May 11, 2018
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Research shows that women’s issues are among the most pressing when it comes to American Muslims and their mosque communities. The masjid, which functions as a religious center, but also as a center for civic participation and community development, should be accessible to all Muslims. Mosques are important because they are linked to more volunteerism, better mental health, and higher civic engagement. However, these important spaces sometimes alienate groups of people, including young people, women, and converts. A recent study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding shows that, on average, women and men attend the mosque at equal rates. What is more, among young Muslims between the ages of 18-29, 75% of women said religion is central to their lives, compared to 53% of men. At the same time, Muslim women report feeling unwelcome at mosques due to a lack of relevant programming, lack of women leadership, and inadequate physical spaces. Clearly, Muslim women are a large and important segment of the Muslim community whose needs should be addressed in the mosque.
From an Islamic perspective, the Prophet ﷺ exemplified the treatment and inclusion toward women in community spaces like the masjid. In one hadith, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Do not prevent the female slaves of Allah from the houses of Allah.” This hadith can be understood to mean that our communities should not present obstacles to women being present and active in the mosque. Through countless examples of women leaders in Islamic history, it is clear that our tradition is one that values Muslim women and their contributions, and nurtures them to grow into leaders.