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She May Attend the Jama`ah (Congregational) Prayer in the Mosque

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She May Attend the Jama`ah (Congregational) Prayer in the Mosque

Post by Ithar Ghada Faied on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:07 pm

Islam has excused women from the obligation to attend the jama`ah prayer in the mosque, but at the same time, they are permitted to go out of the house to attend jama`ah on condition that they dress up well enough not to cause any temptation. Indeed, the first Muslim women did go out and pray in the mosque behind the Prophet (PBUH).

`A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to pray fajr, and the believing women would pray with him, wrapped up in their outer garments; then they would go back to their homes, and nobody would recognize them."7
And:

"The believing women used to attend fajr prayer with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), wrapped up in their outer garments. Then they would go back to their homes after they had finished praying, and no one would recognize them because of the darkness."8

The Prophet (PBUH) used to shorten his prayer if he heard a child crying, because he understood the concern the child's mother would be feeling. In a hadith whose authenticity is agreed upon he (PBUH) said:

"I begin the prayer, intending to make it lengthy, but then I hear a child crying, so I shorten my prayer because I know the stress facing the mother because of his crying."9

Allah (SWT) showed great mercy to women by sparing them the obligation to offer the five compulsory prayers in congregation in the mosque. If He had made this obligatory, it would have placed an intolerable burden on women, and they would not have been able to fulfill it, just as we see many men failing to pray regularly in the mosque and finding themselves with no other choice but to pray wherever they are, in the workplace or in the home. The woman's heavy burden of household chores and attending to the needs of her husband and children do not permit her to leave the house five times a day; it would be impossible for her to do so. Thus the wisdom behind the limiting of compulsory attendance at the mosque to men only becomes quite clear. Her prayer at home is described as being better for her than her prayer in the mosque, but Allah (SWT) gives her the freedom of choice: she may pray at home if she wishes, or she may go out to pray in the mosque. If she asks her husband for permission to go out to the mosque, he is not allowed to stop her, as the Prophet (PBUH) stated in a number of hadith, for example:

"Do not stop your women from going to the mosque, although their houses are better for them."10

"If the wife of any of you asks for permission to go to the mosque, do not stop her."11


The men heeded the command of the Prophet (PBUH), and allowed their women to go to the mosque even if this was against their own wishes. There is no clearer indication of this than the hadith of `Abdullah ibn `Umar, in which he said:

"One of `Umar's wives used to pray fajr and `isha' in congregation in the mosque. She was asked, `Why do you go out (to the mosque) when you know that `Umar dislikes this and is a jealous man?' She said, `What is stopping him from forbidding me (to do so)?' He said, `The words of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Do not prevent the female servants of Allah (SWT) from attending the mosques of Allah (SWT)."'"12

In accordance with the Prophet's teaching which allowed women to attend the mosque, and forbade men to stop them from doing so, the mosques were full of women coming and going, both at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), and whenever it was possible in the following periods. Women would come to pray, attend lectures and classes, and take part in the public life of Islam. This was the case from the time congregational prayer was prescribed for the Muslims. The Muslims used to pray in the direction of Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), before the qiblah was changed to the Holy Ka`bah. When the command of Allah (SWT) to take the Ka`bah as their qiblah was revealed, the men and women who were praying were facing towards Palestine, so they turned to face the direction of the Ka`bah, which meant that the men and women had to change places.13

The mosque was, and still is, the center of light and guidance for Muslim men and women; in its pure environment acts of worship are performed and from its mimbar messages of truth and guidance are transmitted. From the dawn of Islam, the Muslim woman has had her role to play in the mosque.

There are many sahih reports, which confirm the woman's presence and role in the mosque. They describe how women attended salat al-jumu`ah, the eclipse prayer, and the Eid prayers, responding to the call of the muezzin to join the prayer.

