Question: What are the differences between a man and woman’s prayer?
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
The Prophet ﷺ passed by two women who were praying, and he ﷺ said to them: “Whenever you prostrate, make your limbs close to the ground for indeed a woman is not like a man in that (position).” [Bayhaqi]
The Prophet ﷺ has also been reported to have said: “When a woman sits during the prayer, she places one thigh over her other thigh, and when she prostrates, she rests her stomach on top of her thighs so that they touch, as this is more concealing for her. Indeed, Allah Most High looks to her and He says, ‘O’ my angels, bear witness that I have forgiven her.’” [Bayhaqi]
According to scholars, the basis of the woman’s prayer is that it follows the same rulings as the man’s prayer, and any differences between the two return to the principle of what is most concealing and modest for her.
The great Hanafi jurist Ibn Abidin (Allah be pleased with him) notes the differences found within the woman’s prayer in Radd al-Muhtar. I have translated the majority of the details from his list while also adding extra explanations from other sources.
1.) When performing the opening takbir, she raises her hands to the level of her shoulders, while men raise their hands to the level of their ears.
2.) When performing the opening takbir, she does not withdraw her hands from underneath her sleeves because it may expose her forearms which are awrah (nakedness), while men should remove their hands from underneath their shawls.
3.) When standing, she places her right inner-palm on top of her left hand and rests them on her chest without clasping them, while men place their hands below their navels and clasp them together.
4.) When bowing, she bends her back slightly so that she touches her knees but she does not straighten her back fully, unlike men who completely align their limbs.
5.) When bowing, she does not spread her fingers apart but rather she keeps them closed together, unlike men who keep their fingers outspread.
6.) When bowing, she places her palms upon her knees and does not grasp her knees, unlike men who grasp their knees.
7.) When bowing, she bends her knees, unlike men who keep their knees straightened.
8.) When bowing and prostrating, she keeps her upper arms (the area from the shoulder to the elbow) as close as possible to the sides of her body, unlike men who distance their upper arms from their bodies.
9.) When prostrating, she rests her forearms on the ground, unlike men who keep their arms raised above the ground. Her abdomen rests on top of her thighs and her upper-arms remain closely at her sides while her forearms lay on the floor. It is sunna for a woman to draw all of her limbs closely together in order to achieve maximum modesty.
10.) She does not keep her toes upright like men when prostrating.
11.) While sitting for tashahud, she sits in the tawarruk position and she places her hands on top of her thighs such that the tips of her fingers reach her knees. The tawarruk position is described as sitting on her left buttock with her knees bent while both legs are conveniently positioned to the right side of her body.
12.) While sitting for tashahud, she does not spread her fingers apart but rather she keeps them closed together, unlike men who keep their fingers outspread.
13.) If the Imam forgets something in his prayer, she claps without excessive movement instead of saying ‘SubHanAllah’ like men.
14.) She does not lead the man’s prayer.
15.) It is prohibitively disliked (e.g. sinful) for her to pray in a woman’s group prayer, to give the adhan, or to give the iqama.
16.) If she prays in a mixed congregation, she stands behind the men.
17.) She is not obligated to attend the Friday sermon prayer, but if she does and completes it, it counts as her Dhuhr prayer.
18.) It is not necessary (wajib) for her to attend the Eid prayer as opposed to men.
19.) It is not recommended for her to wait until the brightness of the sun to pray Fajr like it is for men performing the group prayer, but it is best for her to pray at the earliest part of the Fajr prayer time.
20.) She does not recite out loud in the non-silent prayers. Yet, it is important to note that if she is praying by herself in any prayer, she must recite at a level where she can hear herself in order for her prayers to be considered valid.
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Jazak Allah khayran
- Imam ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar
- Imam Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah
- Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya
- Imam Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah
- Imam Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi