Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Women Leading Men in Prayer

A Facebook photo of mine shows a woman leading a mixed congregation of prayer. I was sure it'd lead to some interesting comments from some Muslims, and it sorta did. I'd like to share here the typical arguments given against women's leading men in prayer and my response to each one.

One of my friends commented that "This is so wrong." I asked why, and she said, "I don't know. I can't explain. But it feels wrong." Of course that's not a good enough justification, but I left it.

Another friend commented that Al-Maghrib disapproves (as if Al-Maghrib decides what Islam says and as if I am supposed to accept their decisions :p but it was cute, so no worries).

Finally, the response I'd been waiting for -- and I copy/paste the discussion verbatim here.

This friend, let's call him Wror Jaan (WJ), said that you can't pray behind a woman; it's disliked.

Me: Disliked by whom? 

WJ: In the world from Indonesia to Afghanistan,from Saudi arabia to Pakistan, from iran to Iraq and europe.. have you ever seen a woman standing and giving Namaz to men? yes in in some cases a woman can give jamaha to women only not men.
why was the masjid or prayer hall of men and women seperated? its because men shouldnt see women praying :)
for more info read this http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=4591&CATE=352

Allah swt knows the best

[Note, readers, the link to an "authority" -- I'm supposed to agree with them. I wonder what happens if I don't . . . I mean, suppose I agree with another scholar or another person/group in a position of authority over such issues. Then what happens? Oh, I forgot - I'm a deviant and am following the wrong crowd! Geez, I don't believing in following people. I believe in evaluating whatever I read. I believe we have been blessed with reason so that we can use it in moments like these.

Me: Just because a woman has never been permitted to lead men in prayer doesn't mean she lacks divine permission to do so. Tradition isn't always coming from God; it's almost always man-imposed, in fact.

Why shouldn't men see women praying, or vice versa?

Try not to give me links to long articles that are denying every other perspective and interpretation out there and enforcing only one. I acknowledge SunniPath.com's perspective, but the name itself suggests it's biased.

WJ: ok as you say.. there will be many others who wont agree with u. I am not trying to say that women have lower status in Islam than men, All i wanted to say is that how can a woman bow in front of a man? will the man be able not to look at her? I have travelled to many countries and I have never seen a woman giving jummah, how come they give jummah in America.
Have you heard any Prophet's wife or any bibi has given jamaha? If they have then its ok for all the women to stand and give jamah but if not then please dont bring this new religion. we as hanafis dont have woman imam.. oh and i havent seen any woman imam in saudi arabia or other gulf countries.. so lets say maybe we have a new religion in this world who allow women to give jammah.

oh and you dont read my article.. then bring me proof and hadith to convince me that its ok for women to lead a prayer. You can just decide on your own, you have to rely on scholars that spend their entire life studying our religion me and you are ordinary human beings and shouldnt allow ourselves to change the course of our religion without any proof. I gave you a link to read but it looks like you want to stick with your own stand on this matter and do not wish to research about whether your even right or wrong. if you have already decided that you are right then i cannot convince you otherwise. May Allah swt guide all of us.
‎1. We need a Quranic verse / hadith that tells us that women *cannot* lead men in prayer, not one that says they can. Otherwise, we're going to need trillions of hadith narrations and Quranic verses that tell us that we can do this and that and that and that. Unless something's specified as haraam, we don't need evidence that it's halaal.

2. Everyone can disagree with me, that's fine with me. It's possible that the majority is wrong and the minority right.

3. You ask why can a woman be in front of a man. Well, why not? What's wrong with it? Just because you've never seen it doesn't mean it's haraam.

4. Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf country? :) You mean ... you need one of them to do something in order for it to be considered acceptable Islamically? C'mon, WJ-- they're the worst example o what it means to be a Muslim!

All I'm saying is: What's wrong with it? I need you to think about it yourself and then answer instead of giving me what a certain group of a certain sect of Islam says about it.
WJ: imagine u r an imam.. a girl.. 4 am u go to masjid to give namaz.. therez only one man standing in masjid who will follow you to pray.. can you give him namaz? is there any shaytan between you two?
why is women not allowded to talk or meet strangers?
does islam teach us about not to talk to stranger men or not?
how can you bow in front of a stranger man?
what if the imam woman is not a fat ugly woman but a beautiful 20 yrs old girl.. will she be able to give namaz to a guy aged 20 or 22 who is totally a stranger for him?
Me: I don't get your first question. What would be wrong if I led him in prayer?

And last time I checked, the rule of segregation applied to *both* men and women. So your argument doesn't hold correct there -- 'cause it's not just women who are not allowed to talk to or meet strangers; it's men, too. (This, of course, is assuming that gender segregation is really prohibited.)

How can I bow in front of a stranger man? Well, how can a stranger man bow in front of ME?

What if the imaam in front of me is a 20-year-old handsome man, not a "fat ugly" man? Should he still lead women in prayer, especially if these women are strangers to him?

I hope you see what I'm doing here. Every question you ask can be turned around so that it applies to BOTH men and women, not just to women :)
WJ: No..there is difference in man and woman's body. a man can walk outside or even in haram sharif without a shirt and his half body naked but a woman cant.. there are certain rules for men and women to follow. you still think that its connected to our cultural issue? No its not.. if it was so then there would be thousands of women imams in the west.. can you give me atleast 10 names of muslim women imams?
in Afg or asian and gulf countries we follow our culture but how come in the west we dont see women imam except one or two whom i got to see in the past 3 yrs...
My first question was that can you feel urself safe in masjid giving namaz to a stranger man at 5 am alone? he is alone and you are alone too.. can you?

Ofcoarse you cant.. thats why women are told to pray at home and they will get the same sawab as much they get in masjid :D
and i forgot to ask.. did bibi khadija or bibi fatima every lead the namaz? they did attend speeches and talked to people in masajids but they never went for iqama or salah in front of men. we learn from our prophet, His ahadith and from our scholars.. no one is allowded to make up something out of his brain and make a fitwa saying this is halal and this is haram.
Whem Prophet Mohammad pbuh passed away, His wife was the one who took responsibility to talk to the people and spread Islam till another successor was announced, during that time she never leaded any Namaz :) now guess it urself and think that y she didnt give namaz to those people who respected her as much as they respected the Prophet Mohammad pbuh.
We are not living in Afghanistan to think that .. Oh ppl will say bad if my wife goes to masjid and lead a prayer.. we r living in the west where everyone is a free bird and can do whatever they want .. But our religion tells us not to follow what was not followed by others.

I will insist and say that a woman is allowded to give salah to the women only but not men. Yes there is a chance where a woman can stand in other room and men in other room, that time she may give salah but not standing in front of men. This is why all the masajids have seperate place for men and women.. if women was allowded to pray with men then there would be no seperate places for both men and women.

A woman cant stand next to a man and pray.. she has to stand atleast one meter behind the man and there should be no men standing behind her :). here in west there are different types of muslims who believe in different schools of teachings.. we have hanafi,sha'fi,hanbali,parvizi,qidyani,sufi,shia and all others mixed together so the best thing is to stick to your own school of FIQ and follow what your imam says. Even in kab'aa there are 4 imams who belong to 4 different schools..

Shaikh Hamza yusuf visits our class once a month and i hope i will be able to meet him, if i did then Inshallah for sure i will ask him about this and lets see what does he say about it. Oh and i am going to ask this question from my arab scholar and an Afghan hanafi scholar too. I will gather the views of 3 different scholars and bring it in front of you.. Inshallah that time you will get the answer to your question.

Allah swt knows the best.
Me: So, the only reason a woman should not lead men in prayer is that her body is different from the man's body? But but but but ... WJ, so what that our bodies are different? Or are you implying that because I'm a woman, I lack the feelings/emotions to be attracted to a man who's leading me in prayer, regardless of his age? Because if that's the assumption, it's completely wrong.

Here's what I understand from the arguments that people give when saying women shouldn't be allowed to lead men in prayer:

- A man leading women in prayer is okay because women aren't supposed to be thinking about physical stuff (desire, lust, etc.) when praying, so it's understood that women will behave while praying behind a man, no matter how attracted they are to the man leading the prayer.

- A WOMAN leading men in prayer, however, is wrong because men are easily attracted to women. And men just naturally can't behave once they fall in love with or lust after a woman. So it's not okay for women to do it, but it's okay for men.

Yet, when I say, "What IF a woman gets attracted to a man leading the prayer?" The response is, "OMG! Shame on you! That's so immodest -- why would you be thinking that when praying? :S That's so wrong and impious." Yeah, well, I was just told that women shouldn't lead men in prayer because she is nothing more than a naturally seductive and dangerously sexy being by nature, and so that means men are easily attracted to her . . . No one thinks THAT is immodest, but it's immodest when *I* say that a woman actually MAY be attracted to a man leading prayer?

You see the contradiction there, WJ?

And this makes sense to people.

