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Is it permisible for women to do imamat

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hi sir,


Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah’s guidance)

Below is an extract from ‘Female Leadership In Islam,’ Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamiah, Azaadville.

Women Leading Men in Salah:

Most, if not all Fuqaha (Muslim jurists) are of the opinion that women cannot lead men in Salah. If any man performs his Salah behind a female imam, his Salah would be null and void. Below are the opinions of each of the four Madhahib.

1. Hanafi Madhab – “And it is not permissible for men to follow a lady in Salah.” (Hidayah vl.1. pg.209)

2. Shafiy Madhab – “And a male following a lady (in Salah) is incorrect.”(Minhaj:Allamah Nawawi vl.1, pg.241)

3. Maliki Madhab – “Salah will therefore not be correct behind a lady (Imam).”(Bulghat-us-Salik: Allamah Sawi vl.1.pg.146)

4. Hambali Madhab -“It is not correct in the opinion of the general Fuqaha, for a man to follow a lady (in Salah).”(Al Mughni: Ibn Qudamah vl.2, pg.199)

Ibn Rushd-al-Qurtubi writes: “…. The Jamhoor (general majority) are of the opinion that it is not permissible for her to lead the men in Salah ….” (Bidayatul Mujtahid vl.1, pg.105)

Why Can She Not Lead the Men in Salah?

1. Nothing has been narrated regarding this from Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) or the Sahabah (RA) or the Tabi-een. Had it been permissible, it would have definitely been recorded in the books of Hadith and Fiqh. (Bidayatul Mujtahid vl.1,pg. 105 & As Saylul Jarrar vl.1, pg.250)

2. On the contrary Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) had commanded the women to stand at the rear of the congregation (if they do attend the congregational Salah). The reason being that women are to be hidden and have been commanded to observe Hijab. If men have to follow a lady imam in Salah, they would have to stand behind her. This is in total contrast with the rules of Hijab.
(Bidayatul Mujtahid vl.1,pg. 105 & As Saylul Jarrar vl.1, pg.250)

A Hadith has been narrated regarding women standing at the rear of the congregation: “Place them in the rear as Allah has placed them in the rear.” (Nasbur Rayah vl.2, pg.36 – quoted from Musannaf Abdur Razzak- although this hadith is Mawqoof, (the chain of narrators terminates on Hadhrat Ali (RA), the fact that man should occupy the first rows, therafter the children and behind the children the women is established from other authentic Ahadith – see Bukhari vl.1, pg. 211)

3. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: .”… and a lady should not lead a man in Salah ….” (Sunan Ibn Majah vl.1,pg.250)

4. The generality of the Hadith “The nation that has entrusted it’s affairs to a lady cannot be successful,” demands that women do not qualify to be entrusted with any sort of leadership duties. Salah is the most noble and important matter of the Muslims. Can we entrust it to a lady and hope for success? (As Saylul Jarrar – Allamah Shawkani vl.1,pg.250)

Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi (RA) after explaining the opinion of the majority writes that some Hambali scholars are of the opinion that “it is permissible for her to lead the men in Taraweeh Salah (but) she will stand behind them. It (lady leading the Taraweeh) will be permissible because of the narration of Umme Waraqah (RA) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) had appointed a Muazzin for her who would given Azan for her and He commanded her to lead the people (Ahl) of her Dar (house) – Abu Dawud has narrated this hadith. (See Abu Da’ud vol.2 Page 161 Beirut).

Ibn Qudamah however disagrees with these Hambali scholars and refutes their claim explaining that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) had only permitted her to lead the women of her home (Nisa Ahle dar) – this is how Dar-Qutni has narrated this hadith. When an addition of this nature is narrated, then it is compulsory to accept it. Had the extra word ‘Nisa’ (women) not been narrated, there would have been some possibility of substantiating one’s claim from this hadith. Besides, this hadith does not pertain to Taraweeh or any other Nafl or sunnah Salah because the Hadith also says that Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) had appointed a muezzin to call the Azan for her. Azan is not called out for Nafl or Sunnah Salah. It is only called for the Fardh Salahs. (Al Mughni vl.2,pg.199) There is however, no difference of opinion even among the Hambali Fuqaha that women cannot lead men in Fardh Salah. This Hadith is therefore referring to a purely female congregation only.

