Is The Prayer Invalidated By A Passing Woman?

Question

Please explain the following narrative regarding a woman passing in front of the one who is praying. Does it really nullify one's prayer if a woman passes before them?

'Abdullah Ibn Samit reports on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Prophet (sws) said: 'When any one of you stands for prayer he is covered [from the passers by] if there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle. In case there is no such thing before him, his prayer would be nullified if a menstruating woman, a donkey or a black dog [passes in front of him]. (Muslim, No: 510)


Answer

This Hadith has been rejected by the learned among the companions of the Prophet (sws). The reason is that it offends common sense and does not conform to basic religious teachings. I will only mention the following comments of 'A'ishah (rta) in this regard:

Do you make us [women] equal to dogs and donkeys? (She is referring to the saying ascribed to the Prophet quoted above). While I used to lie in my bed, the Prophet would come and pray facing the middle of the bed. I used to consider it not good to stand in front of him in his prayers. So I used to slip away slowly and quietly from the foot of the bed till I got out of my quilt. (Bukhari, No: 486)

The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said: 'The prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman [if they pass in front of the praying people].' I said, 'You have rendered us (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qiblah. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away for I disliked facing him'. (Bukhari, No: 489)

I used to sleep in front of Allah's Apostle with my legs opposite his Qiblah [facing him]; and whenever he prostrated, he pushed my feet and I withdrew them and whenever he stood, I stretched them. She added, 'In those days there were no lamps in the houses'. (Bukhari, No: 491)

The above Ahadith evidently proves that the issue was raised before the Companions of the Prophet (sws) and the learned among them have opined that it does not hold water.

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