TORONTO – The handful of girls and women arriving for Friday prayers at the Islamic center make small talk before removing their coats and shoes, tying their head scarves and quietly filing into the prayer room – just as their Muslim sisters do the world over this day. (well it’s good that at least they’re donning hijab while praying)
   After the adhan, the call to prayer, they listen intently to the English sermon, then perform the qiyam, the standing posture. Like the men, they raise their hands to their ears and then fold them, right over left, over their hearts. Like the men, they prostrate and touch their foreheads to the ground, returning to the standing position.
   The only conspicuous difference is that at the Noor Cultural Centre, females do not use a separate entrance, do not sit in a balcony or behind a partition, or languish at the back of the room (languish eh?)
   The small, glassed-in prayer space in the center’s basement is believed to be the first place in Canada where Muslim men and women pray side by side – or at least, lined up with each other.(isnt there something about the first place that an evil is manifest is considered the worst of places… i’m not sure, but I think I recall reading that someplace… either way, I feel pity for Toronto)
   It’s not completely egalitarian – a three-foot (note that it’s not 2… not 4… but exactly THREE… cause you know, three is sunnah after all…) aisle separates the men’s and women’s sections – but it’s being hailed as a major first step in the expression of a more flexible (what kind of loaded term is “flexible”… it’s more flexible for women to be praying side by side with men?) form of Islam in the West.
   Is it Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare? The start of a renegade movement? Neither, says the center’s CEO, Roshan Jamal, who, as far as she knows, is the only woman to head an Islamic organization in Canada. (“A people that places its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper [hadith]”…. certainly, this hadith has been misinterpreted by some to exclude women from all positions of authority (scholarship, etc)–which is clearly against what the early communities did–but here’s what happens when you put an unqualified woman (or even man) in charge…)
   ”It’s not breakaway. It’s not reform,” says Jamal, a 59-year-old accountant who favors business suits and doesn’t cover her hair in public. ”It’s mainstream. It’s how Islam was meant to be practiced. (yeah, I’m sure in all your years of accounting you had plenty of time to study Islam in a scholarly manner and figure out how Islam was meant to be practiced…. cause see, the present scholars, gee, they’ve only dedicated their lives to studying this deen… but somehow, they just don’t know how Islam was meant to be practiced. I guess Ms. Jamal’s accounting experience gave her this incredible insight (baseerah) into becoming a reformer(mujaddid) of our time. Hey Ms. Jamal, how would you feel if a scholar from overseas called you up one day and said, “Hey, you know what, your accounting methods and practices are all whack… I’ve been studying shari`ah for 30 years, BUT, I’ve suddenly discovered the way that accounting was MEANT to be practiced…. here’s how…”)
   ”We are simply returning to our roots.” (no damnit, thats my point, Traditionalists are sticking to their roots…. just say you’re creating a more user-friendly Islam-ish religion and you’re willing to get rid of anything that’s not media-friendly… if you would just say that and abandon the noble rhetoric, I wouldn’t have problems with you chaps.)
   Thirty years ago, when Jamal came to Canada from Mozambique, ”there were few mosques and women were not very comfortable. I found every space restrictive. I didn’t feel I belonged. There were a lot of women like me.”
   Muslim women ”ended up going nowhere. They would go ‘to the mosque’ for Eid [festival days] or for Friday prayers, or just to someone’s basement.”
   The Islamic facility, housed in the former Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, opened a year ago and offers its mostly Sunni members lectures and language programs. The prayer room opened on the first day of Ramadan, in October. (haha, I bet these deviants started fasting on Friday as well… that’s a joke guys, relax)
   ”This is the kind of thing I always dreamed of,” says Jamal, with a smile, ”a place where broad-minded people can go to learn and worship.”
   Toronto seems to be at the cutting edge of this kind of openness. Last month, a 20-year-old Muslim woman became the first female to deliver a sermon in a Canadian mosque. It raised some eyebrows, but also earned kudos from Muslims, including many men. (on the authority of Sa’ad Quadri, this female also gave the khutbah without hijab, in short sleeves, with make up on… the whole nine yards. Well that’s good at least, if you’re gonna do something wrong, you might as well do it right)
   And a University of Toronto graduate student analyzing the Hadiths – the sayings and practices of the prophet Mohammad – has concluded that most Islamic trends oppose the segregation of men and women. Her research was published recently in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. (wow, so 14 centuries of scholarship which included the likes of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i, Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, Imam al-Ghazali, Imam al-Haddad, etc. probed the depths of all branches of knowledge but somehow they couldn’t come up with this piece of knowledge that this graduate student suddenly came up with? Subhanallah, what an opening. Our scholars wrote treatises on every subject under the sun–Imam al-Suyuti even wrote treatises on marital relations… my point is not to be facetious, but to illustrate that our scholars wrote about EVERYTHING… why didn’t they glean this from the hadith whereas this GRAD STUDENT can?)
  Though there are no formal ties between the two, Jamal acknowledges that the Islamic facility she runs and the New York-based Progressive Muslim Union of North America, which emerged last month, mark a new trend toward liberalism and tolerance driven mainly by younger Muslims. (may God help us all…)
   The Noor center ”is an effort to show there’s another side to Islam . . . that God is not punishing but loving,” says Jamal’s husband, Husein, a 69-year-old physician who often leads the prayer service (there’s no full-time spiritual leader or imam). ”If you want to reach people, there’s no point in being confrontational. This is a gentle, no-fault approach.” (Actually, God is both, while it is true that His Mercy outstrips everything else, we cannot deny His Justice/Punishing attributes)
   The prayer space wasn’t created willy-nilly. Center officials say they consulted no less an authority than the Ayatollah Sistani, one of only five living grand ayatollahs and the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq. (wow, so a bunch of Sunnis consulted a Shiite scholar for a ruling… hmm, why is that? Is that maybe because no self-respecting true Sunni scholar would ever make such a ludicrous ruling?)
”He said it was completely permissible for men and women to pray together,” says Husein Jamal, ”but there had to be three feet between them.” (Mashallah, again, with the three feet… not two, not four, but THREE… again, its sunnah, remember!)

(some of the article skipped for brevity… you can read it all here: http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_2497099#top)   

   ”You can say we are a product of the reaction to the hard line.”
   Both Jamals say there is nothing in the Quran or Hadiths that enforces the segregation of women and men at prayer. (of course, with all their scholarship and years of studying the Sacred Sciences… they just know the Qur’an and Hadith better than millions of scholars throughout Muslim history)
   ”The Prophet asked women to lead prayers,” (not true Ms. Jamal… this hadith that you allege to from the collection of Abu Dawud wherein the Prophet gave permission to an Ansari woman by the name of Umm Waraqah to lead prayer in her “masjid” is often misinterpreted by many. When I asked my teacher, Mawlana Ubaidullah Saleem, about this, he told me that this was referring to Umm Waraqa leading WOMEN in prayer with no men in the congregation. The “masjid” here refers to her house itself, which was used as a musallah-type masjid by the local women when the men went off to pray in the Prophet’s Mosque. Mawlana Ubaidullah said that this is a common mistake in interpretation made by those who have not studied the Arabic language. Moreover, why is this the only narration mentioned? Why did the Prophet not ask the most qualified women like Ayesha and Fatima to lead the prayer, or grant them permission to do so. Certainly, it was not due to their shyness, since Ayesha led an army in the defense of what she believed to be right. Even this incident cited by some from the Tarikh of Tabari about a woman named Ghazala leading the prayer (around the 7th century) is considered weak for many reasons: this is the only mention of it, it goes against all the other narrations of women not leading the prayer, and gee, she was of the Khawaarij… so if we’re going to be following Khawaarij precedent on such matters… you might as well just rename the religion) notes Roshan Jamal. ”In Mecca, men and women pray not only together, but intermingled.” (this is only an exception made in present day during Hajj when there’s no other way to get segregation with millions of people… the rules are temporarily suspended in Masjid al-Haram and nowhere else. however, for those who have actually been to Hajj, you know that there’s still efforts at segregation)