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Home Answers General Prayer (Salah) Difference In a Man’s and a Woman’s Prayer

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Difference In a Man’s and a Woman’s Prayer

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women-salahAnswered by Shaykh Omar Subedar

Question:

Assalamu alaaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu, Insha'Allah this question is reaching you in the best state of iman and health. JazakAllah khayr for this great initiative, may Allah bless each and every one of our great shuyookh alhamdulilah for their efforts InshaAllah. Ameen. I wanted to inquire on whether there is any difference in the method of performing salah (ie. posture,composure,gestures) between a man and a women and what each of the madhabs (whether there are any differences or not) say on this matter insha'Allah. JazakAllah khair

Answer:

There are differences found in the prayer method of both the male and female which according to the various math’habs are as follows;

The Hanafi School

  1. A man will raise his hands to his earlobes when commencing the prayer while a woman will only raise her hands to her shoulders.
  2. A man will tie his left hand with his right hand below the naval. The woman will tie both hands on her chest.
  3. A man will keep his fingers spread apart when performing ruku’ while a woman will keep them joined.
  4. A man will keep his stomach away from his thighs and his elbows away from his flanks when prostrating. A woman on the other hand will join her stomach to her thighs while observing this position.
  5. When a man sits between the two prostrations and for the middle and/or final sitting he will place his buttocks on his left foot and keep his right foot erect with his toes facing towards the Qibla. The woman will sit on her buttocks, place her right thigh over her left and extend her left leg towards her right beneath her right leg.

The Mäliki School

  1. A man will keep his elbows away from his flanks in a manner that they resemble wings when performing ruku’. A woman will join her elbows with her flanks.
  2. A man will keep his stomach away from his thighs and his elbows away from his flanks and knees when prostrating. A woman on the other hand will join her stomach to her thighs while prostrating.
  3. A man will keep his thighs spread apart when sitting in the prayer. A woman will keep them joined.

The Shäfi’ë School

  1. A man will keep his elbows away from his flanks and his stomach away from his thighs while performing ruku’ and prostration. A woman on the other hand will join her stomach to her thighs and will join her knees and feet together during ruku’ and prostration.
  2. A man will recite audibly and silently where required while a woman will only recite silently when praying in the presence of men who are strangers in order to avert any potential evil.
  3. If the Imam happens to make a mistake during the prayer the male congregants may rectify or remind him by uttering SubhänAllah while the female congregants will clap the palm of their right hand on the back of their left hand.

The Hanbali School

Apparently there is no difference between the prayer of a male and female in this school.

(Source: Al Fiqh Al Islamë wa Adillatuhu, Wahba Al Zuhailë)

We have also reproduced a selection on this topic from the valuable book, 'The Salah of A Believer' by Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq below:

Some people are of the view that all the laws of salah are common to both men and women, and that there is no difference between them. They also claim that the hadeeth 'Pray as you have seen me praying' is general and, therefore, should be applied equally to both men and women. It should be realised, however, that our own interpretation and logical inference of this hadeeth cannot compare with the other ahadeelh of the Messenger of Allah ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) and the verdicts and practice of the Sahabah and Tabi'un ( رضئ الله عنهم ) quoted below.

The Shariah has ordained distinct rules for men and women in many important questions of salah. For example,

Jumuah is fardh upon men but not on women, and the Eid prayer is wajib for men but again not for women.

 Sayyiduna Tariq bin Shthab ( رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ), said, 'Jumuah in congregation is an obligatory duty upon every Muslim except four people: a slave, a woman, a child, and one who is sick.’'538

 Sayyidatuna Umm Atiyyah . says as part of a longer hadeeth, 'We have been forbidden from following funerals and there is no Jumuah upon us. 539

The reward of congregational prayer for men is twenty seven times more than an individual prayer. Contrary to this, the more rewarding prayer of a woman is that which is most concealed and performed within the confines of her innermost living quarters.

Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Mas'ud ( رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'The prayer of a woman in her makhda' (partition) is better than her prayer in her hujrah (chamber), and her prayer in her hujrah is better than her prayer in her bait (house).'540

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah ( رضئ الله عنه ) narrates that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, The most beloved salah to Allah of a woman is one that she performs in the darkest spot of her home.'541

Unlike men women should not give adhan or say the iqamah.

