03 November 2008

Disgusting Oppression of Women in Makkah & 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 recognise 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 opposite 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 occurred 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 technology 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 discuss 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 figuring 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.


Mona said...

Wow, that's horrible. I had heard of things like this but I never knew the extent. A friend of mine said that a man once 'hished' her like you would a fly!

Zaenab said...

oh yes, men did that all the time! they seem to think its normal..

washi said...

I experienced the very same things on Haj and yes I also just miss the grand masjids not the place or its men!

Anonymous said...

wow, how AWFUL and shameful. dont they fear Allah? so sad...

Anonymous said...

Salam alaikum, that's very sad

Karimah said...

Assalaamu alaykum,

I hope you are well, by the grace of Allah. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I will definitely be frequenting it.

I just wanted to point out that perhaps the reason women are restricted from entering al-Baqee is because the opinion of the majority of the scholars is that it is disliked for women to visit the graves, because of the evidence in Tirmidhi ("Allah has cursed women who frequent graves".

I think it is important to remember that Allah has appointed the Saudis as not only the guardians of his two mosques, but as the hosts of millions of visitors each year. Just as we have rights upon them as guests, they have rights upon us. Among other things, we must respect their norms.

When arabs say that a boy of nine or ten "knows," what they are referring to is called "tamyeez," which is when they feel that although a boy has not reached the age of puberty, he is aware of the beauties of the female gender, and he will carry the memories of what he sees into adulthood. So in order to protect his innocence, and the hijab of women, the arabs prefer to separate the boys from this age.

Also, the men that you see who prevent people from stopping at certain places around the ka'bah do so for a very good reason. First of all, safety, it is very easy and not unheard of, to be crushed against the side of the ka'bah during the hajj season. The other reason is that sufis from certain regions of the muslim world believe that the ka'bah itself has special healing powers or other such powers. As muslims, we believe all power is in the hands of Allah. So in order to prevent shirk, the men keep everyone moving. This is not the same as the black stone, which we try to touch because it is the sunnah of the Prophet SAW.

I look forward to following your blog.

Zaenab said...

karimah: thanks for your comment! first, Allah clearly tells use in the Quran that visiting graves stops use competing and allows us to remember the after life so i will be believing this before other less reliable sources. also, if it were for the saftey of the people, these 'men of religion' would not focus on the most empty part of the kabah but rather the gold door and black stone where people push and shove so much you can hardly breath. and trust me, this boy was so young - its disgusting. thanks again for stopping by, salam zaenab :)

Minnie said...

The amount of oppression the women experience is disgusting! I can't believe this is what has become of the Prophet(saaws)'s birthplace. And the shopping center idea is terrible- probably to distract women and get them out of the masjids so the men will have more space!

Enon said...

The things women experience. :) Unbelievable. Note to self : better go Hajj when I'm still young.

Mr Ward said...

Assalamo Alaikum,

Thanks for your interesting post. I was shocked when I visited Mecca for Umrah recently. I couldn't believe the enormous hotels towering over the mosque and the Pizza Hut and Kudu that are the first things you reach after leaving the precinct. If a visiting alien was asked what they thought was the most important building in Mecca they would not be able to recognise the Kabaa as the centre.

I had also noticed the disappearance of the underground Zamzam well but it had been so long since I first visited that I thought I'd imagined it. Sad to say it has been replaced by a row of sinks with men pushing and shoving each other to reach the water.

I'm afraid this is just further confirmation that the prime motivation of the Saudis is money, closely followed by a hatred of any diversity of practice. I wonder how long it will be before the Kabaa becomes a feature inside a mall built over the top.

zat said...

i went for Umrah last Feb'10. It was the most memorable spiritual journey I ever had. But too sad to see how the western has creeped their way up close to MAsjid Nabawi and Masjidil Haram, with starbucks, and shopping complex? Come on. Muslims from all over the world did not travel thousand miles just to go shopping at those western shops. I don't need Makkah to be so developed for the comfort of people going for umrah or haj. Let Makkah be like the old Makkah as we have learn to accept it the way it is. Makkah and MAdinah are a place for spiritual worship to Allah...not a theme park or something..Please preserve it as it is..and can someone explain to me why the visit to Raudah is too short?

B @ Modest Closet said...

It is heartbreaking to read your observations and I feel extremely sad that what is happening right now would not change as long as Saudi Arabia is governed by such materialistic hypocrites. I remember seeing the Prophet (SAW)'s house as a bookstore on the news a while ago, and I cannot express my frustration. I know that people have different opinions, especially with Wahabis being against visiting graves, but what about all the buildings around the Kabaa? What about Starbucks, a company that openly supports the zionist army in Israel? What about the pictures of kings/royal family around government buildings and their palaces? Aren't these shirk too? All I can say is, may Allah protect these holy cities from such hypocrites. Lots of salams.

kowneysa said...

i just read your entry and i couldn't agree more..before this i never been there, so i don't really aware with what's happening at Makkah and Madinah..
since these two places are holly places..i assumed, those place will be different from other places..
but then i was lucky to be invited by Allah as His guest to perform Hajj last year, i found what u said was true..i was sad when i noticed to many western shops/restaurant were growing there and i'm afraid they might conquered our holly places..and it was frustrated when i can't pray more that 3 minutes at Raudhah due to the time constraint and lack of spaces..

gfarhaaz said...

yes!! but it doesn't stop at the holy mecca, its everywhere. in every islamic country, why we muslim women have to put up with it!! no wonder the non-muslims think islam oppresses women.
As a muslim convert i feel that there are many misleading things that us women need to know about, many many things, in our deen and whatever sect you follow, you need to know your God Given Rights and not let men take them away from us! but we have no power to change it do we? we stand outnumbered.

btw this website was very helpful, especialy, with styling hijab. nice blog :)

shadi said...

well, this article has been written on 3 november 2008, but I went there on from 4 augest to 15 2010, I think it's better now than before for the women, and by the way, if they are oppressing the women, why they let them to come in big num in the first place, that is my opinion

Anonymous said...

Salaams All.
I think as women we have lost the plot when it comes to the holy places and mosques. It is not compulsory for women to go to the mosques and it is not compulsory for us to go to the graves, whether it be Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) or any other person.
Do you as a women enjoy being pushed up against and touched by other strange men just to be able to do the same things that the men do. At Haj time trying to get to the Hajra aswad is litterally impossible for a man let alone a women who has to be touched and mauled at by non Mehram, were are your brains. Do you enjoy men looking at your backside when you go and make salaat, that is why there a several places for women to make their salat in the Haram and in Madina. Yes some times it does become impossible but why put yourself in a situation like that.
Yes we all go for Haj and Umrah to share in the beauty and benefits of these holy places but by our men folk going - it is not compulsory for us to do the same things as them.

mehzabin said...

this is nothing but hypocrisy n discrimination...it's really sad to kow this...

Zarine Mohideen said...

I've done umrah Alhamdulillah twice, once in 2005 and then 2010 and I felt the exact same way! I went in the peak of summer and the womens section was so suffocating and claustrophobic! My mother even fainted there! The area for women in the marble area surrounding the Kabah is soo small!

The first floor is worse! Plus, the Arab guards are the rudest people, ever. They are mean and just plain rude.

Once the haram was so full that I had to pray exactly outside the mall :|

Aisha UK said...

What are you saying? ;* How: removed Zamzam?!... :O They could not really do that. Drinking its waters is the first thing a pilgrim does after entering the city, it's a part of the pilgrimage. And how did they dare to simply destroy the Zamzam well? It's almost like destroying the Ka'aba... ;* This is sick!

Then, how is that in the Holy City there is Starbucks, that old Zionist-made coffee shop boycotted by Muslim around the world? ;-( It even has got Jewish zionist symbols in its logo... ;* I'm not generally against Jews but against Jewish zionism that is a sick and evil ideology pointing against everyone who is not a Jew... ;* Palestine, for example... ;*

Then, it is unacceptable what they do in Madinah... :-( Moreover, I have always thought that there was no gender segregation in the holy cities, that they were an exception. Indeed, when watching pictures of the tawaff (walk around the Ka'aba), I can see both men and women mixed... ;*

And finally, why do they search women before entering the mosque?!... ;* Why do they search in general? Do they think she has a bomb under her clothes or what...? ;* Why would a Muslim woman want to blow herself in the Holy Mosque in the Holy City, with ONLY Muslims around her, by the way...? ;* Terrorists target non-Muslims, anyway, and this is ridiculous that a Muslim would actually not trust another Muslim - and why?!;* Because it's a WOMAN!!! ;* Stupid! Why they don't search men, for example...? ;*

But then, what would you expect from a Wahabiyy country and Wahabiyy followers...? ;* There was one hadith, I don't remember exactly, but I can remember that in the hadith the Prophet, sallaAllaahu aleyhi wasallam, said, that the time will come, when a great bida'ah will arise in the ummah, and that bida'ah will come from the Hijaz (the name for the land between Makkah and Madina, until Jeddah)... According to the Ahl-as-Sunna wa-l-Jama'ah scholars, the Prophet in that hadith was refering to the followers of Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, whose works were for some time forgotten, but later on, some 3 centuries after his death, Ibn Taymiya started preaching those teachings of Ibn Abdul-Wahhab again, even going against his religion teachers who taught him Islam - they, the ulema of that time, were therefore giving fatwas against Ibn Taymiya's preaching, regarding them as bida'ah and kufr that the Prophet, sallaAllaahu alayhi wasallam, was talking about in the hadith mentioned. As I said before, I can't give you the daalil and isnaad of that hadith as I only remember there was such a hadith and it is sahih, but you can search for yourself to find that hadith confirmed authentic.
I am not a scholar, so - as a disclaimer - I am not labeling anyone here or excommunicating anyone. Allaah will judge us on the Judgement Day. I am only sharing what I have learned. That's it. So, please, do not tell me that I'm wrong just because I'm unable to tell exactly the hadith with its source and narration. Please, show some level of understanding and be open-minded. Everyone is responsible for themselves. I do not expect you to change your mind if you don't trust my words. It is your choice. But I am free to speak and you have right to knowledge, so if I feel I need to share my knowledge, even if it's not documented, I simply share, that's it. Don't blame me for that. God knows best. :-)

Salaamu aleykum,

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaykum w w

They haven't removed the well of zamzam, just the part where you could go and see it. Reason being was because there was alot of fitnah (bid'ah) taking place in these places and it was becoming extremely dangerous as people were spilling water everywhere and people were sometimes slipping on tiles.
Also with regards to someone mentioning the Qur'an saying you should frequent the graves, and that is a more reliable source than the hadith, i think yoiu should think before you write! Whatever came from the prophet's (pbuh) blessed mouth are words that Allah wanted this ummah to be aware of!
Also with regards to women having less space, you should realise that when praying salah, safs actually have to go in order of men, children and then women! So even having the amount of space we do in the mataf area of the haram, is good.
I do completely agree with regards to the shopping centres and the hotels, even the food you find there, but the non-muslims couldn't enter the city themselves so they managed it with their shops, in-order to waste our time and make us eat what people think is halaal (most chickens are stunned and imported from brazil).
With regards to women being checked, men also get checked too, sometimes we women even get away with it, but they have to check, they have had an incident where people managed to enter the haram with guns, now what do they do? stop checks and put everyones lives in danger and have a worldwide broadcast, or have checks, people complain but alhumdullilah everything runs smoothly...you decide?
I'm not saying i agree with what the saudi government have done/doing, but what they have put in place for us motamirs/haajis is incredible. Imagine if there was no mike system, no tiles, no air conditioning, no zamzam drums accross paths. no security, no lifts, no stairs, nothing that would suit the liking of those who have extremely comfortable lives accross the globe, just think and ponder! I know i wouldn't be able to survive the heat at midday, i'd be constantly thirsty, i'd complain that the voice is too low! They've done alot to accomodate us, so before thinking of their negatives, think of the ansaars and think positive.
Sorry if this post hurts anyones feelings, i just wrote what i thought must be said. jazakAllahu khairaa for your time and efforts.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of the wahabi ways and but I grew up in jeddah, although I havent been there in years. I remember as a child Kabah used to be a place of gret joy and mistry to me. I am not also a fan of the Saudi government, but what they do for the safety of the kabah by searching people ( I have seen men being searched, even thrown out in front of me) is good and necessary. We have to remember what is our purpose when goign to these places. That is not to say dont say anythign against the opression, so I thank the author for pointing this out..but while we are at the kabbah for our spiritual journey lets just focus on that.
On a note about the boy..I'm a mom and a muhajiba, and with the kabbah being so tight like all have mentioned,putting even a young boy in the mix of women who expose their awra, while breastfeeding their children or by having women talk is tough for both the woman and the child.
Again I am not condoning the actions of the saudis, but sometimes when you have millions of hajjis its hard to put things in order.
Last..someone said Allah appointed the saudis..how so?

Anonymous said...

I experienced similiar stories in Mekka but not Medina.

Anonymous said...

I was really enjoying reading all of the comments until the disagreement between Bint-e-Saeed and Stylish Muslimah broke out... maybe all of that should be deleted because it's really distracting and detracts from this otherwise nice blog. Maybe inboxing each other would have been a better idea? (I'm happy you made up in the end... but I almost closed the blog without seeing that part because I didn't feel like reading your back and forth arguments...) just a suggestion :) You don't have to post this. I just wanted to let you know! :)


Stylish Muslimah said...

Kita: Ah, reading that argument again made me cringe. You're right, I deleted them.

I hope it hasn't put you off, I'm actually nice in real life lol :D

Bep said...

That was quite shocking and sad. Mecca is a holy city, why should they be littered with Starbucks and other not-so-Islamic-oriented shops? But then, you see the Egypt government nowadays. Corrupted to the core, and very far, far away from the original teachings of Islam. D:

Riri Tyjah said...

Thanks for sharing. This article has been written on 3 november 2008, but I went there on from 17 July 2014, I think it's better now than before for the women, and by the way, if they are oppressing the women, why they let them to come in big num in the first place, that is my opinion