Apart from the Jamhoor (majority), Abu Thour and Tabri have allowed women to lead the Salah even it there are men in the congregation. Ibn Rushd said that they have based their claim on the hadith of Umme Waraqah. (Bidayatul Mujtahid vl.1,pg.105)

Ibn Qudamah’s explanation of the hadith however leaves no doubt that they have erred. Other than Abu Thour and Tabri, the entire Ummah has ‘Ijma’ (unanimous agreement) that women cannot lead men in Salah.

Can a Lady Lead a Purely Female Congregation?

Hanafi Madhab: If a lady leads the Salah of a purely female congregation, then Salah will be correct. It is however Makrooh Tahrimi for women to form their own congregation. (Hidayah vl.1,pg.305; Bada’i-us Sanai vl.1,pg.157)

Malaki Madhab: A lady can in no circumstance be the Imam even if the congregation be entirely female. The Salah of even a lady behind a female Imam is invalid. (Bulghatus Salik vl.1, pg.146; Ashalul Madarik, vl.1,pg.241)

Shafi Madhab: A lady can be the imam of a purely female congregation. In fact it is Mustahab for them to form their own congregation. (Al Mughni vl.12,pg.199; Bada-i vl.1,pg. 157)

Hanbali Madhab: The Salah of a lady behind a lady imam is permissible. There is however, difference of opinion regarding women forming their own congregation (behind a female imam). (Al Mughni l.12, pg.199)

The Shafi and Hambali scholars substantiate their opinion with the Hadith of Umme Waraqah (RA) that was mentioned earlier.

It is similarly narrated that Hazrat Umme Salmah (RA) and Hazrat Aisha (RA) used to lead the women in Salah. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah vl.2, pg.88-89)

While it is narrated from Hazrat Ali (RA) that “a lady cannot be an imam”(Ibid) and from Nafi (RA) that: “I do not know that a lady can lead the women in Salah”(Ibid), Hanafi Scholars also explain that when a lady does lead a purely female Jamat, she has one of two options:

1. She stands in front of the first row (just as a male imam would do). This is however Makrooh because it is contrary to the spirit of Hijab.

2. She could stand in the middle of the first row (as Hazrat Aisha and Hazrat Umme Salmah did). This however is also Makrooh because it is Wajib (necessary) in a congregational Salah that the Imam stands a little in front of the first row. (Fathul Qadeer vl.1, pg.306)

Hanafi Fuqaha therefore explain the Ahadith of Umme Waraqah, Aisha and Umme Salmah (RA) as Mansukh (abrogated). Although Sheikh Kamal Ibn Humam has after critically discussing the possibility of abrogation concluded that purely female congregations are Makrooh-e-Tanzihi, the general body of Fuqaha-e-Ahnaf regard it as Makrooh-e-Tahrimi. The fatwa (preferred verdict) is also on Tahreem (prohibition).”And a purely female congregation is Makrooh-e-Tahrimi, even though in Taraweeh.”(Durrul Mukhtar, vl.1, pg.528)

And Only Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.

Moulana Qamruz Zaman
London, UK

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This answer was collected from MuftiSays.com, based in London (UK). It is one of the fruits of Darul Uloom London. Many ‘ulama are involved in answering the Q&A on the site, including: Shaikul Hadeeth Mufti Umar Farooq Sahib, Mufti Saifur Rahman Sahib, Mufti Abdullah Patel Sahib, Maulana Qamruz Zaman Sahib, Mufti Abu Bakr Karolia Sahib.

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