It is wonderful to see more and more women in Pakistan, especially in urban centres, developing a flavour to be part of congregational worship at mosques (masaajid), especially for the taraweeh prayers in Ramadan, and Eid prayers. The prophet (pbuh) not only encouraged but directed women to be part of the Eid congregation in particular, so that they get a feel of collective worship and feel part of the extended community. Also, prayers said in congregation give us 27 times more reward according to authentic ahadith, which is a great incentive.
But while the trend has caught on, the adaab or the decorum of HOW to say our prayers collectively is missing, and causes problems. The men are very trained in the art of ba jama’at prayers since a young age, but women are mostly and unaware, and even resistant to being advised to do better.
Here are seven common mistakes we make, pointed out in the hope that these ahadith will help us perform our prayers at the masjid correctly.
1. Row over the rows:
What basically is the purpose of congregational worship, when we can pray in the peace of our home as well? The purpose is to develop equality and a sense of community, which makes the spirit of sharing a must. But many women in Pakistan, new to the idea, do not know the adab of praying in rows. They insist upon bringing their own prayer mats that take up the space that could accommodate one and a half person. Thus, there are huge gaps between the women praying.
Narrated Anas bin Malik (RA): The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Straighten your rows for I see you from behind my back.” Anas added, “Every one of us used to put his shoulder with the shoulder of his companion and his foot with the foot of his companion.”
Foot close to your neighbour’s foot, shoulder close to your neighbour’s shoulder – that is the way. But we become so selfish that we are unwilling to make space for people who join in. Mosques that allow women are already limited in number. If everyone starts taking up too much space, fewer people will get the chance. How can one develop a feeling of equality or brotherhood if we don’t even share space? The Quran advises us:
“O you who have believed, when you are told, “Space yourselves” in assemblies, then make space; Allah will make space for you.” (58:11). Selfishness makes our worship worthless.
Another problem is that rows are not formed straight and properly.
An-Numan bin Bashir (RA) said, “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) used to straighten our rows, as if he was straightening an arrow, until he saw that we had learned it. Then he came out one day and was about to say Takbir when he noticed a man whose chest was sticking out from the row. He said: Slaves of Allah! Make your rows straight or Allah will cause discord among you.”
(Sahih Muslim, Sunan Ibn Majah).
Another huge issue is that if someone leaves the jama’at for any reason in between prayers, or their are empty spaces in the front rows, women do not fill those spaces. They want to pray with their own sister, mom or friend. Thus, gaps remain.
Jabir bin Samurah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “Do you not (wish to) line up just like the angels line up in front of their Lord?” We asked, “And how do the angels line up in front of their Lord?” He said, “They complete (& fill-up) the first row, and they line up closely in the rows.”
( Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Sunan Ibn Majah).
2. Not knowing how to move between rows when prayers are underway
To begin with, one must avoid to the fullest not to pass in front of someone in prayer. Especially if someone passes in front of the one who is praying, i.e., in the area between the spot where he puts his forehead when he prostrates and where he stands, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If the one who passes in front of a person who is praying knew what (a burden of sin) he bears, it would be better for him to stand for forty rather than pass in front of him.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
However, in emergent situations, one has to, or in some situations wants to join prayers even if one has come in late.
In that situation, one can use what is called a “Sutrah” or a barrier. The size of the Sutrah is something over which opinions have differed. The hadith here gives an idea about the size.
And it was narrated that Talhah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If one of you puts something in front of him that is like the back of a saddle, then let him pray and not worry about anyone who passes beyond that.” (Narrated by Muslim.)
However, what if you one must pass through the rows and those praying do not have a Sutrah? The simple answer is that in that situation, pass through vertically, as the rows are formed horizontally. This way, one can avoid passing in front of the one praying.
3. Going into rukoo’ and sajda before the Imam
Ladies, what is the hurry? The Imam has barely begun saying “Allah u Akbar” and you are already in rukoo’ and sajda. Remember, the Imam is leading the prayer, so wait a few seconds till you are sure that he or she has gone ahead, and then follow. the same holds true for saying the salaam.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Surely the imam is there to be followed.” (Muslim)
So our actions should not precede the Imam’s.
4. Not knowing how to join the jama’at if the prayer has already started
Commonly, if the jama’at has started, women make their place in rows but start praying their own individual prayer that causes confusion to those close by. So here’s the thing: If you have joined in late and the prayer has already started, no problem. If you join in any raka’at at a time that you had the chance to join in for Surah Al-Fateha or recite it yourself, and the Imam had not yet gone in rukoo’, then you can count that raka’at in. What you simply need to do is that when the Imam says his/her salaam, you don’t say it and instead stand up and complete the raka’at you missed. In that case, it is possible that you end up saying at-Tahayyat even upto thrice if you, say, joined in the second raka’at. In that case, each time say your at-Tahayyat but say the rest of the duas in your last raka’at.
5. Fidgeting and rocking
It is true that it’s not easy to manage the scarves, that chadars and the dupattas that tend to slip off during prayers. So it is best to fix them properly before namaz starts so that one is not distracted during prayers.
Also, we women tend to rock forward and backward during prayers, especially if we are listening to a beautiful recitation of the Quran. Yet, composure is a must during prayers.
All unnecessary movements must be avoided. See this:
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked about smoothing the earth before prostrating, he said, “Do not wipe it when you are praying; if you have to, then just smooth the gravel once.” ( Abu Dawud, Saheeh al-Jaami’).
6. Scolding women with children
If your own children are now grown up, chances are that you have forgotten how tough it is, and how much a mother misses saying prayers peacefully. Yes, little kids can be a bother at mosques or even at a Quran study circle, but how will they observe and learn unless they come?
So merciful was the Prophet (pbuh) that he (pbuh) said:
“When I enter the prayer I intend to prolong it. Then I hear the crying of a child, so I shorten it knowing the difficulty his mother will have with him crying.” [Bukhari]
He never stopped mothers from bringing children to the mosque, neither did he ever stop mothers from coming themselves. However, mothers should realize their share of the responsibility and watch out if their children wander off or get out of control. But scolding little children by elder women leaves a very bad impact on the child’s mind who may become averse to mosques for life. Remember the hadith that says
“He, who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy.” [Bukhari]
7. Not knowing how to say Takbeeraat during Eid prayers
There are additional Takbeeraat (saying Allahu Akbar) during the Eid congregational prayers.
The step by step directions to that can be found on the internet.
It was reported from ‘A’ishah: the Takbeer of (Eid) al-Fitr and (Eid) al-Adhaa is seven in the first rak’ah and five in the second, apart from the takbeer of rukoo’.
[ Abu Dawood; Ibn Majah ]
Best to ask the men in your house before you go, as they are mostly experts at it.