Saudi Academic: It's Time To End Gender Segregation In Mosques! (Memri).
In a June 25, 2016 interview with the liberal Arab website Elaph, Dr. Najat Al-Sa'eed, a Saudi communications lecturer at Zayed University in Dubai, said that Islam is the only monotheistic religion that has not adapted to the modern age, and that this was not the fault of Islam but rather of Muslims, who are conservative.
Hence, she said, the process of modernization must begin with the religion itself, by reforming the rituals of worship. For example, she suggested changing the internal layout of mosques so as to allow men and women to pray together, introducing codes of proper conduct and appearance in mosques, and installing seats and dim lighting that will create an atmosphere of spirituality and calm, like in a church.
Asked about the phenomenon of women imams, which exists in some Western countries, she answered that the Arab world should start with forming institutions of women jurisprudents, publishing books on religion written by women and airing religious television programs presented by women.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Question: "Is there any religious prohibition on changing the rationale behind the internal layout of mosques?"
Answer: "From the religious perspective, there is no ban on changing the internal layout of the mosque as we know it in the Islamic world today, and besides, the layout differs from mosque to mosque.
If the outer compounds of the Mecca [Grand] Mosque [could be] changed and expanded, why not change the internal design of mosques? The outer compounds of the [Grand] Mosque in Mecca are surrounded by ultra-modern skyscrapers. If you look at them from above, you realize that they resemble [the skyscrapers] of Manhattan in New York.
According to a hadith narrated by Abu Al-Darda, the Prophet said: "Whatever Allah permitted in His book [the Koran] is allowed, and whatever is forbidden [in that book] is forbidden – and whatever He was silent about is pardoned, so accept the pardon of Allah.'"
Question: "Is the absence of a [shared] internal space the only factor that prevents men and women from [worshiping] side by side in mosques?"
Answer: "That may be one of the reasons, but I think that habit, and the adherence to customs and tradition, are [the real factors] that prevent men and women from doing this.
Islam does not forbid them to mix, as evident from the fact that the Hajj and Umrah rituals are mixed and so is prayer at the Mecca compound. So why should they be segregated in other mosques?Any [reform] initiative of this sort is difficult in the beginning from the perspective of tradition, but from the religious perspective it is not forbidden.
The main goal we should pursue is to enlighten society by studying Islam from a cultural perspective that fosters equality and mutual respect between men and women instead of segregating them as though they come from two different planets. Let's make mosques similar to churches!" Read the full story here.