Women Leading Salah

What is your take on Dr. Aminah Wadood who led a group of male and female in Jummah prayer in New York? What does the Islamic teaching says about it?

Well, of course it isn’t acceptable and the whole Muslim world had spoken against it and there are number of issues that have to be looked at with regards to it. Firstly, a reminder of what Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing. [1]

  • The issues concerning the place in which she prayed as no mosque would be allowed to pray in so she prayed in a Church but if we go and look into information about this Church, it’s very significant. You will find that the owner is part of a Christian cult which they called the new age religion. It wasn’t a regular Church, so there is whole lot of background information concerning that church which is very twisted and devious.
  • Besides that, her issue of leading the prayer is of course not acceptable in Islam, though there is an authentic narration in the times of Prophet (ﷺ) that a woman by the name of Umm Waraqah requested that the Prophet (ﷺ) allow her to lead prayers in her home where she had some young people and old man and a slave but there is no description that she stood in front and led those men in prayer. So, the idea of going in front and leading the prayers is something unheard of.

The scholars have given several answers to the usage of this Hadith:

1- The Hadith is Da’eef (weak).

Al-Haafiz said in al-Talkhees (p. 121), “Its isnaad includes ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Khallaad who is unknown.”

In Al-Muntaqa Sharh al-Muwatta, it is stated, “This Hadith is one to which no attention should be paid to,”

2- Even if the Hadith is Saheeh (authentic), what it means is that she used to lead the women of her household in prayer.

3- That it was something that applied only to Umm Waraqah, and it is not prescribed for anyone else.

4- Some scholars quote it as evidence that a woman may lead a man in prayer, but only in cases of necessity, and what is meant by necessity is when there is no man who can recite Surah Al-Fatiha properly. (Haashiyat Ibn Qaasim 2/313, al-Mughni. 3/33)

  • Furthermore, she is not only leading any prayer but she is doing the Jummah for which the Prophet (ﷺ) did not give permission and if that were to be interpreted from the permission which Prophet (ﷺ) gave to Umm Waraqah to lead in her home then we have leading women scholars from the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) who we should have expected to do this but they didn’t. All these generations, for 1400 years, we have had leading female scholars who were scholars of Hadith like those who taught Imam Malik and others who taught Abu Hanifah, but we have no record of them understanding the Hadith in the way that she did.

Thus what should be asked here is does Dr. Ameenah know better than the female companions of Prophet (ﷺ) and their next generation?

What this shows us is that the feminism challenge in the West has affected some Muslim women today. Unfortunately some female Muslims fell for it and actually some 5 years back she was calling for feminist Tafseer of the Qur'an because all the Tafseers were written by men. All the classical commentaries of the Qur’an are written by men so she is of the opinion that we should get a version by female scholar so that we can get away from male chauvinistic interpretations of the Quran.

  • Also those lined up behind her in prayers are also male and females side by side in the same line, this is similar to the situation of the Egyptian women who gave the Adhan without any head cover.

Further evidence for this can be found in the following quotations taken from a fatwa from the website Islam-QA:

According to the actions of the Muslims throughout fourteen hundred years, no woman should be allowed to lead men in prayer.

Badaa’i’ al-Sanaa’i’, 2/289

Whoever goes against this is following a path other than that of the believers. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad (ﷺ)) 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!”

[al-Nisa’ 4:115]

There follows are some comments of the scholars:

It says in al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (6/205):

In order to lead men in prayers, it is essential that the imam be a male; it is not valid for a woman to lead men in prayers. The fuqaha’ are unanimously agreed on this matter. End quote.

Ibn Hazm said in Maraatib al-Ijmaa’, 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 then their prayer is invalid, according to scholarly consensus. End quote.

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 (ﷺ) is that she should definitely stand behind the man in prayer, and the imam must stand in front of the congregation or with one who is praying 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 prayer. End quote.

Al-Nawawi (4/152) said in al-Majmoo (4/152):

Our companions are agreed that it is not permissible for an adult man or a boy to pray behind a woman… the prohibition on a woman leading men in prayer applies equally to obligatory prayers, Taraweeh and all supererogatory prayers. This is our view and the view of all the scholars from the earlier and later generations – may Allaah have mercy on them. Al-Bayhaqi narrated this from the seven fuqaha’, the Taabi’i fuqaha’ of Madeenah. It is also the view of Maalik, Abu Haneefah, Sufyaan, Ahmad and Dawood….

Moreover if a woman leads a man or men in prayer, the men’s prayer is invalid, but her prayer and the prayer of any women who pray behind her is valid in all prayers, except if she leads them in Jumu’ah prayer, in which case there are two views, the most sound of which is that her prayer does not count. The second view is that it does count and it takes the place of Zuhr. This is the view of Shaykh Abu Haamid, but it does not amount to anything. And Allaah knows best.

In al-Insaaf (2/265) it says:

“ A woman’s leading a man in prayer is not valid” –

This is our view in general – meaning the madhhab of Imam Ahmad – it says in al-Mustaw’ib: This is the correct view. End quote.

The Maaliki view concerning this matter is the strictest of all. They do not allow a woman to lead even other women in prayer, and they regard being male as an essential condition for leading the prayer in all cases. In al-Fawaakih al-Dawaani it says (1/204):

Note that there are conditions for leading the prayer 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 prayer. The prayer of the one who prays behind a woman is invalid but not the prayer of the female who led the prayer. End quote.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about a man who prayed ‘Asr behind his wife. He replied:

It is not permissible for a woman to lead a man in prayer and his prayer offered behind her is not valid, because of a great deal of evidence to that effect, and the man mentioned must repeat his prayer.”

Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz, 12/130

Source: http://islamqa.com/en/ref/39188/prayer

All of the above is sufficient evidence that this is clearly wrong and deviant, and not something any Muslim can condone.


[1] Surah Nisaa, 4:32

< Back to Questions
If you liked the article, do leave a comment down below