Of Mats and Rosaries

Kocatepe Mosque, Turkey

Vendredi, July 09 2010

Funny Pakistan is officially called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I guess it may be a symbol for the hypocrisy that’s usually prevalent in society. Eg. I’ve often heard aunties saying that “girls should not flaunt their beauty”, but those same creatures encourage their daughters to dress up as flamboyantly as possible when a prospective rishta shows up. Come on, the dude is still a strange man. And when western attire (no matter how “shareef”) is usually frowned upon, it is so much more acceptable to wear navel showing sari blouses..You even see old people wearing those.  Anyway, so hypocrisy exists in varying forms, including religious double-standards.

So yesterday I wanted to pray Asr before class and since I’d spotted a sign that said something about a prayer room a few days ago near the front-desk, I headed there. “Prayer Room- 3rd Floor” said a paper print out stuck to a wall at the reception. I walked over to the third floor and looked around for something remotely prayer-like. None found, I thought I’d ask for help…At the reception, a man with a mustache mulled over papers with a grim expression on his face…Not wishing to interrupt anything important, I waited for a little while before my inquiry. He looked up, stared at me like I was the ghost of Christmas past (okay a little exaggeration there, but the look was surprise mingled with annoyance I guess =P), and then wore an expression that said “Yes, why are you here?“. So I asked him “Where’s the prayer room?“. Poor guy looked very confused; clearly his job description hadn’t mentioned “will usher people to prayer rooms” =P. Anyway, for about 5 seconds, the guy looked shocked. Then he stammered “Umm..they are on the third floor”. Oops, I’d gotten used to the American idea of floors where ground floor is 1. Then he said something as an after-thought “Err..The room is only to be used by men”, clearly hinting I shouldn’t go there. Annoyed, but still wanting to check the Qibla direction I went upstairs. The room, when I saw it-actually all the 3rd floor it seems- was completely devoid of life. The room itself was a simple, with straw mats and a jaa-namaz in the middle. And it was empty, no men praying..

So it wasn’t a big deal, you might think. But seriously, isn’t it important for women to pray as much as it is for men? And as an Islamic Republic, as the country’s name suggests, shouldn’t there be such religious freedom? Yet this is not the only time I’ve seen prayer rooms for men only. In fact, even some mosques prohibit women from praying because they don’t have separate facilities.

I grew up listening to nasheeds that said “All the earth is a place for prostration”…So why are some areas restricted for men only? As far as I know, namaz was fard on both genders.  What is ironic is that when I was at university in Boston, they had more accessibility to prayer areas then we do here at times. At uni we had a prayer room in a central place convenient for students. It was a small cosy room with a carved wooden screen partition…

But its not the lack of resources that prohibit women’s freedom here..It’s the weird mindset where some of us in society don’t even think about women.


13 Replies to “Of Mats and Rosaries”

  1. Now you realize why I missed Ramadhan in the U.S. Praying taraweeh in a jamah is a beautiful experience, especially when the imam has such a ridiculously good voice that you could cry.
    Here I go to the Masjid quite a bit. In Pakistan like never.
    And when it come to Eid prayer, don’t even get me started.

    1. Eid prayers too are a men-only affair here! It was so nice to see girls of all races, color and size in the masaajid in California.. Makes you realize how diverse the Ummah really is 🙂

  2. I know exactly what you mean. When I went to watch the national assembly session, it was maghrib tome and we had to search around te whole building on foot because in the Islamic republic of Pakistan, not a single of those convenintly placed large scale maps of the building showed a prayer area. We finally found a room and a man next to the door politely informing us that I was a mens only prayer area. This is in a huge government building where the senate and the parliament – the very bodies that are supposed to uphold Islamic values – meet to solve the nations proems.

    1. Wow, that is a very deplorable state of affairs! I thought it might only be a problem with smaller institutions, but with something as important as the National Assembly (and even with an increasing number of women MNAs), it is indeed a pity.

  3. ❤ Loved it. 🙂 I am so glad you're not out of words.! I seem to be in a terrible distress these days.

    Acha so where did you pray then? LOl!

  4. Women have to campaign to get a basic Haq or right. Men only have look around and find that the men before them have already taken care of the problem.

    You see society has a limited span of perception, it cannot conceive that women might feel at ease praying away from home ( okay i’m being a little lenient on society). Society does not want to give women the impression that they can do anything without being nervous or acutely conscious of their gender. Yes i know that sounds like a conspiracy theory, but its true 😛

    Overall you will notice that most people bluster and clamor on about religion but few actually take any sensible steps for it. IT’S ONLY TALK….

    1. Oh yes, you’re so right! Women have only recently been in need of such facilities I guess. A few decades ago, I guess a woman had no role outside her home anyway… “…give women the impression that they can do anything without being nervous or acutely conscious of their gender” haha it is true indeed! In fact I think most women/ girls are highly self-conscious themselves to even stand up for their rights..And in most cases, it is women who fetter women anyway (think Jane Eyre and the Red Room :P)

      Sigh. Pity religion is only for appearances these days :(…

  5. That navel showing sareees are the best example of hypocrisy manifested by women of ‘Islamic republic of Pakistan’. When my cousins visit Pakistan from abroad, many aunties backbite that goes like: ye tou Amreeeeeeeeka main “jeans” pehan k ghoomti hogi =P nobody asks these “religious” aunties to shut the hell up and tell them that these girls are wayy better and wayyy modest than them . Duh! ok. sorry. .not “nobody” may be! I ventured to do so on one occasion.lol (:
    Great post. . thumbs up girl! 🙂

    1. Hahaha exactly! They can be so unnecessarily judgmental at times. It’s really nice that you stood up for your cousins! Now you’ll be labelled the rebel though, perhaps subjected to aunty torture? =P

      Thanks so much btw!

  6. Totally agree with this…

    I miss the prayer rooms in dubai..esp in my old university ❤

    I dont think anything can come close to them

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