In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
Women should be allowed to pray in the main musalla (prayer space) with men, praying behind the men with no barrier in-between men and women, as it was the practice of Prophet Muhammad.
In responding to your question, the Fiqh Council of North America states:
Women should be allowed to pray in the main musalla (prayer space) with men, praying behind the men with no barrier in-between men and women, as it was the practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The best procedure for mosques is to give women a choice to pray in the same prayer space as men or behind a barrier.
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No Barrier in the Prophet’s Mosque
It is well-documented that the mosque of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the mosques during the time of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs did not have a barrier separating men and women. Men prayed in the front lines, children in the middle, and women behind the children. So why should we adopt any other ideal?
When women are in the main musalla, they are naturally more attentive and more engaged, and thus they are better able to be inspired, to learn, and to fulfill their function as supporters and contributors to establishing the Muslim community.
The “Fitnah” Argument
Some Muslims argue that the barrier is necessary to guard against fitnah (temptation). However the Prophet never stated that a women’s presence in the mosque in and of itself is a source of fitnah.
The general instruction in the Quran to men to avoid fitnah is to lower their gaze—not to put a physical barrier that blocks women from the main musalla. The benefit in the rule of having women engaged in the mosque outweighed some hypothetical possibility of fitnah.
Although the architecture of some mosques may make it difficult to find a barrier-free space for women in the main musalla, especially for Jumuah, msoques still have the duty to find a solution to realize the sunnah of including women in the main musalla.
Almighty Allah knows best.