Freedom from the Forbidden

All things gender and Islam. No bigotry is allowed in this feminist territory. #DeathToPatriarchy

Egypt Travels, Part 2 – on non-gender-segregated mosques & shrines

Continuing this.

So I already talked about some of the things that I had been expecting in Cairo but didn’t experience, like harassment. Except for Al-Azhar, all mosques let us enter without a scarf (this is a big deal – it means they dodn’t sexually objectify women, at least officially). This funny thing happened at one of the mosques (I forget which one) where we were told to cover our heads and we did but it’s not really enforced, and so we’re walking around and taking pics and taking the history of it all in, and we run into this guy who appeared like an imam. I didn’t have a proper scarf so I was using my jacket as a scarf. He clearly noticed my jacket-scarf and we got to talking and we mentioned I was a Pakistani-American, and he tells me I don’t have to cover if I don’t want to. That was kind of him. I really, really don’t like covering my hair. I have been forced or pressured to all my life, and when I’m in places or homes that require it, I get really resentful and bitter, and sometimes I can make the lives of people who’re forcing me to do it hell. Not deliberately but that’s just how it works out. I can’t respect men who even say things like “I would like it if my wife wore the hijab.” Nope. Not okay.

When I do cover my head, it’s literally only for my parents or in front of them and even then, it’s not consistent and I’m still bitter about it. I refuse to understand why it is that someone else’s faith depends on the choices I make that literally have nothing to do with them.

But enough about the hijab. Just know that almost all mosques I visited in Cairo allow women to come in without a hijab. Praying without a hijab is a different story, though. Not a battle I think is worth fighting, at least right now.


At ‘Amr ibn al-‘As

The women’s section – of course separate – wasn’t so bad. We prayed there. There was a funeral happening, so we did a funeral prayer. Turns out, whereas women normally have to pray in the men’s section, some mosques make an exception and allow women to pray the funeral prayer in the men’s section if they’re related to the deceased. What a kind gesture.

So… I took so many pics and went to so many mosques and I look back at my pics and I can’t really tell which ones were which, so expect some errors in which mosques are what, thanks.

But this one’s def. Ibn al-‘As.

ibn al as

‘Amr ibn al-‘As

The oldest mosque in Egypt, located in Old Cairo, is called Amr Ibn al-‘As, built in the 642 during the caliphate of Umar, and it is HUGE. The women’s section, too, is pretty big. (Btw, male leadership always tell us women’s sections are small cuz women don’t come to mosques so much, but like there was hardly one long row of men here during Maghrib. And a few women. There’s a barrier and all, tho we know that in Umar’s time that wasn’t the case, but that’s old news now so whatevz. So I don’t get why women’s sections are so small. Then again, patriarchy never makes sense, so why even bother asking.)


ibn al as2

Entrance to Ibn al-‘As



Hardly any men praying here, look. And the place is huge, so wha?

I keep talking about shrines and mosques that weren’t segregated, or at least didn’t have separate entrances for women and men. I don’t believe in those either, so of course that’s important to me. Take a look at this:



Me at Masjid Zeinab ❤ this is her shrine specifically.

Okay, fine, I didn’t mean this. But Sukayna’s (r.) mosque wasn’t segregated. men and women could walk around the shrine, and they did, and the world didn’t fall apart, no babies out of wedlock, no homes or marriages destroyed, no patriarchal fitna or anything of the sort. Kind of a big deal.


Wait, I’ve a feeling I already showed y’all this. But what I haven’t showed yet is this:


See? Same entrance. No bad fitna! (That’s me in yellow!)

Ruqayya’s mosque/shrine was also not segregated (Ruqayya was a saint directly related to the Prophet s. through Ali… kinda hard to tell exactly when she lived, but I’ll look some more).


Ruqaiya shrine.JPG


You get the idea.


And I’m not sure which one this is – Aisha? (She was daughter of Ja’far al-Sadiq, the Shi’i Imam and founder of Ja’fari school.)


I *think* Aisha’s (r.)

Sayyida Nafisa’s (r.) shrine and mosque were segregated, though. (She was the daughter of Hasan, r.) Here’s some pics from there:


Nafisa’s shrine


Nafisa’s shrine


The Qur’an was usually open to Surah Yasin.


The segregation was this kind. Men and women could still see each other. (They knew I was taking pics.)

So here’s what I think. I think that the mosques and shrines that are smaller or have a lower number of visitors tend not to be segregated. The ones with higher numbers of visitors are segregated. Nafisa had a lot of people, Hussain and Zainab had a lot of people, and so on. Ruqayya, Aisha, and Sukayna didn’t have that many people, even if some of them were fairly big (like Sukayna). The logic may be that there’s little fear of male domination and male ownership of these spaces and also less harassment so that women feel safe and comfortable visiting and praying there. In the larger mosques, like Hussain and Zainab, there may be legit fear of men taking over and completely depriving women of access to these shrines and mosques, so the division isn’t completely outlandish. I still don’t support it and I don’t believe it’s necessary if men were taught to be, you know, decent humans so that women didn’t feel unsafe and uncomfortable sharing sacred spaces with them.

Okay, I need to stop right here. I’ll continue another day. I need to talk about Christian Cairo, too some time.



Categories: Death to patriarchy

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