Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
If a woman does not normally cover her head, but when she prays she does, is her prayer accepted?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
Fiqh can only tell you about a prayer’s validity in this life, not its acceptance in the next life. If a woman covers everything except her face and hands while praying, and takes care to fulfill the other conditions and integrals of the prayer, she will have performed a valid prayer, regardless of whether or not she covers her head outside the prayer.
As for acceptance, this is something that is hidden from us until the next life. Just because a prayer is valid doesn’t mean that it will be accepted by Allah. A woman might observe the hijab when she leaves the house and perform her prayer validly, but Allah might not accept it from her because of the pride that accompanied her action. Another woman might not observe the hijab when she leaves the house, feel remorseful and broken-hearted at her remissness, and Allah might accept her prayer from her because she better expressed her slavehood to Allah. The great scholar of Sufism, Ibn `Ata’illah al-Iskandari (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Disobedience that begets humility and broken-heartedness is better than obedience that begets honour and pride.”
One mistake isn’t justification for committing a second one. “You don’t do this, so you might as well not do anything else,” is a common Satanic ploy. Shortcomings, sins, and missteps are a natural consequence of human nature. The way of Islam is to turn to Allah in sincere repentance, to seek His help in fulfilling His commands, and to do the best one can to show gratitude for the blessings that He has bestowed on us and to express our slavehood to Him.
And Allah knows best.