Is there any evidence that woman's manner of performing the Prayer is different from that of man?

Details of the Question
Where is the evidence in Islam for women and men praying differently?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The fard, wajib and sunnah of the prayers are the same for men and women. There is no change in basic issues like that.

However, in fiqh books, some differences in the degree of mustahab (recommended) are recommended to women; and those differences are pointed out as issues regarding tasattur.

It is known by all of us that both the Quran and Sunnah give a special importance to the tasattur of women. It is the main reason why some actions of women are partially different from men in prayer. It is natural that the Muslim woman who is asked to be covered outside prayer sensitively should pay more attention to it when she is in the presence of Allah.  

As it is known, there is no basic difference between the prayer of men and women in terms of the arkan (pillars) of the prayer. Takbir iftitah, qiyam (standing), reciting the Quran, ruku (bending), etc are fard for both men and women. The difference occurs in form in some points. Up to where should one raise his/her hands during takbir iftitah, how to hold hands together and where while standing, the form of ruku and sajdah, how to sit during tashahhud are examples of those differences.  

As far as we know, it was not explained by our Prophet in detail what women should differently from men do during prayer. However, there are some signs that our scholars recommend women what to take care of and how to act differently from men. There are some hadiths, applications from sahaba and the following generations and fatwas regarding the issue.  

For instance, takbir iftitah: Although there is a narration reported by Wail b Hujr going back to our Prophet (pbuh) that women raise their hands up to their shoulders or chest not up to their ears (Abdurrazzaq, al-Musannaf, III, 138; Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, I, 302.), al-Haysami says he has not been able to find any information about Umm Yahya bt Abdiljabbar, present in the document of the hadith. (Ibn Abi Shayba, ibid) Therefore, that narration is weak but practices and fatwas from Ummu’d-Darda from Sahaba and Ata, az-Zuhri, Hammad… from Tabi’in confirming that narration are reported. (Ibn Abi Shayba, I, 303) We can easily say that narration is confirmed by those practices and fatwas and the application of women regarding takbir iftitah has a reported ground. 

For instance, sajdah: There are two narrations reported from our Prophet (pbuh) regarding how women should act during sajdah. Al-Bayhaqi says both of them are weak. (al-Bayhaqi, as-Sunanu’l-Kubra, II, 222-3.)

It is reported that Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said the following: “When a woman prostrates, her organs should touch the ground and her thighs should touch her body.”( Abdurrazzaq, al-Musannaf, III, 138; Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, I, 302.)

Ibrahim an-Nahai, Imam Abu Hanifa’a teacher (he is from Tabi’in), made a similar judgment and said, “When a woman prostrates, she should bring her thighs together and put her abdomen on her thighs. (Ibn Abi Shayba, ibid) Another report from him is as follows: “When a woman prostrates, her thighs should touch her abdomen, and she should not raise her hips; she should not keep her arms open as a man does.”(Ibn Abi Shayba, I, 303)

Mujahid from Tabi’in is reported to have regarded it as makrooh (abominable) for a man to put his abdomen on her thighs as a woman does during prostration. (Ibn Abi Shayba, I, 302)

Al-Bayhaqi says the following: “The difference of women from men during prayer is related to the issue of tasattur. The woman has to act in accordance with tasattur in every act of hers…”(al- Bayhaqi, as-Sunanu’l-Kubra, II, 222)

If it is considered that those differences are based on some narrations, practices of Sahaba and fatwas of scholars, it is better to say that it is mustahab for women to act accordingly.

THE DIFFERENT POSITION OF WOMEN DURING PRAYER

Since worshipping is a relation between the worshipper and the one who is worshipped mostly related to the hereafter, it is the exclusive right of the one who is worshipped to determine its place, time, conditions, compulsory parts and reasons. In other words, the creatures have no right to intervene in that aspect of worshipping. That is, one cannot make ijtihad in that aspect because ijtihad is an act of finding causes and effects through reasoning. However, the quality and the quantity of worshipping cannot be understood by reasoning. However, ijtihad can be done and must be done regarding the issues except conditions and causes, that is, regarding not the worshipping itself but the external details that are realized it in the perfect way or to put it better, the form of application of the determined causes, conditions and compulsory parts, that is, in understanding the decrees regarding it. The meaning of the sentence, "It is permissible to determine worshipping through qiyas (analogy)” (Abul-wafa Ali b. Aqil, Kitabul-jadal, 13.) of the fiqh scholars should mean so. It will be understood that a different application in those details originates from the different way that the sunnah reaches the mujtahids.

In addition, it is natural that there are changes to the extent that the gender difference necessitates. For instance, the woman cannot perform prayers or fasting during her menses. We will try to write again the situations that originate from the roles of the gender.

Let us deal with it chronologically; It is stated in “Tabyin”, one of the Hanafi sources, that the woman acts differently in ten places during the prayer and the following are mentioned: "During takbir, she raises her hands as far as the shoulders; then she puts (does not hold or clutch) her right hand on her left hand under her breasts (the correct expression should be on her breasts); during prostration she makes her abdomen touch her thighs; she does not separate them. She puts her hands on her thighs so that her finger tips will reach her knees (she does not hold her knees) during ruku and she does not open between her fingers; she does not raise her elbows during prostration; during tahiyyat, she sits on her left hip and puts her legs on the ground towards her right side; she cannot be an imam for men; it is makrooh for women to pray in congregation among themselves; if they do, the imam should stand in the middle not at the front." (Zayla'i, Tabyin I/l18. )

While mentioning the issues that make a woman different from a man in general, Ibn Nujaym (970/1562) mentions the issue of prayer too and he lists five more differences: "... It is makrooh for a woman to call out adhan and iqama; she does not read aloud during the prayers; she keeps herself closed; if it is necessary to warn or remind the imam she does so by clapping her hands not by saying ‘subhanallah’; she keeps herself closed during ruku and sajdah; it is better for a woman to pray at home." (Ibn Nujaym, al-Asbah, 384.)

While saying that Haskafi mentions fifteen differences, Ibn Abidin (1252/1836) increases them to twenty-five in his marginal notes to its explanation but it is difficult to regard some of them directly connected to prayer. Therefore, the different items are only the following ones: "...she does not take her hands out of her sleeves; she bends down a little during ruku; she bends her knees during ruku..." (Ibn Abidin, I/504.) In a report from "al-Bahr", he says that she does not keep her toes erect. (ibid) Thus, a woman does not keep her feet erect on her toes; she puts them on the ground or floor with the upper parts touching the ground or she turns her toe tips towards the right on their sides. There is no clear explanation regarding it. However, the usual practice is the first one. We did not see an expression stating that she should bring her feet together instead of leaving a distance of four fingers between them either. However, the expression of Ibn Nujaym "she keeps herself closed in ruku and sajdah and ‘shrinks’ and Ibn Abidin’s expression resembling it may have caused people to understand keeping close and shrinking as bringing the feet together. According to it, a woman brings her feet together during ruku and does not keep her feet erect during sajdah but leans them towards the right side.

In conclusion: "There is no difference between men and women in prayer in terms of its fards, wajibs, sunahs and adabs. Therefore, the differences mentioned above are the differences that fiqh scholars find nice because they will make women more covered during prayer." (Hindiyya, I/73)

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