Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said: I know that you love to pray with me, but praying in your house is better for you than praying in your courtyard, and praying in your courtyard is better for you than praying in the mosque of your people, and praying in the mosque of your people is better for you than praying in my mosque.
Imam Nawawi (RA): 7 conditions for women attending Mosques
قوله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - : ( لا تمنعوا إماء الله مساجد الله ) هذا وشبهه من أحاديث الباب ظاهر في أنها لا تمنع المسجد لكن بشروط ذكرها العلماء مأخوذة من الأحاديث ، وهو ألا تكون متطيبة ، ولا متزينة ، ولا ذات خلاخل يسمع صوتها ، ولا ثياب فاخرة ، ولا مختلطة بالرجال ، ولا شابة ونحوها ممن يفتتن بها ، وأن لا يكون في الطريق ما يخاف به مفسدة ونحوها . وهذا النهي عن منعهن من الخروج محمول على كراهة التنزيه إذا كانت المرأة ذات زوج أو سيد ووجدت الشروط المذكورة ، فإن لم يكن لها زوج ولا سيد حرم المنع إذا وجدت الشروط
1 She should not use any perfume;
2 She should not beautify herself;
3 She should not wear any Jewellary which makes jingling sounds;
4 She should not wear beautified clothing;
5 She should not mix with men;
6 She should not be young so Fitnah can result (from her emerging from home and going to Mosque);
7 The road/path to the Mosque should be safe
Shaykh (Mufti) Saeed Ahmed Palanpuri (HA)
Question: What is the Injunction for women attending Mosques?
Women should not come to the Mosque but there are two reasons why women attend the Mosques in America. Firstly, it is the law that planning permission for the Mosques will not be granted unless there are areas for prayers for women. It is because the equality is also enforced upon Muslims. Secondly, is the lack of support, loneliness and security concerns which may adversely affect women.
In Toronto, I asked a person as to why he brings his wife to the Mosque when he is Deobandi? He replied that he has a large house and there is no one else in the house besides his wife and I am concerned about her wellbeing (while being alone) at home for nearly two hours while I return from the Mosque. This is a valid concern for someone to be alone at (a large) house. When there are children around it alleviates loneliness but being alone in a house is a valid concern.
I understood these concerns. In our country some of these concerns don’t exist and the entire neighbourhood is like a single household. In your country, the neighbour on the left doesn’t know the one on the right and the neighbour on the right doesn’t know the neighbour on the left. We leave home for two months and don’t have any concern (on account of good neighbours) but the position of the (West) is different.
We don’t say anything about women attending Mosques in these countries, if they are attending let them attend. Your question concerns a system and it should be adopted and practised at home and not at the Mosques.
Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (HA)
Question: What is the Injunction for women attending Mosques?
We are aware of the saying of Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) where he stated that their praying in house is better than praying in the courtyard. Their praying in the courtyard is better than praying in the Mosque.
Therefore Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) himself clarified that there is no virtue in women going to congregational (prayer) or travelling to join a congregation.
Virtue or excellence in an action is derived from the commands of Allah (SWT) or sayings of Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam), we can’t derive virtue or excellence in actions based on our own account.
The methodology recommended by Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) was for the women to remain in their homes (for the purpose of prayer). However, since it was the time of great blessings did permit Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) for women to pray behind him. The mechanism of women attending Mosques is explained by Sayyida Aisha (RA) that women used to come during the dark, while fully covered to such an extent that they were unidentifiable and even then it was not declared to be a virtue (or a matter of excellence).
Then the circumstances changed due to which Sayyiduna Umar (RA) absolutely forbade women from coming to the Mosque and Sayyida Aisha (RA) stated that if Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) had witnessed the events of our time they may have also prohibited this matter like Sayyiduna Umar (RA).
Therefore, it is not appropriate for women to attend Mosques for regular prayers (or Friday Prayers) and they should be discouraged.
Having said that, I would like to add two things.
