Understanding The Prophet's Life
From Issue: 947 [Read full issue]
Women in Masjid
It is certain that the Prophet, peace be upon him, set aside one of the doors of the mosque especially for women and that he put them in the last rows of the mosque to protect them when they bowed and prostrated. He forbade men to go too near their rows in the same way that he forbade women to come too close to the rows of the men. These rows of women remained in the mosque throughout the era of the Prophet and the time of the Rashidun Khalifs. No one protested. It began with Fajr and ended with Isha. There were sometimes large groups of women for the Tarawih prayers during Ramadan. It is also known that they took part in the Eid prayers; and listening to the khutbas is one of the hallmarks of Islam.
In spite of the flowering that Islam produced in the world of women, it rapidly began to fade and disappear. A hadith was forged forbidding teaching women to write, in order that they should remain illiterate! What will be the reckoning of the person responsible for this piece of Jahiliyya? When was ignorance and blindness imposed on half of the Community? Then another hadith was disseminated which rejected the idea of women attending group prayers:
"Umm Humayda, the wife of Abu Humayd as-Saidi, reports that she went to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, 'Messenger of Allah. I want to pray with you.' He said, I know that you want to pray with me. But your prayer in your bedroom is letter than your prayer in your living room, and your prayer in your living room is better than your prayer in your house, and your prayer in your house is better than your prayer in the mosque of your people. Your prayer in the mosque of your people is better than your prayer in my mosque.'" The transmitter said that she gave orders that a prayer room be constructed for herself in the furthest and darkest part of her house. She prayed in it until she met Allah Almighty." [Ibn Khuzayma]
The transmitter of this hadith casts behind his back the sunna of action transmitted by multiple paths from the Message-bearer. This transmitter regards a woman praying as something filthy which should be confined to the narrowest and most distant place possible. From this it would seem that the more constricted and distant the place the better the prayer!
The immediate question arising from this is: if these words are true, why did the Prophet let women attend the group prayers with him for ten years from Fajr to Isha? Why did he single out one of the doors of the mosque for them to enter by? Why did he not advise them to remain in their rooms instead of helping them in this way? Why did he shorten the Fajr prayer to two short suras when he heard a child with its mother weeping, so that their hearts would not be distracted? Why did he say, "Do not forbid the female servants of Allah from going to the mosques of Allah"? [Bukhari] Why did the Rashidun Khalifs allow the rows of women to remain in the mosque after the death of the Messenger?
Ibn Hazm spares himself and others when he says that the hadiths which forbid women to pray in mosques are lies and considers them false. Scholars of technical usage say that this hadith is considered aberrant (shadhdh) since it is opposed by someone who is more reliable.
"The Sunna of the Prophet" - Muhammad al-Ghazali