For the 2011 study “The American Mosque” an index or scale of a women-friendly mosque was created. Four indicators of a women-friendly mosque were chosen: the mosque must (1) allow women the choice to pray in the same musalla with men without a barrier, (2) have female attendance on Friday above the average of 18%, (3) have women’s programs and/or women’s group, and (4) have a woman/women serving on the mosque board. A mosque was scored as “excellent” if it had all four indicators, “good” if it had 3, “fair” if it had 1-2, and “poor” if it had no indicator.
Index of a Women-Friendly Mosque Percentage of mosques that meet this standard
Excellent (all 4 factors) 14%
Good (3) 23%
Fair (1-2) 53%
Poor (0) 10%
Using this measure, only 14% of all mosques scored “excellent” by having all four indicators. Most mosques (53%) were categorized as “fair” (they had only 1 or 2 of the indicators). The American mosque overall faces a great challenge in becoming more women-friendly.
Only 33% of Mosques Allow Women to Pray in the Musalla
One of the reasons for the low number of women-friendly mosques is that only one-third of mosques allow women a choice of whether they want pray in the same musalla area as men. Two-thirds (66%) of mosques have barriers and do not allow women to pray in the same musalla. These figures are exactly the same as the 2000 Mosque Study, so there has been no progress in this area.
The Average Female Attendance for Friday Prayer is 18%
Over three-fourths of the Jum’ah attendees are men. Because women are not required to attend Jum’ah Prayer, it is understandable that there will be more men than women, but 18% is extremely low taking into account the ability of women to attend Jum’ah. If mosques are welcoming to women, it is to be expected that the percentage of women attendees will be higher than 18%.
Mosques Do a Good Job in Offering Women Programming
Over 70% of mosques have programming for women and/or a women’s group. Only small mosques and African American mosques do a poor job in offering women’s programs. However in many African American mosques, women participate in all of the mosque activities and therefore choose not to have separate programs.
Almost 60% of Mosques Have Women on Their Mosque Board
Mosques have shown significant progress in having women on mosque boards—in 2000 50% of mosques had women on mosque boards. In the 2011 study, 28% of mosques constitutionally allowed women on the board but no women had served on the board in the past five years. This is also a significant increase from 2000 when 19% of mosques allowed women on the board but not have any women serving on the board.
Women’s Involvement in Governance
Women allowed and served on board 50% 59%
Women allowed but no women on board 19% 28%
Women not allowed on board 31% 13%
Factors Associated with the Women-Friendly Mosque
African American mosques and Shi’ite mosques score higher in the number of women-friendly mosques. In particular, those mosques associated with the late Imam W. Deen Mohammed have the highest number of women-friendly mosques—42% of their mosques are women-friendly.
Other factors that are associated with women-friendly mosques are: mosques that engage in outreach and interfaith are more likely to be women-friendly; mosques that are located in new suburbs score higher; mosques that were built as mosques score slightly higher; and lastly mosques whose leader indicated that he prefers an Islamic approach that takes into account the purposes (maqasid) of the Law score slightly higher.
The bottom line is that the number of women-friendly mosques is embossing low. The American Muslim community must make it a priority to make our mosques more women-friendly.