1 Firstly, it is liked and appreciated for women to go out to learn the teachings of their religion provided that they follow the rules and regulations of Hijab. For example, there is a Lesson or a speech about Islam, women can go out and attend it.
2 Secondly, in these days women go out shopping and for women who pray, they are unable to find places to worship. Therefore if there are arrangements made within Mosques to accommodate women (who are already outdoors) and the time for Salah has arrived and she will miss her prayers by the time of getting home, arrangements for them to pray then there is nothing wrong with that.
Shaykh (Maulana) Marghoob Ahmed Lajpuri (HA)
While we are talking about the issues pertaining to Janazah (funeral) and women, let’s also discuss women coming to the Mosque and praying.
The Qur’aan emphatically commands the women:
وَقَرۡنَ فِى بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجۡنَ تَبَرُّجَ ٱلۡجَـٰهِلِيَّةِ ٱلۡأُولَىٰۖ
[33:33] And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance...
The word used in the Qur’aan “Qarn” specifies that the women should find abode in their homes. Thus you should abide in your homes and not roam around like the times of first (times) of (Jahilliyah) ignorance. Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (HA) has written that the Qur’aan has talked about first (times) of (Jahilliyah) ignorance and this implies that there will be second wave of (Jahilliyah) ignorance. The vulgarity of our times (Jahilliyah) ignorance has trumped the original (Jahilliyah) ignorance, just look at the clothing of the women of our times. The Qur’aan commanded them to abide in their homes in contrast to the first original (Jahilliyah) ignorance.
I would like for you to ponder about the situation when this verse was revealed. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) is present and his Mosque is thriving and there is no dispute or disagreement in the virtues of Masjidun-Nabawi, lets discuss two traditions
The reward of 50,000 is a weak tradition
حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامُ بْنُ عَمَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْخَطَّابِ الدِّمَشْقِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا رُزَيْقٌ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الأَلْهَانِيُّ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ " صَلاَةُ الرَّجُلِ فِي بَيْتِهِ بِصَلاَةٍ وَصَلاَتُهُ فِي مَسْجِدِ الْقَبَائِلِ بِخَمْسٍ وَعِشْرِينَ صَلاَةً وَصَلاَتُهُ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الَّذِي يُجَمَّعُ فِيهِ بِخَمْسِمِائَةِ صَلاَةٍ وَصَلاَةٌ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى بِخَمْسِينَ أَلْفِ صَلاَةٍ وَصَلاَةٌ فِي مَسْجِدِي بِخَمْسِينَ أَلْفِ صَلاَةٍ وَصَلاَةٌ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ بِمِائَةِ أَلْفِ صَلاَةٍ " .
Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon Him) said: ‘A man’s prayer in his house is equal (in reward) to one prayer; his prayer in the mosque of the tribes is equal to twenty-five prayers; his prayer in the mosque in which Friday prayer is offered is equal to five-hundred prayers; his prayer in Aqsa Mosque is equal to fifty thousand prayers; his prayer in my mosque is equal to fifty thousand prayers; and his prayer in the Sacred Mosque is equal to one hundred thousand prayers.‘ [Ibn Majah]
The reward of 1000 is an authentic tradition.
عَنْ جَابِرٍ رضي الله عنه أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : ( صَلَاةٌ فِي مَسْجِدِي أَفْضَلُ مِنْ أَلْفِ صَلَاةٍ فِيمَا سِوَاهُ إِلَّا الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ ، وَصَلَاةٌ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ مِائَةِ أَلْفِ صَلَاةٍ فِيمَا سِوَاهُ ).
Sayyiduna Jaabir (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon Him) said: ‘One prayer in my mosque is better than one thousand prayers elsewhere, except al-Masjid al-Haraam, and one prayer in al-Masjid al-Haraam is better than one hundred thousand prayers elsewhere.‘ [Ibn Majah]
The reward of praying in Masjidun-Nabawi is established, the Imam is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) himself but he still advised for women to stay at home and offer their prayers. Just imagine the scene that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) is physically present, revelation is coming down, new injunctions are being revealed so there is a need for women to come and listen to these injunctions fist hand and yet they were advised to pray at home. The era was blessed and purified and so were the people of the era and yet women were instructed to pray at home.
