Position paper on mixed-gender Friday prayers
The Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque represents the common prayer of the sexes based on our social experiences, the constitution and historical sources from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. In the Koran itself there is no mention of a ban on mixed-gender praying.
Our European reality of life is consistently designed in such a way that men and women appear and work together in all public areas. There are no gender-segregated areas of life apart from the religious community of Islam, competitive sports and public toilets. Neither kindergarten, school, university or professional practice are organized gender-specific. The equal rights guaranteed in the German Constitution become a living philosophy, which in our opinion has not only proved itself for women, but also for men, because for them, too, this results in an expanded diversity of roles. Equal rights benefit all sections of society. From the current social perspective, there is no reason to make the prayer framework gender separate.
In terms of religious history, we note that during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad there was a much lower degree of gender segregation among the tribes than generally assumed. It was not until the takeover of the second Khalifa, Omar Ibn Khattab, that the establishment of an indomitable patriarchy within Islam began, which continues to this day.
Already at the time of the Koran revelations there were mixed-gender prayers. At that time, the first so-called house mosques were established, the most important of which was Mohammed’s house mosque. Muhammad taught his wives and daughters in the Koran and in the performance of prayer. Aisha and Umm Salama were in the front row during Friday prayers (see Jesper Petersen, “The Women of Medina”, Ibn Rushd-Goethe Verlag, 2018). Because of their position in prayer, it can be assumed that they stood between men.
Prayer in the first row showed a political power at that time, which was defined by the closeness to Muhammad and the knowledge of the contents of the revelations and the forms of prayer. In relation to the present, this means that women are deprived of prayer, as they have to pray behind the last line of men. By praying together men and women, we dissolve these patriarchal power structures, but do not create anything new, but remember the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and his appreciation and respect for women in all roles.
Women also had house mosques. The most prominent example of this is Umm Waraqa, which was closely related to Mohammed. He also visited her when her husband was absent (see Jesper Petersen, “The Women of Medina”, Ibn Rushd-Goethe Verlag, 2018) Muhammad instructed them in prayer so that they could run their household in it. The corresponding hadith in any case justifies that women may be imams for other women. The question of whether Umm Waraqa also prayed before men as imamine can be answered with a high degree of affirmation, because she had at least two muezzins who called for prayer. Her mosque will therefore have covered more than her own household, so that certainly strange men came to her to prayer, which she led by usually standing in front of them.
As a reason, why women in the back of the mosque, or even in another room, pray, is currently led the sexual appeal of the woman, especially when down, where she shows the man from behind and thus arouse his sexual desire. We resist this sexualization of prayer, because, first, we believe that the context of prayer is a gender-free space in which we stand together as human beings, not men and women. And second, we think that men are quite capable of restraining their lust. The gender separation in prayer initiated by Muhammad’s followers and subsequently handed down is therefore not represented by us.
The touching of the other sex after the ritual washing up of prayer leads in the traditional view to its invalidity. Here we think it makes sense to distinguish between a regular touch and a touch based on sexually guided desires. Each and everyone has to decide for themselves what kind of touch is that taking place in the mosque while praying. In general, one can assume that it is of a normal interpersonal nature and has nothing to do with the desire for sexuality, nor does it nourish it. Touching during prayer is also minimal and usually unintentional.
Finally, men and women in Mecca have prayed together in Mecca for centuries, since the Hajj is obviously interpreted as a gender-free time and place. We wish that all contexts of prayer be desexualised and that in all prayer contexts, the aspect of equality of all people before Allah be respected, so that mutual respect for the genders becomes reality in this context as well.