Why women should not be excluded from mosques

Why women should not be excluded from mosques

The widespread exclusion of women from mosques

There is a very strong and prevalent view that a woman’s place is in the home, and also by extension that her place to pray is in the home. Consequently, women are barred from entering many mosques in UK and in other parts of the world. Quite often a lack of space is cited as the reason.

There is also the notion that if women are allowed in a mosque, they must have their own designated space which must be partitioned by walls and screens.

This culture of excluding women from the mosque and having men-only mosques has long been perceived as a norm. However, we have to question where this assumption has arisen from, as this was not at all the case during the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) 1400 years ago. How have we regressed to a situation where it is acceptable to exclude half the population from the mosques?

The reason is the selective application of hadith which support a patriarchal structure. Yet the exclusion of women from mosques pushes back the development of society, as women have much to contribute to society as well as a right to worship in mosques. If women are not able to access places of worship, build friendships with fellow worshippers, have a say in mosque affairs, or bring their youngsters with them to the mosque, the mosque cannot truly represent the community, and will remain the exclusive preserve of men, unable to reach its full potential a source of goodness in the community.

Yet instead of welcoming women into mosques, they are commonly viewed by those who run mosques as a nuisance, an intrusion, misguided feminists, or a fitnah – a temptation for men whose presence will lead to the spread of corruption. Therefore it is important to educate ourselves on what the Quran and Sunnah say on this issue.

The hadith used to support the exclusion of women

The mentality and insistence that women stay home to pray is accompanied by the quoting of hadith which appear to support this viewpoint. It also stems from the principle known as sadd al dharai’, which is cutting the roots to a sin by blocking something lawful which may lead to it. In this case, a lawful action – permitting women to enter the mosque – is prevented as it could lead to women becoming a temptation for men.

To this end we see three main evidences quoted frequently by imams and on social media and in books to exclude women:

  1.  Ibn ‘Umar reported God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying:

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «لَا تَمْنَعُوا نِسَاءَكُمُ الْمَسَاجِدَ وَبُيُوتُهُنَّ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ» . رَوَاهُ أَبُو دَاوُدَ

“Do not prevent your women from coming to the mosques, but their houses are better for them.”   [Abu Dawud]

Looking at this hadith in isolation suggests that women should stay at home, but in fact if we look at it in conjunction with the following hadith we see that the reason the Prophet (peace be upon him) said praying at home was better was to give them ease and to not feel they had missed out on reward if it was difficult for them to get to the mosque. Or was specific to the lady asking the question. This is proved further by the the fact there are so many hadith encouraging women to go to the mosque.

A lady asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) what they should do as they had infants and household work it was difficult for them to go to the mosque?’ He replied:

‘If a lady prays in the house, it is better than the mosque.’

2. Umm Humayd came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I like to pray with you.’ He replied:

Your prayer in your room is better for you than your prayer in your courtyard and your prayer in your courtyard is better for you than your praying in your house, and your prayer in your house is better for you than your prayer in the mosque of your people, and your prayer in the mosque of your people is better for you than your prayer in my mosque.’ So she issued orders that a prayer-place be prepared for her in the furthest and darkest part of her house, and she used to pray there until she met Allah (i.e. died). [Ahmad]

This is an authentic narration, however it has a wider context. The background to this narration was that Umm Hamayd and her husband Abu Humayd Al-Saedi had an argument due to her visiting the mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which she loved to do, but was quite a distance from her home – beyond the borders of Madinah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was not making a rule for all women to stay home, but resolving the marital argument between this companion who was walking miles five times a day to pray at the Prophet’s mosque (peace be upon him).

3. The statement of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said:

عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ لَوْ أَدْرَكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَا أَحْدَثَ النِّسَاءُ لَمَنَعَهُنَّ كَمَا مُنِعَتْ نِسَاءُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ‏.‏ قُلْتُ لِعَمْرَةَ أَوَ مُنِعْنَ قَالَتْ نَعَمْ‏.‏

Had Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from going to the mosque as the women of Bani Israel had been forbidden.

Yahya bin Sa`id (a sub-narrator) asked `Amra (another sub-narrator), “Were the women of Bani Israel forbidden?” She replied “Yes.” [Bukhari]

Jasser Auda in his extensive research on this hadith stated the following:

Aisha’s opinion was in relation to a specific context – some women were committing unlawful acts in the mosque. Her opinion was not a ruling. No jurists in Madinah took from it that women should be prevented from entering mosques. Imam Malik when asked about her opinion, said, ‘Women should never be prevented from going out to the mosques.’ [al Madawwanah al Kubra].