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ كَثِيرٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ مَنْصُورٍ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ عَبِيدَةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " خَيْرُ النَّاسِ قَرْنِي، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ، ثُمَّ يَجِيءُ أَقْوَامٌ تَسْبِقُ شَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ يَمِينَهُ، وَيَمِينُهُ شَهَادَتَهُ ". قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ وَكَانُوا يَضْرِبُونَنَا عَلَى الشَّهَادَةِ وَالْعَهْدِ.
Sayyiduna Abdullah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon Him) said: ‘The people of my generation are the best, then those who follow them, and then whose who follow the latter. After that there will come some people whose witness will go ahead of their oaths, and their oaths will go ahead of their witness." Ibrahim (a sub-narrator) said, "We used to be beaten for taking oaths by saying, 'I bear witness by the Name of Allah or by the Covenant of Allah.‘ [Bukhari]
Then comes a time when women were permitted to come to the Mosque but this permission was conditional and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) had placed many conditions. Collectively, there are seven conditions before women can come to the Mosque but Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) still stated his preference for them to pray at home. It is a well-known incident and narrated as follows:
عن أم حميد امرأة أبي حميد الساعدي : " أنها جاءت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالت : يا رسول الله إني أحب الصلاة معك قال : قد علمت أنك تحبين الصلاة معي وصلاتك في بيتك خير لك من صلاتك في حجرتك وصلاتك في حجرتك خير من صلاتك في دارك وصلاتك في دارك خير لك من صلاتك في مسجد قومك وصلاتك في مسجد قومك خير لك من صلاتك في مسجدي ، قال : فأمرت فبني لها مسجد في أقصى شيء من بيتها وأظلمه فكانت تصلي فيه حتى لقيت الله عز وجل " . رواه أحمد
It was narrated that sayyida Umm Humayd the wife of Abu Humayd al-Saa’idi came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and said, “O Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him), I like to pray with you.” He said, “I know that you like to pray with me, but your prayer in your room is better for you than your prayer in your courtyard and your prayer in your courtyard is better for you than your praying in your house, and your prayer in your house is better for you than your prayer in the mosque of your people, and your prayer in the mosque of your people is better for you than your prayer in my mosque.” So she issued orders that a prayer-place be prepared for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she used to pray there until she met Allah (i.e., died).”[Ahmed]
I want to emphasise this Mas’ala as many of our people either don’t know it or have become oblivious to it. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) is categorically stating to her that her prayer at her neighbourhood (local) Mosque is superior to her prayers at Masjidun-Nabawi behind Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and then her prayer at home is superior to her prayer at her neighbourhood (local) Mosque. Her fondness was to pray behind Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) while the preference of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) was for her to pray at home. My mothers, sisters and daughters sacrifice your likeness/fondness upon the preference of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and you will get be better rewarded.
It has become a custom of our times for women to prat at the Mosque and know that the superior and most preferred option for them is to still pray at Home. Some people present the logic that since women have already emerged from home and are outdoors anyways what is the harm of them being at the Mosque? I say that the Mosque should be a place where the rules of Shariah are sanctified and the prayer of a woman at her home is much superior to her prayer at the Mosque. It is forbidden for her to emerge from her home without fulfilling the conditions and stipulations laid down in the Islamic Shariah.
When she wears perfume and emerges outside of her home she is cursed, how can it bring any blessings and rewards?
However, in each city and town there should be Mosques which should accommodate women. In our town near the Market there should be accommodation for women to pray because they may be out and have a need to be able to do Wudhu and pray. Fuqaha have written that Mosques near stations etc should have facilities for women to pray to accommodate their needs, this would also apply to Mosques near bus stations.
