May God bring those days back


Okaz newspaper

I AM connected to the Prophet's Mosque through a visiting relationship from a very young age. I was the youngest child in the family and my mother carried me wherever she went.

At that time my mother used to observe itikaf (the Islamic practice of staying in a mosque for a certain number of days, fully devoting oneself to worship away from all worldly matters) in Makkah for a month and in Madinah for another month. So the first memories of my childhood include the constant visits to the two holy mosques. The servants of Allah would visit both mosques remembering Him, asking for His forgiveness and seeking His pleasure. We slept, ate and drank inside the mosques without any barrier separating men and women. There was no need for such a barrier because all hearts and minds were dedicated to worship alone and were bereft of any thought of worldly pleasures.

I have deep memories of sitting in Al-Rawdah Al-Shareef and standing directly facing the grave of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with my mother, and there was nothing to segregate men and women.

People traveled to different sites in Madinah in a high spiritual atmosphere and no one dared to divide God's servants into separate groups of men and women. All of them came together to send greetings to their beloved Prophet and do righteous deeds in the land of the holy haram in the hope of meeting their God in the Hereafter with a clear conscience.

This was the nature of the holy mosques for hundreds of years until the period of Sahwa, or "Islamic Awakening," when all things turned upside down. People started inventing things that Allah did not intend and imposed them on His servants. The concept of gender segregation was introduced in the holy mosques and separation of men and women became a reality.

Some even went as far as demanding to separate the graves of the Prophet and his two companions from the mosque, on the Shariah premise of the inadmissibility of prayer in a graveyard.

The advocates of Sahwa extended their "command of awakening" by closing some mosques and demolishing others claiming that they were innovations and were against the Shariah.

After living through this difficult period of hardness and stupidity, now we are passing through the period of correction and going back to what we were before being divided and subjected to extremism and exaggeration.

The situation of women in the Prophet's Mosque needs to be revisited to reform the visitation procedures. I think this is a matter left to the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

The system of watching the guests of God coming to the holy land from all over the world with suspicious eyes as they pass the barriers should end and the visitation procedures for the sisters need a review in order to allow men and women to enter the holy mosques as equals.