me n the masjid

The Carrot and the Stick

Let me start by saying I was raised Muslim. Orthodox. Muslim. And because we moved around a lot I was able to be parts of a variety of Muslim communities. There was a lot of ethnic variety in these communities but there was a commonality when it came to women.

The Carrot - In the community

Consistently, the men were reminded of the Hur ul'Ayn, and the wealth and abundance that awaits them in Paradise if they are steadfast and dutiful. 

The events are usually held in Masajid that are designed to give men full access to the speaker/facilitator. They can speak, interact, and fully partake of the knowledge fruits. They can pray and seeeeeeeeeeeee the imam and don’t have to guess which pose to strike. 

The Stick - In the community

Meanwhile, the women were reminded with the hadith about 1. women being the major inhabitants in hell 2. women getting into heaven by obeying their husbands and not leaving their homes even if their family dies or sexing their husbands up whenever he asks for it because after all.. it is the wife’s duty to keep the husband’s sexual appetite in check.  

The women are often reminded that the ‘best place is in the recesses of your home’ and so attending events is really.. unnecessary cuz well.. their husbands can go and just come home and tell them what had happened. The children are often clumped in with the women in far from equal spaces and SOMEHOW are supposed to be able to hear over the kids and through the walls/dividers/screens.. o yea.. and ceilings/floors in instances where the genders are divided onto separate floors.

(Excuse me while I pause for a deep breath…) 

So I went to the masjid for Eid

I honestly don’t think I’ve set foot in that building since being out/ed. And definitely not since the Al-Nisa documentary was finished.. or shown anywhere. I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I needed to go. There was something really.. pulling me.. calling me… to the community Eid prayer. And when I got there it was no real big deal except for it was a Hajj like crowd and I was practically playing frogger trying to get across the courtyard over to the sisters’ entrance and up the stairs to the sisters’ bird cage prayer section.

I get to the steps and I’m stopped. A sister asks me if I need a bag to put my shoes in. I graciously accept the bag, put it in my purse, and head inside. I find a nice corner to put my run down chucks in and head upstairs to pray. 

I get to the top of the stairs again and I’m stopped again. A sister just started talking to me. She was dressed in a very tight royal blue pant suit and she was very nice. She just wished me a blessed Eid and I did the same. I think we would have had a good conversation but I was stuck in my own world of trying to not get recognized or called out. 

I ended up feeling bad about it, too, because the sky never fell. The drama didn’t pop off. No one started talking about me. The Imam never stopped singing the ‘Eid song.(I had a dream where Eid celebration was stopped in order to call me out and make sure I was cast out like Scar’s son, Kovu, in Lion King II. It never happened. 

I was very happy that no one noticed me. I wasn’t ignored, though. When I greeted, the greeting were returned. I just was not asked to state my case, justify my presence, or anything like that. And that was nice. I went there and sat there and soaked up the Eid vibes. Laughed because the things that made me dislike going to the masjid were still there, still in place. I took some pics of that, I’ll post em soon, inshaAllah. 

I got to hear the Eid songs and pray the Eid prayer with a couple hundred people. It was wonderful.

And then I went to the MPV Eid prayer and that was very… different. We read Rumi, 3 of the 4 present prayed, I called the adhan. It was very different. But in this space, I could talk about my queerness in my hijab. I could soak up the acceptance and safe vibes in light of having let these people into my romantic world.. So that was a different kind of food for my soul. 

After having been in both spaces, I see that I need both. And I intend to be present in both spaces to varying degrees. I get different thing from each of them and I feel good, blessed, that I have those options. And so I talked to the people there.

And after that.. .I went to my favorite feminist book store, Charis. I stayed there until they closed and even dozed off reading Fiona Zedde’s Bliss.. That book is pure fiyah. I can’t wait to get it and finish it. So that felt good to be able to be in hijab, and leisurely read through lesbian fiction.

My last stop, not counting my attempt to catch up with my fiance on her lunch break, was with one of my queer lez friends who caught the MPV prayer with me. I stopped over her house after the bookstore closed. We drank tea and laughed and processed the day. We’re making plans to go be anonymous and get fed in the big pretty masjid in midtown in Atlanta that I went to for the big Eid prayer.

Overall, it felt good and great even to be able to waft in and out of the spaces I was in. I felt reconciled. Healed. 

And that’s a big thing since the heart has to catch up to the mind.. and I can say that I am good with my religion and my sexuality. It’s another thing to really feel it. I mean to really really feel it. 

And Alhamdulillah. That’s how I felt yesterday. Eid.

I felt whole.

Eid Mubarak, kinfoke. 

I went to the masjid today after work. It felt good. Like returning to the arms of an abusive lover. (The honeymoon phase is always so sweet.) The sisters’ entrance was in the back.. ill lit.. and locked. So I went through the back brothers’ entrance and cut over to the sister’s side. They keep changing the paint and the curtains. But it’s still cold and empty like a house that no one lives in. 

The wudhu water is cold. It burns when the air hits it. But I’m still happy to be there. The whole time I’m in there, I’m feeling the warm waves of imaan lapping at my soul and I wait for it to wash over me and my injured heart. After catching up on the day’s salawat, that warmth lightly coats my cold hands and face. 

I can feel it on my heart. And even over my stinging face as I hear the adhaan called. 

Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaahu akbar, Allaaahu akbar

Allaaaaaaaaaaahu akbar, Allaaaahu akbar

I’m trying to finish the salat I started.. I think it was ‘asr. But now I’m repeating the adhan.

Ash-shadu unlaaaa ilaaaahaa il Allaaaaaaaaaaaaah

Ash-shadu unlaaaa ilaaaahaa il Allaaaaaaaaaaaaah

Ash-shadu unMuhammadu rasullullaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahAsh-shadu unMuhammadu rasullullaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I finish the salaat I started. Praying I got all 4 rakaats in. 

Hiyaa 'alal saulaaaaaaaaah

Hiyaa 'alal saulaaaaaaaah

And I look up to see the very pretty, very unnecessary curtains sectioning off the cold sisters’ section. Keeping the heat and the lights up front in the part of the building used by the menfolk. 

I think…“I guess the women don’t need to follow the imaam. What if he has to make a correction during salat and they get lost?”

And I get sad and think about the 'conversation’ I had with an imam about the barriers in the salaat area. 

Hiyaa 'alaal falaaaah

Hiyaaa 'alal falaaah

That conversation is still playing in my mind. His answers to my questions is on heavy rotation. And I’m very sad and wanting to leave.

Allahu akbar Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahu akbar

Laaaaaaaaaaaa ilaha il Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

But I stay.

I stay for that very last line. I always remember that last line. I remember making that declaration. Hoping and praying Allah heard me in that abandoned garage where terrible things happened to me. I remember making that declaration as I started to black out from the muslim man’s hands around my neck. I remember making that declaration at various points in my labor with my girls. I remember making that declaration with a gun in my face. 

I waited. Thinking they were going to pray Maghrib buts.. no.. they stalled. And I had to go get my son from daycare. So I prayed and left out the sisters’ entrance.. dark as it was.. and I left the door unlocked.

InshaAllah, the next sister will be able to come in and feel the warmth. I left the light on for her.