Al Mujadilah: Qatar's first female-led mosque, research and wellbeing centre is a blueprint for Muslim women around the world

8 min read
09 April, 2024

Away from the hustle and bustle of Doha’s inner city, located in Qatar Foundation’s Education City, is a new spiritual sanctuary open only to women.

Al Mujadilah Centre and Mosque for Women is coming to the end of its first Ramadan. Over the last four weeks, women have been meeting here daily to meet other women and build a spirit of sisterhood, experience different cuisines at a Flavours of Iftar event, attend one of the centre’s many Quran courses and reflection sessions, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the centre’s women’s-only Taraweeh prayers, led by Kuwaiti scholar Sheikh Fahad Al Kandari.

"What Al Mujadilah aims to contribute to society is not only a Muslim woman that is very grounded in her Islamic identity and values, but also a woman that sees her engagement with the world as a manifestation of those values and that identity"

During the dawn of Islam, a mosque was the axis of Islamic society. It was a hub where both Muslim men and women met daily not just to pray, but to learn, engage in dialogue, community build, and serve those who needed social support or assistance.

Muslim women have played an integral role in public life, religious life and education. We know from the canons of Islamic history that the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him)’s wife, Aishah, was one of the first Islamic studies teachers who taught women and men alike, and it was a Muslim woman, Fatima Al Fihri, who is credited with being the founder of the world’s first known university 1,000 years ago in Morocco.

The founder of the Al-Mujadilah Center and Mosque for Women, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Misned [photo credit: Al-Mujadilah]
Founder of the Al-Mujadilah Center and Mosque for Women, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Misned [photo credit: Al-Mujadilah Centre and Mosque for Women]

Recognising the need for the mosque to once more become the axis of society and the need for a tranquil space where women can worship, learn, debate and community build, Al Mujadilah is the brainchild of Her Highness Sheikha Moza, the mother of the Emir of Qatar and Al Mujadilah’s Founder.

She had visualised such a space for many years, and in the country’s recent acceleration towards its 2030 National Vision, her dream finally became a reality.

Upon the centre’s opening, Her Highness said, “Women are, and continue to be, the cornerstone of society. Their impact throughout history has been powerful and significant, and their legacy continues, as witnessed by the many female leaders among us today.

"I founded Al Mujadilah to nurture the next generation of Muslim women. I envision it to be a beacon for the women in our society and beyond to explore, dialogue and contemplate. I pray that they find in Al Mujadilah a place they can speak candidly, build communities and discover new horizons.”

Book Club
Live Story

The mosque and centre’s name – Al Mujadilah – is inspired by the Quranic chapter or Surah of the same name, meaning ‘she who discourses.’

Surah Al Mujadilah tells the real-life story of one of the female companions of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), Khawlah bint Tha’labah, who sought to rectify her improper divorce. Her invocation resulted in the revelation of the verses in this Surah, leading to a change in divorce laws that continues to have an impact on Islamic law today.

"There are so many stories in the Quran that speak about women, and in all these stories, the women engage directly with Allah. Whether we look at the story of Asiyah or Mariam or Hajar, we remember their names because of that monumental act of beseeching Allah directly,” says Dr Sohaira Zahid Siddiqui, Associate Professor at Georgetown University Qatar and Al Mujadilah’s Executive Director to The New Arab.

“The name Khalwah we don't oftentimes remember because she's not mentioned by name, but her story is so impactful and has had an effect on Islamic law until today.  The idea of engaging with the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) on a very personal issue, of a challenge that she was having in her contemporary context, was really powerful.

"Her Highness was inspired by Khawlah’s story as a woman who identified a challenge and sought to address that challenge from within the framework of her religion and the resources that were present to her. This is what stands at the heart of what Al Mujadilah is trying to do.”

"One of the things that Al Mujadilah seeks to highlight is that Muslim women are constantly stewards and decision-makers in every single domain of their lives"

Every aspect of the mosque and centre has been designed with intention and thought, with the hope of invoking tranquillity and being spiritually uplifting. The architecture was designed to reflect a groundedness.

The roof, which is studded with hundreds of light cones, is the focus feature overlooking a simple, modern and spacious worship hall.

