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Now we answer questions we’vereceived from you our viewers. If you have a question, visitour website, Dr. Shabir, thequestion here is, why do muslim womenpray behind men? – Well, this is howit is normally done, following the traditions as they have beenestablished among muslims. But there’s nothing in the Quran that says that ithas to be that way. So lets understand why thistradition evolves like this. And so it may largelyhave to do with the nature of societies at the time, in which the Quranwas first revealed. In such traditional societies, men and women normallydid keep their separate like, distances from each other. Men gathered together with men, women gatheredtogether with women. If a man is gettingclose to a woman that might be causefor some concern, it might becomescandalous in the society. So that affectedgatherings more generally. And when muslimsgathered for prayer, this was the normthat was established that the men prayedseparately from the women. Now, if you’re gotta havetwo separate groups praying, so now you can havedifferent arrangements. You can have a sideby side arrangement, or you can have onegroup in the front, one group in the back. Now, if you have theside by side arrangement, it seems that this was notworking out so very well in muslim experience. There is a narrative whichprobably is not authentic, like the story and the narrativedidn’t actually happen, but it shows the kinds of things which people thoughtwere possible. (Safiyyah chuckles) Otherwise, nobody wouldnarrate this, right? It would be… The narrativewouldn’t get going. It wouldn’t circulate. Nobody will tell each other,that this actually happened. If it was so unthinkable, but probably didn’thappen like this. But nonetheless,the narrative says that there was a womanwho was so beautiful, that though she was prayingamong the other women, who stood behindthe men in prayer, the men were so enticed by her that somewhatdeliberately tried to pray in the back rows of men. So that when theybowed in prayer, they’d be looking ather, under their arms. (both chuckling) – Funny. – Yeah, so I don’t thinkit actually happened, but in the imagination of thenarrators, this was possible. So with this kind ofpossibility in mind, people try to likecut the corners and make sure that there willbe no scandal in the society. People wouldn’t come to prayer, instead of thinking about God, they’re thinking about theother gender and so on. So the side by side arrangement would not have worked out with this kind ofthinking in mind. So the… You need to have onegroup in the front, one group in the back. So which group in the front? And it was taught natural thatmen would be in the front, the women would be in theback, for a number of reasons. But one of the obvious things is that, if you havewomen praying in the front and the muslim prayerinvolves bowing, and prostrating on the floor, and so on gettingdown on your knees. So naturally mostpeople would think that if you’re gotta haveone group in the front, then it better bethe men in the front. Otherwise, menpraying in the back, instead of thinking of God, they’ll be thinkingof something else. So that’s how it evolved, that’s how it becamestandard practice. But not everywhere. The simple exception tothis is at the Kaaba, the most sacred site of muslimworship, that is in Mecca, where muslim circumambulatethe the house of worship. Because of thatcircumambulation ritual, and men and women havingto do with the same ritual, there was no separation duringthe circumambulation itself. So men and women are partof the same human stream, all flowing around the Kaaba. So they are there,touching each other, rubbing shouldersand elbows and so on. And if the need for separationwas an Islamic dictate, then you can see thatGod would have arranged this whole circumambulationritual differently. Because that’s withinthe power of God, right? And God is givingus the legislation and his prophet Muhammadpeace be upon him is teaching us howto practice Islam. So if it was likesomething taboo about it, that men and womencould not intermingle, or they could not be inthe same sacred space, or anything like this, then that would be the rightplace to set the example once and for all that,it cannot be done. Men and women haveto be so separate. Maybe there have tobe different times when women come into circumambulate, men have differenttimes and so on, different ways ofarranging that, but that has never been done. The fact, that it’snever been done, shows that it’s not unthinkable. If muslims arecomfortable as society’s, in arranging their prayersin a different way, this should be possible. Because when thingsare impossible, that’s when… Like some, there is aclear dictate that says, you can’t do this, oryou must do it this way. – So there’s no cleardictate within the Quran- – Within the Quran… There’s nothing even mentionedabout this in the Quran. Not to speak of dictate. And then in the hadith,there is mention of this, but I do not recall thatthe prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, hewas reported to have said that you must do it this way. What I recall is that, thecompanions of the prophet peace be upon him say that”During the days of the prophet, we used to pray like this,the men in the front, the women in the back, andthe children in between.” So that became an establishedand standard practice, and we wouldn’t changeit without good reason, but if communities arenot comfortable with that and they wanna changeit for good reasons, then I don’t see that thisis a non-negotiable practice. And in fact, inthe Toronto area, there is a place of worshipwhere it is arranged side by side for mento pray on one side, women on the other side, andthere is a pathway in between. So there are differentpossibilities, if muslims would accept that, but I have no difficultywith the traditional setting. It helps in a number of ways, especially with keepingthe focus on the prayer, but it also sometimes mightlimit the women’s participation in the society and takingactive leadership roles within the community setting. A case in point may bethat we might invite a government officialor a politician to speak to the congregation. Now, such a politicianor a public figure would come to addressboth men and women from the front ofthe prayer hall. But when they do so, it means that they’re onlythere for that moment, and if they can bethere for that moment, and they can be seen by the entire malecongregation at that time, then we might ask”What’s wrong exactly if men would see womenin the worship setting?” So different combinationsare possible. The traditional routinestands as it is, and it’s quite common,it’s almost universal. And I don’t have an inherentdifficulty with that. And I’m not callingfor us to change that, but I’m open in case muslimswant to have a different arrangement to say that well, since there’snothing in the Quran that prohibits adifferent arrangement, or insists upon thecurrent arrangement, and since there is no dictate that I know of from the prophetMuhammad peace be upon him, insisting that itmust be done this way, that it is possibleto change that. – And of course, we’reall equal before God, wherever we stand in prayer. – Exactly, if the fact thatmen are standing in the front and women in their separate rows towards the rear of the mosque, this does notchange the closeness that we enjoy asworshipers to God. – Thank you for yourtime Dr. Shabir. – You’re welcome.