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Friday, September 17, 2004

Women's Prayer is Different From Men?

The general principle is that every act of the prayer of women is exactly the same as the prayer of men unless there is some clear proof showing otherwise. In fact, the general principle is that the laws for women are exactly the same as those for men unless there is proof showing otherwise.

There is a difference of opinion among the scholars with respect to the manner in which a woman is supposed to perform the prayer. Some say that she should keep her body close together and not spread it out like men do in the prayer. However, there are no authentic reports from the Prophet (SAW) stating that. There does not seem to be anything authentic of this nature from the Companions (RA) either.

There are, though, some reports from the followers stating that the woman does not extend herself in the prayer the way that men do. Such authentic reports have come from Mamar, Qatada, Ata and Ibrahim al-Nakhai. (Such reports may be found in the Musannafs of ibn Abu Shaiba and Abdul Razzaq al-Sanani.) In Sunan al-Kubra (vol. 2, p. 222), al-Baihaqi states that this revolves around the fact that women are supposed to remained covered or, that is, not expose themselves.

Perhaps the best way to resolve this dispute and Allah knows best is to say that when women are not praying in the presence of non-related men, then they should pray in exactly the same manner as men. However, if there are men present, in the same way that the scholars say that she should then cover her face during the prayer, then she should not pray in that fashion. Instead of extending her body in the bowing, prostration, sitting and so forth, she should keep her body close together and not expose herself to men who may see her.

There are other differences between the prayer of men and women, although they are not concerned with the manner of performing the prayer as such. These include the following:
Women are not commanded to make the adhan or iqama like men are. Furthermore, if there are men present, they should not give the adhan or iqama. However, among a group of only women, they may make the adhan and iqama if they wish.

Obviously, the aurah or the parts of the body that must be covered in the prayer is different for that of men and women. When praying by herself or among women, the most common opinion concerning the aurah of the woman is that she must cover all of her body for the prayer with the exception of her face and hands. If her feet should become uncovered, there seems to be no strong evidence that this invalidates her prayer. However, it is better and safer for her to cover her feet. Furthermore, in the presence of non-related men, she should cover all of herself in the prayer.

When praying in a congregation of women only, the female Imam stands in the middle of the first row and does not stand ahead of the rows by herself. Such has been authentically narrated from the acts of Aisha and Umm Salama (RA).

When the Imam makes a mistake in a congregational prayer, men would correct him by saying, Subhana-Allah, while women would correct him by clapping (some describe it as clapping the palm of one hand against the back of the other). This is confirmed in well-known hadith.

It is neither obligatory or recommended for women to pray in the mosques. Instead, the prayers they perform in their homes are the best. Furthermore, when praying in the mosque, they are supposed to get up and leave as soon as the prayer is finished, as was the custom during the time of the Prophet (SAW) as narrated by Umm Salama (RA) and recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari. This was in order to avoid any mixing between the men and women in the mosque or outside the mosque after the prayer.

In the congregational prayer, the best rows for the women are the back rows while the best rows for them (back rows) are the front rows. Many argue that this is best because she is further away from men. Hence, they also say that if she is not in the view of the men, then, the best rows for her becomes the front rows, as al-Nawawi stated in his commentary to Sahih Muslim.

The Friday Prayer is not obligatory upon women. If a woman performs the Friday Prayer, then she does not pray the Dhuhr Prayer.


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