A report in Sahih Muslim tells us that Umm Hisham bint Harithah ibn al-Nu`man said:

"I never learned `Qaf. Wa'l-Qur'an al-majid . . .', except from the Prophet (PBUH) himself. He used to recite it from the mimbar every Friday, when he addressed the people."14

Imam Muslim also narrates that the sister of `Amrah bint `Abd al-Rahman said:

"I learned `Qaf. Wa'l-Qur'an al-majid . . .' from the Prophet (PBUH) himself on Fridays, when he used to recite it from the mimbar every Friday."15

The Prophet (PBUH) taught the Muslims to prepare themselves and present a neat and clean appearance at jumu'ah prayers by encouraging both men and women to take a shower (ghusl):

"Whoever comes to jumu'ah, man or woman, should take a shower first."16

Hadith reports also tell us that Asma' bint Abi Bakr (May Allah be pleased with her) attended the eclipse prayer (salat al-kusuf) with the Prophet (PBUH). She could not hear the Prophet's words clearly, so she asked a man who was nearby what he was saying. This hadith is reported by Bukhari from As' herself:
"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) stood up to address us (after the eclipse prayer), and spoke about the testing that a person will undergo in the grave. When he mentioned that, the Muslims panicked somewhat, and this prevented me from hearing the latter part of the Prophet's speech. When the hubbub died down, I asked a man who was nearby, `May Allah bless you, what did the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say at the end of his speech?' He said, `"It has been revealed to me that you will be tested in the grave with something similar in severity to the test (fitnah) of the Dajjal . . ."'17


Bukhari and Muslim also narrate another report from Asma', in which she says:

"There was a solar eclipse at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) . . . I finished what I was doing, then I came to the mosque. I saw the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) standing (in prayer), so I joined him. He stood for so long that I felt I needed to sit down, but I noticed a woman who looked weak and tired and said to myself: This woman is weaker than I, so I must continue to stand. Then he bowed, and remained in that position for a long time; then he raised his head and stood for such a long time that anyone who came in at this point would think that he had not yet bowed in ruku`. He completed the prayer when the eclipse was over, then he addressed the people, praising and glorifying Allah (SWT), and saying `Amma ba`d.'"18


During that golden era, the time of the Prophet (PBUH), the Muslim woman knew about her religion and was keen to understand the events and affairs that concerned the Muslims in this world and the next. When she heard the call to prayer, she would rush to the mosque to hear the words of the Prophet (PBUH) from the minbar, guiding and teaching the people. Fatimah bint Qays, one of the earliest migrant women (muhajirat), said:

"The people were called to prayer, so I rushed with the others to the mosque, and prayed with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). I was in the first row of women, which was just behind the last row of men."19


It is clear, from the sahih reports quoted above, that Muslim women attended the mosque on various occasions and that this attendance was an approved custom at the time of the Prophet (PBUH). Once, a woman was attacked on her way to the mosque, but this incident did not make the Prophet (PBUH) have any reservations about allowing women to go out to the mosque. He still allowed them to do so, and forbade men to prevent them, because there was so much benefit - spiritual, mental and otherwise - for them in attending the mosque from time to time.
Wa'il al-Kindi reported that a woman was assaulted by a man in the darkness of the early morning, whilst she was on her way to the mosque. She shouted to a passer-by for help, then a large group of people came by, and she called to them for help. They seized the man to whom she had first called for help, and her attacker ran away. They brought the (innocent) man to her, and he said, "I am the one who answered your call for help; the other man got away." They brought him to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), and told him that this man had assaulted the woman, and they had seized him whilst he was running away. The man said, "I was the one who answered her call for help against her attacker, but these people seized me and brought me here." The woman said, "He is lying; he is the one who attacked me." The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "Take him away and stone him." Then a man stood up and said, "Do not stone him, stone me, for I am the one who did it." Now the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) had three people before him: the one who had assaulted the woman, the one who had answered her cries for help and the woman herself. He told the attacker, "As for you, Allah (SWT) has forgiven you," and he spoke kind words to the one who had helped the woman. `Umar said, "Stone the one who has admitted to the crime of adultery." The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "No, for he has repented to Allah (SWT)" - I think he said, "with an act of repentance so great that if the people of Madinah were to repent in this way, it would be accepted from them."20


