From personal observations around the time I decided to pop to the mosque during Ramadhan, there was a very interesting phenomenon amongst the women attendee’s.
As soon as the tarawih was over and everything else, the Imam (who was in the adjacent room-so could only be heard and not seen) would begin to speak about a particular topic, or narrate an incident (so we could all derive some moral guidance from, naturally, otherwise whats the point? Aside from putting the congregation to sleep) most of the women would start nattering amongst themselves.
I am not too aware whether the same occurs for the men, but since the men’s prayer hall was adjacent to the women’s prayer hall any noise (such as talking) would be obvious. And my brothers would complain about it but they havent. Maybe because they disappear outside as soon as they can. But as far as noise in the mens prayer hall goes, aside from shuffling of jackets or men hanging outside of the hall door having a good old natter or the odd mobile phones going off there wasn’t much.
But over at the women’s side – whoa, it was a proper melee! The women were sitting in their own wee huddles, nattering away about everything and anything. The children were making music of their own in their wee corners. And it made me wonder why this was the case?
If the Imam was in sight, would these women sit and talk as they were? Most probably not. They’d even tell their children off for making a racket (despite it being expected from them as they are kids after all, but definitely not from grown adult women!). It’d be incredibly insolent of anyone to continue a conversation with your peer(s) in full knowledge of the speaker (Imam or other) being able to see you and possibly reprimanding you (tut tut, you naughty women!)
I would MUCH prefer to be able to SEE the speaker when he is speaking rather than have audio projected into a room. The voice which fills the room acts like background noise and when there isn’t any chance you can offend the speaker (since he can’t see you anyway) by actively tuning out, then talking over him isn’t given a second thought. Ruining the speech/talk for other members of the congregation? Like that matters! And what happens if you want to ask the Imam something? Pass it via a brother who if he feels like it may ask the Imam or otherwise try to nab the Imam yourself when he isnt sleeping or eating halwa. Which is rare.
On the topic of speaker, if you do happen to be in the same room, then to be able to SEE the speaker helps a lot. Having designated seating for women at the back of the hall, where everybody infront resembles ants, or the only view is the back of peoples heads does nothing for me. On top of which, from such an angle the speaker looks like a fat blur distracts and causes my concentration and attention span to dwindle and deteriorate fast. Yes I used to sit near the front of the lecture hall at Uni for exactly the same reasons.
Are mosques, and MSA’s going to change things around so women have a clear and equal view of the speaker? Or are we to be relegated to spots where a pair of binocular’s and/or a good pair of ears are required?
I might need to invest in binoculars I guess