Former Imam of Saudi's Holy Mosque Reminds People of Islam's “No Gender Segregation” History

Many people around the world know Sheikh Adil Al-Kalbani as the first black Imam of Saudi Arabia’s Holy Mosque in Mecca. Today, the former Imam is making headlines once again by calling for men and women to not be separated using a partition during prayers, and his reference for this is Islam’s past. According to Arab News, Sheikh Al-Kalbani spoke in a televised interview with Saudi Broadcasting Corp. (SBC), saying that this type of segregation did not happen during the era of Prophet Muhammad.

In his speech, he stressed that the current segregation practices have no roots in Islamic tradition and are a result of unjustified “paranoia” of women, even during prayer, saying, “Sadly today, we are paranoid — in a mosque — a place of worship. They are completely separated from men, they cannot see them and can only hear them through microphones or speakers. And if the voice has been cut off, they wouldn’t know what is going on (during prayer).”

Sheikh Adil Al-Kalbani

“In the Prophet’s era, and they are the most protective and God-fearing people. With all these traits, the men used to pray in the front and women prayed in the back of the mosque without a partition, not even a curtain. And today, it is a separated room, some even far from the original Prophet’s Mosque area, I believe this is some type of phobia toward women,” he continued.

He also took the opportunity to address the issue of conservative men who conceal the names of women in their family, saying, “Our daughters or sisters are no better than Aisha bint Abu Bakr (wife of the Prophet) — or the rest. All the Muslim women's names are known and their fathers' names are known. And they have given so much to society and the Ummah. It never harmed them that people knew their names.”

In 2008, Sheikh Al-Kalbani received a call from King Abdullah telling him that he had been chosen as the first black man to lead prayers in Mecca. Days later, Al-Kalbani’s presence in the Mosque was broadcasted by satellite TV to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, according to New York Times.

Speaking to the news site at the time, Al-Kalbani said, “The king is trying to tell everybody that he wants to rule this land as one nation, with no racism and no segregation […] Any qualified individual, no matter what his color, no matter where from, will have a chance to be a leader, for his good and his country’s good.”

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