Women and the Masjid

The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

DOES the Qur’an Require Masjid Attendance by Women? The answer is no. Neither the Qur’an 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. Some people have tried to use the ayah from Surah al-Ahzab to imply a requirement. The ayah says:: “For the Muslim men and women,- for the believing men and women, for the devout men and women, for the truthful men and women, for the men and women who are patient and constant, for the men and women who humble themselves, for the men and women who give charity, for the men and women who fast, for the men and women who guard their chastity, and for the men and women who are exceedingly mindful of Allah—for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great rewards.” [Al-Ahzab 33: 35]
What this very important ayah tells us is that women and men are equal in being servants of Allah and being responsible for whatever obligations have been placed on them. Allah’s forgiveness and great rewards are open to both men and women as they become sincere believers and devout worshipers, and as they develop qualities of humbleness, chastity, charity, and taqwa. It does not say that their obligations are the same or they work in a coed world. Some people used this alleged quote from the Qur’an: “They (collaborate) to promote all that is good and oppose all that is evil.” [Al-Tawbah 9:71] to make their case. The word “collaborate” has been inserted to suggest that the Qur’an is praising men and women collaborating with each other in a coed campaign. If that is the idea, that is a blatant lie. For the word is not there and it is not implied. The Qur’an is simply asking men and women to command good and forbid evil in their own spheres.
To understand the Qur’an’s view of mixed gatherings, we can turn to this verse: “O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former)” [Al-Hujarat, 49:11]. Here men have been admonished against laughing at other men and women from laughing at other women. But there is no mention of cross gender possibilities. Why? Because in Islam there is no concept of a mixed gathering. So the question of men laughing at women or vice versa simply does not arise.
Some of the ahadith that address the issue of women’s prayers. A) Um Salama, Radi-Allahu anha, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: “The best masjid for women is the innermost part of their houses.” [Ahmad 6/297, Tabrani in Al-Kabeer, Ibn Khuzaima, Mustadrak Hakim 1/209]. B) Um Humayd, the wife of Abu Humayd As-Sa’di, Radi-Allahu anhuma, narrates that she came to the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I love to pray with you. He said, “I know that you love to pray with me, but your prayer in your bayt [e.g. bedroom] is better than your prayer in your hujra [e.g. living room], and your prayer in your hujra is better than your prayer in your daar [e.g. courtyard], and your prayer in your daar is better than your prayer in your neighborhood masjid, and your prayer in your neighborhood masjid is better than your prayer in my masjid.” The narrator says: “So she ordered and a masjid was constructed for her in the farthest and darkest corner of her house, and she continued to pray there until she died.” [Ahmad 6/371, Ibn Khuzaima 3/95, Ibn Hibban 2214]
C) Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Radi-Allahu anhu, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: “No woman prays a prayer more beloved to Allah, than that in the darkest part of her home.” [At-Tabrani in Al-Kabeer. Also Ibn Khuzaimah 3/96] D) Abdullah Ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: “The woman is worth hiding (‘awrat) and when she leaves her home, the Shaytaan raises his glance to her, and she is never closer to Allah than when she is in the innermost part of her home.” [Tabrani in Al-Awsat. For similar ahadith see Tirmidhi, Abwaab-ur-Ridaa’ 1173; Ibn Khuzaima 3/93; Ibn Hibban 5570] E) Abdullah Ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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] F) Abdullah Ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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. #668]
While the advocates of the coed 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. Imam Nawawi’s Commentary on the Hadith prohibiting Stopping Women from Masjid. This last hadith has been used as a justification for an unmitigated and unconditional right of women to fully participate in the main hall of a masjid.

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