Mosque "shopping" causes Saudi stir
By Rima Al-Mukhtar
Jeddah home-based businesswomen are turning mosques into a social gathering place where they mingle with other women and market their products.
Worshippers are not happy with the business activities taking place in mosques.
Somayya is an abaya designer who has been attending Taraweeh prayer wearing colorful and fashionable abayas. When other worshippers ask her about the brand she said she is the owner.
“Last year, I made great profits and gained new clientele from just coming to the mosques during Taraweeh, so I decided to come again this year with new and improved designs so I can display them to other women,” she said. “All I do is give them my business card and ask them to follow me to my house look at the varieties of thobes and abayas.”
Somayya said she does not think it is inappropriate to conduct business at the mosque because the abayas she wears market themselves.
Jeddah mosques have turned into a social gathering salon where women drink coffee and distribute dates among each other.
“I used to bring my own coffee and dates that I make at home because we stay at the mosque for long hours and I wanted to meet with my neighbors to drink Arabic coffee and chat with them,” said Fatima. “Early this year, one of the women asked if I can make her a plate of nut-stuffed dates because she had visitors. She paid me for it and that’s how I am now known among the neighborhood. I have since made business with my home-made stuffed dates.”
When walking into the mosque, women can smell luxury bukhoor coming from the female section thanks to Ruwaida’s home mixed oud.
“Mixing oud is my passion and I love making it in my free time. I participate in Ramadan bazaars for years but renting booths are very expensive and I cannot afford it anymore,” she said. “When my neighbor Fatima told me that she has been selling at the mosque among neighbors, I thought I would do the same and bring my collection every day and market it by burning some of my new scents to encourage customers to place their order.”
Ikram Mohammed is not happy to see gatherings at the mosque, noting the mosque should be a place of worship only and not a social gathering.
“I was not very happy to see over-dressed women who soak themselves in perfume and wear colorful abayas to a holy place where we are supposed to beg for mercy,” she said. “When Fatima offered me dates, I was happy with it, but when she told me that she has packed boxes and ready to be sold in the box at the end of the room, I was extremely upset because she is turning this mosque into an open bazar.”
Layla Sadeq is another unhappy worshipper who thinks that conducting business inside a mosque is disrespectful to Islam and Muslims.
“They were distracting me because they were walking around in search of their next costumer, distracting me from acts of worship,” she said. “I had to switch mosques.”
Sadeq spoke to the imam about the problem and demanded that he hire a female worker who would stop “in-mosque” shopping because it is driving people away and distracting them from the very reason they are there.
The imam, she said, promised to clear the mosque of sellers after the Eid holidays.