It seems that one or two female converts to Islam are trying to bring Muslim women full circle, thanks to the generous pages of The Age which include today’s rather lengthy 690 word editorial.

The new Mufti agrees, the right won by Muslim women to have their own private space away from prying eyes inside places of worship is being chipped away because one or two new Muslims would rather their mosque resembled a church.

Whilst it may be fine for the two genders to mix freely inside a church, formal Islamic prayers involve movements that are not conducive to free mixing, there are bowing and prostrations during which a person is meant to pack tightly next to fellow worshippers and totally focus on God, barring an emergency, no worldly distractions could interrupt a Muslim man or woman praying.

How many people would feel comfortable bending over and remaining in that position for up to a minute or so and then putting their heads down and backside up, faces flat on the floor, for indeterminate durations, whilst this faithful person is praying to and communicating with her or his Maker? Add to this the element of a member of the opposite gender behind you, or tightly next to you and you will realise why women deserve this private space away from men!

Not all mosques offer this private space, neither did the first mosque built by the prophet (peace and blessings upon him) nor the great mosque in Mecca (where other suitable arrangements exist). Women are entitled to this private space for numerous reasons, not least of which is the ability to bow and “lie face down” before God in privacy without concern for males rubbing shoulders with them or leering behind them. This is not to say that all or any of the sincere male worshippers would do that. However, if women did not have such private space, one could imagine the circle of male worshippers may multiply (and new converts joining en masse) to allow those who like to pack their person tightly against women in crowded places to attend in an attempt to create a different type of “worship”.

When the mosque is overcrowded on special occasions, you will hear the prayer leader inviting people to pack tightly and adding: “It is OK to put your head on the back of your brother in front of you”. Imagine how comfortable a sister would feel with a brother violating her private space and placing his face on her back.

In Australia, because locals regularly fight against the development of new mosques, it means that our mosques are overcrowded and overflowing, especially on Fridays and festive days, at the moment, people prefer to overflow onto car parks, lawns and footpaths rather than crowding their brothers, the new Mufti’s suggestion may provide just the incentive to keep the crowd tightly packed inside the mosque.

The formal Muslim prayer involves movements, this prayer is no different to the one in the garden of Gethsemane where Christ (peace and blessings upon him) prayed, falling on his noble face, asking God to remove the cup from him.

Peter Fray

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