Dear Hajjah:

I have lived in the U.S. for several years now and attend my local mosque regularly, something I was prevented from doing in my homeland. I observe many women at the mosque are busy gossiping and talking loudly, and do not control their children. Would you please mention the adab (etiquette) of women attending the mosque?  - P.N.

Dear P.N.:

You have mentioned that in your homeland you were not allowed to attend the mosque. Unfortunately, this is true of many women from Muslim countries, a situation which has deprived generations of Muslims from becoming familiar with the adab of the mosque. Women attended the mosque in the time of our beloved Prophet (saw) and the Mothers of the Faithful (ra) attended the mosque daily. Specific rules of conduct which apply to visiting the mosque were revealed in the Qur`an and were applied through the Sunnah of our Prophet (saw). While in Islam the mosque is a focal point for group worship, it also serves as a safe meeting place for Muslims, where they may study their religion and maintain ties of familiarity with others. Through the many rights and privileges afforded Muslim women, Allah subhana wa ta’ala never intended that they become cut off from their community and locked in their homes. While they are exempt from attendance and are allowed to stay at home, there is no harm if women attend Jumma (Friday congregational prayer), Eid prayers, or even tarawih prayers (thirty nightly congregational prayers of Ramadan). However, the Four Righteous Imams (Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafi`i) each agreed that women should not attend the mosque during their monthly periods, except in cases of extreme need (i.e., if a woman is traveling with her mahram and he stops at a mosque to pray Jumu`ah, and she has nowhere to wait for him, she may enter the mosque but remain close to the door, not joining the congregation).

An obvious side-effect of women having been prevented from attending the mosque in their homelands is evident in how they behave in this country, as if the mosque is a community center and social outlet. Unfortunately, most of us have experienced the disarrayed prayer ranks in the women’s section of the mosque, the loud talking of women during worship and lectures, the disorderly children running and screaming as if on a playground.

Muslim women have the right to attend the mosque, with or without their families. However, women are not exempt from having good manners at the mosque, and it is the responsibility of both parents to teach and enforce appropriate conduct for children. Every individual is required to respect the mosque as a place of worship. From the time we enter until the time we leave, and even in front of the mosque, no one is allowed to talk loudly or to shout. We are commanded in the Qur`an not to run to prayer, but rather to walk with dignity. How then can we allow our children to run inside the mosque? From the time infants can sit, teach them to remain near you when you pray. Do not allow children to walk around at random during prayers and khutbahs. Take quiet toys and favorite books to the mosque to occupy your children if they become bored. Wear clean clothes and set the example for your children that visiting the mosque should be observed with respect.

Women should be assertive in forming regular women’s meetings at their local mosques to study Islam and to discuss Islamic solutions to women’s issues. Such meetings keep women informed, provide a healthy social outlet, strengthen ties of Muslim sisterhood, and thus, strengthens the community, and are a natural addition to teen groups and children’s classes, often held on weekends. Women should also be encouraged to add written comments to and make written announcements in mosque newsletters, and to have their group announcements included with main announcements after Friday prayers.