With spring in full bloom, local mosques have opened their doors to residents, with one mosque in Burlington specifically welcoming women to experience the Islamic religion from the female perspective.
In early April, six Muslim houses of worship were open to the public as a part of the state’s first Massachusetts Open House Day. While Burlington’s Islamic Center did not take part, the mosque, with the help of volunteers including one of it’s youth leaders, Sumeya Abrar, 16, of Woburn, a Burlington High School sophomore, made the decision to host a women’s day at the Lexington Street house of worship.
Speaking with Abrar after the event, she said she and the other organizers were impressed with what they felt was a positive turnout.
The group held the event at the mosque and Abrar said the original plan was to hold a traditional open-house event for both men and women as a way to give people a window into their religion and culture.
“We realized when we called a bunch of people that most of the (local religious) leaders were women,” said Abrar. “So, we thought, why don’t we make it a Muslim women’s day? A lot of people have this perception that in Islam women have a minor role. But we actually play a major role in almost everything.”
Abrar said after the decision was made, volunteers gave her a large role in the organization of the day as she spent a majority of her time at the center. She said while nerve-wracking the experience was not only fun, but also empowering.
“It was really scary at first,” said Abrar. “I had never done anything (like that.) It’s like, why would you trust a 16-year old to do an event? That is really risky, right? So, it was a lot of work, but a lot of the sisters were really helpful and wanted to come out.”
She said the had two weeks to switch gears and make the day about women, but the effort was one of success.
Abrar said she has been a life-long member of the center at first coming with her parents as they worshiped, and in later years becoming an active member and volunteer within the mosque and the Muslim school where she and other student have been learning and memorizing the Quran for the last few years.
“There are 30 chapters and about 850 pages,” said Abrar. “I started about six years ago. So, since then I have been trying the finish the book. Some are faster than others; some can finish it in a year. This is my sixth year and I am hoping that this is the year I finish.”
She said her parents placed her in the classes at a young age much like her peers. As time passed, Abrar said she grew to embrace and enjoy everything she was learning and now helps younger children foster a love for their faith.
“You don’t really know what you want when you’re little,” said Abrar. “But I have grown to love it a lot. So, from then on I wanted to do it myself. There is a pressure with school too, so my parents [told me if I needed to take a break I can,] but I am really determined to finish it.”
She said her connection to the text has grown after reading and listening to the imam during weekly lectures where she can link the ancient words and lessons to her life.
“When I started reading the Quran I don’t understand everything in it because it is in Arabic, but I can read it fluently,” said Abrar. “So, when imam goes and talks about certain versus of the Quran, you really feel a connection with it. That was when I [thought] wow, this is crazy. I am learning it and I want to memorize it so I can teach others.”
She want onto say here overall goal is to teach more girls at the Burlington mosque the lessons she has connected with. Abrar said after graduation and college she has plans to study law.