Ibn Hajar in Fath al Bari commented that her opinion, though some scholars had taken it to be absolute, did not change the ruling since it was dependant on ‘if’ the Prophet (peace be upon him) had seen this, what he might have done.

The comment was not a general or absolute comment as it related to some women who had introduced unlawful innovations. Moreover it was her opinion based on her disappointment at what the women had done, not a decree by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself.

Ibn Hazm commented that it would not be right to prevent all women from visiting the mosque due the sins of a limited number. We see in the Quran that it says, no one bears the sins of another:

أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٞ وِزۡرَ أُخۡرَىٰ

that no soul shall bear the burden of another; [53:38]

Finally, Ibn Qudamah in Al Mughny stated that the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is more worthy to be followed, and Aisha’s statement was limited to the women who introduced sinful innovations.

The correct understanding of women’s place as per the Quran and Sunnah

There is a danger when a practice is based on a selective reading of the Quran and Sunnah that the verses and hadith quoted end up contradicting the fundamental principles of Islam. To correctly understand the place of women in the mosque, we need an integrative reading of the Quran and Sunnah.

It is important that when we apply a hadith it is not plucked out of its context but based on its wider place in the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah and the Seerah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). We have to check the context for each statement, when it contradicts the main principles of Islam. Otherwise if you string together the hadiht out of context they give the impression that the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted women to stay home, and out of the mosques and exclude them from the affairs and decision making that took place in them.

On the contrary if we look at a wider selection of narrations, we find plenty of narrations that show the presence of women in the mosques – we see women in the congregations and asking questions. If it was the case that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not want women to be present, we would not have a multitude of narrations showing their active presence.

Quranic verses on visiting mosques

Before we look at the hadith showing women’s attendance in the mosques, we should note that there are are numerous verses in the Quran which urge believers – men and women – to visit mosques.

قُلۡ أَمَرَ رَبِّي بِٱلۡقِسۡطِۖ وَأَقِيمُواْ وُجُوهَكُمۡ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسۡجِدٖ وَٱدۡعُوهُ مُخۡلِصِينَ لَهُ ٱلدِّينَۚ كَمَا بَدَأَكُمۡ تَعُودُونَ

Say to them (O Muhammad): ‘My Lord enjoins justice; and that you set your faces aright at the time of every Prayer; and that you call upon Him, exclusively dedicating your faith to Him. You shall return to Him as you were created.’ [7:29]

۞ يَـٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُوا۟ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍۢ وَكُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوٓا۟ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُسْرِفِينَ ٣١

O Children of Adam! Dress properly whenever you are at worship. Eat and drink, but do not waste. Surely He does not like the wasteful. [7:31]

إِنَّمَا يَعۡمُرُ مَسَٰجِدَ ٱللَّهِ مَنۡ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأٓخِرِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَلَمۡ يَخۡشَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَۖ فَعَسَىٰٓ أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ أَن يَكُونُواْ مِنَ ٱلۡمُهۡتَدِينَ,

The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakah and do not fear except Allah, for it is expected that those will be of the [rightly] guided. [9:18]

وَأَنَّ ٱلۡمَسَٰجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدۡعُواْ مَعَ ٱللَّهِ أَحَدٗا

And the mosques are for Allah (Alone), so invoke not anyone along with Allah. [72:18]

Hadith showing women’s presence in the mosque

There are an abundance of narrations that show women were not excluded from mosques by day or at night, rather in general the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged it.

Salim narrated it from his father (‘Abdullah bin Umar) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

إِذَا اسْتَأْذَنَتْ أَحَدَكُمُ امْرَأَتُهُ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ فَلاَ يَمْنَعْهَا ‏ ‏

When women ask permission for going to the mosque, do not prevent them. [Muslim]

Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

 عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا تَمْنَعُوا النِّسَاءَ حُظُوظَهُنَّ مِنْ الْمَسَاجِدِ إِذَا اسْتَأْذَنُوكُمْ

“Do not prevent women from their share of the mosques, if they seek your permission.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“If your women ask permission to go to the mosque at night, allow them.” [Bukhari]

Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

One of the wives of Umar (bin Al-Khattab) used to offer the Fajr and the ‘Isha’ prayer in congregation in the Mosque. She was asked why she had come out for the prayer as she knew that Umar disliked it, and he has great ghaira (self-respect). She replied, “What prevents him from stopping me from this act?” The other replied, “The statement of Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him): ’Do not stop Allah’s women-slave from going to Allah’s Mosques’ prevents him.” [Bukhari]

