In the Hanafi madhhab, what is the best way for a woman to pray? Some say just like the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam but then others say he advised wives to pray differently.
If we are supposed to pray differently (in a more concealing fashion, how I understand it), then what about when I’m praying at home? Wouldn’t there be no need to conceal oneself if you’re alone? Should I pray differently in public?
Can you please reference specifically to how high to raise one’s hands, how straight the back should be in ruku, where hands placed in sajdah/how straight back should be, how the legs should be in sitting, and can you please refer to the Hadith that says there should be distance between the thighs and the stomach, in relation to women’s prayer?
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful
The Salafis or Ahl-e-Hadith in today’s time claim that a woman’s salah is just like that of men and there is no need for a woman to perform salah in a concealing manner as recommended by the Imams of the four schools. They claim that the Hadiths which describe the method of prayer for men is general and applies to women as well. They do not consider the fact that the laws for women are different from the laws of men in many aspects of Din, including salah. For example, women have to cover their hair whereas men do not have to. They have also overlooked the fact that there are clear and explicit Hadiths which describe the women’s method of prayer to be different from that of men. It has not been reported that any Sahabi or Tabi’ ever considered the salah of women to be the same as that of men. This is an incorrect view that goes against all four schools of Fiqh, not just the Hanafi school (please refer to Chapter 4, pg. 67 in The Salah of Women).
There are numerous Ahadith of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam and many statements of the Sahaba and Tabi’in which prove that a woman should offer her prayer in a concealing manner. You should rest assured that this method of prayer is completely correct and accordance to the teachings of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. For a detailed answer to your question, I advise you to read a book entitled The Salah of Women published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia in Krugersdorp, South Africa. I will now try to answer the different aspects of your question by quoting relevant excerpts from this book.
Women should perform their salah in a concealing manner at all times because Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam has commanded them to do so in a general sense without restricting it to any particular situation or time. Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “The salah of a woman is not accepted unless she wears a veil.” (Sunan Bayhaqi)
This is a general statement applying to all situations. Also, even if a woman is in the privacy of her home and there is no one to look at her, the angels are still there and a person should dress modestly in their presence. A woman should not look upon this as a burden, rather she should consider it as a commendable action deserving of reward.
Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “Indeed Allah looks at her (the woman who conceals herself by attaching her stomach to her sides) and says, ‘O My Angels. Bear witness that I have forgiven her.'” (Sunan Bayhaqi)
Regarding the exact method of a woman performing salah, we would advise you to consult with a sister who is well-versed in Islamic knowledge and to have her teach you how to practically offer your salah. This method has proven to be very effective and informative. If this is not possible, then you should refer to the books. I will outline the method of prayer for women below taking from The Salah of Women:
The great scholar of Hadith, Imam Bayhaqi, has mentioned a general rule regarding the manner of a woman’s salah. He writes, “The separating factor between the laws of salah of males and females is that of concealment. A woman is commanded to do all those actions which are more concealing for her.” (Sunan Bayhaqi)
- When beginning salah, a woman should raise her hands to her shoulders without taking her hands out of her cloak. This is mentioned in a Hadith of Majma’ al-Zawa’id and was the practice of Umm al-Darda (R) as is reported in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah.
- Women should bow down slightly, just enough for the hands to touch the knees. Do not bend down so much that the back becomes completely straight like the males.
- The hands should be placed in line with the ears and close to the ears while in sajdah. The fingers should be close together and facing the qiblah.
- The manner of sitting in salah for women is to sit on the left buttock, take the feet out to the right, and keep the right thigh on the left thigh. The feet must be kept horizontally on the ground and not kept erect. Abdullah Ibn Umar (R) said that women during the time of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam were then ordered to draw themselves close together and lean onto one side by resting on their left buttocks and completely contracting themselves.” (Jami’ al-Masanid) Abu al-Wafaa Afghani adds, “This is the most authentic narration of this chapter. It is for this reason that Imam Abu Hanifa has made it the basis of his madhhab.”
- The Ahadith describing the manner of the salah of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam state that he used to separate his thighs from his stomach (Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawud). However, this is in reference to the salah of men. There are explicit Ahadith which emphasize that the salah of women is different in this aspect. Abdullah Ibn Umar (R) reports that Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “When a woman sits during sajdah, she should place her one thigh over the other and when she prostrates, she must attach her stomach to her thighs so that it is more concealing for her.” (Sunan Bayhaqi) In all, there are twelve narrations from Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, the Sahaba (R), and the Tabi’in (ra) in this regard. We will not quote all of them at this juncture for the sake of brevity.
- For benefit’s sake, I also wish to include another relevant issue regarding the salah of woman. Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam commanded men not to spread their arms on the ground like a dog (Sahih Muslim, Tabarani). However, this command does not apply to women. Yazid bin Habib (R) narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam passed by two women who were performing their salah. He sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said to them, “When you prostrate, then make the parts of your body touch the ground because a woman is unlike a man in these aspects.” (Maraasil Abi Dawud)
Allah knows best.
May Allah give us all the divine inspiration to offer a perfect salah.
Courtesy of ZamZam Academy