From a Western standpoint, many view Islam as a controversial religion that fetters women to subordination with the patriarchal chains of oppression. But the fact of the matter is that Islam is simply a culture that greatly contrasts our own. As women and men pray aloud equally in Christian faiths, Islamic women are permitted to pray out loud only under certain circumstances. To Western eyes, this may seem sexist, but to the faithful men and women of Islam, the ruling is justified by their faith.
The General Principal
The roles of the sexes can seem contradictory to those who have not studied the laws of Islam in great detail, but when it comes down to it, women are equal to men in religious rulings, according to Islamic scholar and published author Imaam Ahmad's analysis of the hadith. Ahmad says, "Women are the twin halves of men." In his book "Gender Equity in Islam," former professor at Saint Mary's University and current preacher Dr. Jamal Badawi reiterates this sentiment and reinforces it with an excerpt from the Quran (3:195) that defines men and women as being "members one of another." There is, however, an exception to "total equality" where there is daleel (proof) that applies only to women in the context of prayer and required silence.
You may know the story from Greek Mythology of the Sirens who lead men to their deaths with the sound of their voices, and some Muslim men fear a similar effect from women who pray. In most cases, a woman is forbidden to pray aloud if men fear that her voice causes sexual temptation. According to Maliki and Hanafi scholars, simply hearing a woman's voice can drive men wild with sexual desire, even if the woman is praying. This fear coincides with visual temptations of sexual desire that deem women to cover their bodies from head to toe, and as such, they are often told to bite their tongues in the case of public prayer that may ignite erotic thoughts in lingering men.
Women Praying Together
There are two well-known instances when women can pray out loud, and one of them is when women formulate groups to pray in fellowship without any men present. Some women who are more spiritually experienced than others may lead in women's prayer groups so long as there are no men within hearing distance. If a man passed through where women are praying out loud, the leader is expected to pause until he passes, or the women will pray in silence.
Women Praying Alone
The second instance in which a woman can pray out loud is when she is alone. Like women from many religions, some women of Islam find solace in praying alone. They will use this time for meditation and reflection while continuing their religious duties through worship and prayer. It seems that Islamic patriarchs embrace the philosophy that if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, it doesn't make a sound. After all, they allow women to pray in groups of their own sex, and allow women to be alone to pray out loud, so long as she is far from the ears of a man.
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