Women & Masajids in Asian Muslim Countries

February 13, 2009 § 20 Comments

This was an issue that I was meaning to write about in the past few days. An issue I think that needs to be dealt with.

Two years ago, when I was visiting Pakistan [Karachi], after quite an interval I was a bit surpised to realise none of the Women went to the Mosques. Not for Jumuah prayers or Eid. Then I also found out, most Masajids do not even have a space for Women.

I go the Friday Prayers regularly and it is normal for me to do so. As it is for a lot of Women who attend Jumuah prayers. So let’s just say, I was a tad bit disappointed. Although I still go to go as the Mosque my Grandfather goes to has space for Women. [Its tiny!]

After doing a bit of research, I realised there were several reasons for this.

Firstly, most of the Sub-Continent Muslim Countries are followers of the Hanafi Madhab. [For those of you who do not know what I’m talking about, google it].

The Hanafi Madhab is the madhab of Imam Abu Hanfiah [rahimullah] and in some cases highly discourages Women to go into Masajids to pray. However, in Islam there is no actual prevention for Women to go to pray in Mosques but the reward for Women to pray in their houses is better.

There is a difference here. What people have done is, they’ve taken the ‘discouraged’ part and have made it haram’. I’ve heard in some places in India where Women are physically stopped and absolutely forbidden to go to the Mosques. This is not Islam. The houses of Allah are for both Men and Women.

Yes, for a Woman it is more rewarding that she prays in her house, but there is no prohibition for them to go to the Mosques.

Abdullah Bin Mas’ud reported the Prophet (pbuh) as saying: It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house. [Sunan Abu Dawood Vol.1 Chapter 204 Hadith No.570]

In fact, in some cases the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam asked that the Women go to the Mosque [For example: Eid Prayers] and certain Ulema also, especially in our times say Women should go to the Masajids when they are not getting Islamic knowledge at home.

Let us go into the time of the Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wasallam. The Women were very much active in all parts of the religion. Ayesha radi Allahu anh is ranked as one of the greatest scholars of ahadith. They were teachers, Mothers, Nurses. They were seekers of knowledge. A Woman once argued with Umar Ibn Al Khattab radi Allahu anh and won. Umar – who was one of the greatest and strongest Man of that time, one of the four righteous Caliphs and a close companion of the Prophet SAWs. And yet, a Woman won an arguement with him on a religious issue.

There are clear narrations that Women too would sometimes go to pray in congregation in the Mosques. When Umar Ibn Al Khattab [Radi Allahu Anh] was martyred, his wife was praying in congregation behind him. There is no case or incident that has been narrated that the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam actually stopped Women from coming into the Masajids.

In fact, he did quite the opposite:

The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from going to the mosque of Allah.’ [Sahih Muslim Vol.1 Chapter 177 Hadith No.886]

“If the wife of any one of you asks permission (to go to the mosque) do not forbid her.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book of Salaah, Chapter 80, Hadith No. 832)

I’m not advocating that Women go for every Salaah to the Masjid, what I’m advocating though is that Women should not be prevented from the Mosques and should be active members in their community.

I feel the need for this is now more than before. And the reasons why I think so is because:

  • In our times I’ve notices a certain amount of jahilliya [lack of knowledge] among Women when it comes to religious knowledge.The Mosque provides the alternative for this, attending a Friday prayer and listening to a Khutbah helps in attaining knowledge.
  • I find it exceptionally hypocritical that Women in these socieites are allowed to do all sorts of things. Like going to the Mall, Cinemas, for Food, Shopping, Universities, Work – but when it comes to going to the Masjid, for religious and spiritual knowledge – its ‘Astagfirullah!’.
  • Women are the Mothers of each generation. They are the teachers of their children and their houses. If Women are not active in the religion, then who will teach the children, generation after generation? [And I’m not talking about secular education here…]
  • With Women not being allowed to go to Masajids and in some cases, no section of place being alotted for Women whatsoever a huge probem arises. We need to accept that fact that Women in our times do not always stay home, regardless how religious they are. There are a hundred and one things that need to be dealt with – and what if she is out and about shopping and the time for Salaah comes? There will be no place for her to pray! A prayer missed without a reason, regardless of how much you make it up, is not the same.

