#107: The Position of a Husband and Wife in Congregational Prayer

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Where should a wife pray when she is praying with her husband?

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

This issue is discussed by jurists when they discussed the saf arrangement in prayer which involves men, women, intersex and children. Among the evidences which are used in the debate related to this issue is a narration from Anas bin Malik RA, where he said:

‎ أَنَّ جَدَّتَهُ مُلَيْكَةَ دَعَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِطَعَامٍ صَنَعَتْهُ لَهُ فَأَكَلَ مِنْهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ قُومُوا فَلِأُصَلِّ لَكُمْ ، فَقَامَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، وَصَفَفْتُ وَالْيَتِيمَ وَرَاءَهُ ، وَالْعَجُوزُ مِنْ وَرَائِنَا ، فَصَلَّى لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رَكْعَتَيْنِ ثُمَّ انْصَرَفَ

“His grandmother Mulaikah the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to take meals which she prepared for him. He took some of it and prayed. He said: Get up, I shall lead you in prayer. Anas said: I got up and took a mat which had become black on account of long use. I then washed it with water. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) stood upon it. I and the orphan (Ibn Abi Dumairah, the freed slave of the prophet) stood in a row behind him. The old women stood behind us. He then led us in two raka’at of prayer and left.” [1]

According to Imam al-Nawawi, there are several wisdoms that could be extracted from the above hadith. Among them, the hadith explains the position of a woman standing behind a man when praying. [2]

Thus, it can be understood that if a woman is the makmum of a man, regardless of whether the man is her father, brother, or husband, then the saf position of the woman is behind the imam. This is also in line with narration by Anas bin Malik RA, who said:

‎أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ صَلَّى بِهِ وَبِأُمِّهِ أَوْ خَالَتِهِ قَالَ فَأَقَامَنِي عَنْ يَمِينِهِ وَأَقَامَ الْمَرْأَةَ خَلْفَنَا

Prophet led him and his mother, or his maternal aunt, in prayer, adding, “He set me at his right and set the woman behind us.” [3]

Imam al-Nawawi explained: “If the people attending the prayer are from men, children, intersex, women, then the first is the men, then children, then intersex, then women.” [4]

In another statement, Imam al-Nawawi said: “Our ashab (colleagues) stated: All of this (arrangement in prayer) is ruled mustahab (sunnah) and contradicting it is makruh (discouraged) but it doesn’t invalid the prayer.

Imam al-Mawardi cited the statement made by Imam al-Syafies saying: When a man becomes the imam, then the makmum (man) stands on his right. If the makmum is khunsa musykil (intersex – problematic/intractable to discern the gender) or a woman then they will stand alone behind him (the imam). [5]

If a man becomes an imam to a woman, then the woman will stand behind him and not beside him. This follows the statement of the Prophet PBUH:

‎خَيْرُ صُفُوفِ الرِّجَالِ أَوَّلُهَا وَشَرُّهَا آخِرُهَا، وَخَيْرُ صُفُوفِ النِّسَاءِ آخِرُهَا وَشَرُّهَا أَوَّلُهَا

“The best of the men’s rows is the first and the worst is the last, but the best of the women’s rows is the last and the worst is the first.” [6]

Conclusion

According to the above statement, we would like to state that if a woman prays with her husband in congregation, then her position is behind her husband.

May Allah SWT grant us the love to perform congregational prayer for the great rewards from Allah SWT. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] Narrated by al-Bukhari (380)

[2] See al-Minhaj Syarah Sahih Muslim, 5/293

[3] Narrated by Muslim (1056)

[4] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 3/132

[5] See al-Hawi al-Kabir, 2/340

[6] Narrated by Muslim (440)

 

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