American Muslim Family I’tikaaf? Madness or Brilliant?

We Got Rights!

The Ramadan Grinch has tagged me and since I have mad respect for her, I feel obliged to reply. Safiyyah, who has nearly received head wounds from the shortest, unreasonable attendees at the masjid, was sent an invite recently:

From: Muhammad Alshareef
Subject: Idea: Family I’tikaaf night …
To: “Safiyyah”
Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009, 5:01 AM Institute, 1 stafford Rd, Ottawa, ON K2H 1B9, Canada

Safiyyah, Idea: Family I’tikaaf night!

Why not head out to the Masjid tonight as a family and spend the whole night worshipping Allah?

If you have younger family members, just make sure they are by your side and not disturbing anyone and you should be alright.

In sha Allah, it’ll be an unforgettable family experience, and may be so enjoyable that everyone may wish to do it again and again!

With best wishes to see you succeed at the highest level!
– Muhammad Alshareef

Now, I totally agree with Safiyyah that most likely this will turn into mommy double duty, but Allahualim–there are some daddies out there that love to be hands on–either way, I say go for it!

Locally (and my community should in no way reflect the greater American Ummah) there are hardly any folks (brothers only actually) spending itikaaf in the masjid. Teens? Forget about it. Children? None–except my son *big wink*.

How are kids going to grow into their deen if they are physically kept from it? Being mature enough to stay overnight worshipping in the masjid should be a right of passage that children see as part of their moving through the age of distinction and into accountability.

Not only is it awesome, masha Allah, that folks are organizing these kinds of things, but it is especially considerate to have one night set aside for “family night” during itikaaf so that other folks have the chance to opt out and spend that night at another masjid.

Come on Safiyyah, take the coal out of your sack, pack some halal s’mores and go be big aunty.


11 thoughts on “American Muslim Family I’tikaaf? Madness or Brilliant?

    1. Talked to my bff tonight and found out that children have been banned from her masjid after about twenty teens go into a fight yesterday. Yikes! They were going to try to ban women too–those pesky bringers of the gang-warfare children.

  1. We’ve always taken our kids to the masjid. Our oldest first went when he was six weeks old. But family ittikah wouldn’t have worked when my kids were little. I would have had at least one with me–probably the one who cried the most, was the most shy, clung to me the most. It could be that our masajid are changing too. I still remember back nearly 20 years ago when my baby cried a little during salat. When the imam finished he turned around and said harsh, scolding words about the crying baby. When our kids were little–up to the ages of 7 or 8, anyway–I had to stay home with them during tarawih in order to allow everyone else to pray in peace. Unfortunately, now that they’re older I get sick from the oils, perfumes and colognes in the masjid so I still can’t go. (I hope Muslims stop saturating themselves in fragrances sometime before I die.)
    Anyway, alhamdulillah, this is a very good sign. I’m glad that families are encouraged to be in the masjid.

  2. Assalamu alaikum, I commented on the previous post regarding this issue, and while I’ve had my own issues with kids int hemasjid, and while I would almost say I side with Safiyyah on this one, I also think there needs to be balance and I really don’t think kids and women should be banned from the masjid outright. There should be a way to accommodate the kids, teach them proper masjid ettiquette, etc., and also deal with the unrully, immature kids who just aren’t going to behave. And while I’ve expressed my own frustrations with this issue, I also freely admit that perhaps it’s me, too, I get really frustrated when I can’t hear the imam anyway, because I can’t see him either lol, and when I can’t hear him, I dont’ know what’s going on in the prayer, and then I feel self-conscience and like an idiot, and that really doesn’t have much to do with kids in the masjid, except when it’s because of the running around, etc., that I can’t hear said imam.

    We had some issues this month, and it seems that it’s being handled, i.e., I’ve noticed that the kids either sit in the back of the women’s prayer area, quietly, or go into another part of the masjid, and I think someitmes the kids police themselves, because I don’t hear any adults with them. It’s just sometimes things get a little lax and the kids/adults forget.

    This almost goes into a blindness thing, as the issue of kids in the masjid for me is more of a concern of being able to hear whta’s going on and to follow, because I don’t have the option of looking and seeing what’s going on, and kids running thorugh the prayer lines, and/or in front of them, if I already can’t hear what’s going on, can also cause me to lose my sense of direction, especially when I’m pushed so a kid can get through the lines. And then I have to kind of reach my arm out a bit to see where the sisters beside me are standing, and again, this makes me even more self-consicence, because sometimes I get asked if I know how to pray, or somene will just take it upon themselves to explain it to me.

    So for me, I think it’s a deeper issue, and not just about “kids in the masjid” as I’m thinking abou tit, and perhaps I’ll revisit this issue later on as another blog post.

    But the thing is, being treated like a brand new Muslim when I’ve been a Muslim for 9 years now, really bothers me. Although at this point, when it happends, I just say/think “Jazak Allah” and try to move on.

  3. Walaikum Asalam Ginny,

    I have to stop using words like griping and complaining–this is social commentary right? –and inshAllah productive. *smile*

    Your description of praying blind and having the auditory distraction of the kids in the masjid was nearly enough to give me a panic attack! And a six-year old looking under your abaya—yikes. Two eids ago the “sister’s room” had audio only piped in for the prayer. It cut off for a minute–which turned out to be the minute the prayer was occurring. I’m sure you can imagine how pissed we were.

    I am in no way condoning free for all behavior in the masjid. I hear a lot of “when I was a kid at church” and really I can’t fully relate to that because I didn’t have that experience. Likewise, I think a lot of the current immigrant populations of the ummah in America (and other “western” lands) also don’t have anything to compare HOW children should be handled in the masjid. Me thinks of the film the Mosque and Me and how the mom did not attend a masjid back home but enjoys to do so here. Many Muslims from overseas are not used to having children OR women in the masjids. And there are some real problems around immigrant bodies taking advise from those converts who would be familiar with how to effectively have children in a worship space. Being treated like a newbie for a decade speaks to this problem, we are usually not believed to be able to offer ANYTHING to the masjid because we are afterall forever babies. But it does go both ways, liek with convertitis and assuming all raised Muslims are culturalized and ignorant of the correct deen–they get flack too. And what about the treatment of indigenous American Muslims? Oh the stories I have heard. Now I’m thinking about New Muslim Cool–they seemed to have a good grip on kids in the masjid–whose taking their lead?

    Also, I hear a lot of commentary about women socializing in the masjid. Let’s be real here–the masjids in the US ARE a place to socialize. I know brothers like to act like they go there strictly for worship, but that is not true–they don’t salam out and hit the door. US masjids have their own dynamics–being a social center is part of it and let’s not pretend like that is a horrible and unpious thing.

    BUT, yes masjid etiquette need to be maintained–but first it needs to be LEARNED. I think a lot of these things are just growing pains, inshAllah.

    BTW: the photo here is of a bunch of kufi and salwar wearing Muslim boys carrying protest signs-which I have not so artfully rewritten to say, “teach me the deen” “it’s our masjid too” and “we got a right to worship” a man in the back has one reading, “let me parent my child.”

  4. It’s all about education. My husband and I (he’s an immigrant, I’m a convert, btw) have always taught our boys how to behave in the masjid. When they were small they stayed close to us (and were rebuked afterward if they forgot themselves) and by the time they were five or six they were learning how to pray. (When my oldest was four or five or six we began praying together at home. He stood in front of me and “led” me while looking back to actually follow my lead.) My oldest was seven when we moved to a new community and at first he was chased out of the masjid by brothers who expected the kids to be unruly. But they soon learned that our boys took their masjid and prayer responsibilities seriously.
    So first we need to educate the parents. Then they can educate their children. Nobody over the age of five or six should be playing during the prayer. And the infants and toddlers should be taught to stay with their mothers. Parents have to take their obligations seriously and teach their children.
    I cringed when I read about teens fighting at the masjid. They should have been taught when they were young. It’s just about too late by the time they reach their teens.
    So let’s start teaching the younger generation. If we don’t expect them to pray when they’re young, when do you think they’ll begin? When they’re twenty? Thirty? We could lose an entire generation if we’re not careful.

  5. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Pardon me – banning kids because teens fight? Surely they can’t be banning teens as well? Teens are supposed to actually be praying while kids just play and are meant to be under parental supervision.

  6. Assalamu alaikum, firstly, when I say that a masjid is not a social club, I’m not saying that the women shouldn’t socialize, or that the men don’t. However, in my experience, the women have a bad habit of “socializing” at the completely wrong times. Like say during prayer or during the Eid khutba. And I’m all for teaching masjid etiquette however, the people who are “learning” it need to want to learn it and to apply it and that’s a whole other problem/issue I’d think.

    I agree with everyone here to a point. For example, the issue of immigrants not learning or not knowing how to behave in a masjid is something that, while it is true, I find to be an awfully sad state of affairs. Because not going to a partiuclar place doesn’t mean that you don’t learn how you should behave there. For example, I’ve never been to a fancy restaurant lol, perhaps maybe only once in my life, however, I generally would know how to behave there, or if I didn’t, I could and/or would find out.

    So while I agree that many immigrant women/communities may not have much experience inside a masjid as to how to behave there, I am just trying to wrap my head around the fact that you’d not learn some form of masjid etiquette while learning basic fiqh or something, unless the issue of women / kids in the masjid is so anathema to that particular culture/community that it’s just not taught. And I’m not saying that certain immigrant communities don’t know or are not taught how to behave in a masjid, it’s just hard for me to fathom this. That a so-called “Muslim” person, even if they don’t go to the masjid, wouldn’t know how to act/behave in one once there.

    I really think that education is the key, and that kids should be taught from an early age how to behave and the adults too if they don’t know. However, having said all of this, I still don’t like the unruly behavior I do see.

  7. Walaikum Asalam Ginny,

    If you said that elsewhere about socializing I may have skimmed it (cringe) I’ve been kind of pressed for time–but I do hear that all the time, even in my own home. I like your restaurant analogy and you know now I am wondering if maybe some folks don’t see American masjids as True Masjids–maybe to some people they are just musallas or something? Not that that is a good excuse, but I am just curious to look at all the complexities of this issue.
    One of our local masjids (musallas?) opened up some additional space and there is considerable disagreement about what that space is–sacred or multiuse? And then about the same time there was a campaign to educate sisters about proper hijab in the masjid. This was a real pain, but it finally seemed to catch on–until someone new would come along. So these issues don’t look like they will go away anytime soon, and I am interested in looking at all of the nuances of the problems to help find solutions–which education and ongoing, repetitive education are essentially the only solution–but there need to be effective and multiple tactics.

    Linda–A local Muslim teen and his non-Muslim accomplices stole the donation box out of the masjid. The thing is, I know shoes and whatever gets stolen out of masjids in Muslim countries–stuff gets stolen out of churches and a friend had her daughters new shoes stolen from their US temple–so I don’t expect Muslims to be free of this stuff. Still, when we look at American youth culture (mostly the inheritors of Christianity, right?) we don’t see much of Christianity left. Muslim parents should take note 😦

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