Do They Women Offer The Salah Differently?

Question

I want to learn whether there is any difference between the prayer method for male and female worshipper. I read a book by Mufti Taqi Usmani. He wrote that there is a difference between the procedure prescribed for males and that for the females. If we visit UAE and other Arab countries we sees that both men and women offer the prayer the same way. Please clarify.


Answer

The matter of difference of posture during performing different parts of the prayer has not been discussed in the Shari`ah. We know that apparently there is no difference in the form of prayer acts. The difference actually occurs in areas where woman due to her moderate physical and psychological characteristics performs the act in a particular way. You would observe the same uniqueness in other acts of women as well. This definitely indicates to their distinctive physical trait not to difference religious directives. There are no clear directives from the Holy Prophet (sws) in this regard rendering these differences necessary. Traditional jurist differ on the subject a lot. None of the group has clear basis for their position. Commonly the following traditions are presented to prove that it is a religious directive to observe this difference.

Abdullah ibn Umar (rta) narrates that the Holy Prophet (sws) said: When a woman sits in Sajdah by putting one thigh upon the other (i.e. close to one another) and at the time of Sajdah (prostration) her stomach touches her thighs and she also takes full consideration of Hijaab, then Allah Almighty looks at her and says to the angels, "Bear witness that I have forgiven her." (Baihaqi, Kanzul Ummaal)

Wail ibn Hajar said that the Holy Prophet (sws) taught him to offer Prayer and he said: O ibn Hajar! When you begin your Prayer then lift your hands up to your ears and show the women that they should lift up to their chests. (Tabarrani)

Abdullah ibn Umar (rta) was once asked on how women used to offer Prayer during the time of the Holy Prophet. He replied: First they used to read Prayer cross-legged, then they were commanded to cling to themselves. (Jaami al-Masanid).

Once the Holy Prophet (sws) saw two women offering Prayer and he said: When you (women) make Sajdah (prostrate) then let the limbs of your body touch one another and make them touch the ground. (Masaail Abu Dawood)

We believe that these traditions are not that authentic as these are only found in relatively less reliable works on the life history and sayings ascribe to the Prophet (sws). However, these conform to the very practice living and perpetuated in the Muslim community ever since the Prophet (sws) taught his followers to pray. Had there anything wrong with this changed style the Prophet (sws) would have corrected women. The Muslim women have not adopted this posture just from the beginning and it seems their style was confirmed by the Prophet (sws). However this is not a strict legislation. If a woman offers the Prayer like a man she cannot be validly declared wrong. Nor can we declare it invalid for a man to for example let his arm touch the ground in the prostrations.

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