Monday, October 03, 2005

Mainstream Muslim Orgs and Fear of Ijtihad

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is an umbrella of Muslim orgs that aim to be "an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large".

How "the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large" would be possible without equal rights for women and men in the Mosque?
Read ISNA statement here:

Position on Leading Salat (the Formal prayer)
by Women

03-21-05 01:49 ISNA
To understand the role of woman in Islamic society, it is not sufficient to consider the factual status of women in one society or another, but one must look at the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Rasulillah. The main sources of Islamic norms are the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW. These sources contain regulations and commandments including some which relate to the role of women in Islamic society. Allah said: "O you who believe, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His messenger, If you do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best and most suitable for final determination" ( 4:59 ). He also says, "Whoever obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah" (4:80). And Allah said:" By your Lord they will never attend faith till they make you judge in all their affairs and then they should find any difficulty in their heart to accept and submit to you" al Nisa' (4: ) Salat is an act of worship and all in acts of worship we have to follow what our Prophet (SAW) did and after him the Khulafa and Imams of the Ummah. The Prophet (SAW) said: "Pray as you see me praying." The salat has been a practice of the ummah through 1400 years and there is no room for modification of the Salat according to the "changing times."

Woman leading the congregation
The scholars have put requirements and qualifications for the Imam of the salat, as they saw Rasulillah and his companions praying. Those qualifications are:

1. To be a Muslim.
2. To be 'Aqil (have a sound mind).
3. To be Baliq (reach the age of puberty). If a minor should lead the prayer, Abu Hanifa says the prayer (whether Fard or Sunnah) is not valid. Malik and ibn Hanbal allow it though.
4. To be a man. Many fuqaha allow women to lead women in prayer (Hanafi, Hanbali and Shafi'e). Imam Malik did not allow her to lead the prayer (Ref: Jawahir Al Akil, vol 1, pg 78; Ibn Abdeen, vol 1 pg 388; Al Dosouqee, vol 1 pg 326).
5. To be pure (have Tahara and Wudu). If someone does not have wudu or breaks his wudu, he should not lead the prayer.
6. To know the Ahkam (rules) of salat and to be able to read the Qur'an properly.

In a hadith the Prophet (SAW) said: "The best line of salat for men are the front and worse are the last. The best lines of salat for women are the last, and the worst are the front." In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah the Prophet said:" A woman should not lead men in prayer," (Ibn Majah Vol:1,P343). According to the general consensus of jurists and scholars of Hadith, a woman is not allowed to lead men in Fard or Sunnah prayer or in congregation. She is, however, allowed to lead a congregation consisting only of women.

In the latter case, it is not only permitted for women to do so, rather it may even be considered highly recommended according to Imam Sha'f'ee, because of the greater rewards of praying in congregation (jama'ah) as compared to praying individually. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) never said that such rewards are solely applicable to men and that women are excluded. The authentic practice of the Mothers of the Faithful, such as `Ayesha and Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with them), also confirms this conclusion they lead women in fard prayer and they stood in the middle of the line( Al Muhalla Imam Ibn Hazem Vol 4 P 126,127). Ibn Umar (RA) he instructed his daughter to lead women in Ramadan, and Ayesha RA led women in Tarweeh prayer and in Maghrib prayer and she stood in the middle of line. Both of the esteemed wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who were highly regarded for their deep grasp of religion, used to lead women in Salah (Prayer). Although the vast majority of scholars are of the opinion that a woman may not lead men at all, there is a minority of them - including scholars such as Imam Ibn Jarir, and a jurists such as Abu Thawr and Al-Muzani - who consider it permissible for a woman to lead members of her own household in Salah.

The last mentioned group of scholars have based their ruling on the following report of Abu Dawud on the authority of Umm Waraqah: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to visit her in her own home; he appointed a mu'adhin (one who calls the adhan for Prayer) for her, and ordered her to lead the members of her household (in Salah)." Abu Daoud Hadith# 592)Umm Waraqah-as stated in the sources-was an esteemed woman of Al-Ansar who had memorized the Qur'an. `Abdul-Rahman Ibn Khalid, the narrator of the Hadith, further states: "I happened to see her mu'adhin, who was a person advanced in age."

Based on the above evidence, some scholars have concluded that a woman is allowed to lead her own family members in Salah especially in the following cases:

1. If she is exceptionally qualified and others are not so well versed in the rules of Salah and knowledge of the Qur'an.
2. If her husband is a new Muslim who is struggling to learn the rules of Salah and the Qur'an, while she herself is perfectly well versed in them;
3. If she is a mother of minors who are still learning the rules of Salah and the Qur'an

In the 1400 year history of Islam no scholar who knows and has studied fiqh and the rules of Rasulillah and the Sunnah has permitted the Friday prayer to be led by a woman. The main schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'e, Hanbali, and Ja'fari) as well as the Zaydi's and the Zahari's consider this prayer invalid.

Allah knows the best
Shaikh M. Nour, President of ISNA
636-394-7878 Ext: 11

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