The Push and Pull of Gender for Muslims at the Hajj




Women at the hajj, clockwise from left: on Ajyad Street, one of the main thoroughfares leading to the Grand Mosque in Mecca; Indonesian women rested on a sidewalk in the tent city of Mina, where nearly 2 million pilgrims slept for three days as part of their hajj rites; and the Times correspondent Diaa Hadid during the hajj.

MECCA, Saudi Arabia — "Sister, where are your socks?" one of the ladies I was sitting with requested. "Don't you know you need to cover your feet?" 


We were in the sprawling Grand Mosque that encompasses the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, amid the hajj, the five-day journey of ceremonies and customs that finished on Wednesday. I couldn't interpret which of the four Saudi ladies in indistinguishable surging dark robes and dark gloves was addressing me in light of the fact that their appearances were secured with not one but rather two cover, something I had never seen. 

They made space for me. I carefully secured my culpable feet with my own particular long, dark robe, which I purchased extraordinarily for the hajj, my first. These ladies who looked like dark ravens poured me brilliant Arabian espresso from their bottle and encouraged me crunchy yellow dates while we sat tight for Friday Prayer to start. 

There it was once more. I was on the double disappointed by Islam's nitpicky strictures on ladies' dress and grasped by its warm sisterhood. Again and again amid this physical and individual trip, I was gone up against by my clashing emotions on how the confidence I was brought up in manages sex, the very thing that had made me remove my hijab in school. 

At its establishing, 1,400 years back, Islam was progressive for its time in considering ladies to be otherworldly equivalents. Be that as it may, in its contemporary origination, the everyday sex parts inconvenience me. 

My declaration in some Islamic court matters would mean a large portion of that of a male witness. Men can take four spouses, ladies one husband each. 

However Muslim ladies have a privilege to a training, to be researchers and now and again legal advisers. We have as an unceasing good example the Prophet Muhammad's initially, adored spouse, Khadija, an effective broker who popped the inquiry to a man 15 years her lesser. 

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"Treat your ladies well and be thoughtful to them," Muhammad himself encouraged in his last sermon, amid his last journey to Mecca. "Without a doubt you have certain rights as to your ladies, however they likewise have rights over you." 

In this way, graciousness and rights, additionally ladies as something not as much as men. It can feel belittling, and lessening of our full mankind. It is the reason I began to lose confidence after a youth in a perceptive family and what regardless I battle with, at 38, carrying on with an existence that is mainstream however guided by Islamic qualities. 

Every day in Mecca gave intense indications of a religion that appears to at the same time grasp ladies and push them away. 

One more day at the Grand Mosque, I met Saraya, a moderately aged lady who is from South Africa however lives in Australia, where I grew up. She had ached to make the hajj for a considerable length of time however was not able in light of the fact that she did not have a mahram, or male watchman — more often than not a spouse, sibling or father — to go with her; male pioneers can come alone. 

"I never thought I'd arrive," said Saraya, radiating. 

She arrived simply because the Saudi government permits a few ladies more than 45 to accompany a more seasoned female sidekick. (I got around the mahram prerequisite since I went ahead a columnist visa, which incorporated an alternate sort of watchman, a Saudi minder named Abdul-Rahman who went with me amid all my reporting.) 


Saraya, whose last name and age I never had an opportunity to ask, said there had been "a couple of occurrences" that brought down the positive experience of her journey, similar to when somebody in her appointment was "propositioned in a taxi," and the way that men much of the time pushed before her.

"In any case, I'm somewhat bohemian, so I believe the energies around me," she included. "I simply let it stream; whatever should come is a learning." 

When ladies conquer the obstructions to arriving, they are required to play out all the same ceremonies as men. The main genuine sexual orientation distinction on the hajj is that men should wear two white sheets with nothing underneath (ladies have no particular dress necessity past unobtrusiveness), and toward the end, men shave their heads and ladies essentially trim a lock of hair. 

Dissimilar to in the isolated petition spaces of mosques and the different wedding festivities of preservationist Muslims, men and ladies blend openly amid hajj rituals: strolling together seven times around the Kaaba; climbing together to the highest point of Mount Arafat, where supplications to God are accepted to be replied; tossing stones together at the Jamarat, the three columns that symbolize the villain. There was something dazzling about watching that, doing that. 

In any case, isolation—and unequal treatment — return five times every day with the call to supplication. 

One night at the compound where my 500-man V.I.P. assignment was staying in Arafat, I was working when the men all of a sudden began bowing in a substantial, aerated and cooled, covered room. I asked where the ladies ought to ask, and different authorities continued guiding me back through a parking area packed with transports until I understood there was no space put aside; we were intended to bow alone in our rooms. 

One more night, as I attempted to discover room between admirers, a security watch yelled that I was consuming room where men expected to walk. 

Among other unique principles around the hajj, there is an unwinding of some of Islam's unobtrusiveness strictures: Women shouldn't cover their appearances. However, I met a few female explorers who still covered themselves, either with slim dressing or with a material hung from a visor. One stage forward, two back. 


Underneath the cover, however, were not really abused property. One lady I met, Mervat, fills in as a cardiologist in war-torn Yemen, taking a chance with her life to spare lives.

Muslim pilgrims prepared on Monday to cast stones at three pillars symbolizing the devil, the last rite of the annual hajj.

At that point there was Raghdah Hakeem, 27, a Saudi appointed by the Ministry of Culture and Information to tend to the ladies in our assignment, which included 100 columnists (around 10 of them ladies, which the veterans said was the most they had ever seen covering the hajj).

Whenever Ms. Hakeem was requested to sit at the back of the transport one night, she rejected and stayed in her seat, a Muslim Rosa Parks. "I can sit wherever I need," she told the elderly, whiskery authority. She smiled as she shared the rest: "Every one of the men around me said, 'I'm so happy you didn't go.' I remained for my conclusion, and they bolstered me."

In spite of critical notices from my mom and sister, who had done the hajj before me, I didn't encounter inappropriate behavior in any structure — no grabbing, no motions, no untoward or unwelcome remarks. I felt safe. In any case, likewise, time and again, inferior.

At the point when our assignment achieved the rough plain of Muzdalifa, we were introduced a ladies just compound likened to fabricated houses. It was starkly not the same as the facilities of whatever remains of the pioneers, who generally rest under the stars on bits of cardboard and sheets, men and ladies in independent however lacking elbow room.

In Muzdalifa, travelers are intended to accumulate stones to toss at the three Jamarat columns. Rather, someone cleared out rocks close to the passageway of our compound so we wouldn't need to go out onto the plain.

It was an astute signal for a portion of the ladies in our gathering, who raced to cover themselves at whatever point a man drew closer our quarters, as a rule to convey nourishment or beverages. When, one of my flat mates, wearing a rainbow-hued robe with strawberries, just had room schedule-wise to hold a cover up before her face. She looked as though she were erasing herself from a photo.

However, for me and a couple of other female Muslim columnists, the signal felt like a slight. We needed to assemble our own particular stones, to encounter the entire hajj.

We walked onto the plain, and I bowed to get shakes and place them into a void water bottle. As I rose, one of those hidden ladies gave me a yogurt beverage to rehydrate.