Tuesday 9 February 2010

Prayer Room Blues

I knew it would happen, I just knew it. It did. This time though there is no satisfaction in being proved right. I’ve felt quite grateful that we have been provided with a quiet room to pray in at work although I had my misgivings in the beginning when the brothers used the prayer room and the sisters started using the adjoining mothers room for their prayers. It’s good to have privacy and a space for sisters, but I was wary that we would lose our presence in the main room we used for prayers.

It wasn’t long before other people started using the two rooms, as they are entitled to, but what presented a difficulty was when people started locking the doors so others could not use the room. This was usually to eat or sleep in the room. On more than one occasion I knocked and was told “this is not a prayer room!!”, to which I now wished I had responded a bit more assertively instead of just rushing off with an apologetic look on my face.

The offices Christian Fellowship asked to use the room exclusively at certain times and this was agreed to with the brother’s praying in congregation around them. No-one thought to ask the sisters it seems. It wasn’t long before both rooms were out of use for hours at a time and during those hours we were resorting to knocking and being ignored. (My cousin is also having similar problems at the Council he works for, where a curtain to divide the prayer room for brothers and sisters has been ripped down by other users of the room).

Oh and then there was the lady who spoke in tongues. The first time I came across her, she was in the main quiet room sitting on the floor, with her head on a chair, sobbing, hiccupping and babbling loudly and pleading with God to help her, over and over. I didn’t want to have to come back and so went ahead and prayed in one corner of the room anyway. A few days later, a colleague came up to me and asked about the lady, saying she had prayed but was terrified that the woman would do something to her whilst her back was turned (she is quite a scary sight). I thought, well at least she isn’t locking the room and she is harmless enough, even if she does make us a bit nervous.

That was till this week. We found that the mother’s room has been locked permanently (who by or why, I am still trying to work out). The brothers have tried to be accommodating (ahem), by issuing the following type of guidance:

Sisters to use the room at:
Zohr 1.00 to 1.20pm (Wednesdays/Fridays 12.20 - 12:50 until 28/03/10 then 2.30 - 3.00 from 29/03/10)
Asr before men's Jamaat up to 3.20pm
Magrib after men's Jamaat (20 minutes after start time)

Which is all very well, but it means that if we miss our slot, we have to stand outside the quiet room until the brothers come out. Too much standing about when you are supposed to be at work! (It’s also confusing and I can’t remember all the timings). In turn the brothers are thoughtful and if they see us they come out and let us pray before going back in. Last week I had to pray and then leave early, so I just waltzed in and prayed (far) behind a brother, who looked very uncomfortable.

This in itself is leading to some discomfort with sisters. Most of the brothers are perfectly reasonable, normal blokes. You see them around laughing and joking with colleagues, both male and female. Not with these colleagues it seems. Every time one of us walks past the quiet room and says salaam, they suddenly find their feet super interesting and look like they want to melt into the walls. What!!! We are not going to tempt you into haram/ steal your prayer mat/make you look bad in front of the other brothers! It was annoying to be treated this way until I realised they were probably wary that we looked very serious in our hijabs and abaya’s. I think this is something that we will deal with better over time as people get to know each other. Brothers and sisters need to know that they are looking out for and supporting each other.

In the meantime, we are trying to negotiate use of two rooms instead of one and I have even found myself a stationary cupboard on my floor to sneak into to pray. There are also positive aspects to this scenario. Two of our community (a brother and a sister) are senior managers in the organisation and they have been negotiating with services on our behalf regarding extra prayer space, facilities to make our ablutions (don’t even get me started on this topic) and provision of halal food in the canteen amongst other things.

One of the brothers has started a mailing list with the names of all of the users of the prayer room which everyone is using to keep each other updated on prayer times, what is happening with the canteen and issues we have raised with human resources and facilities.

It makes me think of the idea that from adversity comes opportunity, if you are willing to be positive and resourceful and look at what other ways there are top deal with an issue (and there are always other ways), you may benefit from even a bad situation. In any case, I strongly believe that if you make a good intention, Allah (SWT) will make the path to fulfilling that intention open up for you.

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallaho anho) narrated that Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) has said, "If my servant comes closer to me by one span, I go towards him a cubit’s length; if he comes to me a cubit’s length, I go towards him an arm’s length; and if he walks towards me, I run unto him." (Bukhari & Muslim).


  1. Assalamu alaikom,
    It amazes me that an employer allows this at all, so alhamdulillah for that. I hope there ends up being no real fuss and you all continue to have use of the room -- brothers and sisters both.

  2. insha'Allah it all works out for you sis.. I just have to say I used to work with a brother exactly like those you describe. I thought he was a really quiet guy until someone said 'oh K cracks me up' I noticed more then that it was generally only me of the female staff that he never spoke to... annoying really. One more comment on finding a place to pray, stationary cupboard.. maybe its my frame of mind at the moment but my initial thought was, 'why do they have moving cupboards' I thought I was being clever too, until I was just writing this comment hehehee. Yes, marriage hasnt changed me alhamdulillah ;)

  3. Salaamu alaikum. loved the post sis. however I'd like to point out a tiny yet major error if you don't mind .

    In the hadith that you have mentioned at the end of the post, you have forgotten to mention the key words "Almighty Allah has said" because Prophet Mohammed (saws) saying those words would be shirk on our part since we are servants of Allah and NOT Prophet Mohammed (saws)