How Should Women Pray in Congregation in the Shafi’i School?
Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
How should a woman pray in congregation?
Can you give a detailed step by step process on how women should pray in congregation?
Answer:Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah for your question. I pray you are well insha’Allah.
In the Shafi’i school, any prayer that is it recommended to pray in congregation applies to both men and women, and irrespective if the congregation is an all women group or behind a male Imam, and all receive the rewards of praying in congregation.
The Shafi’i opinion is based on the sound narrations which confirm that A’isha and Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with them both) ‘used to lead women in prayer while standing among them in the same row.’ [al Daraqutni, al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Abi Shaybah]
However, in contrast to men, it is not recommended for women to pray the congregational prayer at the masjid, and it is not disliked if a woman prays alone at home.
Congregation of two people: The least amount of people needed to form a ‘congregational’ prayer is two people. If there are only two people praying, then the follower stands slightly behind the Imam, such that their toes are slightly behind the heel of the Imam. This applies to a male leading another man or a women leading another woman.
Congregation of three or more people: If there are three or more people in the female congregation, then the women stand in rows like men, and the female imam stands in the middle of the front row, as confirmed in the narrations mentioned above.
There is a minor difference of opinion as to what is meant by the ‘middle’ of the front row. Some scholars, such as al Kurdi and others, have stated that it means the female imam stays level, in line with the followers.
Ibn Qasim, al Shubari, and Imam Ramli hold that the female imam should stand slightly ahead of the front row, just enough to distinguish her as the imam, and that this slight standing forward does not negate her being in the ‘middle’ or ‘standing in the same row’ as mentioned in the narrations. Both of these positions are valid to follow.
Being in the ‘middle’ does not mean that equal amounts of followers have to be on either side of the imam, though balancing each side of the row is a separate recommendation.
Adhan and Iqama
It is not permitted for a woman to give the call to prayer (adhan), even if among only women, however, it is sunna for a woman to call the commencement of prayer (iqama), and this is recommended whether she is praying alone or in a female congregation.
It is sunna for a woman to recite aloud in prayers in which audible recitation is recommended, such as Fajr, Maghrib, Isha, and Tarawih etc., and this applies to when she is praying alone or in a female group. However, if non-mehram men are present, then she should recite to herself.
[Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Mughni la Muhtaj, Bushra al Karim]
I pray that this helps you. May grant you to every good.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.