Sayyidatuna Asmaa (R) narrates as part of a longer hadeeth that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'There is no adhan iqamah or Jumuah upon women.'542

Sayyidatuna Ibn Umar (R) says 'There is no adhan or iqamah upon women.'543

There is a great difference in the awrah of a man and that of a woman in salah. Women must cover their entire body including the hair, leaving only the face, hands and feet exposed.

Ummul Mu'mineen Aisha (R) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'Allah does not accept the salah of a mature female without a scarf.'544

Women cannot lead men in salah.

Abu Bakrah (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said ‘Never will those people succeed who have appointed a woman over them.’545
Jabir bin Abdullah (رضئ الله عنه ) reports as part of a longer hadeeth that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, Know that a woman should not lead a man in salah.'546

For the purpose of correcting or deterring someone in salah men should say 'subhanallah' loudly, whilst women are only allowed to clap their hands.

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'Tasbeeh is for men, and clapping is for women.’547

The different postures, positions and rulings concerning the prayers of the female are not the invention of a group or an individual but teaching of the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) himself. He was the very first person differentiate between the prayer of a man and a woman.
Yazid bin Abi Habib reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) passed by two women who were praying salah. He said, 'When you prostrate, let part of your body cling to the earth, for women are unlike men in this regard'. 548

Sayyiduna Ibn Umar (رضئ الله عنه ) narrates that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'When a woman sits in salah she should place one thigh over the other, and when she prostrates she should press her stomach to her thighs in a manner that is the most concealing for her. Indeed Allah looks at her saying, "Oh my angels! I make you witness that I have forgiven her."549

Sayyiduna Wail bin Hujr ( رضئ الله عنه ) reports that the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) said, 'Oh Ibn Hujr! When you pray make your hands level with your ears. And the woman shall raise her hands close to her bosom.'550

We derive some very important and fundamental principles about the prayer of a woman from all the above ahadeeth.

The laws of salah are not always the same for men and women. The sunnah posture of a female in any position of salah is that which is the most concealing for her.

Imam Baihaqi says,

'All of the laws of salah in which a woman differs from a man are based on the principle of satr (concealment). This means that the woman is instructed to do all that which is more concealing for her. The following chapters of hadeeth explain this meaning in detail.'551

As mentioned earlier, this variation in the salah of a woman has been prescribed by none other than the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) himself. It has remained the practice of the whole ummah till this day and is also reflected in the rulings of the Sahabah and Tabi'un. The ulama and fuqaha of all four schools have always recognised this difference and, as is evident in their books of fiqh, have always observed the above principles whenever making a ruling about the salah of a woman. Following are a few narrations detailing the verdicts and practice of the Sahabah & together with the verdicts of some of the Tabi 'un and the ulama of the different schools of fiqh:

Verdicts and practice of the Sahabah ( رضئ الله عنهم ):

Khalid bin al Lajlaaj reports as part of a longer hadeeth that women were ordered to do tarabb'u 552 when sitting in salah.553

Nafi' narrates that Safiyyah ( رضئ الله عنها ) would pray and do tarabb'u.554

Nafi' also narrates that the womenfolk of Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Umar's (رضئ الله عنه ) family would do tarabb'u.555

Sayyiduna Ibn Umar (رضئ الله عنه ) was once asked, 'How did women pray their salah during the time of the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) ' He replied, 'They used to sit cross legged until they were told to practice ihtifaz556

Sayyiduna Ali (رضئ الله عنه ) says, 'When a woman prostrates she should do ihtifaz and press her thighs together.', and in Abdul Razzaq's narration 'press her thighs against her stomach.'557

Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas ( رضئ الله عنه ) was asked about the prayer of a woman. He replied, 'She should pull herself close together and do ihtifaz.’558

Verdicts of the Tabi'un and other ulama:

Ibn Jurayj reports, 'I asked Ataa: "Should a woman motion with her hands at the time of takbeer as a man does?" he replied, "She should not raise her hands with takbeer in the manner of men." Ataa then demonstrated (the way in which she should.) He placed his hands very low and then pulled them towards him. He then said, "The posture of a woman in salah is not that of a man."559

Ataa also says, 'A woman should pull herself together when she bows down into ruk'u: she should bring up her arms to her stomach and pull herself together as much as possible. When she prostrates she should bring up her arms close to her and press her bosom and stomach against her thighs: she should pull herself together as much as possible.560

Hasan al Basri says, 'A woman should pull herself close together in sujud.' 561

Hasan and Qatadah both say, 'When a woman prostrates she should pull herself together as much as possible. She should not allow for any space between her limbs so that her posterior is not raised.'562

One certain author has argued that all the descriptions of the Prophet's ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ) prayer are equally applicable to both men and women and there is nothing in the sunnah that excludes women from any of them. Insha Allah the contents of this chapter will answer that claim. The author then goes on to say that this is the view of Ibrahim al Nakhai who said, 'A woman's actions in the prayer are the same as a man's.' - transmitted by Ibn Abi Shaibah (1/75/2), with a saheeh sanad from him.

This is not what Ibrahim al Nakhai said at all nor is it his view. His narration transmitted by Ibn Abi Shaibah actually reads, 'A woman will sit in salah just as a man does.'563 This somehow has been misquoted as 'A woman's actions in the prayer are the same as a man's.'!

In fact, Ibrahim al Nakhai's other narrations quite clearly contradict the above report. His view about the prayer of a woman as reported by Ibn Abi Shaibah and others is as follows:

Ibrahim al Nakhai says, 'When a woman prostrates she should press her stomach against her thighs. She should not raise her posterior nor should she allow for any space or distance between the limbs of her body as a man does.'564

He also says, 'When a woman prostrates she should bring her thighs together and press her abdomen to them.'565

He also says, 'A woman should sit to one side in salah.'566

Imam Baihaqi says,

'All of the laws of salah in which a woman differs from a man are based on the principle of satr (concealment). This means that the woman is instructed to do all that which is more concealing for her. The following chapters of hadeeth explain this meaning in detail.'567

Ibn Qudamah al Maqdisi al Hanbali quotes Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his al Mughni as saying, 'I consider sadl 56S to be better for a woman.' He also qoutes the narration of  Sayyiduna Ali ( رضئ الله عنه ) who says, 'When a woman prays salah she should do ihtifaz and press her thighs together.'569

Imam Ahmad was asked about how a woman should prostrate and sit for tashahhud. He replied, 'She should do whatever is more concealing for her.' He added, 'She should do tarabb'u in tashahhud and draw her legs to one side (sadl).'570

According to the narration of Abu Dawood, Imam Ahmad was asked about how a woman should sit in salah. He replied, 'She should press her thighs together.'571

Qadhi Iyadh has also quoted from some Salaf that the sunnah for women is tarabb'u.512

All the above quite clearly demonstrates that the prayer of a woman is different in some aspects from that of a man, and that this distinction was first made by none other than the Prophet ( صلى الله عايه وسالم ), and then maintained by the prominent Sahabah and Tabi'un. Furthermore, as can be seen in their works, there is almost universal agreement amongst the scholars of all schools of fiqh on this issue.

List of differences between the prayer of a man and a woman.

Some of the differences as mentioned in the Hanafi books of fiqh are listed below.
In all the postures and movements of salah, including qiyam, ruk'u, sajdah, and tashahhud a woman should adopt that which is the most modest and concealing for her.

At the beginning of salah a woman should not raise her hands to her ears but only to her shoulders or close to her bosom.573

In qiyam, women are to place their hands on their bosoms. They can fasten them in any one of the different ways 'akdh' (grasping) or 'wadh' (placing) described in part two, or they can simply rest the right palm on the left one.

Unlike men, in ruk'u, women should tuck their arms into the body and not spread them outward. They should also merely place their hands over their knees with closed fingers, and not grasp them with the fingers spread wide open.574 In fact, women should try to keep their fingers close together in all the postures of salah.

