Al Adaab: An Ahl as Sunnah Perspective

Traditional Islamic Resources

Difference in Salaah between Men and Women

Posted by al Adaab on December 21, 2006

Some people are of the view that all the laws of salah are common to both men and women, and that there is no difference between them. They also claim that the hadeeth ‘Pray as you have seen me praying’ is general and, therefore, should be applied equally to both men and women. It should be realised, however, that our own interpretation and logical inference of this hadeeth cannot compare with the other ahadeeth of the Messenger of Allah ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) and the verdicts and practice of the Sahabah and Tabi’un (رضئ الله عنهم) quoted below.The Shariah has ordained distinct rules for men and women in many important questions of salah. For example,

• Jumuah is fardh upon men but not on women, and the Eid prayer is wajib for men but again not for women

Sayyiduna Tariq bin Shthab (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم), said, ‘Jumuah in congregation is an obligatory duty upon every Muslim except four people: a slave, a woman, a child, and one who is sick.’’538

Sayyidatuna Umm Atiyyah . says as part of a longer hadeeth, ‘We have been forbidden from following funerals and there is no Jumuah upon us. 539

• The reward of congregational prayer for men is twenty seven times more than an individual prayer. Contrary to this, the more rewarding prayer of a woman is that which is most concealed and performed within the confines of her innermost living quarters.

Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Mas’ud (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘The prayer of a woman in her makhda’ (partition) is better than her prayer in her hujrah (chamber), and her prayer in her hujrah is better than her prayer in her bait (house).’540

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (رضئ الله عنه ) narrates that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, The most beloved salah to Allah of a woman is one that she performs in the darkest spot of her home.’541

• Unlike men women should not give adhan or say the iqamah.

Sayyidatuna Asmaa (R) narrates as part of a longer hadeeth that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘There is no adhan iqamah or Jumuah upon women.’542

Sayyidatuna Ibn Umar (R) says ‘There is no adhan or iqamah upon women.’543

• There is a great difference in the awrah of a man and that of a woman in salah. Women must cover their entire body including the hair, leaving only the face, hands and feet exposed.

Ummul Mu’mineen Aisha (R) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘Allah does not accept the salah of a mature female without a scarf.’544

• Women cannot lead men in salah.

Abu Bakrah (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said ‘Never will those people succeed who have appointed a woman over them.’545
Jabir bin Abdullah (رضئ الله عنه ) reports as part of a longer hadeeth that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, Know that a woman should not lead a man in salah.’546

• For the purpose of correcting or deterring someone in salah men should say ‘subhanallah’ loudly, whilst women are only allowed to clap their hands.

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (رضئ الله عنه )reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘Tasbeeh is for men, and clapping is for women.’547

 
Yazid bin Abi Habib reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) passed by two women who were praying salah. He said, ‘When you prostrate, let part of your body cling to the earth, for women are unlike men in this regard’.548Sayyiduna Ibn Umar (رضئ الله عنه ) narrates that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘When a woman sits in salah she should place one thigh over the other, and when she prostrates she should press her stomach to her thighs in a manner that is the most concealing for her. Indeed Allah looks at her saying, “Oh my angels! I make you witness that I have forgiven her.”549

Sayyiduna Wail bin Hujr (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) said, ‘Oh Ibn Hujr! When you pray make your hands level with your ears. And the woman shall raise her hands close to her bosom.’550

We derive some very important and fundamental principles about the prayer of a woman from all the above ahadeeth.

• The laws of salah are not always the same for men and women.
• The sunnah posture of a female in any position of salah is that which is the most concealing for her.

Imam Baihaqi says,

‘All of the laws of salah in which a woman differs from a man are based on the principle of satr (concealment). This means that the woman is instructed to do all that which is more concealing for her. The following chapters of hadeeth explain this meaning in detail.’551

As mentioned earlier, this variation in the salah of a woman has been prescribed by none other than the Prophet ( صلى الله علیه وسلم) himself. It has remained the practice of the whole ummah till this day and is also reflected in the rulings of the Sahabah and Tabi’un. The ulama and fuqaha of all four schools have always recognised this difference and, as is evident in their books of fiqh, have always observed the above principles whenever making a ruling about the salah of a woman. Following are a few narrations detailing the verdicts and practice of the Sahabah & together with the verdicts of some of the Tabi ‘un and the ulama of the different schools of fiqh:

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