Why women stand behind men during the prayer.

Why women stand behind men during the prayer.

The reason for women standing behind men might come as a surprise to most people. We need to understand that the society, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with had at its heart the raw desert Bedouin Arab. For this reason, He (peace be upon him) would encourage them to eat with their right hand, use three fingers, not to speak whilst easting and to eat slowly. He (peace be upon him) also taught them how to clean themselves after urinating and so on.

This certainly tells one a bit about the society he (peace be upon him) dealt with. You might find some later scholars finding no problem if the family speaks to each other while eating as this allows the family to bond in this day and age. This also ensures that the family eats slower.

We need to keep in mind the context and people the prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with so that we can understand, for example, why the prophet said, ‘do not blow your food or do not do this or do not do that…’ As for not blowing one’s food, then this is a well-known tradition and here the context is, ‘do not blow your food (while sitting close to others, else you might spit or interfere with the next persons meal)’. Again, we learn about the people he (peace be upon him) dealt with.

Even though these cases are specific, the prophetic example, regardless if it be specific to a particular case or a general one, is of benefit to us and only through emulating him (peace be upon him), both internally and externally, can we achieve enlightenment.

As the great Abu al-Qasim Junaid al-Baghdadi (May Allah sanctify his soul) said,

“the path is cut off from the creation, save the one who carefully follows the reports of the messenger of Allah, follows his sunna, and sticks to the path. This is because the paths of goodness are all open to him and those who follow him and his reports.”

Now that we have a bit of understanding about the people the prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with, the following is the context regarding the Salah.

During the early days when the prayer was instituted, they would shout out to each other during the prayer, ‘how far are you? How many cycles/rakats have you completed’. Men would wink at women and even grab them. It was the Prophets wife, Safiyyah (the daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, chief of the Banu Nadir) who complained to the Prophet because some of the Bedouins would wink and grabbed the ladies during Salah. This was the reason for the prophet (peace be upon him) saying, ‘Men should stand in front during prayer and females should stand at the back, while children are in between’.

The reason for this is twofold,

a) Men were not disciplined and b) Women were disciplined.

For some strange reason we tend to believe that woman at the back in prayer means they are lower and less deserving and men have power. If you think about it, when we were younger and in school, the disciplined students would sit at the back while those who were a bit rowdy would sit right in front.

Initially, at the Masjid al-Nabawi, men and women would enter the mosque through the same door. When this caused overcrowding on entrances and exits, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said ‘It would be better if this door (in the Holy City) is left for women.’

Upon saying so, the men made that door for women, and it became known up until today as “The Women’s Door” or Bab al-Nisa.

And Allah knows best,

Muhammad Allie Khalfe.

38 thoughts on “Why women stand behind men during the prayer.

  1. I understand that praying behind men is commanded in religion and thats fine. But in terms of this being the reasoning behind it, why would the bedouins not just be instructed to not treat the women inappropriately?

    1. As salamu ‘alaykum

      Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

      Islam, no doubt came to liberate woman. We see our Prophet (peace be upon him) showing and teaching all those around him that heaven lies at the feet of thy mother.

      He (peace be upon him) was consoled by lady Khadija after receiving his first revelation. Islam gave woman their divine right to inherit, which was unheard of before.

      We have a dedicated section on the major roles and importance of the female in human society on this site. One of the best articles IV come across is by our very own Dr. Shaykh Yusuf Da Costa, click the link below to view


      Sometimes we look for the literal or technical meanings before accepting a ruling. This is accepted but at the same time we need to look a bit deeper.

      Imam Ghazali says that we love our partners irrationally, meaning we would go through hardship, spend our last savings on a special person and do the most bizarre things out of love. When we are asked for the reason, we say, ‘I am in love’. Love has its own language and is simply irrational.

      How then do we define our love for Allah? We pray four raka’at for Dhuhr salah, our tawaf is seven circumambulations, we run from Safa to Marwa during the Hajj with no rational explanation. We do this out of love for our Creator Subhanahu wa ta’ala and out of obedience.

      We might not have the exact answer as to spiritual benefit of men being in the front and females at the back with children in the middle during the prayer but we submit to Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala as this was the order from the Rasul (peace be upon him) and his actions we accept as inspiration from the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth as Allah says in Surah Najm:

      wa man yantiqu ‘ani l-hawa
      Nor does he (peace be upon him) speak from his own desires

      in huwa illa wahyu yuha
      it is none but revelation unto him.

      And Allah knows best
      Muhammad Allie.

    2. Listen… Even if they were instructed… how many u think would follow this ??? 😒 So better not to make the situation more complicated …..

  2. Not a fan of this reasoning, which is pervasive in the community. There is nothing from the sacred literature to support the viewpoint. It is a cultural innovation that has dug its claws deep into the religion. Since culture always influences religion, I utilize my cultural heritage (feminism) to navigate the traditions and the texts. Men and women are not prohibited from praying together, and insofar as everyone feels safe and reverent, should feel no shame in doing so.

    I see this article, sadly, promoting the concept that men are inherently sexually deviant. I believe that what we expect from people is what we get. If we tell men that they cannot be trusted to behave around women, then that’s what they will believe about themselves, and that’s how they will act.

    Personally, I look forward to each new understanding we as individuals and as a community can reach in this journey. I pray that peace, love and understanding ultimately prevail over superstition, ignorance and oppression.

    1. i cant believe muslim let these gay womman tell them what they should be doing. it should be the muslim woman who should be in charge not them devil worshipers faggs. and i dont care if yall offended.we dont gotta answer to no gay woman dumb question.

      1. This is the most inappropriate way to respond dear brother. May Allah guide you to the proper and Islamic way to talk to humans even kaffir

    2. I agree with Rahila. We must teach by setting example, showing men from youth how to behave. Civilised society has evolved far enough to know how to be able to practice control.

  3. It would be great if someone answered Ms. Rahila’s response. If this is the reasoning then shouldn’t mothers and sisters be allowed to pray in the same rakah when it is a ‘only-family’ prayer led by the father or son?
    Moreover, then shouldn’t women be allowed to pray alongside those who are not attracted to them? What about the elderly women praying alongside men? Grandmothers praying with their grandsons etc?

  4. i am a man and i know how it feels and how i get distracted thinking of woman even while i am in prayer .therefore i cannot think of how it would be if an attractive woman pray in front of me and how it would distract my prayer. may be its because of weakness of my iman but men are not angel and sometime some bad intention come to our mind seeing woman.where as woman do not feel the same biologically . Allah made us like that. FYI rahila sayed you are a woman and you dont know nothing about a mans mind.Truly Islam revealed everything correctly ,because its the religion of Allah and not man made.Therefore what brother muhammad allie khalfe said , i totally agree with that.

    1. If you cannot pray without thinking of women or looking up at the person in front of you, then you should not be praying in the first place. Prayer is for people with clean hearts, minds and souls, not for dirty minds and twisted logic. And please don’t say that only men have sexual feelings. Go to school and study human and animal behaviour before you comment on human sexuality. Women can also be distracted by attractive men, we just learn to focus on our prayer and God, so men should be able to do the same. If you are unable to do this, your prayers clearly do not count for anything and you should reevaluate what kind of person and Muslim you are before you step foot on another prayer rug.

      1. Samra that statement is ignorant as has no basis. We have been created to worship Allah regardless of what’s in the hearts. How do you even know what’s in your heart really, you may have glimpses of it? The heart is in constant change sometimes inclining towards obedience and sometimes to disobedience. Do you not know that man is created forgetful? But when we forget we should remember. Prayer is for everyone regardless of them being pure or not.

        1. And please don’t be so quick to make yourself better than other people because what you are really saying is that you are pure because your mind doesn’t wander off in prayer, and other people are impure because their minds wander off.

        2. Samra I think your comment says more about your heart than what your level in concentration in prayer is. Yes it’s important but people forget the hadith about arrogance. It is apparent worldwide the difference between how much of a weakness of men women are, compared to how much of a weakness women are to men. Furthermore psychology has found damning evidence of how men are visually stimulated as opposed to women who build connections with men much more through mental stimuli. Whatever way you look at it, there IS a difference, and Allah knows best.

      2. I see what you mean. but Ibrahim never said women don’t have sexual feelings. they do. it’s just that a lot of men have more trouble keeping their thoughts clean than women do. women find it easier to take control of a situation- research it. my dad who’s a surgeon had to learn this stuff in college. it’s actually really interesting. anyway, imagine if your crush is praying behind you. would you be able to focus on God as you pray or would you be stressing if he’s looking at you/ wondering what he’s thinkinh at the moment? idk how to say this but… guys look at women’s asses. it’s 2017.

      3. Samra here is your mistake, prayer is not only for people with clean hearts , minds or soul… it is a way by which sinners like us can attain taqwah and closeness to God, also it is a means of purifying oneself.. we all commit sins and the five daily prayers clean our sins (I think there is a hadith in this regard too). It is really bad on your part to ask someone not to pray. That brother is stating a weakess..which he has and there is nothing wrong, most of us have some type of weakness. Stop being so judgemental are you clean and pure like an angel?.

    2. Ok so what about women from your family praying infront of you i.e your sisters or mum, would you get ‘distracted’ by them as well.
      Muslim men have made women’s sexuality a burden for them and an excuse to oppress them.

  5. The entire Hadith institution being a bundle of forgeries, the traditional story you narrated is highly questionable. Our Prophet (pbuh) was a conscientious and wise person, Alhumdulilah. If his prayer congregations began getting infested by catcallers, women teasers and raspberry blowers with abnormal sexual drives, the Prophet (pbuh) would sternly warn those hoodlums or simply boot them out. He wouldn’t tell the women to stay out of sight as that wouldn’t resolve the problem.

    If any man while offering prayer tends to sneak glances through the corners of his eyes at nearby unsuspecting female worshipers is definitely very, very sick. Additionally, if he tries to justify his abnormally high sexual drive as an acceptable excuse for his behavior unless the women aren’t pushed at the last row of the congregation, then that guy isn’t only sick, but viciously sick! Such folks are categorically a threat to the community, particularly the female members of the community. These men must not to allowed within the premises of the Masjid until they have received professional counseling at mental health clinics and have improved enough to rejoin the human race. A man who distrusts his own self for being unable to contain his lewd desires during prayers (of all times) is capable of committing just about any type of violation. Nothing can be put past him.

    It’s thoroughly pathetic that senseless restrictions are imposed on the poor victims so that the male tramps frequenting the Mosque do not get too hyper. Analogically, it’s like an undisciplined dog rushing out of the house and biting a pedestrian, and instead of helping the pedestrian and promising to discipline my dog, the dog’s master tells the pedestrian not to stroll on the sidewalk.

  6. Well said ladies. The real problem is that so called Hadith books are full of errors .
    Allah says men and women are equal in the Quran. Women have the same rights as men. Women should demand equal rights and must be included in all mosques management team. There is no Allah’s law in the Quran that says women can not pray alongside men.
    we must change the mind set in our mosques.
    Brother in Islam .

    1. hi i am eight and when i was five (i was in kidergarten) a boy named josh tried to kiss me. i told on him but they did not do anything because this is america and kissing is allowed like that. i know what puberty is my sister told me but i do not think puberty starts until you are ten. i still see kids littler than me hugging and kissing i think they are boyfriend girlfriend. i would hate it if i saw boys praying next to me or behind me. they don’t deserve to pray next to us girls they aren’t as clean as us. they do not know how to control themselves even though my dad always tells my brother to “lower his gaze” when he sees a girl. no matter what you tell them guys they can’t keep those bad thoughts out of their heads. when they pray in front its bêter for both of us. they don’t get distracted and us girls can pray without worry

  7. Maybe all of this for centuries ago. But nowadays men should never behave that way in a church. I do not accept this answer. For even if it were true back then it is no good now.

    1. Muslims and christians pray in different ways Muslims pray on the floor in rows with their feet touching
      They bow and prostrate they don’t sit in chairs or anything like that.
      A mosque or prayer room is quintessentially almost empty there are no physical barriers. So it would be a lot easier to grab someone.
      And the fact that this was “centuries ago” doesn’t change the fact that there is harassment in all places
      And it’s still a problem in churches:

  8. Salaam to All, I cant believe what i am hearing here, also I DO NOT BELIEVE what Sheikh Mohammad Allie Khalfie is saying here about the behavior of people in Masjid Nabwi, according to you shiekh people were misbehaving with women while Prophet Mohammed SAW will be leading salah, astagh firullah, those were the days when the mosque will be filled with people Like hazrat, Abu bakar, Umar, Usman & Ali (RA) please can you provide us all the reference from where did you get this story. I still cant believe what i have read here on a website guiding Muslims to right path There is a very simple reason why female are asked to stand behind men, to protect their sanity, we all know the steps we take while reading salah and its very simple!!! may Allah protect us from doing wrong things and if we have forgive us, Amen

    1. just because they were in Masjid An Nabawi
      It doesn’t change the fact that some people are rude and disgusting

  9. Salam,

    I used to disagree with this rule but I started praying a lot more and wore hijab and I realized a couple things.

    When men give me any sort of attention, it is a bit distracting for me. The goal for me as a woman of Islam is expecting that men keep their gaze low, like I do, but protecting myself from losing out on my required prayer because a man chose not to follow the rules. And you can’t lie, attention from men is very different from attention from other women.

    Hijab is also like that, haha I can’t even get the same attention from men cause I’m wearing loose clothing, and covering my hair, I’m free to just be completely myself and not feel like I have to be a pretty little woman when I go out. Same thing with marriage, If a man don’t know if I’m that pretty he can’t judge me by it, and inshallah would be with me for better reasons like us actually being compatible and loving /fearing Allah. It was actually hard at first, when I was young everyone was like telling me to be a model and oh you’re so pretty I grew to value it too much, I was so used to thinking, oh I’m stepping out of the house, better look super nice. I hated hijab at first, but because now I feel like a human and not an adornment. I am completely in love. I feel great, like amazing it’s actually funny cause I hated it so much before that it made my heart burn(grew up in Saudi immigrated to America, an experience that will make you feel crazy about women’s rights. Haha).

    Anyways lol back to this, If you do not have proper Khushoo(concentration), that portion of your prayer may not be counted. Considering that prayer is an obligation and not optional, when you do not focus, your’e not simply cutting a reward, you’re removing from your completion of an obligation. It’s pretty important and women are always at the butt end of men’s incompetencies so I would say this rule isn’t about just men but more about women as well. Everyone is seeing it in the light of man because that’s who society is unfortunately serving in favor of constantly, and women are used to scanning rules like these waiting to see where they’re being pushed around. Because realistically we do get pushed around a lot. With Allah though, it’s different. Allah cares for all of us, man of woman, Subhanallah.

    Consistency is also a huge key in Islam. So although I don’t hold to significance the previous reasoning in the case of my family, I still like to pray as I would pray at the mosque.

    By keeping this habit at home, you don’t all the sudden think if I can do this with my brother, why can’t I do it with classmates I don’t think are cute, who I don’t have feelings for, etc. Although this example feels even to me, far-fetched, Shaytan(the devil) works this way, step by step, through deception, till you’re doing what you never expected. It’s called deception because you get fooled.

    Allahu Allam(Allah knows best), so make dua for purity and clarity, to know the truth, and try not to use your personal opinions or let them get in the way of your faith. We are all so weak.

    Inshallah the truth always comes out.

  10. Assalamu walaykum, could you tell me the Hadith who talks about this topic …….Safiyyah (the daughter of Huyayy ibn Akhtab, chief of the Banu Nadir) who complained to the Prophet because some of the Bedouins would wink and grabbed the ladies during Salah. This was the reason for the prophet (peace be upon him) saying, ‘Men should stand in front during prayer and females should stand at the back, while children are in between’.
    Jazak Allah .

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