Can Women Lead Men in Swalah?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from “Can Women Lead Men in Swalah?” by Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah.

What is the legal ruling for women leading men in prayers?  The majority of scholars agreed on the impermissibility of a woman leading men in prayers due to the possibility of jeopardizing the woman’s dignity and honour especially because prayer includes prostration.  Therefore, Muslims along the centuries in the East and the West were accustomed to women praying behind men to preserve the high etiquette which Islam establishes between men and women.  It is also important to state that Islam came as a universal message encompassing all people from different cultural backgrounds and this means it is not restricted to a certain culture or confined to a specific country.

Therefore, some scholars have permitted women to lead men in prayers such as Imam at-Tabari (r.a.) and Shaykh Muhyi ad-Din ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) and the issue in question is a subject of a scholarly debate in jurisprudence.  The majority of scholars opine that it is impermissible for a woman to lead a man in prayer and the Hanafi scholars opine that if a woman stands for prayer in parallel with a man, the man’s prayer is invalid.  The Shafi’i disagrees with the Hanafis and deems the man’s prayer valid and the same opinion was adopted by the Malikis and the Hanbalis.

The Hanbali scholar, Imam ibn Qudama (r.a.), mentioned in his book, al-Mughni, that if a woman led a man in prayer, where would she stand?  This question indicates that the issue here is related to the standing position of the woman during leading the prayer.  If the woman led the man in prayer, she would stand in front of him and it is inappropriate for a woman to prostrate in front of a man to preserve her dignity and modesty.

Imam at-Tabari (r.a.) stated in this debate that it is permissible for a woman to lead men in prayer and cited that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was once visiting Umm Waraqah bint ‘Abdullah ibn al-Harits (r.a.) in her home and asked her to lead her household in prayers.  Scholars concluded that men were among her household yet the Prophet (s.a.w.) asked her to lead the prayer.

Our mission is to disseminate the Divine message to the whole world and in religion, there are agreed upon facts which bear no differences in opinions and there are issues which are subject to scholarly debates and in the second type we should leave people to choose the juristic opinions that best suit their circumstances and environment.

It is important, however, to make the distinction that the imam of the Friday prayers may only be male.  There is no precedent anywhere that a woman may lead it.  In fact, it is not even wajib for a woman to attend the swalah juma’ah.


  1. I hope I am not intruding...But ( Swalah) should read (Salawat)...respectfully submitted

    1. Swalah and swalawat are two different things, brother.

  2. So many things wrong with that picture. Women and men standing shoulder to shoulder is not allowed. The Sunnah states women should be behind and men infront. Furthermore women not standing infront but at the back has nothing to do with the etiquette but a symbolism expressing that men are the leaders or protectors of women. A woman can never be a leader or lead the act of worship or a nation as the Hadith states that If a woman leads a nation it is bound to fall. I know, very misogynistic Islam is, deal with it!
    There is an exception, and that is if the men that exists in that area are new converts and do not know how to worship properly.

    1. The picture, as I recall, is that of a swalah class. So essentially, you bothered to make judgement about a photograph with no conception about the context, but you did not read the article? Typical of the Muslims I encounter - ignorant and judgemental.


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