Differences Between Men & Women Salat & Method of Salat For Women According To Sunnah.

Question

What is the difference in the way of performing salat between Men and women ? Many women perform their Ruku, Sajdah and Qa’dah like men. Is this correct? Please furnish a detailed answer according to Sunnah.

Answer

A common criticism made by some people is that it differentiates between the salat of a man and woman. They claim that this is not supported by any evidence, and in fact opposes the clear and general words of the Prophet (PBUH) “Pray as you have seen me praying”, a Hadith reported the Sahih of Al Bukhari. In the following, an attempt will be made to answer this criticism.

Women are wrong when they perform their Ruku and Sajdah like men because there are many differences between the salaah of men and women. These are:

First difference

1. When calling out the Takbeer Tahreema, men raise the hands up to the ears, while women raise their hands to their chests.

Second difference

2. Men fold the hands beneath the navel in such a manner that the thumb and little finger of the right hand encircles the wrist of the left hand, with the remaining three fingers places on the forearm . All the fingers of the left hand will then be placed beneath the right forearm and must not be left to hang downwards. Women will place their hands on their chests with the palm of the right hand on top of the palm of the left hand without forming a ring with the fingers.

Third difference

3. In Ruku, the man should bow in a manner that the head, back and posterior are all in line, while a woman should bend only so much that her hands can reach her knees. Her back should not be straight.

Fourth difference

4. A man in Ruku will clasp the knees firmly with the fingers apart, while the woman will keep her fingers together and place the hands on the knees without clasping them. Her knees should also be slightly bent and not straight like those of men. Men should also keep their arms away from their sides and adopt and open posture, while women should keep the arms attached to her sides, keeping the ankles together in a sort of folded posture.

Fifth difference

5. In Sajdah a man’s thighs are kept apart from his belly, his arms away from his sides and his forearms and elbows off the ground. Women, on the other hand, will perform Sajdah with the thighs attached to her belly, her arms attached to her sides and her forearms spread upon the ground. Furthermore, men should have their feet erect with the toes facing Qibla, while women will have their feet stretched to the right and make Sajdah with her body kept as compact as possible. Her fingers will be kept together, facing the Qibla.

Sixth difference

6. In Jalsa and Qa’dah, a man should keep his right foot erect with the toes facing the Qibla, spread his left foot on the ground and sit on it. Both hands should be placed on the thighs with the fingers facing Qibla and not pointing downwards. Women should extend both feet towards the right and sit on her left buttock.

Seventh difference

7: When performing the Sajdah in the Masnoon method, a woman should take support from the ground when she proceeds from Ruku to Sajdah, extend both feet to the right and then immediately perform Sajdah. This helps in performing the Sajdah and it is the Masnoon method that has been practised from generation to generation. It can therefore not be called an act of Bid’ah. And Allaah knows best what is most correct.

Evidence from Hadith and sunnah for the difference between men and women in performing salat

Below we will present evidences for the view of the vast majority of the scholars and jurists of the ummah on this issue from the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the practice and fatwas of the earliest and best generations of Muslims (Sahabah and Tabi‘in).

Hadith One

في مراسیل أبي داؤد: ص103 باب مِنَ الصَّلاةِ، السنن الکبری للبیهقي: ج2ص223, جُمَّاعُ أَبْوَابِ الاسْتِطَابَة
عَنْ يَزِيدَ بْنِ أَبِي حَبِيبٍ ، أَنّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّ عَلَى امْرَأَتَيْنِ تُصَلِّيَانِ ، فَقَالَ : إِذَا سَجَدْتُمَا فَضُمَّا بَعْضَ اللَّحْمِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ ، فَإِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ لَيْسَتْ فِي ذَلِكَ كَالرَّجُلِ

“Narrated to us from Yazid ibn Abi Habib that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) passed by two women praying, whereupon he said: ‘When you two pray, then join part of the flesh to the earth, as the woman is not like the man in that.’” (Marasil Abi Dawud, ed. ‘Abd Allah ibn Musa‘id ibn Khadran al-Zahrani, no. 89)

Hadith Two

في المعجم الکبیر للطبرانی: ج9ص144رقم17497، مجمع الزوائد: ج9 ص624 رقم الحدیث 1605، البدر المنير لابن الملقن:ج3ص463
عن وائل بن حجر قال: قال لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: يا وائل بن حجر إذا صليت فاجعل يديك حذاء أذنيك، والمرأة تجعل يديها حذاء ثدييها

It was narrated] from Wa’il ibn Hujr, he said: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said to me: ‘O Wa’il ibn Hujr! When you pray, position your hands in line with your ears, and the woman positions her hands in line with her chest.”