The Prophet (PBUH) appreciated the circumstances of the women who attended the congregational prayers, so he used to be kind to them and would shorten the prayer if he heard a child crying, so that the mother would not become distressed - as we have seen in the hadith quoted above (see p. 9). Once he delayed the `isha' prayer, and `Umar (RAA) called him saying:

"The woman and children have gone to sleep." The Prophet (PBUH) came out and said, "No-one on earth is waiting for this prayer except you."21


Many sahih reports describe how the Prophet (PBUH) used to organize women's attendance at congregational prayers, for example, the hadith reported by Muslim:

"The best rows for men are those at the front, and the worst are those at the back; the best rows for women are those at the back, and the worst are those at the front."22

Another hadith, reported by Bukhari, deals with giving the women room to leave the mosque before the men, after the prayer is over. Hind bint al-Harith said that Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH), told her that at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), when the obligatory prayer was over, the women would get up to leave, and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and the men who were with him would wait as long as Allah (SWT) willed. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) got up to leave, then the men would get up.23

Bukhari and Muslim also report a hadith concerning how women should draw the imam's attention to something during the prayer by clapping. Sahl ibn Sa'd al-Sa'idi said:

"The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, `Why do I see you clapping so much? Whoever notices any error in my prayer should say "Subhan Allah ," for by doing so he will alert me to the error. Clapping is only for women.'"24

The number of women who attended the mosque increased daily until - at the time of the Abbasids - they filled the courtyard of the mosque, and men would have no choice but to pray behind them. This was the verdict (fatwa) of Imam Malik, as recorded in al-Mudawwanah al-Kubra: Ibn al-Qasim said, `I asked Malik about people who come to the mosque and find the courtyard (of the mosque) filled with women, and the mosque itself filled with men: may those men pray with the imam behind the women?" Malik said: "Their prayer is valid; they do not have to repeat it."25

But women going out to the mosque should not be a cause of fitnah, and women should behave in accordance with Islamic teachings of purity of thought and behavior. If for any reason there is the fear of fitnah associated with women going out to the mosque, then it is better for women to pray at home, and they should do so. This is what is indicated by the hadith of Ibn `Umar, quoted above, in which the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Do not stop your women from going to the mosque, although their houses are better for them." (See p. 10)

It appears that some men feared the possibility of fitnah, and took this as an excuse to forbid their women to go to the mosque. This is why the Prophet (PBUH) forbade men to prevent women from attending the mosque from time to time. This is what is indicated in the first part of the hadith quoted above. Other Hadith confirm the Prophet's keenness for women to attend gatherings in the mosque, for example, the report of Mujahid ibn `Umar:

"The Prophet (PBUH) said: `Do not prevent the women from going to the mosque at night' One of the sons of `Abdullah ibn `Umar said, `We will not let them go out because it will give rise to deviation and suspicion.' Ibn `Umar rebuked him and said, `I tell you that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said such-and-such and you say, "No, we will not let them"!'"26

Bilal ibn `Abdullah ibn `Umar reported from his father that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Do not deny the women their share of the mosque, if they ask your permission." Bilal said, "By Allah (SWT), we will most certainly prevent them (from going to the mosque)!" `Abdullah (his father) said to him: "I tell you that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said such-and-such, and you say `We will most certainly prevent them'!"27

The Prophet (PBUH) said:

"Do not prevent your women from attending the mosque if they seek your permission to do so."28

"Do not prevent the female servants of Allah (SWT) from attending the mosques of Allah (SWT)."29

"If your womenfolk seek your permission to go to the mosque, then let them do so."30

It is permissible for Muslim women to attend the gatherings of the Muslims in the mosque, and there is much to be gained from them doing so, but certain conditions apply to this permission, the most important of which is that the woman who goes to the mosque should not wear perfume or make-up. Zaynab al-Thaqafiyyah reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:

"If any of you (women) wishes to attend `isha' prayer, she should not wear perfume that night."31

Numerous other Hadith also forbid women to wear perfume when they go to the mosque, for example:

"If any of you (women) goes to the mosque, she should not wear perfume."32

"Any women who has perfumed herself with incense should not attend `isha' prayers with us."33
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Ithar Ghada Faied
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