Regarding the Prophet's wives and how they never led prayer (actually, you did ask that earlier, and I did respond :) 's okay, though ) -- again, just because they never did it doesn't mean it's haraam. There are many, many things they didn't do simply because such was not the norm or standard of the day; or maybe because they didn't have a reason to or access to such power. Yes, yes - Islam is for all people of all times, but, again, as I said earlier, unless it is specifically specified to be *haraam*, everything's halaal. Unless you can give me a quote from the Quran, or maybe even a hadith, that tells me that a woman is strictly forbidden from leading men in prayer, I am going to have to continue disagreeing with you.
WJ: as u wish sister..
Lakum deinokum walyadein :D

I wish we'd gotten into a discussion on hadiths . . . That would've pushed me to write a blog post on hadiths, too :p (NOTE: I don't reject all hadiths, so don't try to read between the lines, folks. But there are some "authentic" hadiths that I find quite disturbing.) 


End of comments.


There are too many claims without support -- and I mean this in any discussion/debate on women and gender. A woman can't do this; she has to do this and that; she can't do XYZ -- she has to stand this way -- she has to think this way -- etc. No support for these claims. No explanation. No evaluation of them. I don't understand how we can just sit there and accept everything as it is without thinking about it or questioning its authenticity.  
People often assume that I don't know my stuff and that because I disagree with the idea that women are forbidden from leading men in prayer, I need to be reminded of what "scholars" say. Firstly, I'm going to question the "scholarship" of these scholars -- and these "scholars" include Zakir Naik (ohhh my favorite one! I have a poem coming on him.) Secondly, the *majority* tells us that women can't lead men in prayer -- but who said the majority has to be right? What if I decide to go with the minority on certain issues instead? Isn't that the beauty of diversity? (Now, now, I mean what if the minority can very, VERY well defend their stance, not like, "Okay, let's just go with this because it "feels" right. Or "Let's go with this because it's 'modern' and we should be tryina be modern." Yeah, no. I don't mean that type. They gotta have a really good, convincing argument for me to give them some thought.)
More on this another time. I have an essay to write now on Zakir Naik's stance on female authority in Islam.  


  1. You are a strong women. Thats all I have to say, and it speaks volumes I guess!

  2. Oh, I'm not strong at all, SEPO Jaan! But thanks -- that was good to hear anyway! :D

  3. The faithfull should not be checking out a womens behind in sijda, I guess that is the main Islamic reason from what I hear. I am sure I can find a hadith or two to back me up on that.
    Isnt it funny that the faithfull are always checking things out and want curtains infront of their eyes to keep them from doing so. They prefer the other party to cloak and dissapear rather than lower their own gaze if it is that threatening.

    From a pashtoon wrore, you know who.

  4. Yep, that is indeed quite funny! And sick.

    Thanks for your comment, Anonymous!

  5. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also said, “The imaam is a protection (or a shield),” and ruled that (women) should definitely be behind men in prayer. The imaam should stand in front of the congregation or with them in the same row, as we have already mentioned. From these texts it is clear that it is not correct for a woman to lead a man or men in prayers.”

  6. Hi, Anonymous! :) Thanks for dropping by and sharing your perspective!

    The discussion presented above has already addressed your comment, as I knew someone would say that. However, I appreciate your input!

  7. I couldn't see it there, can you please elaborate it, and what do you think of the the hadeeth of the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) in which he said: “The best rows for men are the front ones and the worst are the back ones, and the best rows for women are the back ones and the worst are the front ones.”

  8. If the Imam is a shield, why does the shield HAVE to be a male?

    I responded to your comment on the other post where you commented (the one "On the Hypocrisy of Some Female Feminists"):

    Let's assume the hadith you've shared above is authentic. Now, what in it *commands* that women remain in the back rows and men in the front? And what in that hadith *forbids* women from being in the front rows?

    Do you not think that's a suggestion and not a command or disallowing of women leading prayers?

  9. Allah has created men and women with different abilities and potentials.Men cannot give birth to child similarly women are not supposed to earn except that they do so voluntarily.Men are responsible for social and economic work and women are responsible for household and caretaking of children.West try to seduce women of Islam in the name of gender equality.Muslims should be conscious of this conspiracy, always try to see both side of coin, and try to work on something which is beneficent rather then wasting energy and time on controversial issues, and that is one of reason why Punjab and sindh are so ahead, try to do something approachable and real and can bring change, let say how to increase awareness in pathan society about girls, about education, about the positions/opportunities available abroad in research & studies etc..you know by 2030 we will have to request Punjab and sindh for our basic needs such as health, teachers etc if things remain same.

    Do apologize if you don't like any thing i said and hope you utilize your time and energy in something good .

