Islam in most communities from around the world is practiced or seen as a “men only” religion due to the fact that only men are mostly found in the mosque praying in congregation which are all an “unfortunate misconception”. Islam is the most gender friendly and equal religion in the world as it gives priority to women and to men depending on circumstance and situation. It is never a bad thing or haram for women to be involved in Islamic activities or pray in congregation in light of numerous verses in the holy Quran which stressed the need for women involvement is faith:
“o mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is (the one who is) the most god fearing”
Therefore, muslim youths, both boys and girls should equally be involved in faith building as morals for better community where priority is given to women and respected dearly. Below are a few tips:
1.Drop the dress focus for a while
There are different families with different up bringing techniques, those from a stern Islamic family with sound Islamic morals where dressing Islamically is obligatory upon every member of the family can not freely embrace or adjust to covering immediately as those from families where young girls are expected to dress and present themselves in a manner they please. The approach to those not used to the Islamic code of dressing should be calm, systemic and gradual without extremism or force because women are known to be very sensitive. The Rasul peace and blessings be upon him acknowledged the importance of this. It explains why he would initially tolerated and ignored certain habits and address them only after the seed of faith was planted in a person’s heart. The issue of dress code is no different.
2.Give priority to the women area of the masjid/ center
It usually not a good sight when you visit the women section of most mosques today. Aside from being a ghost town and small, its lack of attention is usually very clear. Even though few muslim women still visit, the appearance of the place doesn’t encourage the young muslim girls to ever want to come back. It is a very important step however to endeavor to fix and not just fix, but to give the sisters’ area a priority. Remember that each time a woman comes, she may not come alone but with the kids. Make it neat and attractive, even better than the brothers wing- good and bright lighting systems, functioning wash rooms, board for upcoming events etc. Most importantly, discuss with the women before doing these as they know better what and how they want it overhauled.
It is a common and unfortunate habit that is infiltrating our communities gradually where majority are taking charge over minority. This results to excluding the minority from congregational activities which is contrary to Islamic teachings and ideology. Thus, there is need to ensure a policy which stresses the need for openness to all races and cultures in our mosques and communities to carry all along irrespective of language, ethnicity or race.
4.Value their volunteerism
It is very true that in most mosques, when a muslim man makes a contribution or fixes something he is acknowledged by the board members of the mosque and when a sister or woman does a similar thing, she is ignored or forgotten. The reason for which is still unclear but our best bet is forgetfulness on the side of the board members, which is not a reason and totally un-Islamic as equality is islam
“And say: Work (righteousness): Soon will God observe your work, and His Apostle, and the Believers: Soon will ye be brought back to the Knower of what is hidden and what is open: then will He show you the truth of all that ye did” (Quran 9: 105).
5.Value their voice
Allah(SWT) has created men and women so that they can complement each other. This means we need each other to make things right and for that reason, when it comes to decision making, the opinions of women should also be taken into consideration.The prophet peace and blessings be upon him valued “shura” consultation as he often consults women on matters which affects the whole ummah. When women are consulted, two things happen. First, their opinions are acknowledged and validated. Second, insight is gained that can only strengthen our institutions and projects.
6.Establish solid youth and women’s groups
It is true that many young groups have helped a lot of young persons regain the sense of belonging they usually don’t find outside the muslim settings; although of course it depends on how organized it turns out to be. It is very important to remember that not every muslim girl or woman has a family or husband to go back to for social support. For that reason, he/she will need some form of recreation to help them feel at home and not alone, take their minds away from the pressures of learning and working once in awhile and help them coup better in life.
7.Establish avenues for participation
Another useful avenue that will get the attention of most muslim sisters is establishing participation in events and other avenues for participation. For sisters in the community, they could help in fixing things, making and designing as well as distributing invitations, keeping websites up to date and more. These avenues most importantly should be made aware to the sisters. Creating new avenues for muslim sisters’ volunteerisms which will engage them in a meaningful and positive way towards carrying them along in faith and community building.
8.Sports are not just for boys
I remembered my first time in high school that I saw a group of girls playing soccer, it was the most awkward sight ever. This was because I used to believe women were not meant to play sports and that there place was only in the kitchen. But Alhamdulillah! girls today are encouraged to get involved in baseball, volleyball, soccer, track and field etc. In recent years, Muslim women athletes who choose to wear modest clothes have made the news- the likes of Ruqaya Al Ghasara of Bahrain, who won an Olympic sprint in 2008 dressed in Hijab and clothing that covered her whole body. While some muslim communities have caught on, most haven’t. Sports night for brothers is important, but this is also true for sisters who are more committed today more than ever to not only playing sports, but maintaining better health.
9.Master the art of explanation
Islam is viewed negatively not only by the non believers but also by some of the believers. Most of the misconceptions stem from two basic reasons; ignorance of Islamic teachings and behavior by muslims which contradict Islamic principles. Most muslim women will agree that some of their reasons for staying away or avoiding the masjid is due to misunderstanding of islam and women’s right. That is why it is very important for Islamic heads to master the act of being able to explain in simple terms women issues satisfactorily. We are living in a society where any kind of boundaries or limitations are considered unnecessary restrictions, making it so impossible for young muslims most especially the women, to understand why there are restrictions on dress and behavior between men and women. Hijab is seen as a big question mark on the freedom to dress as one pleases, as well as not being allowed to date is seen as yet another example of Islam’s approach to issues.
In light of these, proper understanding of not just basic teachings, but also, current societal trends, helps us offer explanations that will insha Allah bring young muslim women closer to the faith, not drive them away subhanAllah.