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Why in Islam Men Cannot Pray Behind a Female Imam

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by DarulIftaBirmingham

Answered by: Maulana Sibghat Ullah


Why in Islam can men not pray behind a female Imam? Where does this prohibition come from?

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


The prohibition of a woman being an Imam is as follows:

  1. Cannot lead men:-

It is narrated from Saaiduna Jabir bin Abdullah that the Prophet of Allah said: “A woman may not lead a man in prayer, nor may a Bedouin lead a believer of the Muhajiruun or a corrupt person lead a committed Muslim in prayer.” [i]

  1. Can lead women but Makruh Tahrimi:-

A woman can lead other women in Salah. However, it is also severely disliked in the Hanafi Fiqh.  [ii]

  1. Best row in prayer for women:- it is narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allah said: “The best rows for men are those at the front and the worst are those at the back, and the best rows for women are those at the back and the worst are those at the front.” [iii]

What is meant by the worst rows for both men and women is that they bring less reward, are lower in status, and are further removed from what is required by Shari’ah.

If the last rows are best for women then how can they lead salah of men when they have to be in the front row and get the maximum reward?

  1. Prayer of women in the lower voice:- The Prophet said, “The saying ‘Sub Han Allah’ is for men and clapping is for women.”[iv] (If something happens in the prayer, the men can invite the attention of the Imam by saying “Sub Han Allah”. And women, by clapping their hands).

Women are forbidden to alert the Imam by speaking if he makes a mistake and should clap instead so that they will not raise their voice in the presence of men, then how can it be allowed for a woman to lead them in prayer and deliver a khutbah to them?

Only Allah knows best.

Written by Maulana Sibghat Ullah

Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah

Darul Ifta Birmingham

[i] Bulugh al-Maram, Book of Salah

[ii] Raddul Muhtar, Page 467, Book of salah.Zia ul Quran, Karachi

[iii] Riyad as-Salihin, The Book of Virtues, Chapter: The Excellence of Standing in the First Row (In Salat)

[iv] Sahih al-Bukhari, Actions while Praying, Chapter: Clapping [during the Salat] is permissible only for the women

This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk, which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.

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