Short Answer: Of course they are! Women make up half, or slightly more than half, of society! Prophet Muhammad encouraged women to attend the mosque, and explicitly forbade anyone from stopping their wives/daughters from going to the mosque. The reason for this misunderstanding is first, that people take their understanding of Islam from incorrect sources. Also, people have a false understanding of a hadith which says that women don’t have to attend the mosque like men do, but still get rewarded as if they had!
Asalamu Alaikum Sara,
Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
Your first question asks if sisters can go to mosques for prayers and other activities, and states that you have heard from some friends’ parents that this is not permissible in Islam.
The Real Problem: Taking Knowledge from Bad Sources
In fact, Sara, the real problem is the way we gain our knowledge of Islamic law.
Most of us depend on what we hear from unqualified people.
Thus, we only have fragmented pieces of knowledge that can never lead us to successfully developing our Islamic identity.
Actually, the scarcity of sources is no longer a problem.
The Quran, books of explanation of the Quran, hadith (sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him-PBUH), fiqh (detailed Islamic understanding), seerah (biography of the Prophet), Islamic history, etc. are all available now in most languages.
Islamic websites are rich in information as well. We can directly access such sources, in order to obtain genuine knowledge.
When You Don’t Understand, Ask Qualified People
If something is too vague for us to understand on our own, the scholars are now more reachable through the specialized fatwa (religious rulings) sections online.
Allah says in the Quran:
[…] ask those who have knowledge, if you do not know. (Quran 16:43)
Yet, in saying that, Sara, I don’t mean of course to diminish the value of our parents’ opinions.
They are a major source of knowledge from experience in our life, and they should always be very much appreciated.
Nevertheless, the nature of Islamic knowledge is quite different, as it always needs qualified scholars to deal with, in order to avoid some of the intellectual chaos that is spreading nowadays in the Islamic world.
This has taken place as a result of having amateurs involving themselves in the process of giving religious rulings and mixing their personal opinions with the rules of religion.
Proof Women Can Attend the Mosque
As for your demand to know a proof for the permissibility of women going to mosques, the Prophet (PBUH) said:
Do not prevent the maid- servants of Allah [Muslim women] from going to the mosques. (Muslim)
Again, it was narrated by Ibn Umar that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Do not prevent women from going to the mosques at night.” A boy said to Ibn Umar: “We would never let them go out, that they may not be caught in evil.” Ibn Umar reprimanded him and said: “I am saying that the messenger of Allah said this and you say: ‘no, we will not allow it?'” (Muslim)
Actually, the regulations that do not permit women to wear perfumes on their way to mosques and that instruct women to pray in the back rows behind men are in themselves evidence of the permissibility of their praying in mosques.
Funny Example from Prophet’s Life
A similar and kind of funny situation was when the Prophet (PBUH) asked women not to precede men in lifting their heads from prostration (sujud), as some men at that time were too poor to have clothes to cover themselves properly.
Thus, when men made prostration, parts of their bodies became visible.
This did not make the Prophet (PBUH) prevent women from praying in the mosque to solve the problem.
Instead what he did was tell them:
O womenfolk, do not lift your heads till men are raised. (Muslim)
What is wonderful about this incident is that he had full faith that the women would not betray his trust.
Women: Half of Society!
The Prophet (PBUH) used to encourage women to witness Eid Prayer (the prayer at annual celebrations such as at the end of Ramadan).
In fact, this was repetitively mentioned in hadith. Ibn Abbas said:
The Prophet would take his wives and daughters to the two Eid Prayers. (Ibn Majah and Al-Baihaqi)
Not only did the Prophet (PBUH) allow women to go for prayers, he also encouraged them to go to public religious teaching circles.
Some women requested the Prophet to fix a day for them, as men were taking up all his time.
On that, he promised them a day for religious lessons and commandments. (Al-Bukhari)
The question here is: how would Islam deprive half the society from tasting the sweetness and rewards of congregational prayers, whether in prayers itself or through listening to the useful teachings that accompany them?
What is made useful for men is necessarily useful for women, being men’s partners both in this life and the life to come.
The Root of the Misunderstanding
The misunderstanding, Sara, arises from the misinterpretation of a hadith that says:
A woman’s prayer in the hall of her house is better than her payer in the mosque and her prayer in her bedroom is better than her prayer in the hall of her house.
Some scholars say this was a specific hadith for one woman whose husband was very jealous.
But the broader picture is that this hadith shows that the congregational prayer is not obligatory on women as it is on men.
Women are not asked to perform the five daily prayers in the mosques and still, they will have the same rewards if they do them at home.
How Can We Improve Our Ummah?
As for your second question: “what can make our ummah better?,” This is a question that needs volumes to answer.
The problem is not a lack of ideas as there are many, but it is in the sincerity and truthfulness that we need in our hearts in order to make this dream come true.
We are more responsible for the realization of this aim as individuals than those in the levels of authority. Allah, says what means:
Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Quran 13:11)
This means, that when we are in a bad situation as an ummah, we are instructed to focus on changing ourselves.
We should develop our piety and become aware of God – both in public and in secret, in worship and in communication with others, we should control our behavior, increase our knowledge of Islam and help others to increase theirs as well.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)