Q. Why do women put their hands close to their chest to pray if the Holy Prophet peace be upon him said to pray as he prays? How should they place their hand? Shouldn’t women close up themselves to pray, like not open their legs wide like the men?
A. Your two questions seem to be opposing each other. In the first one, you said that a woman should perform Salaah like the Prophet (SA), which means that she should perform Salaah like the men, since they (the men) are required to follow the Prophet (SA). However, in the last question you assert that women should not behave like the men by opening their legs in Salaah. This shows that you believe that a woman should not do all her postures in Salaah like the men.
With respect to the placing of the hands, all the jurists/scholars from the earliest generations of Muslims are unanimous on the practice that a woman must place her hands on her chest while standing in Salaah. The great scholar Allama Abdul Hai (1264-1304 AH) has written, ‘As for women, the jurists are unanimous that it is Sunnah for them to place their hands on their bosoms’. (As Si’ayah). From this statement, it shows that the great jurists of the past who were well versed in the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, have all declared that a woman must place her hands on her bosom/chest after she has recited the takbeer to begin Salaah.
In Salaah, a woman is required to adopt such postures which are more private and concealing for her. This is from the teachings of the Prophet (SA) which he gave to his wives and the female companions. A woman is therefore required to follow the females in the postures of Salaah, since she will not be able to adopt certain postures which the Prophet (SA) himself adopted, and is a Sunnah for the men. For example, the authentic traditions state that when the Prophet (SA) performed Sajda, he would open out his arms to the extent that the whiteness of his armpits became visible. This is the posture a man should adopt, and it is good. However, can a woman adopt this posture in a manner that her armpits become visible?
In this way, there are certain postures that a woman is required to adopt which is different from a man, and this is well established in authentic traditions. Lets look at this tradition Imam Abu Dawud has narrated the following hadith in his Maraseel:-
Yazeed bin Abi Habeeb stated that the Messenger of Allah passed by two women who were performing their Salaah. He said to them, ‘when you prostrate (go into Sajda), then make parts of your body touch the ground because a woman is unlike a man in these aspects’. (Maraseel of Abu Dawud).
It is to be noted that the Prophet’s own practice was that he never allowed his arms etc. to touch the ground in Sajda, and he instructed the men to refrain from doing so. However, in the case of women, he ordered them to touch the ground.
There are other narrations that show the difference in the posture of the salaah of a woman which are recorded in the books of ahadith and Fiqh. You also have alluded that a woman should close herself up, and not open up her legs wide like men.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan