Monday, September 19, 2011

Artificial barriers.

We went in search of the Tokyo Mosque, which is better known by it's Turkish name Tokyo Camii (pronounced ja mee ee) as it's also a Turkish Cultural Centre. The nearest train station is Yoyogi-Uehara, and the mosque website gives excellent directions on getting there. In any case there's a very obvious minaret visible from far away:

Entering the main prayer hall
Looking back towards the main door
Having read that Turkish mosques are not so hung up on gender segregation and since there was about an hour before the sunset prayer (which would be in congregation), we decided to do the afternoon prayer together. This was the closest that I had ever prayed so near to the front of the mosque, where the mihrab is. And beside a man:

Grounds for being chased out of any mosque in Singapore
The whole Earth is a place of prayer but God also loves beauty, and there's something to be said about being able to look up and see this from where I sat:

The mosque is really small and I thought maybe the two elevated corners near the back of the mosque could have been designated as prayer areas for women in cases of larger congregations, but it turns out that there's a designated 'ladies' area on the second floor. 

The view from women's area

To put this into perspective, the main prayer hall is on the 2nd storey. The men's ablution and washroom area is on the 1st storey. The women's prayer hall is on the 3rd storey while their ablution area is on B1! That makes it a mighty total of 6 flights of marble stairs to climb to reach the prayer area, versus a mere 2 flights for the men. Hey, what happened to men being more able and fit?

I have one good thing to say about segregation though, compared to the previous post on segregation in Singapore's mosques. During the sunset prayer done in congregation, there were just two other women in the women's area - one Indonesian and one Russian. The great thing was that we were all dressed differently, with various body parts covered. One of us was even wearing short sleeves and a sheer head scarf.

The great thing about being segregated was that the men couldn't police us for what we were wearing. Assuming they wanted to (yeah, I think short sleeves is a good enough reason in most countries). And since neither of us policed each other, we just prayed in peace. In this way, some women would like segregation - I definitely was grateful for it because I wasn't "appropriately dressed" according to a madhhab or two.

When there is a diverse enough congregation, with Muslims from different nationalities, madhaahib (schools of thought), and travel status (travelers get concession for a lot of things to a certain extent), people in the mosque don't usually end up policing each other.

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