Note: In the Madhab of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) the postures during Salah for men and women differ, the general evidence for this difference is as follows and the specific evidence will be discussed later with a separate post detailing the Salah for women.
The sunnah posture of a female in any position of salah is that which is the most concealing for her.
Imam Baihaqi says,”All of the laws of salah in which a woman differs from a man are based on the principle of satr (concealment). This means that the woman is instructed to do all that which is more concealing for her.” [Baihaqi 2/314]
In the Madhab of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) due to the principle of satr (concealment) there are five fundamental differences in posture during Salah:
a) At the beginning of Salah women should raise their hands upto the shoulders or close to bosom.
b) During Qiyaam (standing) women should place their hands on their bosom and in doing so they can adopt “Akdh (grasping)” or “wadh (placing)” according to personal preference.
c) During Ruku they should tuck their arms into the body and bend enough for the hands to reach the knees and hands should be placed on the knees (as opposed to grasping the knees).
d) In prostration they should cling to the ground.
e) During Tashahhud women should take out both legs to the right and sit on their posterior without raising the right foot.
Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) has clearly differentiated between the sajdah of men and women.
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مر على امرأتين تصليان فقال إذا سجدتما فضما بعض اللحم إلى الأرض فإن المرأة ليست في ذلك كالرجل
Yazid bin Abi Habib (radiyallaahu anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) once passed by two women who were performing salaat. He said: “When you make sajdah, attach your body to the ground, for indeed, women are not like men in this matter”.(Maraseel of Abi Dawood, pg 118, #87, Muassasah Al-Risalah)
Verdicts and practices of Sahaba and Tabi’un with regards to a women’s salat:
1. Ali (radiyallaahu anhu) said: “When a woman makes sajdah (prostrates) , she should practise ihtifaaz and keep her thighs close together” (Musannaf Ibni Abi Shayba, vol 2, pg 504, #2793, Al-Majlis al-Ilmi) (“Ihtifaaz”: where a woman draws herself close together and leans onto one side by resting on their left buttocks and completely contracting themselves).
2. Ibn Abbas (radiyallaahu anhu) was asked about the salaah of a woman; he replied: “She must draw herself close together and do Ihtifaz” (Musannaf Ibni Abi Shayba, vol 2, pg 505, #2794, Al-Majlis al-Ilmi)
3. Khalid bin lajlaaj reports: “Women were commanded to do tarabbu’ when they sat in salah and that they should not sit like men on their buttocks” (Musannaf Ibni Abi Shayba, vol 2, pg 506, #2799, Al-Majlis al-Ilmi) (“Tarabbu’”: to sit cross legged).
4. Nafi’ reports that Safiyya (radiyallaahu anha) used to perform salat while in the tarabbu’ position. (Musannaf Ibni Abi Shayba, vol 2, pg 506, #2800, Al-Majlis al-Ilmi)
5. Nafi’ reports: “The womenfolk of Ibn Umar would do tarabbu’ while in salat” (Musannaf Ibni Abi Shayba, vol 2, pg 507, #2805, Al-Majlis al-Ilmi)
6. Abdullah ibn Umar was asked: how women performed their salah during the era of Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam)? He replied: “Initially they performed tarabbu’. Then they were ordered to do Ihtifaz” (Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifa, pg 191, Ilmiyya) (The chains of narrators in the above Hadith are authentic-I’laau Al-Sunan, vol 3, pg 27, Idara Al-Quran)
Note: This Hadith clearly indicates that the practice of “Tarabbu’” was abrogated and women not allowed to sit in the “Tarabbu’” posture anymore.
7. Imam Baihaqi states: “All the laws of salat in which a woman differs from a man are based on the principle of satr (concealment) . This means that the women are instructed to do all that which is most concealing for them” (Sunan Al-Kubra al-Baihaqi, vol 2, pg 222, Idarat Al-Talifaat) The statement of this great Muhadith, Imam Baihaqi, clearly indicates that there exists a difference in the salat of men and women.
8. Shaykh Abdul Hayy Lucknawi states: “A woman differs from a man in the actions of salat” (Al-Si’aayah, vol 2, pg 205, Suhail Academy)