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Contrary to the popular belief, Islam does not prohibit women from praying in mosques

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Danish Raza | January 10, 2011



Many a time I have been asked whether women are allowed in mosques and whether they can pray like their male counterparts.

The fact is that there is no verse in the Holy Quran that prohibits women from praying in mosques. Neither is there any authentic Hadith (anecdotes of Prophet Muhammad) on the same.

In fact, there are various Hadith which prove that Islam allows women to pray in mosques given there are separate facilities for women.

Sahi bukhari (hadith) , chapter 832 says, “When your wife asks to go to the mosque, do not forbid them." Volume 1, Ch 80, Hadith 824 says that when the women ask to go to mosque at night, allow them.  Sahi muslim (chapter no. 177, hadith no.891) says, “Do not take away the share of the mosque of the women.”

Prof. Hasnath Mansur, former member of Karnataka state minorities commission says that superficial knowledge of Islam is responsible for women not getting their due status in the community. “It is the responsibility of educated class and the ulema to look into issues which are crucial for women to discharge their duties as Muslims,” she says.

Mumbai-based Maulana Mukhtar Ahmad Nadwi is a noted Ahl-i Hadith (an Islamic sect) scholar. In a book titled 'Kya Musalman Khawatin Ka Masjid Mai Ana Fitna Hai? (Is the Entry of Muslim Women into Mosque a source of Strife?’), Nadwi quotes the Qur’an and the Hadith to press his case for allowing Muslim women to enter and pray in mosques.

He criticises those who insist that doing so would lead to strife (fitna).

Nadwi refers to the time of the Prophet, when women, too, would participate in congregational prayers in the mosque.

He quotes a Hadith narrated by Ayesha, wife of the Prophet and contained in the books of Bukhari and Muslim (considered by most Sunnis to be authoritative compilations of Hadith), where he is reported to have said that women used to attend even the early morning (fajr) congregational prayers in the mosque along with the Prophet, although it was still dark outside.

If the ulama who oppose women praying in the mosques are consistent in their argument, he writes, how is it that they allow women to participate in congregational prayers with men, although separately, at the two major mosques of Islam, the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and the Masjid Nabavi in Madinah, where women have always been allowed to pray?

Those who forbid women from worshipping in the house of God, Nadwi concludes, will be held answerable in God’s court.

Hence, the trend of men outnumbering women in mosques cannot be attributed to Islam.

But then why do we hardly see any women in the mosques in our localities, you may ask.

This can be attributed to the fact that not many mosques have facilities for them. There are no provisions such as separate entry and places to perform ablution and offer prayers for women.

Mosques with these provisions (more than 500 mosques in kerala, many in Maharashtra, handful in Delhi, Bhopal and Gujarat) witness females performing prayers throughout the year.

In many countries in the Gulf and in the USA, women even offer prayers in congregation, though there are separate arrangements.

According to a study conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, America ’s largest Islamic civil liberties groups, at least seven out of ten mosques offer programs for women. The study surveyed 416 mosques nationwide.

In May 2006, Morocco appointed 50 women as state preachers for the first time as part of the government’s drive to promote a more tolerant version of Islam

The Islamic Cultural Centre, New York City ’s largest mosque in size and congregation, provides one of the most convenient places for women worshippers.

A separate washroom is marked “For Sisters Only” and signs posted on walls advise women on appropriate mosque attire. There are cubicles allotted for women, who can also pray in the main hall during large sermons, and co-ed religion and Arabic classes taught by men and women are offered at the mosque.

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