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Imamat of women

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org

I have a matter and inshallah allah may help me  if he wants through you.

Is my prayer prayed (of course “rightly”) behind a female valid?

i got that muslima in my school who wants to lead the common prayer. at first i told her that its not usually for a muslima, a woman, to lead the together prayers. not usually in the meaning of tradition. (i didnt grow up with that and i think thats why i am not used to it and i dont got a good feeling about it, in fact iam worrying if we are starting something new and also if my prayer is valid prayed behind a woman).

she just answered that we can get used to it, that woman never lead because of the patriarchal system in the past but that we are living today in a moreover “free” system where new thoughts are being easily accepted. afterwards she asked me if i had a personal problem to pray behind her.

i told her that i don’t have a problem to pray behind her, its only that i am not used to it ( and wondering about the validation) i then told her that i don’t know a case in which rasulallah sas. prayd behind a woman (although i dont know all cases of the prophet but i really think it didnt happen otherwise i am sure i would have heard about it)

well, she agreed in that but it didn’t convince her. she just started to advise me of an alim (in the internet, she doesn’t know actually) which sayd that its okay for a woman to lead the prayer, as long as she is pure, because there is nothing against it. the woman in the past might not asked for the lead thats why there is no case about it. there is no real reason why a female shouldnt lead the prayer (except thats its not traditional) but why not start to tradition it? and if men get excited, perhaps its them who is the problem. why suffer woman for it? ban the mans then, she called out lot.

I have no clue why a female should not lead a prayer. so i am asking you:

Is my prayer prayed (of course “rightly”) behind a female valid?

If not, why not? (Only) because Rasulallah sas. never prayd behind a woman? I think that won’t convince her.

Isn’t Islam in (different) matters developable?

That you for your time. I really want to improve my knowledge about that.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

In order to answer you, it is imperative to highlight one basic principle of Sharī‘ah. That is, all forms of ‘ibādah (worship) are tawqīfī. Meaning, the procedure of fulfilling that particular form of worship is dependent on clear guidelines and dictates of the Shariah which are explained and demonstrated by Nabi salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. For example,

  • The number of rak‘āt in the five daily prayers.
  • The time of the daily prayers.
  • The conditions for the validity of the prayers. For example,
  1. Wudu
  2. Women must be free of menses
  • The month of fasting
  • The timing of fasting
  • The month of hajj
  • The rites of hajj
  • The amount of zakat to be discharged
  • The quantum of zakat
  • The sacrificial animals for udhiyyah, etc.

Having said this, it is clear that there is no scope for rationale and logic in ascertaining aspects of ‘ibādah, especially salah. Just as it would be unprincipled to question why a woman in her menses cannot perform salah or fast under the premise that this is “backwards”, so to would it be unprincipled to argue the issue of women leading men in salah under the premise of “keeping with the times.” Qualified Shar‘ī proofs must be provided to argue either side. Regarding the issue of imāmah (leading in prayer), consider the following hadith:

عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ: خَطَبَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ تَمُوتُوا… أَلَا لَا تَؤُمَّنَّ امْرَأَةٌ رَجُلًا (رواه ابن ماجه/باب في فرض الجمعة و أبو يعلى الموصلي في مسنده و البيهقي في السنن الكبرى/كتاب الجمعة و شعب الإيمان/فضل الجمعة)[1]

Narrated by Jābir bin ‘Abdillah, he said: Rasullullah salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam addressed us once and said, “O people! Seek forgiveness from Allah before you die…Beware! No woman should lead a man in prayer…” (Ibn Majah/Chapter on the obligation of Jumu‘ah, Musnad Abi Ya‘lā, Sunan Al Baihaqī, and Shu‘ab Al Īmān)

Apart from commenting on the authenticity of the hadith, the following are a few points of consideration:

1). The virtue of the wives of the Prophet salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam is known to all. Yet, none of them have been reported to have lead males in salah.

2). Throughout Islamic history there have been great Tābi‘iyyāt, none of them have been reported to have lead males in salah.

3). The same goes for the Muhaddithāt and female jurists.

4). Nabi salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, “The best row of women is the last row, and the worse row is the first row.”[2] When Nabi salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam condemned women being in the first row which is behind the men, imagine the abhorrence of a woman being with or leading men

The four famous schools of Fiqh, all of which are based on the opinions of mujtahideen who were experts in all aspects of Shariah, have unanimously ruled that it is prohibited for females to lead men in salah: 

Proof from Hanafi Fiqh

‘Allamah Tahtawi rahimahuAllah says,

المرأة تخالف الرجل في مسائل منها…ولا تؤم الرجال (الطحطاوي عل مراقي الفلاح)

A woman is different than a man in many masā’il. From amongst them…she will not lead men in salah

Proof from Maliki Fiqh

Imam Sahnūn rahimahuAllah says,

وقال مالك لا تؤم المرأة (المدونة/ كتاب الصلاة)

Proof from Shafi‘i Fiqh

Imam Shafi‘i rahimahuAllah says,

ولا يجوز أن تكون امرأة إمام رجل في صلاة بحال أبدا (كتاب الأم)

It is impermissible for a woman to lead a man in salah under any circumstance.

Proof form Hanbali Fiqh

Ibn Qudāmah rahimahuAllah says,

وأما المرأة فلا يصح أن يأتم بها الرجل بحال…(المغني)

As for women, it is impermissible for men to follow them in salah under any circumstance

Apart from the clear proofs mentioned above, the most compelling proof is Ijmā’ (consensus). Ijmā’ is equivalent to an express order (qat‘i al thubūt) in Shariah. ‘Allāmah Ibn Hazm states the following:

وَاتَّفَقُوا أن الْمَرْأَة لَا تؤم الرِّجَال وهم يعلمُونَ أنها امْرَأَة فان فعلوا فصلاتهم فَاسِدَة بإجماع 

And the ‘Ulamā’ agree that a woman may not lead a man in salah whilst the men know that she (the imam) is a woman. If they do so, their salah will be void based on consensus.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Hisham Dawood

Student Darul Iftaa
Chicago, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.


 قال الشيخ شعيب الأرنؤوط: إسناده تالف، علي بن زيد بن جدعان ضعيف، وعبد الله بن محمَّد العدوي الراوي عنه متروك وقد اتهمه بعضهم، والوليد بن بكير لين الحديث. وأخرجه عبد بن حميد (1136)، وابن عدي في ترجمة عبد الله بن محمَّد العدوي من “الكامل” 4/ 1498 من طريق علي بن زيد بن جدعان، بهذا الإسناد.

وأخرجه أبو يعلى (1856)، وعنه ابن عدي 4/ 1498 عن عبد الغفار بن عبد الله، عن المعافى بن عمران، عن فضيل بن مرزوق، عن الوليد، عن محمَّد بن علي الباقر، عن سعيد بن المسيب، به. عبد الغفار لم يوثقه سوى ابن حبان، والوليد مجهول.

وله شاهد لا يفرح به من حديث أبي سعيد الخدري عند الطبراني في “الأوسط” (7246) في سنده موسى بن عطة الباهلي لم نقف له على ترجمة، وفيه أيضًا عطية العوفي ضعيف


 عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «خَيْرُ صُفُوفِ الرِّجَالِ أَوَّلُهَا، وَشَرُّهَا آخِرُهَا، وَخَيْرُ صُفُوفِ النِّسَاءِ آخِرُهَا، وَشَرُّهَا أَوَّلُهَا» (صحيح مسلم و سنن أبي داود و مسند أحمد وغيرهم)

This answer was collected from Askimam.org, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Ebrahim Desai from South Africa.

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