One of our elder Muftees, Mufti Abdur-Rahman Aazmi (HA) came to Bradford so I went to see him. He told me that I wrote a Fatwa that it is not permissible for women to attend Mosques and they should pray at home. I then went to Muradabad with my wife and went to the Mosque after Fajar time when Jamaat had finished. The Muaddhin was standing there and he prevented my wife from entering the Mosque, we explained that we are travelling but he refused and said that I have the Fatwa of Mufti Abdur-Rahman Aazmi (HA) and women cannot enter the Mosque. I told him that I am Mufti Abdur-Rahman Aazmi (HA) so he took us in a room to pray. Mufti Abdur-Rahman Aazmi (HA) then proceeded to say that it occurred to me that when I write Fatwaas in the future I should make it clear that there should be designated spaces for women to pray. A Sister from Dewsbury told me that she went in full Niqab to another city with her father and she was refused entry in 3 Mosques, she then saw a house with a sticker and assumed them to be Muslims so she knocked and they welcomes her to pray in their house. This is exaggeration and extremism and there should be designated spaces for women to pray. However, it is not the intent of Islam for women to come to the Mosque in five daily prayers, at Taraweeh, at Jumuah , at Eid etc.
Shaykh (Mufti) Tariq Masood (HA)
I would like to elaborate this issue in some detail as evidences exist on both sides of the argument. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) has stated in Saheeh Bukhari and women should not be prevented from going to the Mosques. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) has also mentioned that the Salah of women is better at her home. Reconciling the two together, it has always been the opinion of Jamhoor of Ulama that it is permissible for women to attend Mosques for any prayer but it will not be encouraged. Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) was of the opinion that due to changing circumstances, women should be prevented from attending the Mosque. This prevention is not due to opposition of Qur’aan and Sunnah but he believed that Hadeeth which gave permission had associated conditions and these conditions are being eroded and being violated and the time is not like that of the Sahaba (RA). Sayyida Aisha (RA) had the same opinion as that of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) as she has said:
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ يُوسُفَ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا مَالِكٌ، عَنْ يَحْيَى بْنِ سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ عَمْرَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ لَوْ أَدْرَكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَا أَحْدَثَ النِّسَاءُ لَمَنَعَهُنَّ كَمَا مُنِعَتْ نِسَاءُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ. قُلْتُ لِعَمْرَةَ أَوَ مُنِعْنَ قَالَتْ نَعَمْ.
Sayyida Aisha (RA) Had Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from going to the mosque as the women of Bani Israel had been forbidden. Yahya bin Sa`id (a sub-narrator) asked `Amra (another sub-narrator), "Were the women of Bani Israel forbidden?" She replied "Yes." [Bukhari]
Sayyida Aisha (RA) was commenting on the women of her time. Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) looked at the lesser evil and looked at limiting the damage due to increased corruption of his time.In his (RA)’s view the greater evil was for women to come to the Mosque when there is no specific encouragement for them to come to the Mosque. This is the original opinion and the synopsis of the Hanafi Madhab and details of prohibition of women coming to the Mosque.
I would like to give a personal opinion on the matter for the people of knowledge to ponder upon. The official Fatwa is what will be sent from here (Jamiatur-Rasheed).
In our times women are out and about, studying at Darul-ulooms etc while at the time of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) they were confined to home. Since women are already out, to prohibit their entry into the Mosque should be considered again (since the circumstances have changed). The counter argument of some is that they are not asking our permission to venture outdoors (from home) so why should we let them into the Mosque, I counter by saying that they are outside (with or without permission) and it is the situation on the ground. Fitnah has occurred and Mosque was a place of Khair (good), in earlier times women stayed at home and they learned all the Khair (good) from home or could have learned it at home. Things which were associated with the Mosque, they learned it at home. Now, woman are unable to learn their religion at home. Women who are able to learn their religion at home, they should not come to the Mosque. They get Facebook, WhatsApp, TV and entertainment at home and their connection from the Mosque is being detrimentally weakened. If you counter the argument by saying that there are religious programs on TV then take a look at the (absurdity and quality) of these TV shows!
