September 14, 2005
A non-Muslim visitor to Safiyyah's blog (SAFspace) questioned why mosques had separate entrances for men and women. The answer is simple, really. The women's entrance leads to the women's bathroom. Everyone, male and female, must wash themselves prior to prayer. (These are ritual ablutions, known as wudu.) The separate entrances not only allow both sexes the privacy they need; they also allow men and women not to come into contact with each other prior to prayer. In one Islamic school of thought, the Shafi'i, any man and woman who touch each other, even accidentally, after doing wudu but prior to prayer, must both do wudu again. So the separate entrances minimize any potential contact. Finally, having separate entrances to the prayer hall allows men and women to begin focusing on the activity at hand - prayer (salat) - instead of focusing on each other. For Muslims, salat is something Muslims take seriously. One's concentration must be on Allah (swt), not the opposite sex.