Saudi Arabia: Women welcome rejection of haram prayer proposal

The Saudi Gazette
Muhammad Nasir Al-Khuzayyam, deputy chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, said the proposal to move the women's prayer area in the Grand Mosque in Makkah has been dropped.
"The suggestion was not considered feasible and therefore was dropped. The status quo will be maintained," he said addressing reporters on Sunday.
Muslim women all over the world voiced both anger and resentment, sending petitions to the King arguing against the proposal to segregate women worshipers in Makkah. A special committee consisting of the Makkah Governorate, Haj Research Institute and the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques recommended that the women's prayer area should be shifted from the Mataf (circumambulation) area to the Fateh Gate and Umra Gate facing the Ka'aba to maintain privacy.

"A number of women come to the Holy Mosque," Khuzayyam said. "According to our statistics, about 53 percent of the total area in the Holy Mosque is allocated to women, including the Mataf, the ground, the first floor, the basement and the open plazas. Mataf is open at all times for supererogatory prayers, and going round Ka'ba. All around the Holy Mosque, various places have been marked for women's prayers," he said.

"Women and men stand on equal footings in Islam," Khuzayyam said.

He said the mosque employs 300 women to help female pilgrims and check their bags because no men are allowed to check or examine women. During Ramadan, the number of women working at the mosque rises to 900.

Around 2,500 people work at the Grand Mosque, doing jobs that range from maintaining the sound system to filling jugs with Zamzam water, cleaning and washing the Mosque to spreading its carpets.

Under the directions of King Abdullah and the Central Council of Haj, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has enacted a comprehensive plan to extend services to visitors of the Holy Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madina to provide a comfortable atmosphere for the worshipers, Khuzayyam said.

The Presidency has undertaken a number of projects to improve services and conditions at the mosques, including signing a three-year, SR1 billion contract with Watania Establishment for Cleaning and Maintenance to upkeep the two houses of worship.

To give more space for people circling the Ka'ba, the Zamzam well has been covered. To provide shade to worshipers in the open plazas of the Prophet's Mosque, automatic umbrellas are being installed. Similar umbrellas will soon be installed in Makkah, Khuzayyam said.

Haj officials say they will also provide special instructions for Umrah in various languages including English, French, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian and Malay. The Holy Mosque has appointed scholars from various countries and provided an intercom system throughout the Grand Mosque to answer any inquiry relevant to the religion in any language, Khuzayyam said.

Khuzayyam said security men have been assigned the task of dealing with beggars inside and outside the mosques. Cameras have been installed to check for beggars, pickpockets and other threats to security at the holy sites, and all the gates are monitored as well

By Ahmad Wahaj Al-Siddiqui, The Saudi Gazette
Tuesday, 12 September 2006