During prostration men should allow for some space and distance between their stomachs and thighs, and arms and the side of the body, whilst women should press these limbs together.

Again in prostration, men should raise their arms off the ground and allow for some distance but women should let them cling to the ground.

During the sitting of tashahhud, men are to rest on their legs and raise their right foot with the toes facing qiblah, whereas women are to take out both their legs towards the right hand side of the body and rest on the posterior without raising their right foot.

And Allah Knows Best


538 Abu Dawood 1067 and Hakim 1062. Hakim declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.
539 Ibn Khuzaimah 1722
540 Abu Dawood 570 and Ibn Khuzaimah 1690.
541 Ibn Khuzaimah 1691, and Tabarani in al M'ujam al Kabeer as mentioned by Hafidh Haithami 2/35. Hafidh Haithami also says that its narrators are authentic.
542 Baihaqi 1921. 543 Baihaqi 1920.
544 Ahmad 24012, Ibn Majah 655, Abu Dawood 641, Tirmidhi 377, Ibn Khuzaiir 775, Hakim 917 and Baihaqi 3254. Hakim declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.
545 Ahmad 19507, Bukhari 4163, Tirmidhi 2262 and Nasai 5388.
546 Ibn Majah 1081 and Baihaqi 5131.
547 Bukhari 1145.
548 Abu Dawood in his al Maraseel pl8 (Muassasah al Risalah edition), and Baiha 3201.
549 Baihaqi 3199. He also declared it dhaeef.
550 Tabarani in al M'ujam al Kabeer 22/19 no.28. Hafidh Haithami says 2/103, 'Tabarani has narrated it as part of a long hadeeth on the virtue of Wail bin Hujr 4fc with a chain of Maimoonah bint Hujr narrating from her auntie Umm Yahya bint Abdul Jabbar. I have not identified her but the rest of the narrators are reliable.'
551 Baihaqi 2/314.
552 i.e., to draw out one's right leg towards the right side of the body and to place the left leg beneath the right leg. 553 Ibn Abi Shaibah 2783.
554 Abdul Razzaq 5074 and Ibn Abi Shaibah 2784.
555 Ibn Abi Shaibah 2789.
556 Narrated by all three, Abu Muhammad al Bukhari, Qadhi Umar bin al Hasan Ashnani, and Ibn Khusruw in their Musnads of Imam Abu Hanifah's ahadeeth Ihtifaz is to lean to one side and rest on the posterior. It is more or less the same a sadl.
557 Abdul Razzaq 5072 and Ibn Abi Shaibah 2777. Muhaddith Dhafar Ahmad Uthmani 3/32 has declared it hasan.
558 Ibn Abi Shaibah 2778.
559 Abdul Razzaq 5066 and Ibn Abi Shaibah 2474.
560 Abdul Razzaq 5069.
561 Ibn Abi Shaibah 2781.
562 Abdul Razzaq 5068.
563 Ibn Abi Shaibah 1/242, no 2788.
564 Abdul Razzaq 5071 and Ibn Abi Shaibah 2782.
565 Ibn Abi Shaibah 2779.
566 Abdul Razzaq 5077 and Ibn Abi Shaibah 2792.
567 Baihaqi 2/314.
568 To draw out the right leg to one side of the body and place the left leg beneath one's right thigh. In this way the posterior will come to rest on the ground rather than on the left leg. She would, therefore, not be resting on her legs, but on her posterior as mentioned in the narration of Sayyiduna Ali (رضئ الله عنه )
569 Ibn Qudamah in al Mughni 2/135.
570 Masaail of Imam Ahmad narrated by his son Abdullah 373.
571 Masaail of Imam Ahmad narrated by Abu Dawood p51.
572 Awjaz al Masalik 2/119.
573 Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal also says that she should raise them slightly and, according to one narration, she should not raise them at all.
574 In some books of Hanafi fiqh it has been suggested that in ruk'u they should also bend their backs and knees slightly. The Hanbali scholar Imam Khirqi also says as part of a longer statement, 'The woman should gather herself in ruk'u and sujud.' (al Mughni 1/134.)