By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwī
That women do not go to the mosque for congregational prayer, however widespread this has become, and however long standing, is a departure from the sunnah, which some people will call innovation or bid`ah. The norm in the time of the Prophet and his Companions was that women were encouraged, not passively tolerated, to come to the mosque for prayer and education. Men came to pray and learn and women came to pray and learn. The Prophet emphasised the greater merit of prayer in congregation. This applies to women no less or more than to men.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “I and the Hour were sent like these two fingers”. Try to imagine what it means, the awe and dread which this statement puts in the hearts of all those who heard it. For sure whoever heard it would want to learn from the Messenger how to prepare for the Hour, and would hasten to his family and friends to urge them to do the same. It is unimaginable for any Muslim, male or female who hears these words from God’s Messenger, to ever close the doors of a mosque, when people come to pray and seek knowledge, as part of preparing for the Hour.
A wife of `Umar ibn al-Khattab used to go to the mosque for the prayers of fajr and `isha|. It was said to her: Why do you go out when you know that `Umar does not like that, and he feels jealous? She said: So what stops him from forbidding me? It was said to her: What stops him is the saying of the Messenger of God, upon him be peace, “Do not stop the women servants of God from the mosques of God.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Salim ibn `Abdullah ibn `Umar informed [us] that `Abdullah ibn `Umar said: I heard the Messenger of God, upon him be peace, say: “Do not stop your women from the mosques when they ask your permission to go there.” His son Bilal said to him: By God, we certainly will stop them! Then `Abdullah ibn `Umar turned to him, abused him with the most vehement abuse – I have never heard him abusing (anyone) like that – and said: I am informing (you of something) from the Messenger of God, upon him be peace, and you say: By God we will certainly stop them?! (Sahih Muslim)
For a full discussion of these and other relevant texts, with detailed references, see: