“Why Is the Women’s Prayer Area So Small?”: Career Advice from an Architect

I am so thankful to Krisann Rehbein for writing this piece about me and my career in architecture for Newcity. Alhamdulilah (thanks be to God) for all of these wonderful opportunities and for having the most supportive family, friends, and mentors. Chicago is filled with amazing people who are always willing to share advice and help people like myself move forward.

I hope I can have an impact on someone else’s life, like many people did on mine. I recently went to a career fair at a high school, and a bunch of young Muslim girls came up to me and said that they wanted to study architecture or a related field and that some aunties told them it wasn’t the right field for them.

While the fields of medicine, psychology, law, etc. need intelligent men and women all the time, professions like architecture need you too. We work, play, study, worship and live in buildings and urban spaces. Half the time, the discussions at masjids revolve around the buildings themselves:
“Why is the women’s prayer area so small?”

“Why can’t we have a space for youth to do this or that?”

“What does the Masjid of the future look like for our Ummah?”

“What were the Masjid uncles thinking when they thought this would be a good space for this or that?”

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to manage work, kids, family, education all at once. Trust me, I know. But if your parents immigrated many, many miles for you to get a wonderful education, don’t let aunties tell you what to study in school. I recommend you speak to people in the profession you’d like to study and ask every question that comes to mind. That’s what I did, and while I’m still struggling to balance deen, dunya, family, friends, school and work all at once, Allah (swt) continues to bless me with challenges that He knows I can handle. (Shoutout to Surah Ash-Sharĥ, verse six).

I’m not saying to go rebel and disrespect your parents and all those aunties out there — I’m just saying it’s not haraam to pursue your dreams. People have doubts about me being in architecture all the time (heck, even I do), but sometimes you have to kindly explain to your loved ones that it’s not a terrible field. It’s actually pretty wonderful and rewarding.

Every day I pray to be like Khadijah (r.a.a.). From what I recall from my Sunday school teachings, she was a multi-disciplinary, multi-tasking, super successful woman who excelled in her work, at home, and as a Muslim woman.

I pray that all men and women succeed in their careers and are able to balance the many challenges that Allah (swt) blesses us with. And specifically to the women, may we all be like Khadijah (r.a.a.) and may we raise our daughters to follow her footsteps as well.
If anyone ever wants to ask me anything about this stuff (or for advice about being bullied by an aunty), reach out to me. If any aunty or uncle has doubts about their son or daughter studying architecture and design, I’ll happily let you speak to my own mother (may Allah bless her) who raised a graphic designer, a pharmacist, and an architect and never doubted her kids.

Alhamdulilah for everything.

Written by Fariha Wajid