Why Do Men & Women Separate in Salah?
I am not a Muslim. I have not been to a mosque. However, I see Muslims in prayer on the television. I don't see women at these prayers. Why is that? If women are not allowed to pray with men, what are they required to do in order to worship?
Thank you for your questions concerning the worship of Muslims in general and the Muslim women in particular.
You seem honestly concerned with the condition of women in Islam. Television, unfortunately is not really the most accurate source for information related to Islam or Muslims. Sensationalism and hype have influenced our media on a number of issues these days. However, you are correct in your observation of the pictures.
You should try to find a mosque close to you and visit with the people there and ask some Muslim women there about your concerns or have them contact you by phone or email, if you like. There is a website called www.IslamsWomen.com that seems to offer quite a bit of information on this topic, along with some interesting advise for women - from women who are Muslims in various parts of the world.
Let us begin with the basics of worship in Islam.
Men and women are both commanded to perform specific acts of worship, the first of which is their statement confirming their belief in One Almighty God (Allah), the God of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus Christ and Muhammad, peace be upon all of them. The second act of worship is called "Salat" (usually translated as 'prayers'). Men and women are commanded to worship Almighty God the same way the prophets have in the past.
Salat is the ritual of standing, bowing, prostrating and reflecting upon the many blessings and the relationship between God and mankind. All mature Muslims are commanded to perform Salat five times throughout the day. This is considered a form of direct communication or worship of the One, Almighty God.
Men have been commanded to guard and protect women whether in the home or out in public and this definitely includes while they are in worship. For this reason almost every place of worship built for Muslims will include a place of privacy for the women to observe their duties to Almighty God.
As regards your exact questions, your own observation on TV of the men in worship should be a clue to you as to why the women do not desire to be exposed while in worship.
Consider the following:
1. Both the men and the women are to perform Salat 5 times a day. However, women receive the most blessings right at home, in private, whereas men receive the most blessings in congregation.
2. Women are excused from doing Salat during their monthly cycles and during post natal bleeding.
3. Provisions are provided at almost every place of worship for women to offer their worship in private, so as not to be exposed and compromised while in Salat. The Muslim women do not stand beside or in front of men while in worship services. They also do not wish to be seen or photographed while worshiping. However in the 2 large mass gatherings of 'Eid' (festivals in Islam), women, men and children are all out in the open performing Salat.
4. There is another gathering where men and women perform the Salat, side by side. This is called the Hajj or pilgrimage of Islam and occurs at least once in the life of the believer, whenever there is opportunity and the way is safe. The reason is because of the huge number of people (millions) all together and the need to keep family close.
You might even find some literature or books at the mosque to provide information and insights into the real teachings of Islam or visit www.WhatsIslam.com and watch the presentation there.
Thank you for your question, we hope we were able to provide clear understanding of the worship for men and women in Islam.
Sheikh Yusuf Estes