I don’t have anything against the Hanafi Madhab per se [Incase I start getting hate comments :P] but I am against how somethings are being [mis] interpreted and how blind following should not be how we shoud be following our religion.

We need to go back to the authentic sources of the Qurán and Sunnah and give each other our rights.


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§ 20 Responses to Women & Masajids in Asian Muslim Countries

  • JDsg says:

    Salaam ‘alaikum.

    I’ve been living in S’pore for the past six years, and women here don’t normally attend jumu’ah either; however, there is a different reason. Here, the masajid tend to overflow to the point where hundreds of men pray outdoors. (Been there, done that.) And these are facilities that frequently can hold several thousand people. (My neighborhood mosque can hold 3000, yet there can be up to about 500 men outside.) With such packed masajid, where could the women go? (Building more masajid here would be desirable, but in such a land-scarce country it would be difficult and extremely expensive to do.) The good news is that for major prayers like Eid, the local authorities allow prayers to be conducted in public facilities other than a masjid. For example, I’ve done Eid prayers in the middle of a soccer pitch at one of the local stadiums. Then, there is ample room for everyone, men, women and children.

    I do sympathize. Women shouldn’t be forbidden from praying at a masjid, and in my experience, they never have been for any of the other 34 weekly prayers.

    Wa Akaykumsalam Warahmutallah,

    Welcome to the blog & thank-you for your input.

    Well to an extent I can understand the over-flowing bit. Sometimes it happens at our local Masjid too – A Mosque which usually the Imam cuts in half in normal days because there are so few people tends to over-flow on Fridays.

    However, the Women still have space, because we have a space upstairs made specifically for us. 🙂

    At least the reason in Singapore is different, that there is a sincere problem and a genuine reason and not the attitude that Women should be banned from Mosques totally.

  • farooqk says:

    i think you need to write a summary! 😀

    Or maybe… this post is for intelligent people. You know… people who have patience and read through the whole post. 😉

    haha, kidding. But I’m still not writing a summary!

  • Ok. I agree that what you are saying is right. The fact that Women were actually discouraged to go to a Masjid was ‘enforced’ during the reign of Umar Bin Khattab (Raziallah Ta’alah A’nh). The reason for this was NOT to ban Women from the Masjids but to protect them from the worsening times.

    I know, however my point was people have gone to the extreme from banning Women totally. You can’t make something ‘haram’ which has been decided halal by the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    Obviously, Women will also play their part of compromise and learn Masjid etiquette if they plan on attending the Masjid.

    As the Waqiyah goes Umar Farooq (Raziallah Ta’alah A’nh) discouraged his wife to go to a Masjid, She also being a strong woman opposed him and told him that if the Rasoolallah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam did nt forbade her to go to a Masjid, who is he to forbid her? Umar Farooq (Raziallah Ta’alah A’nh) fell silent for a while. One day when both of them were off to the Masjid, he intentionally or unintentionally put his foot on her ‘Chadar’ or Abaya, which made her disbalance for a while. However she went on and prayed at the Masjid. Upon returning she spoke to Umar Farooq (Raziallah Ta’alah A’nh) and said the he was right and the times had changed and she understood why he had discouraged her. For that day she would go to the Masjid only sparingly. There may be errors with my retelling os Allah forgive me for that. WaAllaho Alam.

    Umar Radi Allahu Anh never fails to put a smile on my face. He reminds me of the verse in the Qur’an: ‘Humble upon those who believe & stern against those who disbelieve… [Surah Al-Ma’idah Verse 54]. 🙂

    Coming back to the situation at hand, I too am not advocating that Women go to the Masjid for every Salah – because the place for Women to pray is better and more rewarding in their homes.

    We also have to look at how we could get around this fitna. Most Masajids [Well in the Arab World anyway] now have absolute seperate prayer places from the Men so that the Men don’t really even get to see what Woman is going to the Masjid. If we can have this in the Mosques all over, it would help the problem greatly.

    The followers of the Hanafi Fiqah use this as their reference. However I agree that there shoudl be at least a secluded Musallah for Woemn in at least the big and Busy Masajids, cuz many a time when on the road, women need to pray and not always find a desirable place to do so. This is an example of the backwardness of the Muslim people and our inflexibility and inability to think for ourselves. Now discouraging women from the Masajids has become more of a tradition.

    I totally agree. And this was what I was arguing against. There are cases and needs of the Muslim Community that need to be taken into consideration.

    In our times, not every Muslim, male or female is striving to seek Knowledge. And sometimes, especially for Women it is must harder to give time to study the deen [Especially if they’re married & have kids, etc…] and not every household has an islamic environment which teaches Islam. So if the house is not fulfilling the need of the Muslim Women in the community, the Masjid should.

    Mosques are not only places to pray. They should be active places of deen. Where people should learn, study Qur’an and connect with the community. This would happen during the time of the Prophet SAWs – sadly it happens only in few places now. We’ve come to regard Mosques as only places to offer Salah.

    However there maybe some weight behind the ‘ban’ of Women from the Masajid which the Ulema put up. Now please dont get me wrong here, but this is just an example, Women do not observe the discipline and code of behavior of the Masjid as is observed in many instances when Women are allowed to go to the Masjid. Talking loudly about very petty topics (Example discussing household matters) and disturbing other people praying. Plus bringing children and NOT controlling them.

    Lol, spot on! Compromise needs to be done on both sides obviously. Like I said above, Women too need to learn ‘Masjid etiquette’ if they’re coming to Masjids.

    But I also think, people need to have more patience. The Prophet SAWS would hasten the prayer when he heard a child cry. How many of us today [eve among Women – I’ve witnessed this] turn around and yell at a child and his/her mother the first thing after we say Salaam?

    Also – one way this problem could be solved is firstly to have seperate Women Only areas so that Men don’t exactly have to get ‘distrubed’ in the first place and secondly, Women need to be educated about the deen! Who’s job is this? Everyones. Including the Imam, the Men-Fold, Other Women who are educated in Ilm & so on.

    This however does not justify any such a ban, but it does justify educating women about the discipline of a Masjid. Which again is a dilemma of our Muslim Society.

  • Specs says:

    At last, someone approaches this topic.

    Actually, it’s been approached quite a few times, but mostly regarding the Mosques in the West. 😛 I thought it would be nice to give the Women in the Sub Continent a voice.

    I’d like to add that here in Pakistan, men still give the reason that women should not go to the mosques because its unsafe seeing the violent times. That’s never prevented people from going to the new mall or to the beach!

    Talk about double-standards. But hypocrisy within our society is not new.

  • karachiwali says:

    first of all, a great post!

    the hanafi school of thought, as you have mentioned yourself, does not prevent women from going to the mosque, it just discourages the practice of women going to mosque for each and every salaah.

    I may not be a Scholar in the Hanafi School of thought – but although that is the general opinion, I know for a fact that some people have gone to the extreme and actually totally banned and forbidden Women from entering in Masjids. Saying it is ‘haram’. And if not that, not letting Women go the Mosques at all, almost as if it is a sin.

    For example: There are certain parts in India [And I’m sure in Pakistan too], where Women are absolutely forbidden from going into Mosques.

    The women shouldnt go out unnecessarily anyway, so why just restrict it to going to masjids.
    now, coming to the point that women can be educated by going to masjids for salaah, i dont know if it can work if the maulanas there are not well versed themselves. You can see how badly things are shaping up for Pakistani men although the number of men going to masjids for salaah has grown drastically over the past few years.
    i personally dont go to masjid for salaah but I do go for taraweeh prayers to a masjid nearby.

    There are several things that I meant when I said educating in the Masjids. Well, a khutbah on Friday is based on general topics, on uplifting the Imaan, other issues if present, etc. I think that can benefit the Women.

    Secondly, it does not have to just be limited to listening to the Imam. Some Mosques are very much active in the sense that, Women teach other Women, have halaqas and Islamic discussions within the Mosque.

