First of all, it should be clear that the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah bear witness to the fact that woman is at least as vital to life as man himself, and that she is not inferior to him nor a lower species. When the Shari`ah restricts some positions to men, it does not mean discrimination, but this should be understood within the frame of the general objectives of the Shari`ah, which are set by the Law-Giver (Almighty Allah) to order the lives of men and women in a way that best suits their natures.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “It is a well-known principle established by the well attested and authentic traditions reported from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that praying in congregation is far superior to praying individually. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Prayer in congregation is twenty-seven degrees better than praying individually.”
It is equally agreed upon among scholars and jurists that all general statements shall be interpreted as general unless there is evidence to indicate otherwise. Since there is nothing in the sources to suggest that the above rule about superiority of jama`ah Prayer is applicable to men only, there is no reason to exclude women from such rewards.
It is one thing to say that Islam does not compel women to go to mosques for praying in congregation burdened as they are with the duties of providing nurturing care and love for their family; it is another to say that they are not supposed to make use of the opportunity to reap the rewards of congregational prayer whenever and wherever an opportunity arises for them to avail of such rewards.
We are confirmed in the above reasoning when we know from the practice of the Mothers of the Believers that they availed themselves of the opportunity of praying in congregation whenever they had an opportunity to do so. Thus, aside from the fact that the women during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed in congregation in the mosque, they also used to pray in jama`ah at other times whenever they were all by themselves. We read in the sources that both `A’ishah and Umm Salamah, the most knowledgeable among the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), used to lead women in congregational Prayers. We also read in the sources that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) appointed Umm Waraqah to lead the members of her household in Prayers.
Based on the above, we can safely conclude that women never deprive themselves of the opportunity to pray in jama`ah whenever they have an opportunity to do so: either praying in jama`ah in a mosque or by themselves by appointing one of them based on her superior knowledge to lead. Isn’t it humbler on our part to assume that the beloved wives of the Prophet such as `A’ishah and Umm Salamah are more knowledgeable of such issues than men themselves, no matter how knowledgeable they may be?”