The basis of the (original) position of the Hanafi Madhab was based on minimising the Fitnah (and corruption). The original injunction of prevention was due to corruption (of those times). I put forth that if there is more evil in not coming and less evil in allowing women to come then according to the same Hanafi Madhab permission will be granted for them to come to the Mosque. They would be “permitted” to attend and not “commanded” to attend. Some people say that if they were prevented in earlier times then how can they be allowed in our times? I accept that Fitnah is more in our times and there is no doubt but preventing them from Mosque is a bigger Fitnah because their connection with Islam will weaken and may be damaged. I have observed that areas where women are allowed to attend the Mosques, their connection with Islam is stronger. The nature and mechanics of the Fitnah has changed in our times. I believe that if Sayyida Aisha (RA) made a statement considering the circumstances of her time than the statement of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) can also be interpreted to say that if he would have witnessed the conditions and circumstances of our times, he (RA) would have permitted women to attend the Mosque.
Shaykh (Mufti) Muhammad Ibn Adam (HA)
Question: In the area that I live in, there is a big problem. There are about 20 Mosques within 5 miles but only a handful allows women to come for prayers. I know that it’s better for women to pray at home but I think facilities should be provided. Sisters go shopping with husbands and the men go for salah on the way and the women can only stay in the car. In winter, within a couple of hours Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib is prayed. The sisters then just do Qadha. How can I sort out the situation? I am deobandi but find it very hard to accept this. What do the deobandi scholars say about this?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Generally, the major Fatawa books of the Indian Subcontinent Hanafi jurists (fuqaha) discourage (quite vehemently at times) women from attending and praying at Mosques. They base their understanding on the fact that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) in many Hadiths encouraged women to offer their prayers at home, for example:
Sayyida Umm Salama (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The best Mosque for a woman is the inner part of her home.” (Musnad Ahmad & Tabrani)
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Do not prevent your womenfolk from attending the Mosque, even though their houses are better for them.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
Sayyida Umm Salama (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “A woman’s prayer in her inner room is better than her prayer in the outside room, and her prayer in the outside room is better than her prayer in the courtyard, and her prayer in the courtyard is better than her prayer in the Mosque.” (Mu’jam of Imam Tabrani)
Indeed, women in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did attend congregational prayers in the Mosque, and they were not prevented from doing so. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself advised against preventing women from attending congregational prayers, for example:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “If your wives seek permission from you to go to the Mosque at night, let them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 827)
Salim narrates from his father that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “If the wife of any one of you seeks permission to go to the Mosque, he may not prevent her.” (Sahih Muslim, no: 442)
However, the understanding of the various classical and contemporary Hanafi Fuqaha is that women in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had the unique opportunity of praying behind the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself- an act that cannot be paralleled today. Secondly, they used to observe all the requirements of Shariah including those of proper covering (hijab), hence they were not prohibited from attending the congregational prayers. Despite this, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) still advised and encouraged them to pray in their homes.
Sayyiduna Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) in his time felt that the concession given to women for attending the congregational prayers in the Mosque is sometimes being misused and could be misused even more in the future. He felt that women were no longer taking care of the Shariah requirements as they used to in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and he was also aware of the fact that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) advised women to offer their prayers at home. Hence, keeping all of the above in mind, he issued a verdict that women should no longer attend congregational prayers in the Masjid, and this decision of his was collectively accepted by the other Companions. (See: Ayni, Umdat al-Qari, 3/228)
Similarly, Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) used to refuse women entry to the Mosque for Friday prayers and would say: “Go, your homes are better for you.” (Recorded by Imam Tabrani. See: al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, 1/190)
Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) said: “If the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was alive to see what women are doing now (in A’isha’s time), he would surely have prevented them from attending the prayers in the Mosque just as the women of Banu Isra’il were prevented.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
The renowned Hadith scholar and Hanafi jurist, Imam Badr al-Din al-Ayni (Allah have mercy on him) states whilst commentating on the above statement of Sayyida A’isha: “Had A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) witnessed what women are involved in the various types of innovations and wrongdoings these days, she would have been even more extreme in her preventing women from entering the Mosques……Also the fact that there had not been a long time between her statement and the demise of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and also the fact that women in her time were not involved in even one portion of a thousand of what women are up to these days.” (Umdat al-Qari, 3/230)
Based on the above, the various classical Hanafi Fuqaha (and also the majority of the contemporary Hanafi Ulama of the Subcontinent) state that it is disliked (makruh) for women, whether married or single, to go to the Mosque for congregational prayers.
Imam al-Kasani (Allah have mercy on him) states: “It will not be permitted for young women to go to the Mosque for congregational prayers due to the fact that Sayyiduna Umar (Allah be pleased with him) prevented women from doing so. Moreover, women’s going to the Masjid is a cause of mischief (between men and women) and mischief (fitna) is Haram, and that which leads to something Haram will also be unlawful.” (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 1/157)
Another classical Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states: “It is disliked for women to attend congregational prayers in the Mosque even for the Eid and Jumu’a prayers, and even for old women attending night prayers, according to the more reliable position in the Hanafi School, due to the corruption of the time.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/566)
It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya: “The Fatwa these days is that it is disliked for women to go to the Mosque for all prayers, due to widespread corruption.” (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1/56)
Based on all of the above evidences, and based on what the classical Hanafi Fuqaha have stated in their respective works, the majority of the contemporary Hanafi Fuqaha of the Subcontinent consider women attending the congregational prayers in the Mosque to be disliked if not disallowed. Their stance is not based on any cultural values or customs (as some people wrongfully believe); rather, they are merely reinforcing what the 'classical' Hanafi jurists have stated. Thus, to point fingers at them saying they are culturally oriented is indeed doing injustice to them.
Having said all of the above, the following is worth considering:
In my humble view (and who am I to have a viewpoint, hence what I intend to mention is merely through the blessings of my teachers), the main reasoning behind the classical Fuqaha’s dislike of women going to the Mosques for congregational prayers is the fear of what they term as “Fitna”. The term Fitna means: mischief, harm, corruption and generally the non-observance of the Shariah rulings. Almost all of the classical jurists state that due to widespread mischief and corruption, women no longer should be going for congregational prayers. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself never forbade women from attending the Mosques; rather, he said that women should not be prevented from entering the Mosques. Hence, the jurists (fuqaha) have based their ruling on the position of Sayyiduna Umar and Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with them both), and their position was based on the fear of mischief and harm.
They saw that corruption was rife and widespread in their time; hence, women may be harmed by immoral and corrupt people if they emerged out of their homes. They feared that if women are encouraged to go to the Mosques, it could open the door for unlawful intermingling of the two sexes. The main reason, however, was the fear of women being harmed, as pointed out by Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) in his renowned Radd al-Muhtar and other classical Fuqaha. This is the very reason why some classical Fuqaha permitted old women to attend the Fajr and Eisha prayers, for the immoral and wicked people are asleep at that time. Some even allowed them to go for Maghrib prayers, for the immoral people are normally busy eating at that time. Imam Ibn Abidin then states that if there is a fear of the wicked people loitering around in these prayers times, then it will be disliked for women to go for these prayers also. (Radd al-Muhtar, 1/566)
One should always keep in mind the context in which the Fuqaha were giving such verdicts. Life was very plain and simple. Women in Muslim countries and Islamic societies would normally not emerge out of their homes unless absolutely necessary. The need to emerge out of the house was not like the need we have in today’s complicated world. Hence, Muslim women would remain within the confines of their homes, and emerge outside only in certain unavoidable situations.
Keeping this context in mind, one can easily understand why the classical Fuqaha gave such verdicts. By allowing women to frequent the Mosques, they would be giving women permission to emerge out of their homes - women who would have otherwise not emerged outside. Thus, they feared that Muslim women normally do not come out of their homes, and in allowing (and encouraging) them to go to the Mosque, there is a possibility that evil and wicked people may jump at the chance of harming them.
