Someone wrote to Huzooraa that in his commentary of Sahih Bukhari, Hazrat Syed Zainul Abidin Waliullah Shahra had declared it compulsory for women to attend congregational prayers in the mosque like men. They requested Huzooraa to draw the attention of women towards this.
In a letter dated 26 November 2018, Huzooraa gave the following reply:
“The inference that Hazrat Syed Zainul Abidin Waliullah Shahra has made from the verse وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ of Surah al-Ahzab in his commentary – i.e. that it is compulsory for women to attend congregational prayers in the mosque like men – is based on his personal reading, which contradicts the continued and widespread practice of 1,400 years, the ahadith of the Holy Prophetsa and the interpretations of the Promised Messiahas as well as his Khulafa. Hence, it is incorrect.
“There is no doubt that the Promised Messiahas and Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra have interpreted the term ‘iqamatus-Salat’ or ‘the observance of prayer’ in various ways and that one of those interpretations is ‘to observe Salat in congregation at the mosque’. However, this interpretation only applies to men.
“For women, ‘iqamatus-Salat’ or ‘qiyam-e-Namaz’ means to observe the five daily prayers at home while assiduously fulfilling all the other conditions. However, if a woman wishes to pray at the mosque, then Islam has not prohibited her from doing so because ladies used to offer prayers in mosques as well. Nonetheless, the Holy Prophetsa has preferred for ladies to observe the Salat at home. Hence, it is narrated by Hazrat Abdullahra ibn Mas‘ud that the Holy Prophetsa said:
صَلَاةُ الْمَرْأَةِ فِي بَيْتِهَا أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلَاتِهَا فِي حُجْرَتِهَا وَصَلَاتُهَا فِي مَخْدَعِهَا أَفْضَلُ مِنْ صَلَاتِهَا فِي بَيْتِهَا
‘It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house.’ (Sunan Abi Daud, Kitab al-Salat)
“Likewise, it is reported by Ummul Momineen, Hazrat Aishara, in another narration:
لَوْ أَدْرَكَ رَسُوْلُ اللّٰهِ صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا أَحْدَثَ النِّسَاءُ لَمَنَعَهُنَّ كَمَا مُنِعَتْ نِسَاءُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ
‘Had Allah’s Messengersa known of the practice the women have begun to follow [now], he would have forbidden them from going to the mosque as the women of Bani Israel had been forbidden.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Azan)
“Thus, it is evident from ahadith that it is better and more meritorious for ladies to pray at home. It is even said that she should avoid praying in the courtyard of the house or such an open area of the house where there is a constant flow of people. In other words, it is better for her to pray in her room rather than the open courtyard, let alone instructing her to go to the mosque to pray. Hence, it is definitely better for ladies to pray at home and it is not compulsory for them to go to the mosque to pray.
“Since ladies used to pray behind men in those days and men used to stand in front and they did not have the facility of an enclosure like they do nowadays, it was possible that men might look at them while entering or exiting. It is probably thus that they were instructed to pray at home.
“Some ahadith related to such scenarios are specific to those circumstances, but even today, it is better for women to pray at home instead of going to the mosque because the above-mentioned ahadith clearly support the view that women should pray at home.”