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:

Allah’s Apostle used to offer the Fajr prayer and some believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with him and then they would return to their homes unrecognised. [Bukhari]

Um Hisham Bint al-Harith ibn Al-Nu`man (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

I memorised Surat Qaf only from the mouth of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him); he would recite it in his speech every Friday. [Muslim]

Abdullah ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

Um-ul-Fadl heard me reciting “Wal Mursalati `Urfa” (Surah Mursalat). She commented, “O my son! By Allah, your recitation made me remember that it was the last Surah I heard from Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He recited it in the Maghrib prayer. “[Bukhari]

Asma’ bint Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

The sun eclipsed during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) … then, I came and entered the Mosque, and saw the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) standing up (in prayer).

I joined him in prayer, and he kept standing up so long that I felt I needed to sit down. Yet, I would notice a weak woman standing next to me, so I would say, “She is weaker than me” and I would keep standing.

Then he (peace be upon him) bowed down for ruku` and kept bowing for long, and then he raised his head from ruku` and kept standing up for so long that had a man approached then, he would have thought that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had not yet offered the ruku`. [Muslim]

We can see that we need to understand the context and spirit of the message, not just the letter. We need to know the context of the hadith. Not just quote it out of context and use it as a weapon against women.

Women and babies

In the famous narration about how the Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with crying babies in the mosque we see that he did not discourage women from attending the mosque because their babies cried.

`Abdullah bin Abi Qatada Al-Ansari:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ الأَنْصَارِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ إِنِّي لأَقُومُ إِلَى الصَّلاَةِ وَأَنَا أُرِيدُ أَنْ أُطَوِّلَ فِيهَا، فَأَسْمَعُ بُكَاءَ الصَّبِيِّ، فَأَتَجَوَّزُ فِي صَلاَتِي كَرَاهِيَةَ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمِّهِ ‏”‏‏.‏البخاري.

My father said, “Allah’s Messenger () said, “Whenever I stand for prayer, I want to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I would shorten it as I dislike to put its mother in trouble.” [Bukhari]

If the default position of the woman to stay at home why did Rasulullah not tell mothers of babies and young children to stay home rather than come to the mosque? Instead he accommodated them their children.

Is it necessary to partition women?

Quite often, women are told women they are not allowed entry because there is no space, or when they are permitted, there is a common perception that they have to be partitioned which further perpetuates the reason to exclude them if their presence requires a separate rooms, or walls or barriers to erected. Where possible if there is enough space, the lack of barriers should not be the reason to exclude them.

Women were not partitioned from the men in the mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They were not behind a brick wall, a wooden screen, or even a curtain. This is not due to the lack of building materials as they could have constructed it if it was required, however instead of erecting a physical barrier, the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed the congregation to build internal barriers between the sexes – etiquettes of behaviour and propriety in their mind and in their behaviour. Thus he did not ban them from coming, but put in place rules of how they should share the space in an appropriate way.

We see therefore that the Prophet (peace be on him) asked female companions to delay raising their heads from prostration until the men had risen, in case their awrah (nakedness) was exposed when they were in prostration, as can happen with men’s ihram today. At that time, poor members of society who would wrap themselves in any available piece of cloth and this was not always secure.

Sahl bin Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ سَعْدٍ، قَالَ لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُ الرِّجَالَ عَاقِدِي أُزُرِهِمْ فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ مِثْلَ الصِّبْيَانِ مِنْ ضِيقِ الأُزُرِ خَلْفَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ قَائِلٌ يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ لاَ تَرْفَعْنَ رُءُوسَكُنَّ حَتَّى يَرْفَعَ الرِّجَالُ ‏.‏ مسلم.

People used to offer the prayer with the Prophet (peace be upon him) with their waist-sheets tied round their necks because of the shortness of the sheets and the women were ordered not to lift their heads till the men had sat straight. [Bukhari]

In another narration we see that as there was no partition, women were encouraged to pray in the last row, furthest from the men, but not from behind a barrier. Having their own space is undoubtedly more comfortable for both sexes, but this means that when we have limited space and it is not possible to have a screen between men and women, they can share the space while observing conditions of propriety between the sexes. This may not be the case at Jumuah where there is overcrowding and it would be awkward and uncomfortable to accommodate women. By contrast, at Eid salah when we have the salah outdoors in open spaces (or if there is an event and the prayer space is room or hall) there is no need to erect a barrier, and women can be arranged behind men.

