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The Order for Perfumed Women to Return to Their Homes and Bathe and the Ruling on Their Prayer

Shaykh Mūsá Richardson

The order for perfumed women to return to their homes and bathe and the ruling on their prayer offered outside their homes

  The prayer of a woman who wears perfume to go to the masjid is not accepted until she returns and takes a bath, like the bath of janābah (after sexual intercourse, i.e. a full bath).

Sunan Abū Dāwūd [4174]

In the Name of Allāh, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful…

The imām, Abū Dāwūd {d.275) collected in his Sunan (#4174) that Abū Hurayrah encountered a woman who was wearing perfume, and the tail of her garment was dusty.  He said, “O servant of al-Jabbaar!  Have you come from the masjid?”  She said, “Yes.”  He said, “And you have perfumed yourself for that purpose (i.e. praying in the masjid)?”  She said, “Yes.”  He then said, “I heard my beloved Abū al-Qāsim (may Allāh raise his rank and grant him peace) saying:

“The prayer of a woman who wears perfume to go to the masjid is not accepted until she returns and takes a bath, like the bath of janaabah (after sexual intercourse, i.e. a full bath).”

Understanding the Ḥadīth:

[1] The ḥadīth was also collected by Aḥmad, Ibn Mājah and others, with a weak chain because of ʿĀsim ibn ʿʿUbaydillāh. However, it is strengthened by another chain found in Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaymah (1682).  The latter chain is also weak, however, they strengthen each other, and thus the ḥadīth is considered authentic, classified as ḥasan lighayrihi[1]. Ibn Khuzaymah considered the ḥadīth to be authentic.  al-Albānī authenticated it in al-Ṣaḥihah (1031).

[2] The statement, “like the bath of janaabah” specifies that the intention is not to just remove the perfume from the place it was applied, but rather a full bath must be taken.

[3] Some people may misunderstand the ḥadīth to be specific to women who go to the masjid for prayer, however, this is clearly not the case.  The mention of the masjid is not restrictive in this ḥadīth, and the ruling applies to women going out anywhere.  Since the masjid is a place where the men have been encouraged to dress well for and wear perfume, then it is not disliked for the smell of perfume to be in the masjid.  So the problem with women wearing perfume to the masjid is the distraction they would create and the potential fitnah that would ensue.  This is the ‘illah (reason) for the prohibition.  Thus, if this is the ruling for being around the best people, the people who pray in the masjids, the people whom Allāh has praised in His Book as being those who truly believe in Him and that they are men who are not distracted by trade, then how much more does the prohibition apply to the evilest places, the gathering sites of the wicked (fujjaar), the most despised places on earth to Allāh…!!  So it as if he was using the masjid as an example of the best case scenario, where one would never imagine someone acting upon his desires and chasing after a woman… so then if it is not allowed to wear perfume in such a place, then what about the places where illicit behavior is very common!

This general application of the ḥadīth seems to be what Abū Dāwūd understood when he gathered the ḥadīth in his Sunan and entitled the chapter: “The Chapter of What has Been Reported About Women Wearing Perfume Outside”

[4] A similar ḥadīth in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (#444) forbids women from attending ‘ʿIshāʾ Prayer in the masjid if they have been affected by bakhūr (burned fragrances, like incense).  It is also to be understood in light of point #3.

[5] The ḥadīth shows that the Companions used to enjoin the good and forbid the evil with women who were not in their family.

[6] The ḥadīth also shows the practical implementation of tathab-but (being certain before acting), since Abū Hurayrah asked the woman, “And you have perfumed yourself…?”  Notice that he did not assume that the scent was hers without asking.

And Allāh knows best.


[1]  For more understanding of ḥadīth terminology, see the ‘Ḥadīth Sciences’ Summer Course – Ḥadīth Sciences Course: The Types of Ḥadīth

Published: July 11, 2009
Edited: July 27, 2022


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