In Islam, the mosque signifies a communal place of worship and is often seen as a safe haven for Muslims to pray and partake in community activities. While congregational prayer in mosques is led by an Imam (religious, male figure) and most attendees at mosques are males, women also partake in being active members of their local mosques. However, the areas of worship for women in mosques are often limited and not well-developed mainly because a handful of Muslims believe that it is better for women to worship at home than in the mosque. The understanding of the lack of necessity for women to worship in the mosques not only makes women feel isolated but gives the impression that as a religious community, Muslims are not invested in creating mosques as a place of inclusivity.
A study analysis was conducted of women’s access and participation in the mosques around the world and the findings demonstrated that mosques are not inclusive spaces for women and children as they are for men. The alienation of women from mosques is a prominent issue within our communities and the main reason is the lack of understanding of the Islamic perspective.
So, is there any merit to the idea that women are better off worshipping at home? Let’s explore the Islamic perspective.
The Prophet (PBUH) said
Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from the mosques of Allah”.Sahih Bukhari
The mosque is just as sacred and beneficial for women as it is for men. Women are a significant part of the community and depriving them of the right to worship in a mosque is unjust. It is up to a woman to decide where her worship is most effective: mosque or home.
On the contrary, there are two Hadiths that suggest a woman’s prayer in her home is better:
Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (PBUH) said
A woman’s prayer in her house is better than her prayer in her courtyard, and her prayer in her closet is better than in her house”.Sahih Hadith, Al-Hakim, 852
In another Hadith, Ibn ‘Umar said
Do not prevent your wives from the mosques, but their houses are better for them”.Sunan Abu Dawud, 177
Many scholars argue that the wisdom behind preferring women to worship in the home was intended to benefit the woman. Tackling the responsibilities of the home and being primary caretakers of children, it only seems reasonable that women have the option of worshipping at home. Imagine if Allah (SWT) had made it compulsory for women to worship in the mosque. It would be extremely difficult for women to tend to this obligation with young children and hectic schedules!
The various Islamic schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali) have differentiating views on whether it is better for women to worship in the mosque or at home. However, there is a general consensus regarding women and their attendance at mosques:
- While not prohibited, women are not required to attend mosques or participate in congregational prayers.
- In comparison to praying in a mosque, women are better off praying at home.
- Mosques should be accessible to women and accomodate them.