Monday, November 3, 2008

The Disgusting Oppression of Women in Makkah and Medina

Writing a post on Haj and Umrah clothes a while back made me realise how much I miss Makkah and Medina. I have never done Haj but I have been to Umrah many times, Al HamduliAllah. I only miss the mosques, however, not the people, not the cities, not the shops. And that's a shame because the Prophet (S) loved these holy cities. There is a reason why I leave with such a bitter taste in my mouth and that is the unjust oppression that women are forced to put up with from so-called 'men of religion'. Not my religion, because as far as I am aware, women were brought their rights more that 1400 years ago, only to have them rudely ripped away by cultural restraints, which began tightening soon after the passing of our Prophet (S)

I shall give you some examples of the repressive attitude in the Holy cities and you can make of them what you will. Makkah...

1/ Generally, families go to Umrah together and a family usually consists of an equal number of males to females yet the space put for women in the Haram is ridiculously small, especially in the courtyard where the Ka'bah is.

I can't explain how claustrophobic it is in what I can only describe as a cage that they have placed for women. If you want fresh air, you have to tilt your head directly up - that's how packed it is. The crazy thing is that they got rid of the underground zamzam well that was in the courtyard to 'make more space', yet when this space was made the women's area spontaneously decreased to almost half of its size.

Meanwhile, men get to strut around and take their pick from the vast marble grounds surrounding the Ka'bah.

You will recognize the women's area from the condensed mass of black in the courtyard...
BEFORE the removal of zamzam, still small but a shade better than whats coming:

AFTER the removal, almost the size of the Ka'bah itself:

Even within the mosque, men always get a larger area and of course, the best views of the Ka'bah. Adding insult to injury, the women's area generally doesn't resemble the quiet and blissful, perfect-for-prayer area of the mans domains, but alive with the sound of screaming babies and children running around.

2/ The "men of religion" seem to think they have some divine right to stand by the Ka'bah and hit it whenever someone tries to make supplication against it, particularly on one side (ironically, this side - being opposist to the door side - is NOT the busiest by a long shot) Did Allah (SWT) not grant us this ancient house to be the closest place to Him on earth? What right do these men have to prevent us from getting close to our Creator?

3/ Ever heard of 'Maktabat Makkah' meaning 'the bookshop of Makkah'? It's on the grounds of the Haram and it's the birthplace of our Prophet (S). Today, it's a rundown building that sells shabby books with no indiction whatsoever that anything to do with the Prophet (S) may have occured there. No women are allowed to enter, of course. Business must be booming.

4/ What infuriates me more than anything though, is how much they have catered for women in areas not religious. The new 'grand' Zamzam Towers hotel (meters from the Haram) that towers over the Ka'bah like a large, ugly monster, has filled its lower floors with Western shops - Debanhams, Starbucks, The Body Shop as well as gold, makeup and tehnology shops, to name a few. Yes, men buy stuff too, but most of the shops are for women. Now don't get me wrong, I love shopping, but I don't deny that it is the place of the devil and it diverts your attention from Allah (SWT) to superficial rubbish.

When in Makkah, you should spend MOST of your time on Allah (SWT), but these people are actually making that easy for men to do and difficult for women. I have vowed that I will never enter that shopping centre, which is a stones throw from the Holy Ka'bah, as I consider its existence in such a place to be haram.

I could continue, but let's dicuss Medina..

1/ The grave of the Prophet (S) is open to men from dawn, right the way through to after Isha' prayer. Women? The opening hours are 2 hours in the morning after Fajr and a couple of hours after Dhur prayer. Hmm, why give the women the earliest and hottest parts of the day? Shouldn't it be split 50/50 so that BOTH men and women have access all day..?

2/ Most of the time, women are searched like in airports before they are allowed entry to the masjid. Men aren't.

3/ Women are lectured before going to pay their respects to the Prophet (S) about how you shouldn't visit graves and how it's not needed for women to visit the grave of the Messenger of Allah (S). Have they not read Surat At-Takathur? Men aren't lectured.

4/ Again, the men's area is vast and there is plenty of space to go around. Women have a fraction of this, even though they have to take the children as well.. actually I remember a funny story about children in the women's area - This women had tried to bring her 8/9 year old son in but got stopped while being searched. It was said that he 'knew at that age' and wasn't allowed in. It made me laugh at first but then I realised they must be really sick minded to think something like that.

5/ A graveyard next to the Masjid called Baquee' is full of the graves of the companions and relatives of the Prophet (S), yet the graves have been flattened and only men are allowed in to pay their respects. If a camera is found, it is broken on-site by a religious guard.

I'm at a loss as to figuiring out what they want women to do, exactly. It's normal for a human-being to want to worship, that's how Allah (SWT) created us. Insh'Allah we are doing so, but when the normal is forbidden to people by so many restrictions, they are bound to fall into the abnormal. In this case, the abnormal is that going to Haj and Umrah has become something of a holiday for shopping, luxury and relaxation. This IS a sign of the times.