Hadith Three

في الکامل لابن عدي ج 2ص501، رقم الترجمة 399 ، وفي السنن الکبری للبیهقي ج2 ص223 باب ما یستحب للمرأة الخ، وفي جامع الأحادیث للسیوطي ج 3ص43 رقم الحدیث 1759
عَنْ عَبْدِاللّٰه بْنِ عُمَرَ رضي الله عنه قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُوْلُ اللّٰه صلی الله علیه وسلم: إِذَاجَلَسَتِ الْمَرْاَةُ فِي الصَّلاةِ وَضَعَتْ فَخِذَهَا عَلٰی فَخِذِهَا الْاُخْریٰ، فَإِذَا سَجَدَتْ أَلْصَقَتْ بَطْنَهَا فِي فَخِذِهَاکَأَسْتَرِ مَا یَکُوْنُ لَها، فَإِنَّ اللّٰهَ یَنْظُرُ إِلَیْها وَ یَقُوْلُ: یَامَلَائِکَتِيْ أُشْهِدُکُمْ أَنِّيْ قَدْغَفَرْتُ لَها

It is narrated on the authority of Hazrat Abdullah bin Umar that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: When a woman is sitting in prayer, she should place one of her thighs on the other thigh, and when she prostrates, she should cover her belly with her thighs. This state is more modest and veiling for her. Allaah almighty looks at her and says: O my angels! Be a witness. I forgave this woman.

Hadith Four

في السنن الکبریٰ للبیهقي: ج 2ص222.223 باب ما یستحب للمرأة… الخ
عَنْ أَبِيْ سَعِیْدٍالْخُدْرِيِّ رضي الله عنه صَاحِبِ رَسُوْلِ اللّٰه صلی الله علیه وسلم أَنَّه قَالَ: … کَانَ یَأْمُرُالرِّجَالَ أَنْ یَّتَجَافُوْا فِيْ سُجُوْدِهِمْ وَ یَأْمُرُالنِّسَاءَ أَنْ یَّتَخَفَّضْنَ

Hazrat Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to order men to keep their thighs apart from their stomachs in prostration and he used to order women to prostrate with their knees bent.

Hadith Five

It is reported in Sahih Muslim that ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

وينهى أن يفترش الرجل ذراعيه افتراش السبع

“And he (the Prophet) forbade that a man spreads out his arms like a wild animal spreads (them) out.” (Fath al-Mulhim, 3:488-9)

This implicitly indicates that a woman is exempt from this ruling, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) singles out a man for this prohibition (especially since the very same hadith in its complete form mentions other general prohibitions that do not single out “a man”). Hence, there is an implicit indication that a woman spreads out her arms during prostration.

Hadith Six

Imam al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

التسبيح للرجال والتصفيق للنساء

“Tasbih is for men and clapping is for women.” (Fath al-Bari, 3:100)

The hadith means that when in congregation the imam makes a mistake, men are to say tasbih (subhanAllah) and women are to clap their hands to alert the imam to the error. This is a clear and authentic hadith on a specific difference between the Salat of a man and woman (which Salafi scholars also accept). Hence, it should not be farfetched that there are other minor differences between them.

There are many other differences between the Salat of a man and woman recorded in authentic marfu‘ hadiths, although they are not specifically regarding the postures of Salat. For example, the hadiths that state that a woman is not obligated to attend Jumu‘ah, that her house is better for her, and that her prayer is not accepted without a scarf.

All of these hadiths suggest a basic principle, which is that although a woman’s Salat is similar to man’s, she differs slightly from him in certain aspects of Salat based on the added requirement of concealment and modesty for her. Based on this, the majority of the jurists of all madhhabs have reached consensus that there are small differences in the postures of a man and woman. This is also proven from the practice and fatwas of the Sahabah and Tabi‘in.

Practice and Statements of the Sahabah

Narration One

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة رقم الحديث: 2793, 2:504

عن علي قال: إذا سجدت المرأة فلتحتفز، ولتضم فخذيها

“narrated to us from ‘Ali, he said: ‘When a woman prostrates, she should draw (herself) together, and join her thighs.”

Narration Two

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة ج 2ص505، المرأة کیف تکون في سجودها، رقم الحدیث279
عن ابن عباس أنه سئل عن صلاة المرأة فقال: تجتمع وتحتفز

“narrated to us from Ibn ‘Abbas that he was asked about the Salat of a woman, and he said: ‘She huddles up and draws (herself) together.’” (Musannaf, 2:505, 2794)

Narration Three

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 2704
عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ أَنَّهُ كَانَ يَكْرَهُ أَنْ يَضَعَ الرَّجُلُ بَطْنَهُ عَلَى فَخِذَيْهِ إِذَا سَجَدَ كَمَا تَصْنَعُ الْمَرْأَةُ

“Jarir (ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid) narrated to us from Layth (ibn Abi Sulaym) from Mujahid (ibn Jabr) that he would detest that a man puts his belly on his thighs when he prostrates, as a woman does.” (Musannaf, 2:505, 2796)

This narration proves that it was a well-known and common practice at the time of the Sahabah and senior Tabi‘in for a woman to pray differently from a man by compressing herself and drawing herself together during prostration. This is why Mujahid said “like a woman does,” using this practice of a woman as the act on which he drew his comparison; and it is known in the rules of language that an example is only drawn on something commonly known and recognised.