The building is centred around two olive trees that pierce through the roof and reach towards the sky, symbolising a movement of Muslim women striving and growing together.

In addition to the worship hall are multiple learning spaces, a library, a café and a garden. Every corner of Al Mujadilah serves as a space for women to meet, whether to learn, worship or socialise, or to enjoy solo, as a place to pause, reflect and refresh.

When it comes to prayer time, the congregation is led by the most learned woman in the group such as an instructor, or one of the centre’s hafidhas (those who have memorised the entire Quran).

Al-Mujadilah's seamless architecture creates an air of tranquility throughout the complex [photo credit: Al-Mujadilah]
Al-Mujadilah's seamless architecture creates an air of tranquillity throughout the complex [photo credit: Al-Mujadilah Centre and Mosque for Women]

Dr Siddiqui runs Al Mujadilah’s extensive learning, research and development programmes. Alongside her female team of managers and educators, Dr Siddiqui is working towards a spiritual centre that takes a holistic approach to Muslim women’s learning and development.

Every single event and programme seeks to teach and examine the faith at a deeper level that is in line with contemporary society and the multifaceted needs of Muslim women.

“Everything we're seeking to do in terms of our public education falls into one of three areas: social programming — building and fostering a sense of community, developmental programming, which is about the integrated wellbeing of Muslim women from the perspective of religion and their spiritual development, and religious programming, which seeks to engage more deeply with the Islamic tradition and its texts. These three areas of work are the backbone of how we designed our Ramadan programming,” Dr Siddiqui tells The New Arab

“Based on the core idea that Ramadan is the month of the Quran, the month in which it was revealed, and what people want most in this month is a deeper connection with the Quran and a deeper connection with their communities, we designed our Ramadan programming.”

Research is a cornerstone of Al Mujadilah’s vision and goals. The last three decades have seen an exciting rebirth of female Islamic scholarship. Al Mujadilah will be funding, mentoring and nurturing new and existing female Islamic scholars, with an annual theme which will culminate each year with their Jadl summit, jadl meaning ‘debate’ in Arabic. And debate, discussion and discourse are at the heart of Al Mujadilah’s existence.

Elaborating on this, Dr Siddiqui says, “We are not only doing what you would assume to be the regular religious programs, but we are really expanding our offerings to engage with the depth of Islam and the depth of the human experience.”

“We have just announced our annual research theme, Muslim Women in Public Life; this research theme attempts to look from the historical period until the contemporary period about how Muslim women have engaged in various capacities within society and the public sphere.”

Live Story

Ultimately, what Her Highness hopes for Al Mujadilah, is that it will serve as a beacon of light and a blueprint for other women-led, women’s only worship spaces in Muslim communities around the world.

Al Mujadilah aims not only to build women’s Islamic knowledge but also to build their confidence, so that they go out into society recognising the value of all the different types of work they do both in public and private.

“What Al Mujadilah aims to contribute to society is not only a Muslim woman that is very grounded in her Islamic identity and values, but also a woman that sees her engagement with the world as a manifestation of those values and that identity, and seeks to better society in whatever capacity and position she is in,” adds Dr Siddiqui.

“Often we have a real valorisation of the executive woman or the woman that's out there in the public sphere. But one of the things that Al Mujadilah seeks to highlight is that Muslim women are constantly stewards and decision-makers in every single domain of their lives.

"How do we build a generation of decision-makers and stewards that recognise the importance of the work that they do, from an Islamic perspective, and also see the value of the work that they do, regardless of whether in the public sphere as an executive or at home with their children or taking care of their parents?

“One of the sad things is the uncompensated labour of women goes unrecognised, so we are shedding light on the fact that Muslim women are decision makers and stewards in many different elements of their life and all of that comes from a deep sense of what it means to be of service to the community and what it means to be a servant of God, that is ultimately what Al Mujadilah is trying to create.” 

To find out more about Al Mujadilah and the programmes it is running, visit

Yousra Samir Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author based in Yorkshire. She is the author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, published by Hashtag Press

Follow her on Twitter: @UNDERYOURABAYA