The call to prayer ripped the silence of dusk apart and caught the attention of Maryam Onimago Ismail, a 300-level student of Education English at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. With sentience of the arrival of prayer time, she walked to the Academic Mosque of the institution to observe her obligatory prayer. This was after sunset on June 12, 2023. The darkness around discouraged her at first, but sighting the working electric bulb outside the male side of the mosque assured her of the availability of electricity at the mosque. However, contrary to her assumption, upon reaching the mosque, the female side of the mosque stood aloof, in abyssal darkness.

“The bulb I sighted from the distance made me think there’s light in the mosque. But on entering, I realized that no bulb is working in the female section of the mosque, [bulb] which they provide for the males,” she recounted.

Maryam continued that the mosque lacks maintenance and attention from concerned stakeholders, which contributes to its poor use by some female students.

“The female mosque supposed to have running water like that of the male side, but we females keep purchasing sachet water every time of prayer. No fan is working, and if there is, it’s only one fan, which is not supposed to be. The stakeholders do as if they are not aware, and this might make many students believe they are encouraging gender inequality,” she complained.

The UDUS Academic Mosque is a one-storey building constructed for Muslim worshippers to observe their daily obligatory prayers. Sitting in a strategic position beside the University Auditorium, opposite the Post Graduate School and within a stone’s throw of the Student Affairs Division, this mosque is easily accessible to students at the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Sciences amongst others.

Damsels in Distress

Maryam is just one of the many Muslim female students to have aired their grievances over the improper use and maintenance of the female section of the UDUS Academic Mosque.

Halimah Abdulraheem, a 400-level Student of Education Chemistry, also decried the improper maintenance of the female mosque. She concluded that it was a manifestation of gender inequality, as the stakeholders failed to avail them of the facilities they provided to their male counterparts.

“In every mosque, water for ablutions is the priority. Why will they provide water to the male side without doing the same to female side? Why will they provide working fans and bulbs to the male masjid without doing anything to female side?” she fumed.

Halimah went further to allege that the neglect and nonchalance of the stakeholders aided the Yarinya water sellers in destroying the water tank at the female side of the mosque to boost their sales of sachet water to the worshippers.

“After the destruction of the water tank, the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto Chapter, neglected it. Meanwhile, they have done many developments to the male side; tiling of the floor, provision of fans and bulbs amongst others,” she continued.

Another 400-level student of Education Biology, Hamdalat Ibrahim, confessed that she has adapted to the situation as the reality of female Muslim students in UDUS and no longer sees the absence of running water as a challenge. She added that she has been buying sachet water for ablutions since when it sold at ₦10. Even after an outrageous hike in the cost of sachet water, her adopted reality has refused to diffuse.

“[The] Nigerian economic situation has changed and sachet water has increased to the rate of ₦20, which means that if we are to pray the five daily prayers [at the Academic Mosque], ₦100 will be spent. In the present Nigeria, where a student may not have ₦100 in a week. And there are running taps in the male mosque,” she lamented.

Noting that no one cares for the female mosque—which she believes is why the stench of urine surrounds it, she pleaded that MSSN UDUS looks into the inhumane situation of female students using the Academic Mosque.

Shakirah Ibrahim, a 400-level Biology Student, advised the MSSN executives assigned to the Academic Mosque to keep an eye on the mosque to ensure proper maintenance. She also urged them to implement rules against the misuse of the Academic Mosque environment and warn defaulters against punishment, maintaining that “Doing so will create fear for those who are misusing the environment and curb the improper maintenance of the female section of the Academic Mosque”.

MSSN Makes Pledge

When PEN PRESS contacted the Ameer of the MSSN, UDUS, regarding the plight of Muslim female students at the Academic Mosque, he said that the association is now aware and will act accordingly—a gesture that suggests the executives were not aware of the sorry situation prior.

“This move [notifying the MSSN] is a good one. In Shaa Allah, MSSN will do the needful soonest!” he assured.

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