and children (including boys 12 & under), organizes workshops aimed at empowering and inspiring women and girls, and promotes access to Muslim women scholars and speakers for the general public through co-ed events and classes.
Why was this created? Why is it important?
We are inspired by our legacy of female Muslim scholarship and leadership in the earliest years of Islam, and we hope to work toward sparking a revival in women’s involvement in the Ummah (community) today through our efforts. We firmly believe that a major part of uplifting the Muslim community is to harness the potential of the whole Ummah, including Muslim women, who make up more than half of our community. We believe that The Women’s Mosque of America, which provides a platform for Muslim women to speak and be heard in a religious capacity, will play an important role in strengthening the Ummah by increasing women’s access to Islamic knowledge, encouraging female participation in mosques, and fostering female leaders and scholars for the benefit of the entire Ummah. To learn the complete origin story behind the mosque’s creation, read this in-depth interview with our founder.
Besides jumma’a services, what other activities do you have at The Women’s Mosque of America?
We plan to organize a wide range of classes, events, and programs relating to Islamic scholarship and leadership. Our first year will largely be focused on programming around Qur’an literacy and comprehension. As our congregation and volunteer pool increases, we hope to create more programming that reflects the growing needs of our membership.
Are men allowed to participate in women-led prayer services organized by The Women’s Mosque of America?
No. The Women’s Mosque of America is exclusively for women and children, including boys 12 and under. While men are not allowed to participate in the Friday jumma’a prayer services, men can benefit from hearing Muslim women deliver khutbahs through our YouTube, iTunes,and SoundCloud pages. We encourage men to sign up for our newsletter to get updates on co-ed events that we organize for the entire community. Finally, we welcome men to support our mission by participating as volunteers, planning committee members, and board members.
What school of thought does The Women’s Mosque of America follow?
The Women’s Mosque of America is a non-denominational mosque that welcomes Muslims from every sect, school of thought, Islamic perspective, and level of religious practice.
Is there a dress code to attend The Women’s Mosque of America Friday jumma’a prayer services?
No. The Women’s Mosque of America seeks to create a safe space for all women. We encourage all women to enter the mosque in the type and style of clothing in which they feel comfortable. Because we seek to create a welcoming and supportive environment, we ask that all of our congregants respect the decisions made by their sisters in Islam.
While I agree that Muslim women need more empowerment in American mosques, won’t this divide the community?
No. The Women’s Mosque of America seeks to complement existing mosques and Muslim organizations, and we plan to work with Muslim institutions all over the country to improve the spiritual experience for Muslim women everywhere. Our hope is that women will take the knowledge, inspiration, and leadership skills they learn at the The Women’s Mosque of America back to their respective communities and local mosques.
I’m a Muslim woman and I feel comfortable with my current mosque experience. What does The Women’s Mosque of America provide that I can’t experience anywhere else?
Similar to the concept of a women’s college, The Women’s Mosque of America seeks to provide an atmosphere in which Muslim women are surrounded by their peers and feel comfortable exploring more active leadership roles in a safe space. Our hope is that women will take the knowledge and leadership skills they learn at the The Women’s Mosque of America back to their respective communities and local mosques.
Is this the first women’s mosque to ever exist?
No. Women’s mosques have existed throughout Muslim history, and women’s mosques still exist and operate today in China, as well as a smaller number in other countries around world – each with a religious perspective that reflects its own country’s culture, politics, and history.
Does The Women’s Mosque of America ever plan to allow men at prayer services in the future?
No. Women-led prayer services organized by The Women’s Mosque of America are and always will be for women and children only. A women-only school or gym wouldn’t change the rules, and neither would we. Offering and protecting an all-women prayer service is a core part of our mission that will not change.
Who will give the khutbahs and lead the prayers?
The Women’s Mosque of America has rotating imams and khateebahs in order to offer diverse perspectives from a wide range of scholars, and to open up opportunities for women who may not have previously received a chance to speak in front of a Muslim audience in a religious capacity. We celebrate the talented and diverse pool of Muslim women speakers in our country and we also plan to offer training and workshops for our congregant members to learn how to deliver a khutbah and lead a congregation in prayer.
How can men benefit from The Women’s Mosque of America?
We understand that those who are not able to attend our prayer services would like access to learning from our female scholars, in accordance with historical tradition. With that in mind, The Women’s Mosque of America will offer opportunities to learn from female Muslim religious figures outside of the context of jumma’a prayer, by offering other events, classes, and programming, sometimes in coordination with other organizations. Men can also benefit from hearing Muslim women deliver khutbahs through our YouTube, iTunes, and SoundCloud pages. We encourage men to sign up for ournewsletter to get updates on co-ed events that we organize for the entire Ummah.
Who is behind The Women’s Mosque of America?
The Women’s Mosque of America is proud to be supported by a diverse group of passionate volunteers spread across the country. Read about our outstanding board members on our Meet Our Team page.
Why was the first jumma’a held in a multi-faith religious center?
The Muslim Ummah has a long history of peaceful relations between the Abrahamic religions, from the Treaty of Hudaibiya to the Golden Ages in Islamic Spain. To honor this legacy, we chose to launch our first jumma’a service at the Pico Union Project, which rents its shared space out to six different religious groups – including Christians, Jews, and now Muslims. Additionally, the Women’s Mosque of America holds a prayer service only once a month and does not intend to be an alternative to existing mosques. We have chosen a multi-faith space over other options like conference rooms, school gyms, or community centers, because we felt it was the best way to give Muslim women a dignified and beautiful mosque-going experience that would inspire them spiritually.
I’m having a hard time figuring out if this is a progressive or a conservative space…which is it?
Neither. The Women’s Mosque of America is an inclusive middle ground space that welcomes Muslims across the spectrum of beliefs and practices within our vast Ummah. We respect the Islamic orthodoxy and seek to work within it, and we also see room for growth and flexibility, namely in the arena of women’s fiqh and female scholarship.
Where does The Women’s Mosque of America get its financing?
We are a grassroots nonprofit in the process of obtaining 501(c)3 status, and we are completely volunteer-run. Your donations are what keep us running, as we get our funding entirely from small donors, volunteers, and supporters like you!
How can I help support The Women’s Mosque of America?
The Women’s Mosque of America is a grassroots organization that relies on donations and the contributions of volunteers. If you are interested in contributing your services or pledging a donation, please connect with us. You can also support our cause by spreading awareness of our efforts on social media and by advocating for more women leaders, speakers, and women-friendly spaces at your local mosque. Finally, we sincerely ask for your most heartfelt duas and prayers, as none of our efforts would be possible without the ever-generous Mercy, Grace, and Blessings of Allah, The Almighty. May God bless and protect The Women’s Mosque of America, and may God allow us to uplift our Ummah by empowering the women within it. Ameen.