Women and the Masjid

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The Spirit Of Islam
Khalid Baig
LET us take a careful and balanced look at the role of the masjid and that of our sisters in it according to Islamic teachings. Does the Quran require Masjid attendance by women? The answer is no. Neither the Quran nor the Hadith make it a religious obligation for women to pray in a masjid. It is permitted, with conditions, as we shall see below. But it is never required.
Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA), narrates that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), said: “Do not prevent your women from (entering) the mosques, but their houses are better for them.” [Abu Dawud Kitab-us-Salat. Bab Ma Jaa’a fi Khuroojin-nisaa-i ilal Masjid]. Abdullah Ibn Umar (RA), narrates that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), said: “Do not prevent your women from (entering) the mosques of Allah.” [Sahih Muslim. Kitab-us-Salat, Babu Khuroojin Nisaai ilal masjid iza lam utarattab.]
From these hadith and other ahadith like this it appears that women should not be prohibited from the masjid, but with conditions that the scholars have mentioned and which are deduced from ahadith and these are: (1) She should not wear any perfume. (2) She should not be wearing jingling jewellery. (3) She should not be wearing fancy clothes. (4) She should not mix with the men. (5) The path to the masjid should be safe (i.e. there should be no fear of any problem on her way to and from the masjid).
Certainly there are authentic reports that tell us that women did attend the prayers at the masjid during the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). But they do not support the overall picture being painted by the mixed masjid campaigners. Regarding women’s prayers in the masjid, we get this account: Hazrat Aishah (RA), narrates that the Prophet (PBUH), used to pray Fajr at dusk and then the women would leave immediately without being recognised because of darkness and they would not recognise each other. [Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Azan Bab Sur’ati Insiraaf-inisaai min as-subh]
Another thing to keep in mind is the well-established Islamic juristic principle of blocking the means to sin. In life often one thing leads to another. An act of sin is not an isolated event but is preceded by chains of other events, which facilitate it. Therefore, Islam does not just forbid the final act, but also the preceding acts that can lead to it. There are hundreds of laws in Islamic jurisprudence that are based on this important principle. Consider alcohol. All its problems arise from its consumption. But Islam banned not just consumption of alcohol, but also making it, storing it, selling it, offering it, and even eating at a table where it is being served. This is blocking the means. One only needs to look at the spectacular success that Islam had in prohibiting alcohol and keeping the lands of Islam dry compared to the miserable failure of other societies in achieving that goal to appreciate the wisdom of the Islamic teachings.
Islam’s laws of purdah follow the same principle. Ultimately, it is the illicit extramarital relationships that are prohibited. But Islam does not limit itself to banning this final result. It also prohibits a number of other practices that could lead to this final sin. Again, the result speaks for itself. For centuries, Islam has provided an atmosphere of chastity and decency in its societies that remains unmatched by any other society. And this has been accomplished through the same laws of purdah and segregation of sexes that are under attack today.
As has been shown above, the case for a full and equal participation by men and women without barriers in the main hall of the masjid, therefore, has no foundation in the Shariah. However, women may have genuine needs for using the masjid and they have been permitted to do so. It is the responsibility of the administrators of a masjid to see to it that these needs are met by providing them with a safe, protected, and private space. Where women are denied entry in the masjid, or where they are required to enter the main hall, the situation should be corrected.
While the advocates of the mixed masjid claim that they are asserting the rights of women, they are in fact denying the right of a private space to both men and women. Masjid is the pivot for the Muslim community. It has to be the place that sets the standards for proper behaviour. It is the responsibility of everyone to protect it from all corruption, including the one promoted in the name of reform. — Courtesy: Albalagh.com