Rabi’a Keeble has long believed that in the United States, women play important roles outside of the home, but when she thought about how they are treated in some mosques — seated in the back or in separate sections where even hearing the imam can be difficult — she felt it was unfair.
“Here, everybody is welcome,” said Keeble told NBC News. “It’s like, when Rosa Parks got tired of sitting in the back of the bus. Women are getting tired of sitting in the back of the mosque.” That fatigue inspired her to start the Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque in Berkeley, California, which hosted its first call to prayer Friday, becoming the first women-led mosque in Northern California ,and the second in the nation , according to Keeble. The mosque is for all Muslims, men and women, and for those curious to learn about the religion in a relaxed, supportive environment. A place of worship, Keeble said, should be welcoming and feel like home.
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Traditionally, women are not told to attend Islamic congregational prayer services on Fridays, called “Jumu’ah.” Instead, they are told to stay home and pray, while the men attend worship at the local mosque. “A lot of men are just not comfortable with women in the mosque,” Keeble said. She named the new mosque “Qal’bu Maryam,” which translates from Arabic to “the heart of Mary” to honor the mother of Jesus Christ (whom Muslims know as Isa), as an “elevated, formidable” woman in the Quran.