Why Must Women Pray Behind Men?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Why are women required to pray behind men in a Mosque? I heard somewhere it is to stop the men from being distracted by the women, which is apparently unavoidable if men pray behind the women. If a man’s intentions for praying at the Mosque is truly pure, it shouldn’t matter whether he is praying in front of or behind women. If he finds the women distracting, I think he went there with false intentions.


Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray this message finds you well.

Islam’s teachings on gender relations are imminently practical and pragmatic. Often, Islam does not legislate on the basis of how people should be but how they actually are. God knows men and He knows women. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, who was the human vessel for divine revelation, understood human nature in a profound way.

Everything that Sacred Law prescribes is based on the idea that the primary sources of Islam (the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition) do not stipulate a thing except that there is some overriding wisdom in it. So the attitude with which we should approach the issue is that of gracious acceptance. If the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, commanded that women pray behind men, then he had a good reason.

It is not fair to read his tradition from a presentist standpoint and look at the configuration of the prayer in terms of female subordination to men. It’s not about male superiority or female inferiority. That women stand behind men does not suggest that they are secondary in the sight of God. God’s sight encompasses all.

Furthermore, Islam is a religion whose overriding characteristic is modesty. The prayer is very physical. Some men might be able to ignore a woman standing beside them or in front of them. Others might not be so successful. If men weren’t moved by the female body, then the billion-dollar advertising industry that objectifies and commodifies women would not exist.

Since Islam is about reality and dealing with people the way they are, there are specific prescriptions governing male-female interaction and these prescriptions extend to the prayer. Note, however, that outside of the formal prayer, there is no requirement in Islam that women always be out of men’s sight.

For example, in educational settings, women often sit parallel to men, albeit separated by some sort of divider. This type of separation should not be misconstrued. It is an important social etiquette, not an indication of one’s standing before God.

And Allah knows best,

Zaynab Ansari

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

A Reader On Gender Interaction

A Reader On Gender Interaction


General Guidance

Guidelines for Interacting With the Opposite Sex

A Detailed Exposition of the Fiqh of Covering One’s Nakedness (awra)

Hadith About Seclusion (khalwa) and Unmarriageable Kin (mahram)

Breaking Family Relations Due To Adulterous Acts

Limits of Relationship between Males and Females

How Do We Bring About An Islamic Environment To Our MSA?

Lower Your Gaze – Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya

Guidance for Men (Relevant for women also)

I Like a Girl: Controlling One’s Interactions & Feelings

Approaching a Potential Spouse

Guidance for Women
(Relevant for men also)

How Should I Interact With Non-Mahram (Marriageable) Males?

What do I do if I Develop Strong Feelings For a Brother I am Friends With?

Women, Unlawful Gazes, and Leaving the House

Women & the Workplace: Is it Impermissible for Me to Work Even If I Observe Proper Limits?

Love for a Non-Muslim Man & Inviting Him to Islam

What do I do if I Develop Strong Feelings For a Brother I am Friends With?

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badradduja

Question: Assalamu alaikum,

I’m a teenage sister.

I have been friends with a guy. He is a great person and a good believer, but we have fallen into the trap of shaitan and got a little carried away with our friendship. I fell in love with him. it just happened. i had no control over it. and he loves me too. since we don’t want to disappoint Allah and gain a part of his anger, we promised each other that when we grow up and are in the age for marriage, we will come back for each other and marry. since then we ended our phone contacts and even our friendship. though from heart we still do consider each other best friends.

We all realize how big a sin we have committed since a boy and a girl are not permitted to have any sort of relation ship. I want to ask you, if we have anything important to talk about, can we talk? and all the promises that we made to each other, are those valid? and can we still keep love for each other in our heart?

Please help me out.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are well. Thank you for your question.

Alhamdulillah you have done the right thing by ending your relationship and communication with the brother. InshaAllah you will find that Allah will place baraka (blessings and increase) in your life and your endeavors because you are striving to follow His command.

Can you talk if you have something important to discuss? You should not continue communication, especially since you know that there is an attraction between you. If you allow yourselves to get in touch, it could likely become a regular allowance you give yourselves and it will be harder to discontinue communication. If something is extremely important, consult a learned and God-conscious person for their advice on how to get the message across to the brother without unnecessary interaction.

Are the promises you made valid? There is nothing that invalidates your promises to each other to get married in the future. But there is also nothing that makes them binding upon you if your future situation calls for another line of action. You are still young and many things can happen in the future which could make marrying each other an unsuitable, or even undesirable, event. If things change in the future and you have other marriage prospects, you could consider having him be notified in an appropriate manner in order to avoid ambiguity in the issue.

Can you continue to love him? You cannot necessarily control the feelings you have towards the brother. You need to however control how you act upon them. Feeling inclined towards him because of his praiseworthy traits is fine and natural. But do not dwell on your feelings toward him too much until you are in a position to get married because it will make it difficult for you to keep your distance. When you think both of you are ready, be sure to involve your parents.

May Allah grant you success.


Checked and Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Is Masturbation Sinful? How Do I Stop?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Is masturbation permitted? How does one stop himself from falling into it?

Answer: Masturbation is prohibitively disliked and so it is sinful to engage in. It has many personal and societal ill-effects that are known and recognized in sane traditional societies and by balanced people. The early Muslims used to say, “The one who weds his hand is accursed.” [Ibn Humam, Fath al-Qadir]

A person needs to take all the means that scholars mention about controlling one’s desire, including:

– Guarding one’s gaze;
– Asking Allah continually to free him from this problem;
– Involving oneself with acts of worship, remebrance of Allah, etc, because the one who longs for the Infinite Beauty of the One turns to none else;
– Fasting;
– Removing the impermissible and doubtful from his life, especially in terms of food, money, and household “family sins”, such as television, free mixing, etc
– Whenever feeling overwhelmed with one’s physical temptation to fulfill a lawful lust (food, etc.) to calm down his nafs.

Whenever a bad thought occurs to you:

a. Seek Allah’s forgiveness and mercy
b. Seek protection from the devil by saying “a`udhu billahi min ash-shaytan ar-rajeem.”
c. Remove the things that result in that bad though immediately. So, if you see an image on a computer that arouses a desire, turn it off.
d, Thank Allah, wholeheartedly, for giving you the ability to overcome your desires by saying “Alhamdulilah”, as this makes Shaytan despair, and strengthens one s resolve.

If you keep erring, keep repeating these quick and simple steps. Make supplications with your prayers that Allah protect you. If you keep turning to Allah sincerely, He will accept your entreating, and free you of these problems.

Faraz Rabbani