The Masjid is not just a place of worship. It is meant to serve as a community centre for Muslims, as was exemplified during the time of the Prophet (sa). To exclude women from Masajid is equivalent to denying them a role in the betterment of society, as well as limiting the means of their spiritual and personal growth. It is unfortunate that most Masajid today, particularly in the East, are reserved for men only, despite the teachings of Islam being to the contrary. In fact, the Hadeeth literature is filled with examples of how the Prophet (sa) not only permitted but also facilitated women visiting and praying in Masajid.
Permissibility for Women to Pray in Masajid
The Prophet (sa) permitted women to pray in the Masjid by declaring: “Do not keep the female slaves of Allah (swt) from the Masajid of Allah (swt), but they are to go out without perfume.” (Abu Dawud) He also stated: “When your wife seeks permission to go to the Masjid, do not stop her.” (Bukhari) While the Prophet (sa) encouraged women to pray at home, he never restricted them to offer their prayers at home all the time. Moreover, men must not prevent women from going to the Masjid, even at night for Isha and Fajr prayers, as the Prophet (sa) said: “If your women ask permission to go to the Masjid at night, allow them.” (Bukhari)
It is important to note that given the Prophet’s (sa) unambiguous permissibility for women to visit Masajid, anyone’s personal view on the matter has no significance. Such an opinion cannot supersede the Prophet’s (sa) explicit ruling, which is applicable to all Muslim women for all time to come. For example, it is narrated that Bilal bin Abdullah objected to women visiting Masajid, saying that it would lead to “mischief and suspicion”. At this, his father, Abdullah bin Umar (rtam) – a prominent companion of the Prophet (sa) – struck him on the chest and rebuked him, saying: “I narrate to you from the Messenger of Allah (sa) and you (dare) say no!” (Muslim)
Reserving Rows for Women
During the Prophet’s (sa) time, the men used to pray in the front rows of the Masjid, and women – in the back ones. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best rows for men are at the front, and the worst are at the back; and the best rows for women are at the back, and the worst are at the front.” (Muslim) In order to avoid any inconvenience to women, the following mechanism for leaving the Masjid was adopted, as narrated by Umm Salama (rtaf): “In the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (sa), the women used to get up when they finished their compulsory Salah with Taslim. The Prophet (sa) and the men would stay at their places for as long as Allah (swt) willed. When the Prophet (sa) got up, the men would then get up.” (Bukhari)
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