If we were to apply this context to the modern era - where women are all over the market areas, shopping malls, shopping centres, streets and roads - it seems unfair to completely shun them from entering the Mosques. As one scholar of piety and knowledge once said: “We don’t mind women frequenting the most disliked of places in the sight of Allah (abghad al-Bilad) which are the bazaars (aswaq), but we have a major problem with women coming to the most beloved of places (ahab al-Bilad) in the sight of Allah, which are the Mosques!
Therefore, when women are allowed to go to the Bazaars, markets, shopping malls and other such places (and justifiably in many cases), then it does not seem right to completely shun them from coming to the Mosques. The main wisdom behind the position of the classical jurists was the fear of harm and corruption, and in the modern times women (Muslim, non-Muslim, practising and non-practising) are all over the place, hence if evil and wicked people would want to cause any harm to them, they would surely look out for them at other places rather than the Mosques. Also, women generally would be safe in our times from being harmed whilst going to the Mosques.
Secondly, at times there may be a genuine need for women to go to the Mosques, such as when travelling and the prayer time is about to come to an end. There have been many cases where a sister had to miss her prayer, for there were no facilities for women to pray in the Mosque. At times, women may need to go to the Mosque to learn sacred knowledge, attend a spiritual gathering and other such matters, hence she may need to pray her Salat in the Mosque.
Keeping the above in mind, and given the times we are living in, I believe that both of the following two extremist approaches should be avoided with regards to women going to Mosques, and we should adopt the middle way, as “the best of ways is the middle way”:
Some people are quite extreme in their support and encouragement for women attending congregational prayers to the point that they consider women who wish to pray at home to be deprived of the blessings and benefits of praying in the Mosque. At times, men and women are seen praying in the Mosque in such an informal and casual manner that the rules of Shariah are overlooked. The rules of Hijab are violated and men and women are quite willing to intermingle freely and openly in the Mosque. They think that actions are according to their intentions; hence, even if the means taken are unsound, it seems not matter to them. In some Mosques, on the occasion of Eid and other celebrations, women and men dress like they are attending some sort of a fashion show, with the women dressed up in all their make up and powerful fragrance.
This was actually what Sayyiduna Umar and Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with them both) were thinking of when they prevented women from going to the Mosques. One should always remember that “ends don’t justify the means” hence it is vital that in order to do an act of good, one must take means that are sound also. Open and casual intermingling of the sexes is prohibited in Shariah; hence, it will not be permitted for women to go to the Mosque in such a context.
On the other hand, we see that some people are quite extreme in preventing women from attending the Mosques that they don’t even have a designated place for women to pray. If a sister was travelling and was out of the house due to a need, and the time for prayer came in, what would she do? In many cases, women are forced into knocking on people’s doors to allow them to pray. If they are unsuccessful, they have no choice but to miss their prayers. This is another form of extremism which I believe should be avoided.
The middle way is that women should be encouraged to offer their regular prayers at home, and not come to the Mosque habitually without having a need to do so. At the same time, every Masjid should have facilities for a woman’s prayer area, so that if a sister is travelling she is able to make Wudu and offer her prayers without having to miss her prayers altogether. In the case of women coming to the Mosque, extreme care and precaution should be taken of observing the rules of Hijab, so that there is no fear of any Fitna. Both brothers and sisters should have separate entrances, and open intermingling of the two genders must be avoided. Sisters should also be wary that going to the Mosque should not lead to the non-fulfilment of their other household duties.
I believe this is the balanced approach that may be adopted in the west given the times we live in. Ultimately, the main objective of the slave, male or female, is to seek the pleasure of Allah Most High and not satisfy one’s own desire and wish. Hence, one should be content with the command of Allah Most High and His beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace) whether it suits one or otherwise. Therefore, Muslim women should understand that praying at home is just as equal in the sight of Allah to men praying in the Mosque. May Allah Almighty give us all the true understanding of Deen, Ameen
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK