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Tajik mosques open their doors wider to women

Besides pushing for gender separation arrangements that would allow women more freedom to worship at mosques, the Tajik Council of Ulema plans to allow women to become imam-hatibs.

By Nadin Bahrom


DUSHANBE – Devout women in Tajikistan soon will have more public religious freedoms than they have had in years as the country looks to reverse a fatwa that restricted women's ability to attend mosques.

"Traditionally, many women in Tajikistan pray at home, because they feel more comfortable there," Isrofil Hajibulloh, an imam from Khujand, said. "But if women want to pray at the mosques, they should be allowed to do so."

Mosques and women in Tajikistan

Tajikistan has 3,980 mosques, but few are designed to allow men and women to worship separately, a practice Islam generally requires.

Because of that lack of gender separation, the Tajik Council of Ulema in 2005 issued a fatwa that limited women's access to mosques.

The fatwa was not strictly enforced, and women who had reached a certain age were still allowed to attend morning and evening prayers, Nurullo Khidoyatov, the imam-hatib of a Friday-only mosque in Isfara, said.

But now, the Ulema Council wants to let all females attend mosques more liberally in an acknowledgement that women should have broader access, Khidoyatov said.

Gender separation options

Although women have continued practicing their religion at home even after the fatwa was issued, many are looking forward to the broader religious freedoms.

Dushanbe resident Gulchekhra Najmiddinova recalled attending a local mosque before the fatwa took effect.

In that mosque, a curtain separated the men and women, she said.

"The imam-hatib began his sermon, and we listened to him from behind the curtain," she said. "If anything wasn't clear, we asked our [female] attendant."

With such a simple solution to meeting Islamic gender guidelines, some women never really understood the need for the fatwa. If all the country's mosques could have enacted similar conditions, the barriers to women worshipping never would have needed to exist, Najmiddinova said.

That's the logic with the Council of Ulema's reversal of the fatwa, Saidmukaram Abdukodirzoda, the council chairman, said. With the broader push for accommodations to allow gender separation, the fatwa becomes moot.

The arrangements can be as simple as a curtain, as was the case at Najmiddinova's mosque, but some mosques will offer separate rooms or more-permanent partitions. Though construction efforts would cost money, the Ulema Council said it would offer financial support for such measures.

The changes are expected to open mosque attendance to more women by the end of the year.

Women's opinions on mosque attendance vary

Even with the changes, some women said they will continue to practice their religion in private.

"I pray five times a day," female parliamentarian Saodat Amirshoyeva said. "But I do this on my own, because I want to be alone with God."

For her, the main objective is closeness to Allah, and that, she said, can be achieved anywhere.

But others said Tajik women need the support that a religious community provides.

Widespread labour migration by brothers and husbands often causes great stress for women left behind, and being able to meet for prayers in public provides more moral support, Zarafo Rakhmoni, a female member of the Supreme Political Council of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (PIVT), said.

Other changes for women

The Ulema Council also is planning to encourage female students at religious schools to become imam-hatibs and later help them to find work at mosques.

Female imam-hatibs will be able to work with female worshippers once the mosques have women-only sections, according to the council.

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Reader Comments

  • Tajikistan’s authorities will never dare to take the step because if women went to mosques they would understand Islam and would raise real Muslims, but the authorities do not need them.

    May 28, 2014 @ 03:05:34AM Бобо
  • It is better if women pray at home and preferably inside the room.In the mosques women have separate rooms not place in the main mosque in some of the Arab countries, including U.A.E. and other Gulf states.

    May 23, 2014 @ 07:05:02AM fida
  • V.nice.oppurtunity.

    May 14, 2014 @ 05:05:14AM muhammad waris qamar
  • These are among the signs of Doomsday

    May 14, 2014 @ 03:05:10AM Ali
  • It is highly appreciative as in line with true spirit of Islam.this will help women to train their children in accordance with Islamic laws n teachings.

    May 13, 2014 @ 09:05:27AM javaid iqbal
  • I think Imam Abu Hanifa R.A. and Imam Shafi R.A. are against the women going to mosque for prayer. It is better if they pray at home and preferably inside the room.In the mosques women have separate rooms not place in the main mosque in some of the Arab countries, including U.A.E. and other Gulf states.

    May 12, 2014 @ 07:05:30AM Yousufkhokhar
  • yes its true women can pray in mosque when Hazrat Aisha Siddiqa can offered Namaaz why we can not . she sit in Aaytaay Kaaf in Mosque why we can not sit there nice to read this

    May 9, 2014 @ 02:05:48PM shams
  • Women come to masque but the basic rule cannot be changed

    May 7, 2014 @ 11:05:06AM Mohammad Rafique Bhatti
  • Women can come to mosque but the basic rule cannot be changed.

    May 3, 2014 @ 12:05:46PM shoaib
  • Mother’s status is great

    April 22, 2014 @ 07:04:23AM rana shazil
  • I would be very glad to know more about my rights and duties.

    April 5, 2014 @ 02:04:55AM насиба
  • Its the opposition of sunnah of the last prophet Mohammad (S.A.W).

    March 27, 2014 @ 01:03:23PM Ibadullah
  • This is very good

    February 19, 2014 @ 09:02:55AM shabbir
  • If Allah prohibits so women should in house

    February 17, 2014 @ 11:02:09AM Sadaf
  • We believe any thing or act is good which is according to Quran and sunnah . It is very important topic for positive discussion in Islamic society . It is time to discuss orders of Allah for men so that the real face of Islam come before the people of the world

    February 13, 2014 @ 02:02:29PM Imran Sherazi
  • Solutions should be according to Sunnah. y

    February 8, 2014 @ 08:02:20PM naheed iqbal
  • If our youth are guided

    February 8, 2014 @ 03:02:56AM manzoor ahmed
  • It is necessary to pray but it makes no sense to make it an issue. It is the 21st century; it is necessary to work to live a decent life.

    February 7, 2014 @ 02:02:27AM анора
  • Because the holy religion of Islam is for both men and women and all of them should participate in acts of worship. Effects: We can encourage more women to be pious and to worship God Almighty, and also raise the future generations to be Muslims, so that they serve the religion. People such as Ibrahim Adham, Imam Bukhari, and etc, as well as other great scholars who came from this country [are among them.]

    January 31, 2014 @ 11:01:47PM زلمی (سلطانی)
  • The official name of this party is: Nehzat Islami Tajikistan Party

    January 31, 2014 @ 02:01:29AM پارسی
  • She is not Golchehra Najmi Dinova, she is Gholchehra Najmuddin Ava. Seyed Mokaram Abdulqaderzada is the head of 'Ulama Council. Saadat Amirshahava is the member of Tajikistan parliament.

    January 31, 2014 @ 02:01:20AM پارسی
  • Nurullah Khedyatov, Imam of a mosque in Isfara??? Nuruallh Hedayatov, Imam of a mosque in Isfara.

    January 31, 2014 @ 01:01:57AM پارسی