Monday, November 20, 2017 - 2 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

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A Woman leading men in congregational prayers

Why does Shari’ah (Islamic Law) prevent women from leading men in congregational prayers like Friday, Eid and other prayers?

Answer

Men and women in Islam
According to Islamic faith, the human relations in general and the male-female relationship in particular are based on compatibility and not conflict. Islam holds the relationship between males and females in high esteem since both genders are the source of life. God the Almighty says, “And [by] He Who created the male and female, indeed, your efforts are diverse” (Qur’an 92:4-5).

God the Almighty has singled out men for some virtues and rulings, and He has singled out women for other virtues and rulings, “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what God has given one over the other” (Qur’an 4:34). However, no one is favored over the other in the sight of God except through piety and righteousness. Males and females are equal in the sight of God as per His words, “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer - We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do” (Qur’an 16:97).

As a religion of balance and justice, Islam admits equality between the two genders to establish the fact that there is no spiritual or moral deficiency in women as claimed by some ignorant individuals. Islam takes into consideration the biological, physiological, psychological and social differences between the two genders. Islam also considers and respects the cultural diversity of today’s Muslim communities. However, the Islamic faith since the very first day of its legislation has singled out men for certain tasks that require special physical strength such as jihad, or require a position of leadership such as leading the prayers, etc.

A woman is only to lead females in congregations
Islam places no restrictions on women to teach, preach and guide both men and women. God the Almighty says, “The believing men and believing women are supporters of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give Zakah and obey God and His Messenger. Those - God will have mercy upon them. Indeed, God is Exalted in Might and Wise” (Qur’an 9:71). Many women today are fully qualified to be jurists, issue fatwas and teach Qur’an and Hadith in schools, colleges and universities all over the world. However, leading congregational prayers in the presence of men is restricted to male Imams only.

Juristic Evidence
According to the opinion of the majority of scholars, women are not allowed to lead men in congregational prayers whether they are daily, Friday or Eid prayers. Although Imam Ibn Hazm allowed women to lead men in congregations, the opinion implemented for fatwa as agreed by the majority of scholars is that women are not allowed to do so.

This has also been the practice of Muslims all over the world since the time of the Prophet, Companions and their succeeding generations. The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, "The best rows for women are the last rows and the worst rows for them are the first rows [behind men] and the best rows for men are the first rows, and the worst rows are the last rows." [Muslim]

Since the Prophet described the first rows of women behind men as the worst rows, it is not permissible for a woman to be in front of men and lead the prayer! A woman is only allowed to lead females in congregations if there is no male Imam and she must stand in the middle of the line and not in front of them.

The Ruling
Based on the above and according to the opinion implemented for fatwa, which is the opinion of the majority of jurists, it is not allowed for women to lead men in congregational prayers. If this happens, the prayer is deemed invalid.

God the Almighty knows best.