Assalaamu alaykum. My wife asked this question. In the mosque, the best place for women is the last row. In the Prophet's, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, mosque, there is a completely separate section for women, and all rows are only made of women there. Does she still need to stay in the back row or can she go the front rows as there are no men in that section?May Allaah reward you.
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
If the women pray in a separate praying place than men, then it is better for them to try to pray in the first row, because the hadeeth reported about the prohibition for women to pray in the first row is related to women who pray in the same praying area with men.
An-Nawawi said in Sharh Saheeh Muslim:
“What is meant by the hadeeth is the rows of women who pray with the men, but if women pray separately from men, then they are like men; the best of their rows are the first ones and the worst are the back ones. What is meant by the worst rows, either for men or women, is that they are the least in reward and in virtue and are far from the Islamic requirement, and the best of the rows are contrary to this. That the best rows for women are the last ones is when they pray behind men, as in this case they will be far from mixing with men, seeing them, and being attached (having emotions) to them when seeing their movements and listening to their voices, and so forth, and the first rows are dispraised as they are contrary to this [i.e. they are near to mixing with men, seeing their movements, listening to them…] Allaah knows best.”
As regards your statement: “In the Prophet's mosque, there is a completely separate section for women, and all rows are only made of women there;” then this is correct, this is the case now in the Prophet's mosque and in other mosques where there are special prayer sections for women, but in the era of the Prophet the rows of the women were behind those of men without any barrier. [This means that in the Prophet’s mosque now, the best rows for women are the first ones as they [the women] are separate from men.]
Allaah knows best.
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