The recent opening of the "Women Only Mosque" in the United States is but a reaction to the "Men Only Mosque" phenomenon that is common in the Muslim world, both in the East and as well as in the West, says Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi. In fact, the majority of mosques in the UK have no place for women. There are reports that on many occasions, travelling women have had to pray in a church building or neighbouring Hindu shop least they miss their prayers because the local mosque refused to allow them to enter and pray.
Why is it that some people are so vehemently opposed to women praying in the mosque when the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam himself declared that no one should stop women from praying in the mosque?
Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1064), the great Andalusian jurist, poet, and intellectual champion of the Zahiri school, discussed this issue comprehensively in his Muhalla. In the text translated, he asks and, after weighing the evidence, answers the following questions:
- Is it lawful for women to attend congregational prayers in the mosques? (Yes)
- Is it lawful for others to forbid this if, for some private or public reason, they happen to dislike it or disapprove of it? (No)
- Is the effort of attending the prayers with the congregation in the mosque more worthy for men than women? (No, it is the same)
- Is it lawful only for elderly women to attend the congregational prayers in the mosques? (No, it is equally lawful for old or young)