Question: Why have women been prohibited or disliked to offer congregational Salah in a Masjid?
The importance of the veil is a strong issue in Islamic law. During the apparent lifetime of the Beloved and Blessed Prophet, women attended the Masjid for congregational Salah, but the later honourable scholars prohibited this due to changes in circumstances. This was prohibited despite the fact that women used to stand in the last row of the Masjid.
The respected jurists stated: If men, children, eunuchs and women are present in a congregation (for Salah) then the rows will be arranged like this; the male row first, then the children’s row, then the eunuchs’ row and then the women’s row.’ (Durr-e-Mukhtar; Bahar-e-Shari’at)
Even whilst veiled, Islamic sisters are recommended to refrain from attending the public gatherings where men and women are mix together.
What better public gathering is there than in a Masjid and what better Satr (veil) is there (than in the Masjid during Salah) where men have their backs facing women (in Salah), they (i.e. men) cannot face them and are also commanded to refrain from standing up after the Salam until the women have left (the Masjid).
However, in the beginning, scholars initially stated some precautionary conditions but when irreligiousness spread (and the sins of unveiling became widespread) they totally prohibited it (i.e. the presence of women in Masajid).
It was also stated on another occasion that: Mother of believers Sayyidatuna ‘Aa’ishah said in her times: If the Holy Prophet had seen the things that women do today then he would surely have prohibited them from attending the Masjid, just like the women of Bani Israil were prohibited.
Gradually, scholars began to prohibit the attendance of women in Masjid from the second generation of Muslims (Tabi’in). Initially, they prohibited young women and later they prohibited the elderly women as well. Initially, they were only prohibited in the daytime but later they were prohibited even in the night; eventually, there was a total prohibition for all women at all times.
Were the women of that generation indecent, singers, dancers and shameless? And are women today pious? Or was the number of shameless women higher (than pious women) in those days; and is the number of pious women higher (than sinners) today? Or were there no spiritual blessings in those generations but there are now, or were there lesser blessings back then but a lot more now?
In fact, the truth is the total opposite of this. Today, if there is one pious woman, then in those days, there were a thousand, if there was one sinner in that generation, then today, there are a thousand, today, if there is only one part of blessings, then in those days there were a thousand parts as the Noble Prophet stated: Every following year will be worse than the previous one.
Meanwhile, women who wish to offer congregational Salah in a Masjid should think carefully about the foregoing Fatwa:
Due to changes in social conditions, women were forbidden to enter such a safe place as a Masjid to perform such a great religious deed as the Fard Salah with non-Mahram men despite wearing the full veil. This verdict is centuries old; these days, things are worsening day by day. The entire concept of the Shar’i veil is becoming extinct. In fact, I would exaggeratedly say that in these extremely delicate times even if a woman is concealed behind 1000 veils, this is still not enough.
NOTE: This is not to say it is Haram for women to pray in congregation. This is meant to say that prayer in congregation is not obligatory for women and a woman’s prayer in her house on her own is better than her prayer in congregation in the masjid as stated in the hadith:
Abu Dawood narrated that Ibn Umar (r.a) said: the messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosques, although their houses are better for them.” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Irwa’al-Ghaleel.
Allah knows best.