What are the best arrangements for men and women in the mosque?

While women are welcome in the mosque, men and women have to abide by the Islamic etiquettes of interaction between the sexes. As we do not have free-mixing between the sexes, we need to have certain basic rules in place:

a) A separate entrance and exit for men and women where possible. And in addition a separate facility for wudu for men and women.

Having their own entrance minimises any harassment to women as well as minimising intermingling.

If a mosque has enough space, there should be two entrances unless it is wide enough to allow space between the sexes when entering.

The introduction of separate doors to the mosque came under the caliphate of `Umar who forbid men to enter the mosque through women’s for the sake of public interest. It is not a condition for every mosque.

Ibn ‘Umar reported the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) as saying:

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ لَوْ تَرَكْنَا هَذَا الْبَابَ لِلنِّسَاءِ ‏”‏ ‏

If we left this door for women (it would have been better). Nafi’ said: Ibn ‘Umar did not enter (the door) until his death. The other except ‘Abd al-Warith said: This was said by ‘Umar (and not by Ibn ‘Umar) and that is more correct. [Abu Dawoud]

b) Men and women should not intermingle.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to wait to let women leave the mosque first.

Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:

عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَالَتْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِذَا سَلَّمَ قَامَ النِّسَاءُ حِينَ يَقْضِي تَسْلِيمَهُ، وَيَمْكُثُ هُوَ فِي مَقَامِهِ يَسِيرًا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَقُومَ‏.‏ قَالَ نَرَى ـ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ ـ أَنَّ ذَلِكَ كَانَ لِكَىْ يَنْصَرِفَ النِّسَاءُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُدْرِكَهُنَّ أَحَدٌ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ‏.

Whenever Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) completed the prayer with Taslim, the women used to get up immediately and Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) would remain at his place for someone before getting up. (The sub-narrator (Az-Zuhri) said, “We think, and Allah knows better, that he did so, so that the women might leave before men could get in touch with them). [Bukhari]

c) Women should pray behind the men.

As men and women should be separated during salah, women should be behind men where possible.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

وعنه قال‏:‏ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ ‏ “‏خير صفوف الرجال أولها، وشرها آخرها، وخير صفوف النساء آخرها، وشرها أولها‏”‏‏.‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“The best of the men’s rows (in salat) is the first row and the worst is the last; but the best of the woman’s row is the last and the worst of their rows is the first.” [Muslim]

This is not related to any superiority of inferiority but to give women privacy. When it is not available, the Maliki school holds that it is permissible for men and women to pray in rows that are parallel to each other.

d) Women should not wear strong perfume.

Women should not come to the mosque wearing perfume, which is in line with the ruling for women in public places as perfume is strong sensory source of attraction.  

Zainab the wife of ‘Abdallah bin Mas’ud narrated that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said to them:

وَعَنْ زَيْنَبَ امْرَأَةِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ قَالَتْ: قَالَ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «إِذَا شَهِدَتْ إِحْدَاكُنَّ الْمَسْجِدَ فَلَا تمس طيبا» . رَوَاهُ مُسلم

“When one of you comes to the mosque she must not touch perfume.” [Muslim]

In another narration, Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ لاَ تَمْنَعُوا إِمَاءَ اللَّهِ مَسَاجِدَ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ لِيَخْرُجْنَ وَهُنَّ تَفِلاَتٌ ‏”‏ ‏‏

Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from visiting the mosques of Allah, but they may go out (to the mosque) having no perfumed themselves. [Abu Dawoud]

Common sense

How does it make sense that a woman who spends half her time out of her house, going about her daily chores and to work, is then barred from entering the mosque where it would benefit her to be in the House of Allah, an uplifting spiritual environment, the company of other Muslims as well as the angels?

There are numerous narrations that show the blessings of worshipping in mosques:

Abdullah bin Umar narrated that Allah’s Apostle said:

“The prayer in congregation is twenty-seven times superior to the prayer offered by person alone.” [Bukhari]

At the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) women were not locked up at home, they went about their daily life, doing their chores, trading, teaching, and even going to battle. If women go to the mosque, observing the appropriate etiquettes, there is nothing wrong with this – rather it is more rewarding than staying home and watching Netflix. This is particularly important for women who have come into Islam and need to find the company of other Muslims to feel part of the faith and strengthen their imaan.


Islam is a religion of fairness and we can see that Allah Almighty in His wisdom made praying Jumu’ah in congregation in the mosque an obligation for men not women. If men do not do this, they are sinful. However Allah did not put this burden on women as it would onerous for them to do this with all their responsibilities. Therefore, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Jumu’ah is a duty that is required of every Muslim in congregation, except four: a slave, a woman, a child or one who is sick.’ [Abu Dawood]

Women, who do not want to lose out of the blessings that men receive for going to the mosque can be comforted that if they pray at home they do not lose out. They can still receive the reward of praying in the mosque. This creates ease for women.

‘Abd Allah bin Mas’ud reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بن مسعود ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ صَلاَةُ الْمَرْأَةِ فِي بَيْتِهَا أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلاَتِهَا فِي حُجْرَتِهَا وَصَلاَتُهَا فِي مَخْدَعِهَا أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلاَتِهَا فِي بَيْتِهَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏

It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house. [Abu Dawoud]

The is the case for Jumu’ah. It is not however the general rule. For any other salah, and particularly sunnah salah such as tarawih, the prophet (peace be upon him) told me not to prevent their women from coming to the mosque.

If we restrict women from the mosque we are effectively restricting her access to worship Allah and form friendships with other believing women she would meet there and form a stronger society.

When it comes to Jumu’ah and there is a lack of space, as praying Jumu’ah is a fard for men, but not an obligation for women, men should be given preference to pray as their not praying in congregation will be a sin for them, but not women, who have the option of praying by themselves in any other space. Women have a choice, but men do not. However, when it comes to a sunnah salah, such as tarawih, women have as much right as a man to pray in the masjid. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not put barriers because he wanted people to observe internal taqwa rather than use external barriers. Instead, women should be given access and space and both men and women should lower their gazes and keep their distance.

In general, women should not be prevented from entering mosques. However men and women should observe the correct etiquettes. When the salah finishes women should leave first and then men. Excluding women from mosques is damaging to the perception of Islam and a cause of marginalising women.

Fatwa on women’s access to mosques

Jasser Auda[i] who conducted research on this topic, and written extensive papers and a book presented his research to the Annual Regular Meeting of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in 2015 where they made the following declaration regarding Muslim Women and their Needs:

It is forbidden to prevent women from their right to visit the mosque.

Muslim women must be encouraged to attend the mosque.

The tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) did NOT include barriers between men and women in the mosque.

It is an obligation to protect women in the mosque from any mistreatment or harassment.

A non Muslim woman should be allowed to visit a mosque, with or without a headscarf, as long as she is dressed decently.

A woman is allowed to stay in seclusion i’tikaf) in the mosque and visit others who are staying there.  

A woman can and may lecture to me and women in the mosque.

A woman can and may participate in the mosque’s management and all social activities.

Women only mosques

The exclusion of women from mosques has led to the creation of women only mosques. This is a reaction to protest the current male-dominated nature of mosques. It is preferable to have mosques which welcome the whole family than separate the sexes. We already suffer from mosques being divided by race and schools of thought, which should not be case. If women do have their own prayer spaces, they may pray as a congregation and lead other women, but are not permitted to conduct Jumu’ah, instead they can lead it without a khutbah, and pray 4 rakahs as Dhur salah in congregation.

Is it better for women to pray at home or in the mosque?

Allah Almighty has not burdened women with the obligation of going to the mosque, and granted them ease of being rewarded if they stay home. However the inclusion of women in the mosque is beneficial for them on a personal level and also beneficial for the community as a whole, so it should be encouraged, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) did. We have numerous hadith that show the presence of women in his mosque, where they did not have separate entrances of barriers between men and women, so we should not hinder women from coming to the mosque on that basis. The exception is Jumu’ah if there is not enough space to accommodate men and women as it an obligation for men, not women. For any other salah especially tarawih, where women are eager to participate in congregational worship, there should be provision for them to be included.

In general, we should encourage women and our youth to come to our mosques so they can benefit from collective worship, and make our mosques hubs of positive activity and beneficial projects and build stronger communities. We need common sense and empathy so our mosques can be beacons of light in the community.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim with additional research by Ayesha Khan based on ‘Reclaiming the Mosque’ by Jasser Auda

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[i] Jasser Auda

Professor Auda is the Chairman of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, UK, with educational and research projects in a dozen other countries. He is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, and a Visiting Professor for the Study of Islam at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the Executive Board of the Fiqh Council of North America, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.