Ruling On a Woman Leading Men in Solāh
What is the ruling on a woman leading men in Solāh Jumu’ah and other Solāh?
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.
In dealing with the subject we need to look into the virtues and ruling that Allāh Subhānahu wa ta`ala designed for men and women and the Hadith of Umm Waraqah.
1 - Virtues and Rulings for Men and Women.
Allāh Subhānahu wa ta`ala has singled out men for some virtues and rulings, and He has also singled out women for other virtues and rulings. While it is not permissible for any man to aspire for that which has been granted to women only, nor is it permissible for any woman to desire for that which has been granted to men. This kind of aspiration is tantamount to objecting to the laws and rulings of Allāh Subhānahu wa ta`ala.
Allah says: “And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel others. For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned, and ask Allah of His Bounty. Surely, Allah is Ever All Knower of everything” [An-Nisa’ 4:32]
Al-Sa`di (rahimahullāh) said: “Allah forbids the believers to wish for that with which Allāh has favoured others, whether that is in things that are possible or things that are impossible. Women should not wish for the things that have been bestowed uniquely upon men, by which Allāh has favoured them over women, and no poor person or person who has shortcomings should merely wish for the position of one who is rich or perfect, because this is the essence of destructive envy (hasad)… and because that implies displeasure with the decree of Allah”.
One of the things for which Allāh has singled out men is that the acts of worship which require physical strength, such as jihad, or require a position of leadership such as leading the Solāh, etc., are only for men, and women have nothing to do with them. This is indicated by a great deal of evidence, such as the following:
1.1 - Allāh Almighty says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allāh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means” [An-Nisā’ 4:34]
Al-Shāfi`ie (rahimahullah) said: “If a woman leads men, women and boys in solāh, then the solāh of the women is valid and the solāh of the men and boys is invalid, because Allāh has given men the role of protectors and maintainers of women, and He has not allowed them to be in charge, so it is not permissible for a woman to lead a man in solāh under any circumstances, ever”.
Al-Sa`di said: “Men have been favoured over women in numerous ways, such as the fact that positions of leadership and Prophethood are limited to men only, and many acts of worship, such as jihad and leading the Solāh Eid and Solāh Jumu`ah, are for men only, and Allāh has favoured them with intellect, wisdom, patience and toughness which women do not share.”
1.2 - Allah Almighty says: “And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men has a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise” [Al-Baqarah, 2:228]
Al-Sa`di said: “...but men have a degree over them” means higher status and leadership, and more rights over them, as Allah says, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women”. The position of Prophet and judge, leading the Solāh and leading the state, and all positions of authority, are restricted to men”.
1.3 - Abu Bakrah (radiyallahu`anhu) reported, who said that The Messenger of Allah, (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “No people will ever succeed who appoint a woman as their leader.” [Al-Bukhari (4425)]
This hadith indicates that it is not permissible for a woman to hold a position of public authority, and leading the solāh is a position of public authority.
1.4 - It was narrated that Ibn `Umar (radiyallahu`anhu) said: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam), said: “Do not prevent your women from attending the mosques, although their houses are better for them.” [Recorded by Abu Dawud (576) and Ahmad (5445); Classified as sahih by al-Albāni in Sunan Abi Dawud.]
It says in `Awn Al-Ma’bud: “....“although their houses are better for them” means: their praying in their houses is better for them than their praying in the mosques, if only they knew, but they do not know that, and they ask for permission to go out to the mosques, because they think that the reward for them in the mosque is greater. The reason why their praying at home is better is that there is no danger of fitnah. That was confirmed after women began to wear adornments.”
1.5 - It was narrated that Abu Hurairah, (radiyallāhu`anhu), said: The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “The best rows for men are those are the front and the worst are those at the back, and the best rows for women are those at the back and the worst are those at the front.” [Muslim (440)]
Al-Nawawi (rahimahullāh) said: “The phrase “the rows for men” is to be understood in general terms as meaning that the best of them are those that are at the front, and the worst are those at the back, and that is always the case. As for the rows for women, what are meant in this hadith are the rows of women who are performing Solāh with men. But if women are performing Solāh on their own and not with men, then they are like men and the best rows are those at the front and the worst are those at the back. What is meant by the worst rows for both men and women is that they bring less reward, are lower in status and are further removed from what is required by syari`ah. And the best rows are the opposite of that. The virtue of the last row for women who are praying with men is that they are farther away from mixing with men or seeing them or becoming attracted to them when seeing their movements or hearing their words and so on. The first rows are condemned for the opposite of that. And Allah knows best”.
If a woman is enjoined to perform Solāh in her house and keep away from men, and the worst rows for women are the front rows, because they are closer to the men, then how can it be befitting for Islam to allow a woman to pray as an imam, leading men in performing Solāh, when it enjoins her to keep away from men?
1.6 - It was narrated from Sahal Ibn Sa`ad Al-Sa’idi (radiyallahu`anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) said: “Whoever notices anything amiss during the prayer, let him say tasbih, for if he does so it will be noticed; and clapping is only for women.” [Al-Bukhari (684) and Muslim (421)]
Al-Hafiz said: “It is as if women are not allowed to say tasbih because they are enjoined to keep their voices low in prayer at all times, because of the fear of fitnah”.
If women are forbidden to alert the imam by speaking if he makes a mistake, and should clap instead, so that they will not raise their voice in the presence of men, then how can it be allowed for a woman to lead them in prayer and deliver a khutbah to them?
1.7 - It was narrated from Anas Ibn Malik (radiyallahu`anhu) that he performed Solāh behind the Messenger, (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) and with him was his grandmother and an orphan. He said: The orphan and I stood in a row behind him, and the old woman stood behind us. [Muslim (658)]
Al-Hafiz said: “This shows that a woman should not stand in a row with a man. The basic reason is that there is the fear of fitnah because of her”.
If a woman should stand on her own behind the rows, and not stand in the same row as the men, how can she stand in front of them and lead them in Solāh?
In the `Awn Al-Ma’bud it says: “This indicates that it is not permissible for a woman to lead men in Solāh, because if she is not allowed to stand in the same row as them, it is less likely that she should be allowed to stand in front of them”.
1.8 - According to the actions of the Muslims throughout fourteen hundred years, no woman should be allowed to men in Solāh.
[Badā`i’ Al-Sanā`i’, 2/289]
Whoever goes against this is following a path other than that of the believers. Allāh Subhānahu wa ta`ala says: “And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell — what an evil destination!” [An-Nisā’ 4:115]
There follow some comments of the scholars:
It says in Al-Mawsu`ah Al-Fiqhiyyah (6/205): “In order to lead men in Solāh, it is essential that the imām be a male; it is not valid for a woman to lead men in Solāh. The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed on this matter”.
Ibn Hazm said in Maratib Al-Ijma’, p. 27: “They are unanimously agreed that a woman should not lead men in prayer when they know that she is a woman. If they do that than their Solāh is invalid, according to scholarly consensus”.
It says in Al-Muhalla (2/167): “It is not permissible for a woman to lead a man or men in prayer. There is no difference of scholarly opinion on this point. Moreover the text states that a woman invalidates a man’s prayer if she walks in front of him… The ruling of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) is that she should definitely stand behind the man in Solāh, and the imām must stand in front of the congregation or with one who is performing Solāh with him in the same row… From these texts it may be established that it is definitely invalid for a woman to lead a man or men in Solāh.”
Imām Ah-Nawawi (rahimahullah) said: “Our companions are agreed that it is not permissible for an adult man or a boy to perform Solāh behind a woman… the prohibition on a woman leading men in Solāh applies equally to obligatory Solāh, Solāh Tarawih and all supererogatory Solāh. This is our view and the view of all the scholars from the earlier and later generations – may Allaah have mercy on them. Al-Baihaqi narrated this from the seven fuqaha’, the Tabi`ie fuqaha’ of Madinah. It is also the view of Malik, Abu Hanifah, Sufyan, Ahmad and Dawud….”
Moreover if a woman leads a man or men in Solāh, the men’s Solāh is invalid, but women’s Solāh and the Solāh of any women who perform Solāh behind her is valid in all Solāh, except if she leads them in Solāh Jumu`ah, in which case there are two views, the most sound of which is that her Solāh does not count. The second view is that it does count and it takes the place of Dzuhur. This is the view of Sheikh Abu Hamid, but it does not amount to anything. And Allah knows best.
In Al-Insaf (2/265) it says: “A woman’s leading a man in Solāh is not valid”
“This is our view in general – meaning the mazhab of Imām Ahmad – it says in Al-Mustau`ib: This is the correct view”
The Maliki view concerning this matter is the strictest of all. They do not allow a woman to lead even other women in Solāh, and they regard maleness as an essential condition for leading the Solāh in all cases.
In Al-Fawakih Al-Dawani it says (1/204): “Note that there are conditions for leading the Solāh to be valid and complete. The conditions of it being valid are thirteen, the first of which is being male; it is not valid for a woman or an effeminate man to lead the Solāh. The Solāh of the one who prays behind a woman is invalid but not the Solāh of the female who led the Solāh”
Sheikh Ibn Baaz, rahimahullah, was asked about a man who performed Solāh `Asar behind his wife. He replied:
“It is not permissible for a woman to lead a man in the Solāh and his Solāh offered behind her is not valid, because of a great deal of evidence to that effect, and the man mentioned must repeat his Solāh.”
[Majmu’ Fatawa Ibn Baaz, 12/130]
2 - The Tradition of Umm Waraqah.
With regard to the evidence presented by those who refer to the reports which say that the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) gave Umm Waraqah permission to led her household in Solāh (narrated by Abu Dawud, 591), they say that she used to lead the people of her house in Solāh, among whom were men and boys.
The scholars however, have given several opinions regarding that particular hadith:
2.1 - The hadith is considered dha`ief (weak):
Al-Hafiz said in Al-Talkhis (p. 121): “Its isnād includes `Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Khallad who is unknown.”
In Al-Muntaqa Sharh Al-Muwatta’: “This hadith is one to which no attention should be paid”.
2.2 - Even if the hadith is sahih, what it means is that she used to lead the women of her household in Solāh.
2.3 - That was something that applied only to Umm Waraqah, and it is not prescribed for anyone else.
2.4 - Some scholars quote it as evidence that a woman may lead a man in Solāh, but only in cases of necessity, and what is meant by necessity is when there is no man who can recite Al-Fātihah properly. [Hashiyat Ibn Qasim, 2/313]
[See Al-Mughni. 3/33.]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Via Islam Q&A]