In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Every Ramadan brings with it its own specialness, uniqueness and quality not experienced before. Whether it’s a challenge to overcome, a trial to face or a new routine to develop; Ramadan for me has always been my favourite time of the year. Growing up, my parents made the days and nights of Ramadan, a time for family, prayer and devotion. As I grew older, I began to seclude myself in a bubble. I retreated from the real world, as much as possible and spent the month focusing on rejuvenating and revitalizing my body, mind and soul from sometimes a very stressful and tiring world.
The last two Ramadans have been far beyond anything any of us could have imagined. Ramadan was spent in total lockdown, cloistered in our homes by 6 pm. This too, was a special time, as masajid (mosques) were closed and we remained at home totally to fast and pray. We prayed Taraweeh (the nightly additional prayer offered during Ramadan) together as a family. The next Ramadan bought with it ashfall and once again, we found ourselves closeted in our homes.
Almighty God, Allah (swt) promises in the Quran, Chapter 94 Verse 5 – 6 “So, surely with every hardship there is ease; surely with hardship there is ease”.
Almighty God in his Infinite Mercy brought comfort and ease to the hearts of many, especially females, when the doors of Darul Fazal were opened on Sunday, March 13th 2022. A Musalla (prayer room) in Lowlands, on the grounds of Amir’s Chicken plant, was opened and blessed. What was rare about this Musalla was, not only the attention to detail and the extraordinary décor, of the prayer room, but the fact it had comfortable facilities and accommodation for women to pray in congregation. A feature missing, despite being requested on countless occasions, from the main masajid on the Island.
Only two other mosques on the Island cater for congregational female prayer spaces. And so, Ramadan 2022 began! Taraweeh at Darul Fazal was advertised and although I was eager to attend, especially knowing a Hafiz would be leading the prayers, I thought it would be challenging to attend regularly, as it was quite a distance to travel each night, especially after a full day of work. Additionally, how could I possibly manage my cleanup after Iftaar (fast-breaking), get dressed and get to the Musalla on time? In my mind, I felt Taraweeh would only be a weekend thing for me. Little did I know of what was in store for me!
On the first night of Taraweeh, we trekked across the highway with superb ease and arrived in good time for Isha salaah (the 5th prayer of the day). The room was well lit and cool and the carpet felt extra soft and plush! After our Isha salaah, Taraweeh began with the Imam’s recitation of the first Juz (part) of the Holy Quran.
From that first night, I was totally, absolutely and unequivocally captivated by the beauty, melodious and extremely moving recitation of the wondrous words of Almighty Allah. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I listened to the poignancy of the recitation. It gripped my heart and stirred my soul. I knew at the end of the 20 rakaats on that first night, that I must endeavour to attend each night and relive these moments. I could not believe, that for all my life, I, and many females on this small 166 sq miles island, have been denied, prevented and left out of such an inspirational and heart-rending experience.
Listening to the Holy Quran, the words of Almighty Allah, recited in such an immensely beautiful and touching manner in the Holy month of Ramadan; a month when Almighty God has locked up the entire army of shayateen (devils), a month He has ascribed to us for fasting, increased worship and reading of the Holy Quran. How can for so many decades women and girls not be accommodated in the house of God, to experience, witness and participate in such an uplifting act of devotion? I ask myself what gives the right to any human being to not include the entire humanity in this? What makes some males in Barbados believe that this should be an exclusively male attended only experience?
I am blessed to have experienced this for the month of Ramadan. I was blessed to have a husband and family who supported me in my desire to attend and made all necessary arrangements, and efforts and rendered assistance to ensure we left the house in good time to get to Darul Fazal on time.
My tears continued to flow throughout the month of Ramadan until it became a family joke! I cried for myself for the years I was not able to listen to the Holy Quran in this way, during the month of Ramadan. I cried for the countless women and girls in Barbados and around the world who have never had the honour and privilege of experiencing what I was experiencing. I cried with gratitude to Allah for choosing me to be present in His space to listen and absorb His words within the deepest part of my core. I cried with gratitude for having been blessed with a husband, son and daughters who wanted to share and contributed to my heartening experience each night.
Each night, there were at least a dozen sisters who attended regularly. On weekends, the ladies’ section was filled to the maximum. By the second weekend of Ramadan, the partition separating the ladies’ section from the males’, had to be moved forward to accommodate the number of females who were attending. We now enjoy an equal space to that of the males! The sisters who attended Darul Fazal regularly for Taraweeh salaah began to build a bond of sisterhood and love for each other. Some of us had never met before. Some we had not seen in a long time. We each acknowledged and appreciated each other’s presence knowing that something extraordinary was taking place! As the lights in the prayer space were dimmed each night, the light of our sisterhood and bonds grew brighter! The space was filled with warmth, welcome and love!
As the days to bid farewell to Ramadan drew closer, I began to feel torn; torn between not wanting this exceptionally unprecedented Ramadan to end and wanting the excitement of an Eid to arrive. On the 29th of Ramadan, a small group of regular attendees gathered at Darul Fazal for fast-breaking. Fast breaking that night was a simple but intimate affair tinged with anticipation of seeing the new moon. All eyes were to the sky and after Maghrib salaah, some continued their vigil outdoors, hoping for a glimpse of the crescent moon signalling the end of Ramadan.
Some of us sisters remained in the prayer area, having not moved from our spot after salaah was completed. We all sat quietly on our mats, appearing to be in deep thought and reflection. The sound of children as they played seem not to penetrate our consciousness. At times our thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the male voices as news of the seeing or not seeing the moon came in on their various phones and messages.
Finally, the Imam announced the moon was sighted and the Holy Month of Ramadan had come to end! The entire ladies’ section erupted in jubilation and praise of Almighty Allah. As we hugged each other and wished each other Eid Mubarak, some of us broke down in tears, as the children watched utterly perplexed as to why we were crying, I felt the release of years of pain and anguish of fatwas and bayans passed against the female presence in the Masjid, the occasions we were denied entry, facing closed doors, threats, ridicule, jeers and insults just flow out of me. I felt free as I was filled with a sense of utter exhilaration and peace filled my heart. Our Lord is truly Merciful and Giver of many, many Blessings. As the tears subsided, the joy of the sighting of a new moon, marking the beginning of Shawwal and the excitement of the arrival of Eid descended amongst us.
The bond of our sisterhood had grown stronger over the last four weeks. Ramadan 2022 leaves me enriched by my experience at Darul Fazal! The exquisite beauty of the words of the Holy Quran, resounds with me, deep within my soul. I can hear the melodious voices of the 3 Huffaz vibrate in my ears. I regret only that more of my Muslim sisters could not share this experience with me. I am, however, thrilled at the fact that I no longer have to wait, holding my breath, for the masjid closest to me to respond to our family’s request to allow us, females, to attend Taraweeh in the congregation, a request that has remained unanswered for years!
I feel the pain of my Muslim sister and friend who was forced to pray, in the detached and neglected ‘female prayer space’, that was infested with millipedes, bugs, spiders and their woven webs and looked as though it had not seen the cleaner for many months! Perhaps the existence of the space was forgotten as it is so far removed from the main mosque area! My biggest regret is that I must wait a whole twelve months before I can hear such a beautiful recitation of Allah’s words again in salaah.
Responding to the Call of Almighty God is easier when you are in His House. It strengthens a wavering heart and subdues a wandering spirit. Being in His space away from your own home, where the call of the many distractions of house chores, a ringing phone, and countless unfinished tasks beckons you away from His Remembrance can only be a means of strengthening one’s Iman.
We, as a community, must now come to the realization that our Ummah cannot progress and grow and develop in the way it should, by leaving half of its people excluded from vital and critical aspects of community building. Praying together in the House of God, a Masjid, is, has been, and can be a basic and crucial building block for the Barbadian Muslim Community. The writing is on the wall; how long can the adamant but very misguided males of the Muslim community continue to ignore the fact that they do not have the right to deny any Muslim from entering the House of God to pray, seek Him out and spend time in devotion to Him? The right of Muslim females can no longer be eroded and denied!
Darul Fazal, like Masjid Ibn Umar (The Islamic Teaching Centre) and Majid e Quba are shining beacons of a generation of men, women and children who wish to establish the rights of Muslim women and families to their proper and deserving position right in the centre and heart of community building, the Masjid. May Allah make this journey easy and grant wisdom and understanding.
May Allah, forgive all our shortcomings, accept our efforts, duas, zikr, Quran reading, and salaah done during the month of Ramadan and may He allow us to continue with the best of these efforts for the remainder of the year. Ameen.
This article was first published on the webpage of the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies, click here for the original post. Reposted with permission.