    Obviously, this happens in Masjids where Women have a seperate area.

  • Leena S. says:

    why cant i see the comment i left a while back!

  • Leena S. says:

    main nai khel rahi! ur blog is eating up my comments 😛

    I’ve made it spit them out. 😉 bad blog!

  • Leena S. says:

    oops, i think my previous comment got spammed

  • JazakAllah khair for all the input everyone, I appreciate the responses.

    I’m going to take sometime to reply back, running on a crazy schedule. :S

  • Why the “cat” giving you any trouble? You know, the offer still stands if you can let go of the “cat”! Hehe

    My Cat is my life 😉 I don’t think he’ll be too happy.

  • Pinky says:

    well, in Islamabad many women go to mosque…only one mosque actually,the Shah Faisal masjid….the frequency of visits vary though…some go for Friday prayers weekly/once a month or once a year for Eid…my mother and her friends went there for taraweeh last year..

    That’s good to know. I think when there is a slight education about Islam, people tend to try and do the right thing. But obviously, there is still a great need for improvement within our societies.

    i think if security is not an issue and ample space is allotted to women section, men wont discourage them…other factors include children, their age, availability of someone to babysit.

    Yes, and we also need to get past the thought that if Women are going to the Masjid they’re doing something wrong!

    And, when the Country builds new mosques, they need to take into account Women too.

    For eg, every Mosque here [I live in the Arab World] has a seperate place for Women, regardless if its a tiny Mosque next to a petrol pump on the highway or a huge Masjid – all of them take into account that Women are required to so salaah as well.

  • Done, done & done. 😛 I’ve tried a new comment system thanks to Specs.

  • Leena S. says:

    arey yar, here we dont even have space for women to pray in the shopping malls! everyone knows that majority of shoppers would obviously be women then why not have a prayer room.

  • Dude! This commenting systems aint that good! I had to dig out your answers! Use the old one!

  • Brickwall says:

    You did not put it forward well when you said that Hanafi madhab holds one opinion but that is not the way it is in Islam! To compare the two is hardly better than comparing apples with oranges. Hanafi and all other fiqh schools exist within Islam and not without that they might be compared against the position ‘Islam’ takes on various issues. The better way would have been to say, if you must, that ‘the correct or strongest opinion in this matter is…’

    Don’t think that I am the one who discourages women to visit mosques or vice versa. That is besides the point. What I want to highlight here is the increasing unawareness of Usool al-fiqh and the consequent disregard it brings into our attitude toward the works of earlier jurists. To say it very sincerely and humbly, I really wish that someday we would be able to do away with this notion that ‘whoever’ has read a few ahadeeth on the subject and Quranic verses can do Ijtihad and deduce the correct Islamic opinions.

    On a completely different note but may be more in line with your post, Aisha RA is reported to have opined that had the prophet PBUH been alive today, he would have forbidden women from visiting mosques. Unfortunately, and like usual, I don’t remember the reference but I am sure if you look up in the books on Salah written from Hanafi perspective you would find all the references.

  • Brickwall says:

    ‘If you read my post properly’, it was not actually meant to substantiate one viewpoint or the other. The final words about the hadeeth of Aisha RA were chipped in only because I found them missing in the original post and felt that may be you were under the idea that Hanafi jurists were sticking to their fiqh in spite of the obvious position of ‘Islam’ out of much ridiculed practice of blind-following or hero-worship. Anyway, I am glad that I was wrong there…

    My post was not about the accuracy or lack thereof of your fiqhi understanding of the issue. Not even the last side-note was to ‘prove’ you the fallacy of your thoughts, as I explained above. What I was talking about is something more fundamental than the correct opinion on a particular issue. As I said in the beginning of my earlier post, I disagreed to the way you put forward the opinion you take vis-a-vis the one you don’t. To quote you:

    “The Hanafi Madhab is the madhab of Imam Abu Hanfiah [rahimullah] and in some cases highly discourages Women to go into Masajids to pray. However, _in_Islam_ there is no actual prevention for Women to go to pray in Mosques but the reward for Women to pray in their houses is better.”

    “We need to go back to the authentic sources of the _Qurán_and_Sunnah_ and give each other our rights.”

    That is all I wrote in response to. Lastly, I have no disagreements whatsoever to the benefits or needs you mentioned which warrant a separate musalla for women in mosques and marketplaces.

  • So, you just have a problem with how I ‘phrased’ what I wrote but agree with the general gist of the post? :S

    Okay, let’s dissect the little passage.

    Again, in case you didn’t pay attention, I wrote, ‘In some cases’ – ‘some’ being the word to be noted here.

    Secondly, can you prove the second part of the statement wrong? Is there any actual evidence, as in, it being considered haram for Women to go to the Masajids to be found in the Qurán or Sunnah?

    If you’re taking offense to the fact that [And I believe you are] I’ve made it sound like the Hanafi Madhab is not part of Islam – obviously that is not what I meant. However, when what one Madhab says contradicts the Qurán and/or Sunnah – then that is where the problem arises and people should have enough sensibility to smell that.

    And anyway, I don’t know else I would’ve phrased my question? We are after all Muslims and the religion we follow is Islam. Not Hanafi, Maliki or whatever. But Islam. Sure, we might follow them for fiqhi issues but our religion is obviously called Islam. And I think people tend to forget that. And when I said Islam in my post, I meant exactly that – the Qurán and Sunnah and what is authentic.

  • Brickwall says:

    Surprised at how trivial a thing I was objecting to or rather nitpicking at? : )

    First, let me drop the Hanafi fiqh out of or within Islam part. It is apt if I just admit that I might have been too picky and sparing in giving you the benefit of doubt. So please accept my sincere apologies there.

    With that said, I actually agree with the gist of the post but because I knew and understood it already from the scholars whom I do the much-ridiculed ‘taqleed’ of and not because the arguments presented here, though understandable, were convincing enough too.

    I do not and did not say that you necessarily have gotten wrong the opinions of Hanafi scholars, but I do would be pleasantly surprised if you claim to have understood the ‘thought process’ which leads them to whatever opinion they hold on to. Without that, I don’t think you can or perhaps are presenting any comparative analysis in which you have shown the superiority of your or ‘our’ opinion over that of Ahnaf. Being from Pakistan, I do happen to ‘know’ Hanafi take on a lot of issues but unfortunately I have never had the pleasure of ‘understanding’ Hanafi fiqh and its principles from its credible scholars. But lets say that there probably might not be ‘actual evidence’ to declare haram or even discourage women from attending mosques. But is that the only thing that matters in Ijtihad? What ‘actual evidence’ was there to impose three Talaqs issued in one sitting as three and not one, as done by Umar RA. Or to suspend the punishment of amputation of hand, done during a certain period, again in the rule of Umar RA?

    Doing fiqh is not about just knowing ‘actual evidence’, much essential to it is also to extract and assimilate the ‘approach’ and ‘objectives’ which Islamic law wants to be achieved and preserved in a muslim society. This is something which fortunately or otherwise cannot be learned just by reading some ahadeeth on an issue with knowledge of their authenticity. That is why I believe that, in general, the sincere call given to laypeople on the matters of fiqh to follow only Quran and authentic sunnah because their religion is Islam and not Hanafi, Maliki, etc is self-deceiving and devoid of balance. A layperson, barring a few cases usually, doesn’t have enough ‘understanding’ or insight of shariah and the nature of its sources (masadir as in Arabic) to reach to an authentic opinion all of his own. For that, we usually need more than a mere knowledge of what is written in Quran and the books of ahadeeth. Imam Malik’s preference for the practice of the people of Madinah and (at least) the Hanafi’s take on the issue of ‘Akhbar Ahad’ are a couple of example of the things which go a long way in giving shape to the fiqh opinions of respective schools.

    If you are interested in reading something more along these lines, I have a link unfortunately in Arabic about the importance of usool al-fiqh in deriving sharai rulings. Hope you will somehow get it figured by someone, if not yourself:


    And lastly, please tell me if I am being obtrusive here because obviously this is not what you wanted this post to be about.

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