Are there any authentic hadiths that say that a woman, unlike a man, should pray with her feet together and her body as close together as possible?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
No, there are no authentic hadiths to my knowledge that say that a woman should pray with her feet together and her body as close together as possible. [al-Sunan al-Kubra, Bayhaqi; al-Majmu’, Nawawi]
However, there are a number of weak hadiths that indicate that. [al-Sunan al-Kubra, Bayhaqi] Furthermore, they are countless fatwas from the Companions and Followers (Allah be pleased with them) clearly stating this. The likes of Sayyidna Ali, Ibn Abbas, Hasan al-Basri, Ibrahim al-Nakha’i besides many more have all expressed this opinion. [al-Sunan al-Kubra, Bayhaqi; Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq al-Sa’ani]
Although it would be difficult to claim scholarly consensus that women pray differently to men and bring their body together as much as possible, after a careful look at the works that gather the fatwas of the Companions and Followers, it is hard to find any scholar having any other opinion. (One notable exception is that Imam al-Bukhari was keen to show that women sat in the same way that men sat. Besides that, it is not something very obvious at all.) That said, to claim that it is a baseless innovation would be to accuse the majority of the Early Muslims (the Salaf) of innovation, which is impossible.
Furthermore, the mere fact that there are not any sound hadiths to establish the case does not in itself form any significant counter-argument against the apparent consensus of the Companions and Followers. The great jurists among the Early Muslims frequently relied on weak hadiths along with a general agreement of most of the Companions and Followers to establish a point of halal and haram, let alone a point of mere recommendation. [al-Umm, Shafi’i; al-Risala, Shafi’i; al-Muwatta, Malik; Risalat Abi Dawud ila Ahl Makkah; al-Muhalla, Ibn Hazm]
One should study the fiqh of the Salaf as organised and detailed in the books of the Four Schools of fiqh and trust that it is a true representation of what the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) taught.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.