Can you please explain why in Janazah prayers, the Imam stands in the middle of the female body while in case of males, he stands in front of the head of the male body?
In our opinion, there is no distinction between the position of the Imam leading Janazah prayers, when leading prayers for the Janazah of men and/or women.
There is a difference of opinion of the Muslim jurists in this regard. Ibn Rushd, in his Bidayah al-Mujtahid writes:
واختلفوا أين يقوم الإمام من الجنازة، فقال جملة من العلماء: يقوم في وسطها ذكرا كان أو أنثى؛ وقال قوم آخرون: يقوم من الأنثى وسطها ومن الذكر عند رأسه؛ ومنهم من قال: يقوم من الذكر والأنثى عند صدرهما، وهو قول ابن القاسم وقول أبي حنيفة، وليس عند مالك والشافعي في ذلك حد؛ وقال قوم: يقوم منهما أين شاء. والسبب في اختلافهم اختلاف الآثار في هذا الباب (بداية المجتهد، كتاب أحكام الميت، الباب الخامس، الفصل الأول، المسئلة الرابعة)
They [i.e., the Muslim jurists] have differed in regard to the position of the Imam with reference to the corpse. A group of scholars has said that he would stand in front of the middle of the corpse, irrespective of whether it is a funeral of a man or a woman; Another group has said that he should stand in front of the middle of the corpse, if it is a woman’s funeral he should then stand in front of its middle and if it is a man’s funeral, he should stand closer to the head; And among them are those who have said: He should stand near the chest whether it is a man or a woman and this is the opinion of Ibn Al-Qasim and Abu Hanifah; while in the opinion of Maalik and Shafi`ie, there is no restriction in this regard; And another group has said: the Imam may stand anywhere he wants, with reference to the funeral (whether of a man or a woman). The reason for this difference is the difference in the narratives reported in this regards.
In view of the fact that the position of the Imam, with reference to the corpse, has not been fixed, except only for the fact that the Imam should be facing the funeral, it was possible that the Prophet (pbuh) offered these prayers with slightly varying positions, at different times. It seems that this variation was seen by some of the narrators as a variation in the Imam’s position with reference to the gender of the corpse. Nevertheless, in our understanding, this does not provide an adequate basis for making such a distinction.
I hope this helps.
November 17, 2004