The women’s side

On the women’s side of the mosque, I could tell more men were showing up from the shadows against the frosted walls. The whole point was communal prayers and I started to feel miffed at being quarantined in this glass box just because I was born female. It took me back to being a little girl on the playground, left out of a game. It made me angry for all the women unfairly passed over for a raise or a promotion. I was getting a little hot under the hijab. Thankfully, an older woman in a beautiful sari walked in. Her presence pacified my blossoming resentment. Suddenly I was glad she and I had our own space without any strange men lurking around.

The woman plucked a plastic chair from against the wall and dragged it to where I was sitting. She smiled at me and pointed to the wall on my left. At first I didn’t understand why, and then I realized she was trying to tell me I was facing the wrong direction. I hadn’t oriented myself toward Mecca. I was looking some place much less important, possibly toward Albuquerque. I was a little embarrassed given the fundamental nature of this guideline and the compass sewn into my prayer rug, but I shrugged it off and set everything right.

“I’m learning the prayers,” I said, motioning toward the papers.

She grinned and set her chair inches from me. Her head scarf was loose, revealing lovely salt-and-pepper hair pulled back in a bun. “Very good,” she said, nodding appreciatively.

More women arrived. One turned on the flat screen that gave us a video feed of the men’s section. It focused mostly on the front of the room where the Imam was standing, but you could also see men and some boys as they entered the frame and found places to sit on the floor. Once they settled into position, the picture showed just the backs of their heads.

The Imam began to speak English mixed with Arabic. The gist of his talk, from the parts I could understand, was about the upcoming Eid holiday commemorating the annual Haj in Mecca. He encouraged all those with means to buy a goat, sheep, or cow for the needy. Those who did so would receive “more reward.” I listened closely to see if he would elaborate on the logistics of said purchase and if he was referring to some sort of benefit in an after-life, but his train of thought was swallowed by a long stream of Arabic.

Women continued to arrive throughout the Imam’s speech. Many wore colorful saris but others sported the more somber caftans I recognized from home. They would greet one another and find places to sit and chat quietly. Some had small children clinging to the folds of their garments. It reminded me of being on the women’s side of the orthodox synagogues I visited in Los Angeles. Privacy afforded us an informality that wasn’t apparent on the men’s side. Knowing we could see them but they couldn’t see us bestowed a bit of advantage. We were like the higher-ups who can watch an interrogation from behind the one-way mirror.


11 thoughts on “The women’s side

  1. Hi Corinna, Still following along when I can and have enjoyed your journey, perseverance, and patience in your search. And your sense of humor. Albuquerque isn’t such a bad place to face towards is it? All the best to you, George…………………….HU

  2. Hello Corinna. I’m back and catching up on things. My first thought upon reading all the blogs I missed was “And I thought that the Anglican liturgy was intricate!!!”

    We just got back from our trip to Texas ourselves. I may agree with you about the environment of Dallas, lol.

    I’m following with interest, as usual.

    Yours in Christ,

  3. “I started to feel miffed at being quarantined in a glass box”…. Interesting that this reminded you of not being picked for a team (I know that feeling well), and the inherent unfairness yet reality of same in life and religion…. As a little girl, you didn’t know the “rules.” Now that you “know” them, it does still tend to hurt, as in “what’s wrong with me?” hurt….but there ARE compensating things to take advantage of….like looking through the “observation window” unobserved does, I imagine, provide some sense of power?

    I almost had to laugh out loud as I read your subtle comment on the importance of direction (Mecca vs. Albuquerque–I don’t think there’s a “bur” in that western seat). I’m not sure what the point was, exactly, and I don’t want to be responsible for an execution, so I’ll just leave it there….:)

    • Hey Walt, Yes, I did find an “up side” in those instances when I was alone with women. In addition to getting to spy on the men, there was a warmth and camaraderie that might not have existed had we been mixed in with the men. Perhaps there was the same feeling among the men on their side? Men and women being separated brings up an interesting debate because some might say it’s indicative of unequal or unfair gender roles, but I don’t know if there’s a strict correlation. I found these separate accommodations in some versions of Islam, Judaism, and even Buddhism (in some sanctuary men sat on one side of the room, women on the other). The only place I didn’t encounter it was in Christianity and, yet, some of the Christian congregations I worshipped with had very strict gender roles (like women not talking in church, etc.).

      • What I find so discomfiting in churches is that male-female roles are left so unclear. The Bible says some things (e.g., women not to talk in church) that are interpreted in various ways. all depending on the view of scriptural authority, how literal the interpretation may be, the amount of political correctness that goes on, how free men’s egos are to run amok, etc. etc.

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