It might seem unusual or even completely new to some of you but it happens. Our sisters are praying like our brothers; feet apart, hands on their knees, loud voices and perhaps worst of all, hair where there ought to be no hair visible.
Let’s start with the basics. We all know the anatomical differences between men and women so it understandable that there will be some minute differences in the way we perform salat. It is not a huge difference at all but it is something that can make a huge difference in the acceptance, the presence of heart and the amount of attention and humility we have in our everyday prayers.
The word salat was regularly used even before Islam introduced it by means of the ritual prayer. The Christians, Jews and other religions would offer salat in their own manner. There are many meanings derived from this word, but in its simplest form, it means attention.
The 6th Imam (‘a) says, “Certainly, I love the believer among you who while standing for the obligatory prayers, turns his full attention towards Allah and cleanses his heart from all worldly inclinations. His turns his face with his entire heart towards Allah, Who in turn, turns towards him and makes his heart overflow with His love and affection and Himself loves him tremendously.” (Thawwab al ‘amal: 163)
Before making your niyyah, remember also to pray in a place free of distractions and noise so your conversations with Allah are not disturbed by others. Is it really worth it to let someone or something come between you and some of the most meaningful conversations you will have all day?
Beginning with your niyyah, as you stand keep your feet together as it is a sign of haya and humility in women. Throughout the salat, remember to close the gap between your feet when standing and the gap between your thighs when sitting. When performing dhikr like takbiratul ihram, women are advised to only say surahs normally recited in salat with an audible voice only when there are no na-mehrams present. It is however better to recite all of the dhikr silently.
And by the way, don’t rock back and forth. This kind of rocking comes out of habit. Break it. And see what a difference it makes when you concentrate on the words without the rhythmic movement of your body.
An ashab of the 4th Imam narrates, when Imam ‘Ali Zaynu ‘l-‘Abideen (a.s.) said his salat, he used to stand “firm and motionless like a tree: nothing moves on it except what is moved by the wind.”
Moving on to ruku, place both hands on the knee. Make it easier on yourself, don’t reach all the way down to your knees like your male counterpart.
Going down to sujood, keep the purpose in mind. You have completely submitted yourself to Allah and in the lowest position possible, your forehead-the symbol of your physical pride, has surrendered to the soil beneath it. In this state, for a woman, it is necessary that she accept her state, her weakness in the presence of her Rabb, her complete satisfaction with this submission and hold herself as close to her body as possible to show and glorify Rabbi ul Aala her absolute and utter submission in Him. Fear Allah, thank Him and humble yourself in front of Him.
Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “Indeed successful are the believers who are humble in their prayers.” (24:1)
The forehead, palms of one’s hands, knees and the toes of both feet must meet the ground in order for the sujood to be valid. And for the women with the knees and thighs close together, place your elbows also on the ground –not acting as a hazard out poking the person next to you- and as close to the body as possible.
So why all of the fuss over these intimate intricacies of salat?
Certainly it is what is inside your heart that matters and Allah knows best your intention and presence of heart in your prayers. Is it not befitting of a woman’s akhlaq that she practice even her salat in perfect positions just as Allah intended.
For a sinful person, it is a personal journey. If one cannot perform their mustahabaat, the revered salatul layl, recite the Quran regularly, or simple tasks that bring them closer to Allah and increase their level of taqwa due to whatever worldly restraints one is captured in, then surely one can put forth the minute efforts to make their salat which is the pillar of religion as close to perfect as possible.
There are so many small Shaitans that take our attention away when performing prayer, why not turn back to basic and try to improve on what we already know and can do.
The Holy Prophet has said, “Worship God as is you see Him and if you do not see Him, He sees you.”
And why just the ladies?
Because the women make the men. If it were not for the proper upbringing we receive from our mothers, there would be no good men either. Build on what you know ladies-let not one day be wasted in the mission to be closer to Allah. Remember the salaat of Ladies Zainab and Fatima. Not even in their hardest of times, would they have prayed anything less than a perfect salat, in form, humility and in complete presence of heart.