Q. Can you say if it is permissible for a woman to lead a group of other women in congregational Salaah? If it is possible, then would she also have to recite aloud for Fajr, Maghrib and Isha Salaah? Would it also mean that there would also have to be an Azan and Iqama before this Salaah?
Please shed some light on these questions as I have seen it in practice and would like to know if I should allow it as well.
A. Many of the scholars, jurists of Islam have stated that it is not recommended that a woman should lead other women in congregational Salaah.
Imam Malik, the great Muhadith and jurist, and one of the four great Imams has stated that it is not permissible for a woman to lead other women in Salaah. (Ash-Sharhus Sagheer Vol. 1 Pg. 433).
Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal, another great Muhadith and jurist, and one of the four great Imams has also stated in one narration that it is not recommended. (Al Mugni Vol. 1 Pg. 202).
Imam Abu Hanifa, one of the leading jurists and great Imam of fiqh states that it is highly disliked for a woman to lead other women in Salaah. (Darul Mukhtar Vol. 1 Pg. 528).
Among the four great Imams of fiqh, it is only Imam Shafi (A.R.) who has considered it allowable and commendable for a woman to lead other women in Salaah. (Al Majmoo Vol. 4 Pg. 96).
This opinion which is held by Aisha and Umme Salma (R.A.). other scholars like Ata, Sufyan Thawri, Awzaa’i, Ishaq and Abu Thawr also share the same opinion. It is also one narration from Imam Ahmad.
Other great scholars from among the Salafus Saalih (pious predecessors) have mentioned the dislike for this act.
Shabi, An Nakhi and Qatada have stated that a woman cannot lead other women in the congregational Salaah (Farz), however, there is an allowance for this in Nafl (optional) Salaah. Hasan Basri and Sulaim bin Yasar have stated that a woman cannot lead other women, whether it is that of Farz Salaah or optional one. (Al Mughni Vol. 1 Pg. 202).
The proof of Imam Shafi and others from among the scholars is that of the narration which states that once Aisha ( R.A.) lead other women in the Asr Salaah and stood between them. Another narration states that Um Salma lead women in Salaah and she stood between them.
Another narration has been listed by these scholars which states that Ummul Waraqa said that the Prophet ( S.A.S.) allowed a woman to lead the other women of her household in Salaah. (Al Mugni Vol. 1 Pg. 202; Al Fiqhul Islami Wa Adilatihi Vol. 2 Pg. 1194).
As for the scholars who have stated that it is not recommended, they have explained that the Prophet ( S.A.S.) has encouraged a woman to perform Salaah in her house and has mentioned that it is more rewarding for her.
In this regard, the Prophet (S.A.S.) is reported to have said, ‘That the Salaah of a woman in her home is more virtuous than performing it in the masjid or any other place. (Recorded by Abu Dawood, Ahmad, Tibrani).
This tradition therefore encourage women to remain at home to perform their Salaah rather than gathering in other places for Salaah.
The same tradition goes a bit further to say that ‘a woman’s Salaah in the inner and private quarters of her home is more virtuous than performing it in other places of the home’.
This part of the tradition makes it more clear that a woman is encouraged to stay in her private chambers to perform her Salaah, which in reality is much more virtuous than her performance of Salaah in other places.
With these instructions from the Prophet (S.A.S.), it can be clearly stated that women were not encouraged to gather together in order to perform their Salaah in congregation by themselves.
With respect to the action of Aisha (R.A.) and Um Salma (R.A.) as mentioned before, the great scholar Allama Ala’uddin Abu Bakr bin Masood Al Kasani (died 587 A.H.) has written in his famous and authentic book ‘Al Badai’us Sana’I that this action of theirs was done in the beginning period of Islam which did not continue. It is for this reason it was not established by the women. (Al Badaa’i Vol. 1 Pg. 157).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan