By Mufti Ehzaz Ajmeri
At the outset, it is important to point out the place of women in an Islamic society. Allah has created mankind and He alone knows what is best for mankind. In today’s time people have raised the slogans of women’s rights and gender equality. These slogans might seem true to those who see the role of women as same as men. In Islam, our understanding is that Allah has created men and women differently and both have different roles which are complimentary to each other. Allah has kept it in the nature of man to be brave, bold, and take responsibility over the family’s affairs while it is in the nature of women to have modesty, gentleness, and softness. Shari’ah has stipulated the roles for each according to their nature. Men are responsible for earning an income, providing shelter, and security for his family. Shari’ah understands the temperament of women and caters for it. Therefore, it is not required from her to leave her house and step into this immodest world to earn her own living or provide shelter for herself. At the same time, Shari’ah does not prevent women from earning her own income, on condition that no laws of Shari’ah are violated.
It is clear from this that it is a general rule to remain in the confines of her home based on the feminine nature of women. Shari’ah has also considered circumstances based on need and necessity.
In view of the fitnah and immoralities of the time, a woman should not attend the masjid. Shari’ah has not made it compulsory upon her to perform salah with congregation. She could perform salah by herself. There is no compelling need for her to attend the masjid. There is no need to bend this rule as in the case of a woman being put in an unwilling situation to earn an income.
In the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) women had permission to perform their salah at the masjid, but the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) also expressed that it is better for women to perform salah at home instead of the masjid.
عن عمته أم حميد امرأة أبى حميد الساعدى أنها جاءت إلى النبى صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالت يا رسول الله إنى أحب الصلاة معك قال قد علمت أنك تحبين الصلاة معى وصلاتك فى بيتك خير لك من صلاتك فى حجرتك وصلاتك فى حجرتك خير من صلاتك فى دارك وصلاتك فى دارك خير لك من صلاتك فى مسجد قومك وصلاتك فى مسجد قومك خير لك من صلاتك فى مسجدى قال فأمرت فبنى لها مسجد فى أقصى شىء من بيتها وأظلمه فكانت تصلى فيه حتى لقيت الله عز وجل (مسند احمد)
It was narrated from Umm Humayd (radhiyallahu anha), the wife of Abu Humayd al-Sa’idi (radhiyallahu anhu), that she came to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I love to pray with you.” He replied, “I know that you love to pray with me. However, your prayer in your storage room is better than your prayer in your bedroom; your prayer in your bedroom is better than your prayer in your courtyard; your prayer in your courtyard is better than your prayer in the mosque of your people; and your prayer in the mosque of your people is better than your prayer in my mosque.” [The sub-narrator] said, “She requested that a prayer area be built for her in the deepest and darkest part of her house, and she prayed therein until she met Allah Most High.” (Musnad Ahmad, 6:371)
There is no doubt that in the era of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) women were permitted to come to the masjid to perform their salah. This was due to the fact that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was alive and would daily teach new injunctions of Shari’ah. The situation changed after the demise of Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). A’isha (radhiyallahu anha) states:
عن عمرة بنت عبد الرحمن أنها سمعت عائشة زوج النبى صلى الله عليه وسلم تقول لو أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم رأى ما أحدث النساء لمنعهن المسجد كما منعت نساء بنى إسرائيل قال فقلت لعمرة أنساء بنى إسرائيل منعن المسجد قالت نعم (صحيح مسلم)
‘Amrah bint ‘Abd al-Rahman narrates that she heard A’isha (radhiyallahu anha) the wife of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) say, “If Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) were to see the condition of the women (of today), he would have verily prevented them from coming to the masjid how the Israelite women were preventing from coming to their place of worship. The narrators say, “I asked ‘Amrah, were the Israelite women prevented form coming to the masjid?” She replied, “Yes”. (Sahih al-Muslim, 4:895)
More than 1400 years have passed by and the fitnas have increased. Immodesty, intermingling of the sexes, crime, etc are prevalent in our societies.
It is not necessary for women to perform her salah in the masjid, but it is wajib to abstain from fitna. In order to abstain from fitna, it will be makruh for women to go to the masjid, whether it be for the daily the salah, Jumu’ah, ‘Id, talim, or to listen to a lecture.
_(Al–Durr al-Mukhtar, 1:566)
( ويكره حضورهن الجماعة ) ولو لجمعة وعيد ووعظ ( مطلقا ) ولو عجوزا ليلا ( على المذهب ) المفتى به لفساد الزمان ، – الدر المختار
If a woman has to go the masjid for a genuine reason, e.g. the family is out on the road and need to perform salah, then it will not be makruh (prohibitively disliked) for her to perform salah in the masjid, as this was done out of necessity.
A woman can perform salah at home without any decrease in the rewards. In fact, as stated above, it is more virtuous to perform at home. If it was possible for women to acquire knowledge at home without leaving her house on the same level as the university, then the analogy would have been correct. Nevertheless, if she does not adopt Shari’i purdah and there is a great risk offitna, then it will not be permissible for her to go to university, shopping centers, and other places as well.
_(Fatawa Rahimiyyah, 6:151)
And Allah knows best.