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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

20.  Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

 

from the Qur’an, major hadith collections and Islamic jurisprudence

 

 

Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

From the Qur’an

 

The Qur’an says that Allah (God) bestows his mercy on believing men and believing women.[1] Believers, men and women, are friends and protectors of one another. They promote good and forbid evil, they pray, pay the zakat and obey Allah and Muhammad. Thus Allah, who is mighty and wise, will show them mercy.[2] Whoever acts righteously, whether man or woman, will be rewarded by Allah with a good life. He will reward them for the best of what they did.[3]

 

The Qur’an says that those believers who are righteous in their deeds, both men and women, will enter Paradise after death[4] and be provided for without limit.[5] Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward for both men and women who submit to Allah’s will, who believe, who obey, who are truthful, who are steadfast, who are humble, who give charity, who fast, who refrain from forbidden sexual acts and who remember Allah.[6] Those who give alms, both men and women, and who give to Allah a good loan, shall have it multiplied for them and shall receive a good reward.[7] Believers, men and women alike, shall live forever in gardens with rivers running beneath them.[8] There will be light shining before them and on their right hands[9] and they will recline on couches in the shade.[10] Allah will absolve them of their evil deeds[11] and, more importantly, Allah will be greatly pleased.[12] Those who merit entry into the Garden of Paradise will do so with their spouses.[13] Anyone who says evil things about believing men and believing women who have done no wrong is guilty of slander and sin.[14]

 

The Qur’an says that the hypocrites, men and women, are alike. They promote evil and forbid doing what is right. They disregard Allah and he disregards them.[15] Allah promises the hypocrites, both men and women, that they shall abide in the fires of Hell.[16] On that day, the hypocrites, men and women, will ask for light from those who believe, but then it will be too late. The hypocrites will find their dwelling place in the fire.[17] Allah punishes hypocritical men and hypocritical women, polytheistic men and polytheistic women,[18] unbelieving men and unbelieving women[19] and all those who think evil of Allah.[20] Not only unbelievers, but also their spouses, will be punished with fire of Hell.[21]

 

 

Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim

 

Contents

 

Women and their actions are praised and elevated (hadith)

 

Religious differences between men and women (hadith)

 

Women block prayer (hadith)

 

 

Women and their actions are praised and elevated (hadith). A hadith reports that Muhammad said that a pious woman is the best object of benefit.[22] When Muhammad called on the people to give alms, most of those who did so were women.[23]

 

A woman who gives to charity from things in her husband’s house will be rewarded for what she has given,[24] as will her husband,[25]

and the storekeeper[26] as well. The reward of one does not reduce the reward of the other.[27] Husband and wife will get equal rewards.[28] If the wife’s giving of the husband’s things to charity is done without the husband’s permission, the wife’s reward will be half that of the husband.[29]

 

 

Religious differences between men and women (hadith). Hadiths report that Muhammad said that the religion of a woman is deficient because, when menstruating, a woman does not pray and does not participate in the fasting of Ramadan.[30]

 

Muhammad said that a woman should not participate in non-required fasts without the permission of her husband.[31]

 

Muhammad said that most of the inhabitants of Hell are women[32] and that women are a minority in Paradise.[33] He said that the reason women are in Hell is that they curse frequently[34]and are ungrateful to their husbands.[35]

 

Muhammad said that a Muslim,[36] more specifically a woman,[37] who had three children die would be protected from Hell. When asked if two such deaths were sufficient, he said that they were.[38] A companion of Muhammad, Abu Huraira, said that the protection from Hell only applied if the children who died were below the age of puberty.[39]

 

When Muhammad invited only men to hear him, one of his wives, Umm Salama, insisted that she also had a right to be there since she is one of the people.[40]

 

When Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, told Muhammad that the women understand that the highest act possible is to participate in holy battles (jihad) for Islam, Muhammad replied that the highest act for women is to participate in the hajj – religious pilgrimage to Mecca.[41] One Muslim woman who was with Muhammad for seven battles reported that she would stay behind in the camp, cooking for the men and treating the wounded.[42] While the Muslim men who fought for Islam received a fixed share of the spoils as booty, the women who were at a battle and treated the wounded did not get that, but they did receive a reward.[43]

 

Women were told by Muhammad not to apply perfume before coming to the mosque,[44] specifically for the isha (nighttime) prayer.[45]

 

 

Women block prayer (hadith). Hadiths report that when praying, it is necessary to put up a protection, or sutra, in front of oneself[46] to prevent the prayer from being blocked by a passing woman[47] or donkey[48] or dog,[49] specifically, a black dog.[50] A person passing between someone praying and the sutra should be resisted by force.[51] Passing between a person praying and the sutra is a great sin.[52]

 

The protective sutra may be a spear,[53] a camel,[54] a pillar,[55] a saddle,[56] or any object at least as large as the back of a saddle.[57]

 

It is also said, however, that when Muhammad was leading prayers without a sutra and a donkey passed in front of those praying, no one objected.[58]

 

Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, objected to the idea that women were said to be the equal of donkeys and dogs in blocking prayer, since Muhammad himself would pray with her in front of him in bed.[59] Also, Muhammad would pray while holding his granddaughter in his arms.[60]

 

 

Religious Acts Performed by Men and Women

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller

 

Contents

 

Prayer and fasting by men and women (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)

 

Pilgrimage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)

 

War booty (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia)

 

 

Prayer and fasting by men and women (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars* agree that a woman cannot lead men in prayer.[61] They disagree on whether women may lead women in prayer, with al-Shafi‛i saying that they can and Malik that they cannot.[62]

 

Pregnant women and wet-nurses are exempted from the requirement for fasting (as are sick people and old people).[63] Abu Hanifa says that if a pregnant woman or wet nurse does not fast, she must make up fasting at another time while al-Shafi‛i says that she must make up fasting at another time and also feed the needy.[64]

    

In addition to being prohibited from reciting the usually obligatory prayers, a menstruating woman may not perform the ritual of walking around (circumambulating) the Ka’ba when on pilgrimage to Mecca.[65] While Ibn Rushd says that the scholars agree that fasting is not permitted for menstruating women,[66] and Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) also prohibits fasting during menstruation,[67] al-Shafi‛i says that scholars agree that menstruating women should fast.[68]

 

Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that in addition to all those things prohibited to a person in a state of major (sexual) impurity, a menstruating woman or a woman having postnatal vaginal discharge is also prohibited from: walking through a mosque if she may contaminate it with blood, enjoying sexual activity between her navel and her knees, fasting, getting divorced or performing ritual purification. Once her menstrual period or postnatal bleeding has ceased, she may immediately resume these activities except for sexual intercourse, which must be preceded by a bath of purification (ghusl).[69]

 

The scholars* agree that having sexual intercourse during Ramadan breaks the fast.[70] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) explains that just as the fast is not violated by eating between sunset and dawn,[71] so a sexual act only violates the fast if it is not terminated promptly at dawn.[72]

 

 

More details on jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia) concerning sexual activity when fasting

 

 

According to Reliance of the Traveller (Shafiʽi School), a voluntary spiritual retreat in a mosque is invalidated by sexual intercourse or by touching that results in an orgasm.[73] Furthermore, when a person is in a spiritual retreat in a mosque, touching another out of sexual desire is unlawful.[74] A wife may only enter a mosque for the purpose of spiritual retreat with the permission of her husband.[75]

 

Reliance of the Traveller says that while men are encouraged to visit graves,[76] it is offensive for women to do so.[77]

 

 

Pilgrimage (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). Reliance of the Traveller explains that women and men are equally obligated to perform both hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, which is restricted to one specified time period each year) and ‘umra (pilgrimage to Mecca that can be performed at any time of year).[78]

 

Reliance of the Traveller (Shafiʽi school) says that both men and women are subject to the same laws concerning what is unlawful while in the sacred state of ihram for pilgrimage[79] except that men, but not women, are forbidden from wearing sewn garments[80]; and only men are required to keep their heads uncovered.[81] Also, it is unlawful for a woman to veil her face while in a state of ihram.[82] A woman in ihram for hajj must cover her head and hair; her head covering should come down a little in front to cover her face from men’s view.[83] Reliance of the Traveller explains that such a cover should not touch her face.[84]

 

Al-Shafiʽi says that a man in a state of ihram may cover his face up to his eyebrows, but Malik says that he may not cover any part of his head above the chin.[85] Malik also says that a woman in a state of ihram may not wear gloves.[86] Otherwise, the laws of ihram concerning men and women are the same, including the recommendation to take a bath of purification (ghusl) before entering into a state of ihram, which applies even to menstruating women.[87]

 

A woman must be accompanied on hajj. The person accompanying her may be her husband or a mahram (close male relative ineligible for marriage). Malik says that it is also acceptable for the companion to be a reliable woman.[88]

           

The scholars* agree that sexual intercourse is forbidden when a person is in a state of ihram for pilgrimage[89]

 

 

More details on the jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia) concerning sexual activity when in a state of ihram

 

 

Malik says that it is permitted to get married or give someone in marriage when in a state of ihram, but Abu Hanifa, al-Shafiʽi and the Shafiʽi school say it is not permitted.

 

 

War booty (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The spoils of war are divided among the male fighters (after one-fifth is taken out for community purposes). The leader may also give token rewards to women, children and non-Muslims – taken from the four-fifths designated for booty payments.[90]

 

________________

 

*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 

§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 12, 2016

 

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Table of Contents – Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.



[1] QR 33:73

[2] QR 9:71

[3] QR 16:97

[4] QR 4:124, QR 40:40

[5] QR 40:40

[6] QR 33:35

[7] QR 57:18

[8] QR 9:72, QR 48:5, QR 57:12

[9] QR 57:12

[10] QR 36:55-36:56

[11] QR 48:5

[12] QR 9:72

[13] QR 36:55-36:56, QR 43:70

[14] QR 33:58

[15] QR 9:67

[16] QR 9:68, QR 48:6, QR 57:13-15

[17] QR 57:13-15

[18] QR 33:73, QR 48:6

[19] QR 33:73

[20] QR 48:6

[21] 37:22-23

[22] ML 8:3465

[23] ML 4:1931

[24] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:520, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234, ML 5:2238

[25] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:520, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234, ML 5:2238

[26] BK 2:24:506, BK 2:24:518, BK 2:24:521, BK 3:34:279, ML 5:2232-2233

[27] BK 2:24:506, BK 3:34:279, ML 5:2232-2233, ML 5:2234

[28] BK 7:62:123, ML 5:2238

[29] BK 3:34:280

[30] BK 1:6:301, BK 3:31:172, ML 1:142

[31] BK 7:62:120, BK 7:62:123

[32] BK 1:2:28, BK 1:6:301, BK 2:18:161, BK 2:24:541, BK 4:54:464, BK 7:62:124, BK 7:62:125, BK 7:62:126, BK 8:76:456, BK 8:76:554, BK 8:76:555, ML 1:142-143, ML 4:1926, ML 4:1982-1983, ML 36:6596, ML 36:6597-6598-6599

[33] ML 36:6600-6601

[34] BK 1:6:301, BK 2:24:541, ML 1:142-143

[35] BK 1:2:28, BK 1:6:301, BK 2:18:161, BK 2:24:541, BK 7:62:125, ML 1:142-143, ML 4:1926, ML 4:1982-1983

[36] BK 2:23:340, BK 2:23:342, ML 32:6365-6366

[37] BK 1:3:101-102, BK 2:23:341, BK 9:92:413, ML 32:6367, ML 32:6368, ML 32:6371, ML 32:6372

[38] BK1:3:101-102, BK 2:23:341, BK 9:92:413, ML 32:6367, ML 32:6368

[39] BK1:3:101-102, BK 2:23:341

[40] ML 30:5686-5687

[41] BK 2:26:595, BK 3:29:84, BK 4:52:43

[42] ML 19:4462-4463

[43] ML 19:4456-4457, ML 19:4458-4459, ML 19:4460-4461

[44] ML 4:892, ML 4:893, ML 4:894

[45] ML 4:892, ML 4:894

[46] BK 1:8:422, BK 1:9:473, BK 1:9:474, BK 1:9:477, BK 1:9:478, BK 1:9:480, BK 1:9:481, BK 1:9:485, BK 1:9:487-488, BK 1:9:490, BK 1:9:493, BK 2:15:89, BK 2:15:90, ML 4:1006, ML 4:1007, ML 4:1008, ML 4:1009, ML 4:1010, ML 4:1011, ML 4:1012, ML 4:1013, ML 4:1014, ML 4:1015, ML 4:1017-1018, ML 4:1032, ML 4:1034

[47] BK 1:9:474, BK 1:9:478, BK 1:9:490, BK 1:9:493, BK 1:9:498, ML 4:1017-1018, ML 4:1032, ML 4:1034, ML 4:1037, ML 4:1038, ML 4:1039

[48] BK 1:9:474, BK 1:9:478, BK 1:9:490, BK 1:9:493, BK 1:9:498, ML 4:1014, ML 4:1017-1018, ML 4:1032, ML 4:1034, ML 4:1037, ML 4:1038, ML 4:1039

[49] BK 1:9:486, BK 1:9:490, BK 1:9:493, BK 1:9:498, ML 4:1014, ML 4:1034, ML 4:1038, ML 4:1039

[50] ML 4:1032

[51] ML 4:1032

[52] BK 1:9:489, ML 4:1027-1028

[53] BK 1:9:473, BK 1:9:474, BK 1:9:478, BK 1:9:480, BK 2:15:89, BK 2:15:90, ML 4:1010, ML 4:1011, ML 4:1014

[54] BK 1:8:422, BK 1:9:485, ML 4:1012, ML 4:1013

[55] BK 1:9:481

[56] BK 1:9:485, ML 4:1006

[57] ML 4:1007, ML 4:1008, ML 4:1009, ML 4:1032, ML 4:1034

[58] BK 1:9:472, ML 4:1019, ML 4:1020-1021-1022

[59] BK 1:9:486, BK 1:9:490, BK 1:9:491, BK 1:9:492, BK 1:9:494, BK 1:9:498, ML 4:1035, ML 4:1036, ML 4:1037, ML 4:1038, ML 4:1039, ML 4:1040

[60] BK 1:9:495

[61] DJP 2.3.2.2.4 (Vol 1, page 161)

[62] DJP 2.3.2.2.4 (Vol 1, page 161)

[63] DJP 7.1.1.3 (Vol 1, page 344)

[64] DJP 7.1.1.3.8 (Vol 1, pages 351-352)

[65] DJP 1.2.3.2.3 (Volume 1, pages 58-59)

[66] DJP 1.2.3.2.3 (Volume 1, pages 58-59)

[67] RT e13.4 (pages 93-94), RT i1.1 (pages 278-279), RT i1.3 (pages 279-280)

[68] SR 114 (page 132)

[69] RT e13.4 (pages 93-94)

[70] DJP 7.1.1.3.9 (Vol 1, pages 353-354)

[71] RT i1.22 (pages 287-288), RT i1.24-i1.25 (page 288)

[72] RT i1.18(15) page 285, RT i1.21(7) (page 287)

[73] RT i3.5 (page 295)

[74] RT i3.8 (page 296)

[75] RT i3.9 (page 296)

[76] RT g5.8 (page 241)

[77] RT g5.9 (pages 241-242)

[78] RT j1.2-j1.3 (page 301), RT j1.7 (page 304)

[79] RT j3.24 (page 321)

[80] DJP 9.2.3 (Vol 1, pages 384-390), RT j3.2 (page 312), RTj3.6 (pages 314-315), RT j3.24 (page 321)

[81] RTj3.6 (pages 314-315), RT j3.24 (page 321)

[82] RT j3.24 (page 321)

[83] DJP 9.2.3 (Vol 1, pages 384-390)

[84] RT j3.24 (page 321)

[85] DJP 9.2.3 (Vol 1, pages 384-390)

[86] DJP 9.2.3 (Vol 1, pages 384-390)

[87] RT j3.1 (pages 311-312)

[88] DJP 9.1 (Vol 1, pages 374-380), RT j1.7 (page 304)

[89] DJP 9.2.3 (Vol 1, pages 384-390, RT j3.13 (page 318)

[90] RT o10.1 (page 606)