Women attending the masjid
Can you explain to me what is the meaning of this hadith below and why are muslims and specially scholars not implementing this hadith.
It was proven in saheeh ahaadeeth that the women of the Sahaabah used to attend Fajr prayer in congregation, covering their faces, so that no one would recognize them. It was proven that ‘Amrah bint ‘Abd al-Rahmaan said: I heard ‘Aa’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), say: “If the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had seen the way the women are behaving, he would have forbidden them to go to the mosque as the women of the Children of Israel were forbidden.” It was said to ‘Amrah: Were the women of the Children of Israel forbidden to go to the mosque? She said: Yes. Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
You refer to two hadiths in the question. You state the scholars do not implement “this” hadith. Which hadith are you referring to? The one permitting women in the masjid or the one prohibiting women from the masjid?
Hereunder are the two hadiths:
أن عائشة أخبرته قالت: كنا نساء المؤمنات يشهدن مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم صلاة الفجر متلفعات بمروطهن ثم ينقلبن إلى بيوتهن حين يقضين الصلاة لا يعرفهن أحد من الغلس (صحيح البخاري: 553)
On the Authority of A’isha Radiallahu Anha: The believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr salah with Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, and after finishing the salah they would return to their home and nobody could recognise them because of the darkness. (Sahih Al-Bukhari:553)
أنها سمعت عائشة زوج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم تقول: «لو أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم رأى ما أحدث النساء لمنعهن المسجد كما منعت نساء بني إسرائيل» قال: فقلت لعمرة: أنساء بني إسرائيل منعن المسجد؟ قالت: نعم. (صحيح مسلم: 445)
Amrah bint Abd Ar-Rahman says I heard A’isha Radiallahu Anha say: If Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam had seen what new things the women have introduced (in their way of life) he would have definitely prevented them from going to the masjid, as the women of Bani Isra’il were prevented. It was said to Amrah: Were the women of Bani Isra’il forbidden to go to the masjid? She replied: Yes.
To understand the issue in reference, it is important to understand the issue of women attending the congregational prayer.
In the era of Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam, the sahabiyat radiallahu anhunna used to attend the congregational prayers as mentioned in the hadith in reference.
Allah has put innate inclination and attraction between men and women and one easily succumbs to these carnal desires if he does not have the spiritual capacity and strength to restrain himself.[i]
Despite the sahabah radiallahu anhum possessing a high level of spirituality and firmness on practising on the injunctions of the shariah, Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam took extreme precaution and set guidelines for the sahabiyat radiallahu anhunna if they are to attend the masjid in order to prevent any possibility of fitnah. This is understood from various hadiths Some of these guidelines are:
- They would come in full hijab.[ii] It is narrated on the authority of Aishah radiallahu anhā that the women would come to the masjid for salah, and they would not recognise each other.
- They would come in the darkness of the night.[iii]
- They would leave straight after the completion of the fardh salah, before the men start to leave, in order to prevent contact and intermingling.[iv] The prophet and the men would remain seated and wait after saying salam, to allow the women to leave.
- They would walk on one side of the road and not the middle whilst going and coming to the mosque, as instructed by the prophet, to avoid intermingling.[v]
- They would not perfume themselves,[vi] or wear fancy clothes. Rasulullah prohibited this.[vii]
- They would not lift their heads from sajdah before the men stood up. This is so their gaze does not fall on the sahabah radiallahu anhum whilst they are prostrating.[viii]
This was the manner the sahābiyāt Radiallahu anhunna attended the masjid. The manner they adopted under the guidance of Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam ensured that no laws of Allah Ta’ala were violated and there was no possibility of fitnah.
After the demise of Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam, as Islam grew and more foreign nations entered the fold of Islam, the level of piety and spirituality of the general muslim masses, men and women alike, was not on the level of the sahabah radiallahu anhum in the era of Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam.[ix] The manner the sahabiyat radiallahu anuhnna and sahabah radialluhu anhum adhered to when attending the masjid was no longer being implemented.[x] The attendance of women was now starting to become a means of fitnah (a means of sin) for the general muslim public.
However, the fitnah was not to the extent that the women now had to be stopped from attending the masjid. The sahabah radiallahu anhum went as far as discouraging their wives and womenfolk from attending the masjid.[xi]
After the era of the sahabah radiallahu anhum, fitnah was more prevalent than before, due to which[xii] the mujtahidin and scholars at that time issued the ruling that it is makrooh for women to attend the masjid. [xiii]
In the light of the immoralities prevalent today, the scholars in our time also issue the same ruling.
At the outset this ruling may seem to be contrary to the hadith in reference.
However, after analysing and researching into all the hadiths related to the issue, it is understood that the hadith in reference is not as general as it seems at face value, rather the hadith is pre-set with conditions. The condition was that the sahabiyat radiallahu anhunna could come to the masjid so long the injunctions of shariah were not violated and there was no fitnah. If the injunctions of shariah are violated and there is fitnah, it will not be permissible for them to attend.[xiv]
Here it is important to note that a scholar or mujtahid does not issues a ruling based on just one hadith, rather he considers all the hadiths pertaining the issue and puts all the hadiths in their respective places. He will judge whether the hadith contains a general ruling or if the hadith contains a conditional ruling, as is the case in the hadith in reference. It is erroneous to take one hadith and base a ruling on that hadith alone.
Another aspect the scholars consider is that, women attending the masjid is a mubah act.[xv] A mubah act is such an act that is not sunnah or fardh and nor is it haram. This means if a person does a mubah act he does not get reward or sin for it.
It is not permissible to engage in mubah acts at the expense of committing haram.[xvi]
Numerous hadiths mention that the best place for a woman to pray is in the most inner part of her house.[xvii]
When a sahabiyah radiallahu anha expressed her desire to pray behind Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam, Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam replied that it is best for her to pray in the most inner part of her house than to pray behind the blessed Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam in his blessed masjid.[xviii] Rasulullah salallahu alaihi wa sallam said regarding praying in his masjid: One salah performed in my masjid is better than 1000 salahs (in reward) prayed elsewhere, excluding Masjid Al-Haram.[xix]
Considering the immoralities prevalent in today’s society and considering that it is more rewardable for a woman to pray at home, it is better for women to pray their salah in their homes.[xx]
There is no contradiction between the two hadiths in reference and the ruling that women should not attend the masjid. Every hadith is practiced within its context.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Student – Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.