In Islam today there is a controversial issue whether the woman can be Imam in a congregation prayer for both men and women. It has been seen today there are several women who stand as Imam and lead the prayer in a mixed congregation behind her without any sex segregation imposed on them. The women who took the responsibility to become Imam claimed that there is unclear point from specific traditions the Hadith or more important the Quran itself does not deal with the issue directly.
However, there are clear evidences in the Quran that only men are to lead the congregation prayers unless there is none present to serve as Imam then only it is the responsibility of the woman to relief the duty. In Surah 7:52 For We had certainly sent unto them a Book, based on knowledge, which We explained in detail, a guide and a mercy to all who believe.
All the evidences in the Quran showed it is the man to lead the prayer. The examples shown in the verse below the Arabic ‘kunta” is singular masculine in gender is a man who lead the congregation prayer at Surah 4:102 “When thou (kunta) art with them, and stand to lead them in prayer.” This is an evidence and an example to show that a man is to lead the prayer. Further in the Quran it is mentioned man is not restricted to lead the prayers only at the mosque but also in any place of worship whether in the house or anywhere and anytime because it is natural that men can accommodate the extra time to volunteer to become Imam in all the five times on the daily obligatory prayers compared to woman.
It is described that men had the time for the duty as stated in Surah 24:36-37 In houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings. By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from regular Prayer, nor from the practice of regular Charity: Their only fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be transformed.
In comparison to woman, their time is fully dedicated to manage the daily family affairs being the responsibility of the wife and mother. They have to spend a lot of time in preparation of food in the kitchen and taking care of the children. Furthermore, there is the natural monthly disruption she has to take care which might be a time of discomfort for her. So, for them to take the duty of Imam in the mosque, it is not only enforcing extra duty and time against them but also they might deprive their own personal service to their families.
Apart from the Quran citing only man have led the prayer, there is also the evidence
that there should be a segregation between the two sexes in the mosque as stated in the Quran at Surah 2:187….But do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are limits set by Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus, doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint.
The above verse shows that there should even be a form for segregation between the men and the women in the mosque. Since there is no evidence the woman is to lead the prayer the least that can be done is to allocate them fairly behind the Imam but in two separate groups of men and women to the left and right immediately behind the Imam. This should be a better arrangement than the traditional way where all the man congregation is in the front line while all the women stood behind all the men.
In addition to the above, there is the narrative of the mother of Mary whom while still in her pregnancy she pledged to dedicate her baby to the service of the Lord but when she was delivered of a female she recognized that the male may be more conducive for that kind of service than a female will be able to do as stated in Surah 3:35-36 Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So, accept this of me: For Thou hear and know all things.” When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”- and Allah knew best what she brought forth “And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.”
It is therefore clear that in the Quran man is preferred to lead the congregation than a woman but not because of sex status but of mitigating reasons as stated above.