Women, too, are encouraged to avail themselves of the multiple benefits which the mosque offers. In a hadith (tradition), the Prophet explicitly encouraged women to participate in the good deeds as well as the religious gatherings and activities of the faithful believers (da’wah al-mu’minin) (Sahih al-Bukhari).
The Prophet said that if a woman asks for permission to go to the mosque even at night, she is to be allowed (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
The Prophet is also reported to have allocated some time during every week for teaching exclusively women. Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, once remarked about the native women of Madinah:
“Blessed are the women of the Ansar (Helpers). Shyness did not stand in their way of seeking knowledge about their religion” (Sahih Muslim).
Moreover, women may perform their obligatory prayers in the mosque, although the best prayers for them by far are those which they perform at home. The Prophet once went so far as to say that the prayer of a woman inside her house is better than in the courtyard of the house, or near the house’s main entrance, that is, in the places of the house where woman’s privacy is most vulnerable.
However, a woman’s prayer in her bedroom, or inside those inner spaces of the house where she is hidden most, is better yet (Sunan Abi Dawud).
The Prophet also said that a woman is closest to her Lord when she is inside her house (Tafsir Ibn Kathir) (that is, inside the family development center, or institution, performing her duties as the center’s leader and supervisor).
Surely, in Islam the house is so much more than just a shelter. It has been reported, furthermore, that some women came to the Prophet telling him that their men get a hold of the best of deeds in the form of struggling and fighting for the sake of Allah (jihad). Thus they queried if there was a feat which they could accomplish and attain thereby the huge reward reserved only for jihad. The Prophet’s reply was:
“If you stay at home (i.e., to do what is required and expected from you to do, that is, activating and optimizing the house phenomenon to function as a family development center), you will surely attain the reward of the men who struggle and fight for the sake of Allah (mujahidun)” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir).
It was because of this nature of Muslim women’s contributions to society that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that while men are guardians of their families in general terms and are responsible for them, women are guardians of their husbands’ houses and children, and are responsible for them (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
Moreover, while utilizing mosques for diverse religious, social, welfare and educational purposes, and while drawing on the potentials of other legitimate social institutions, Muslim women have been instructed to always behave and dress themselves properly as Islam commands them (the same injunction applies to men, too).
Muslim women cannot apply perfume when going to the mosque (Sunan Abi Dawud), or indeed anywhere else outside their own houses. The Prophet (pbuh) once warned:
“O people, put a stop to your women wearing their attractive clothes and behaving in boastful ways inside mosques. Truly, the Children of Israel were not cursed until their women started wearing their attractive clothes and behaved in boastful ways inside mosques.”
The Prophet is reported to have uttered these words after seeing a woman inside his mosque who was dressed in an alluring and conceited way (Sunan Ibn Majah).
Thus, the plans and designs of mosques as community centers must take duly into account the position and role of Muslim women, their vast potentials as well as noteworthy contributions to the development of the Muslim community.