“Last night was a gift” my friend and neighbor Kai said. Kai, who runs a business Split Moon Publications and leads the Bismillah Coop, drove us to the ultimate ladies’ night.
A night, turned into day, time at the masjid. In fact, we are grateful to say we completed umrah together. I had the distinct privilege to get a ride from Kai. She is a one woman comedy show and I will cherish our antics forever. Her video diary of our experience is somewhere on the internet.
An Atypical Friday
On Friday April 15, I took the kids for storytime and craft at the masjid, played with friends at the masjid, enjoyed a wonderful iftaar party at the masjid , attended prayer services and then a women’s qiyyam program at a different masjid.
Notice any pattern?
I spent 12 hours in a masjid space.
I think that’s more time inside a masjid in a day than I have in the past few years combined.
Today I reflect on the incredible sacred and communal space of a masjid: a place that is more than where people pray. It has become a place to gather, to meet friends, to see your extended family. Who can host 100 people in their home anymore?
Growing up, we went to the masjid twice a year — for the two eid holidays and funerals. After school classes were often in church basements in New York for some reason. We were walking distance to the masjid but I have little memory of it.
Now, as a mother I want my kids to love the masjid. I want it to be a place that they want to go to because it is where community exists.
So Many Options
I have one masjid one minute drive away. But the space we find ourselves spending the most time in is 20 minutes north. There is yet another masjid 15 minutes south that has felt like a spiritual home since we got married. Pretty much all these sacred spaces are close enough to my heart. Whether it is a kind word, or a word of comfort, or a cheap shape to rent for the kids to learn, the masjasid offer an important role.
There was a time when there was one masjid everyone went to; now there are a plethora of options and each night of Ramadan we might be somewhere different.
A very special gathering
I attended the first ever women’s qiyyam program at MCGP, called “Light Up the Night.”
MCGP is not my regular masjid but I felt a sense of community the moment I stepped inside. I felt belonging. I felt home. The beautiful hand-made decorations, the banners, the lights, the smell of free chai. There is a playground my kids love to play in.
Rabata’s New Jersey chapter led by a dynamic team- Rashda, Fadiya, Hafsa and Aqsa — diligently planned and executed the program that MCGP graciously hosted. Sheikha Abeer, a scholar and teacher of the Quran guided our group through a powerful conversations, duas, adhkar. Many incredible leaders spoke, teaching us the proper way to make dua, and engage in an often forgotten part of worship.
The women’s Qiyyam program
The night was full of dhikr, allowing our group of 50-75 women read and reflect on the glorious nature of this month. Every single minute was accounted for. The organizers focused on contemplation of a few ayats in the quran. Women shared their favorite verses. I was in awe of the women around me, who could quote from the quran, and discuss what the verse meant to them.
I read a lot —which you know if you’ve seen my house or been in my car — but I can’t say I could discuss a line or verse in the Holy book like that. Reconnecting with the book is a goal.
There was peace and somber quiet in the masjid as if the angels were already in worship.
Right now, at home as I try to write, during the same hours I was in the masjid the day before — I was pulled by the dishwasher, cleaned up a spill of cherry juice in the fridge, and rewashing stinky clothes in the laundry machine. I also am accompanied by the gentle questions of my kid who decided, yes I will get up at 4AM to eat suhur with my parents. She is singing, “I want a tikli” (the forehead jewelry that you often see worn at weddings). Distractions is an understatement.
But in some ways. it is also a type of worship, taking care of home and people.
The environment matters a lot.
At MCGP, I love that the women have a floor above the main prayer hall so there is nothing that they miss, but they do not rival the men for space. This is how I’ve seen masjids in Turkey too, where the women are in the balcony above, part of the action but not quite center stage.
At the program the women were center stage in their remembrance.
At the program, one of the most profound moments was when we made supplications for each other, for the women in the room. We picked a person, and made a special dua for them aloud. It was INCREDIBLE. I could cry from the memory of it. There is a saying that if you make dua for someone else, God grants that dua for you too. So it is a powerful thing to wish better for all the people you love. I learned this from my friend Rashda who says I make dua for all the people I love, and it an expansive list.
I will be revising and editing this piece again and agin in the days to come. Check back! And let me know if you’ve ever done something like this.