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Women and the Mosque

I have gotten some e-mails asking whether or not it is permitted for women to pray in the mosque (masjid in Arabic.) The short answer is yes as the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, is reported to have said, "Do not prevent your women from going to the mosque if they ask your permission."

The longer answer, however, is "yes, with conditions," including the following:

1. Women must have permission from their husbands or fathers to leave the house.

2. They must be dressed in proper hijab (Islamic dress for women.)

3. The masjid itself must have a separate area for women, and women must respect this by not entering the mens' area. It is inappropriate to socialize with men, to stare at them or to make eye-contact with them. They also must not attempt to attract men by way of their voices, movements, etc.

In addition, it is important to realize that women are not required to perform their prayers in the masjid as are men. (Men are required in Islam to perform the five daily prayers in congregation.) One of the reasons is because women are often busy at home with their children and other responsibilities so it would be very difficult for them to leave their homes at all hours of the day. Along with that, the woman's prayer at home is described in Islam as the "best" prayer for women. Consider the following hadeeth:

"Umm Humayd, the wife of Abu Humayd al-Saa‘idi reported that she came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said: "O Messenger of Allah, I love to pray with you." He said: "I know that you love to pray with me, but praying in your house is better for you than praying in your courtyard, and praying in your courtyard is better for you than praying in the mosque of your people, and praying in the mosque of your people is better for you than praying in my mosque." So she ordered that a prayer-place be built for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she always prayed there until she met Allaah (i.e., until she died)."

Women should keep this in mind and also avoid going to the masjid if they will face danger or harassment on the way there.

So long as women are mindful of the above considerations, there is no harm in them going to the masjid in order to pray, to gain knowledge from the Friday khutbahs (lectures) and to connect with other Muslim women. It is especially nice to participate in taraweeh prayers during Ramadan (a holy month of fasting) and to take part in Eid celebrations. But if women could not attend prayers and other events for some reason, they should not feel let down but try to find other means of meeting Muslim women and getting together to pray, study and build friendships.