All-female mosque in LA.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Approximately 150 women gathered at an interfaith center in Los Angeles for what may be the first all-female Mosque in the United States on Friday afternoon.
Male imams traditionally lead prayers and Quran teachings but the Women's Mosque of America, which claims to be the country's first female-only mosque, aims to present an alternative by creating an all-female space for prayer, lead by a female imam.
Word of the event spread to Muslim women across the country through social media sites, such as Facebook and twitter, and leadership retreats. Some women from New Jersey and Nevada decided to travel and be a part of what they consider a historical event.
"I think it's this awesome occasion for people to come together, women especially, to find a better way to connect with religion and I think that. And I think that's important especially being in a younger generation, in America, I think it's important for us to go to Friday prayers as just females and listening to female lead prayer versus going to jummah with a ton of other people and being a little segregated in between," said Hina Warsi, who flew in from Las Vegas, Nevada for the special prayer.
"It's been such a long struggle for women to get a voice in so many religions and women in Islam have had the same struggle. So, to be here in a time where we get to see this breakthrough, and you know what there's some people who, I don't know, they've had bad things to say like haters got hate, right? But it's just so exciting," said Noor-Malika Chishti.
The idea for a women's only mosque came from Women's Mosque of America co-founder M. Hasna Maznavi. Maznavi grew up attending an integrated mosque in southern California but after renovations to her local mosque created a traditional and patriarchal environment, separating men from women during prayer, she became disillusioned. After many years of studying leadership and the history of women in Muslim culture, Maznavi decided she would make her childhood dream of building a mosque a reality.
"We just wanted to have a safe space where women could come and get inspired and hear from a female khatiba or someone who delivers the khutbah or the sermon and that's an opportunity that we don't get in other mosques. The speaker is always a male imam and not only that, it's very hard to access the imam because of the way the mosques are structured architecturally. Sometimes the men and women are completely cut off from one another. This mosque gives us a chance to connect with our leaders and also with one another in a way that we wouldn't in another environment," said Maznavi.
The traditional Friday prayer, or jummah, is currently only scheduled to take place once a month but the founders of Women's Mosque of America, as well as some attending worshipers, hope the prayers can be held every Friday.