  10. I didn't comment on any other post and the suggestions of of the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) are order and commands for us..

  11. Hi again, Anonymous!
    No, I don't mind your comment at all! I actually appreciate them. Thanks for posting!

    Regarding women's and men's differences and abilities and all -- absolutely. No one can deny that women and men are different physically. But we have taken that difference to mean that women can't do XYZ and men can, when that has nothing to do with out abilities, potential, and differences whatsoever. You can read more on this on my other blog posts, particularly this one: http://qrratugai.blogspot.com/2009/11/on-feminism.html

    In the comments, you'll see a discussion between me and these two individuals who agree with your concept of gender differences.

    Thanks again!

  12. Ok no problem, but you didn't read what i said , please read it again, and try to work on something real, you know that there is about 100 million dollars research/scholarship funding for Pakistan in western universities and research labs, and 98% of the fund is utilize by Punjab and sindh ppls and only in women 99% are from Punjab and sindh availing these opportunities while only 1% pathan girls can get hold of this opportunity so try that how at least 20% of this funding goes to pathan's and the pathan girls, now aday you can find many punjab and sindh girls doing research and availing these funds in many western countries universities in Europe, us, Australia, Canada etc, but very hard to find pathan girl, even the educated girls hesitate to travel alone for research so do something for it, and funny thing is most of these funds are given due to us to eliminate terroisism but punjab and sindh are utilizing them and we are not, may be you and your blog follower are from rich families but it make a simple pathan cry with blood that these ppls are using funds nominated to educated us, and later they come and treat us as khan sahab.

  13. Hi, Anonymous!
    Thanks for your suggestion... but clearly, we both have an entirely different idea of what is important for the world / what is "real" and what's not. Obviously, what I'm doing is real to me and deserves as much attention, especially from Muslim women, as possible. So I'm pursuing it :)

    But thanks for your thoughts! They're always appreciated.

  14. you are such an hypocrite. It make me worry to see the human state and state of pathan's mind. but no wonder's there are many like you here & there, i thought u were a pathaan and wasting your energies, last but not least that in the world today pathan women are the worst oppressed,you can't do any thing for muslim women if you don't do for pathan women, punjab, sindh, newyork, cario, doha, Kualalampur, delhi, chennai, banglore, dhaka , you can't find a women more oppressed than pathan women. A pathan girl cannot go for PhD abroad but every one else can why ? I am afraid that ppls like you will use pathan women and give nothing.

  15. Salaam, Anonymous!
    Thanks for your comment; it's much appreciated.

    Oh, so it's about Pathans . . . well, the mere fact that you refer to Pashtuns as "Pathans" tells me (and other Pashtuns) that you don't know enough about them to know anything about Pashtun women.

    But I wonder . . . what would a Pashtun woman think of your claims? Would she find it a fair judgment, a grounded suspicion? I'm not so sure, 'cause I certainly don't. I don't think you, a non-Pashtun most likely MALE, have any right to speak for ANY Pashtun female. But that depends on whether you've conducted any studies on Pashtun women, spent lots and lots of time in their chambers with them, talked to them and listened to their most intimate conversations they hold amongst each other. If you say yes to any of these, I might give some thought to your judgment; otherwise, a big no-no.

    Peace to you and me!

  16. Ohh pls FGS, you/we are just pathan and khan sahab, nothing much beyond that , if you don't believe,try to apply for job in punjab or sindh , anyways the thing was why pathan girls are not going for funded PhD's abroad while other races go ? why a pathan girl is not independent after her MSc, why she still seek parents and society permission to go abroad while girls in punjab and sindh do not care anyone and go where ever they find money and opportunity ?

  17. Hi again, Anoymous!

    Seems like you're here to argue over a people about whom you know close to nothing.

    Thanks for dropping by! Agar itni ehmiyat ho, to naam to likhdey na ;) So much for this and that, no? Can't even be anything more than an Anonymous soul.

    Peace to you!

  18. long ago i read an article a woman doing IMMAMATI in Canda i guess....at times this comes in my mind even now at midnight in bed, once i think over it , it sounds logical and ok to me...dont know what that SHUNDAWAR & KHAITAWAR mullian have to say... for me religions gives us a parameter of dos and donts never rules other than basic teachings ...i would like your views on few of my questions/comments...dont know where to post it???if here will it b ok... keep it up TROR what ever u r doing we need pukhtana especially paighlay to write or say what ever they belive in...and above this its a pride that someone is that vocal and is from swat...:)pa makha day sperlay TROR


Dare to opine :)

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