Practice and Statements of the Tabi‘in

Report One

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 24982:421 ,
حدثنا محمد بن بكر، عن ابن جريج قال: قلت لعطاء: تشير المرأة بيديها بالتكبير كالرجل؟ قال: لا ترفع بذلك يديها كالرجل، وأشار: فخفض يديه جدا، وجمعهما إليه جدا، وقال: إن للمرأة هيئة ليست للرجال، وإن تركت ذلك فلا حرج

“Muhammad ibn Bakr narrated to us from (‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz) ibn Jurayj, he said: I said to ‘Ata’: ‘Does a woman gesture with (i.e. raise) her hands in takbir like a man?’ He said: ‘She does not raise her hands in that like a man.’ And he gestured (with his hands), lowering his hands excessively and he brought them together to himself excessively, and he said: ‘A woman has a posture that men do not have, and if she leaves that there is no blame (i.e. sin on her).”

في مصنف عبدالرزاق ج3ص50رقم5983
تجتمع المرأة إذا ركعت، ترفع يديها إلى بطنها، وتجتمع ما استطاعت، فإذا سجدت فلتضم يديها إليها، وتضم بطنها إلى فخذيها، وتجتمع ما استطاعت

“The woman huddles up when she bows. She raises her hands to her stomach, and she draws (herself) together as much as she can. When she prostrates, she should bring together her hands to herself, and join her belly and her chest to her thighs, and huddle up as much as she can.”

Report Two

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 2797, 505:2
عن الحسن قال: المرأة تضطم فى السجود

“narrated to us from al-Hasan (al-Basri), he said: ‘The woman huddles up in prostration.”

Report Three

في مصنف عبدالرزاق ج 3ص49 باب تکبیرة المرأة بیدیها وقیام المرأة ورکوعها وسجودها
إذا سجدت المرأة فإنها تنضم ما استطاعت ولا تتجافى لكيلا ترفع عجيزتها

“When a woman prostrates, she huddles up as much as she can and she does not separate (her limbs) so that she does not lift her posterior.”

Report Four

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 2798, 505:2
حدثنا وكيع عن سفيان عن منصور عن إبراهيم قال: إذا سجدت المرأة فلتلتزق بطنها بفخذيها ولا ترفع عجيزتها ولا تجافي كما يجافى الرجل

Narrated to us from Ibrahim (al-Nakha‘i), he said: ‘When a woman prostrates, her belly should cling to her thighs, and she is not to raise her posterior, nor spread out (her arms) as a man spreads (them) out.”

Report Five

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 2808, 508:2
حدثنا وكيع عن سفيان عن منصور عن إبراهيم قال: تجلس المرأة من جانب الصلاة

“Waki‘ narrated to us from Sufyan from Mansur from Ibrahim, he said: ‘The woman sits to the side in Salat.”

Report Six

في مصنف ابن أبي شیبة: رقم الحديث 2800, 506:2
حدثنا أبو خالد عن محمد بن عجلان عن نافع أن صفية كانت تصلي وهي متربعة

“Abu Khalid (al-Ahmar) narrated to us from Muhammad ibn ‘Ajlan from Nafi‘ that Safiyyah would pray while in the tarabbu‘ position.”

These reports are particularly interesting and worthy of note because it is established from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar that he said the sunnah in Salat is iftirash as reported in Sahih al-Bukhari (Fath al-Mulhim, 3:486), which means he must have observed the Prophet (peace be upon him) praying in this way. Since his wives would sit in the tarabbu‘ position despite Ibn ‘Umar’s established view, this is an indication that Ibn ‘Umar must have learned from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that a woman’s posture while sitting is different from a man’s, as he would have, otherwise, corrected his wives.

The meaning of Hadith, “Pray as you have seen me praying.”

As for the hadith “pray as you have seen me praying,” it should be noted firstly that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said this to a group of young men who came to learn their religion, as reported by the Sahabi, Malik ibn al-Huwayrith, in Sahih al-Bukhari (Fath al-Bari, 3:291). Secondly, this is a general statement about the basic components and requirements of Salat, in which everyone is equal. Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari wrote in his commentary of Mishkat al-Masabih, “‘Pray as you have seen me praying,’ meaning in observing the conditions and integrals.” It is not about every aspect and detail of Salat. Otherwise, the imam and muqtadi should also be equal in every aspect of Salat. Yet the muqtadi differs from the imam in that he does not say the takbir out loud, nor does he say sami‘ Allahu liman hamidah, and according to the majority, he does not recite when the imam recites aloud in Salat. Hence, this is proof that this general statement does not negate specific exceptions that are established from other evidences.

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