Tuesday 15 July 2014

A Woman's Story About Being in the Mosque

Says Shyema:
"It was already a long day. The night before I only got a few hours of sleep. Most nights in Ramadan end up that way for many Muslims because of the short period between our nightly prayers and waking up to eat before dawn. Whereas my fasts were going by with surprising ease the days before, yesterday I found myself terribly sluggish and fighting an unusually pronounced headache, while simultaneously hoping my colleagues at work would ignore the loud conversations my stomach was having with itself. The humidity didn't help on the way back home, and if matters couldn't have gotten worse, the subway got stuck right before my stop. With the crowd and heat, I was almost certain I would pass out (I didn't). When I finally made it out, I rushed home to cook for my roommates and finished just in time for prayer. After we broke fast together, I promptly passed out on the couch. Not even an hour later at 10pm, my roommate, Shazia, woke me up to go for the nightly prayer. I contemplated skipping out and just praying at our apartment, considering how little energy I had, but I also didn't want her to go alone. I forced myself up and got ready while my other roommate, Amina, made me a cup of coffee to go. This is what Ramadan is all about, I thought. It's about denying the self, sharing these moments in worship with the community, and strengthening your personal bond with your Lord. The fatigue swiftly turned into excitement as we made our way to the mosque.
Unfortunately, that feeling quickly faded.
As soon as we began heading upstairs where we had normally prayed in the past, a man called after us, redirecting us back to pray in a dark corner on the first floor instead. We followed his gestures towards the area and quickly realized it had no air conditioning. We finished our first prayer and found ourselves wiping away beads of sweat from the extreme humidity and heat.
"Let's go to the third floor," Shazia suggested. "It's empty and has air conditioning." The other two ladies sitting with us overheard and told us that women were actually told to pray in the basement next to the bathroom. However, because of the recent unbearable heat, they were given the current space on the first floor, which was just barely more tolerable. Shazia was determined though, and to her credit, it was really hard to focus with drops of perspiration rolling down our backs. We attempted to make our way back up and this time, another gentleman in a white thobe shot up, wagging his finger. "No! Women are not allowed up there," he said in an all too condescending tone that made everyone around look our way. Shazia tried to explain to him that it was too hot where we were...and then came the cherry on top: "Sisters, your place is here," he said pointing to the first floor oven, "or the basement--not anywhere else." And just like that, he killed my Ramadan spirit.

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