An old entry from Abu Eesa's blog.
For those who are going to complain about long posts, don't be lazy! How are you ever going to learn anything if you're worried about reading something a little long! And you'll enjoy this, it's funny! :)
It seems that the issue of the Prayer lines does indeed require some clarification. The good thing about this chapter of Fiqh
is that it is often a very good example of illustrating how many practising Muslims do not appreciate the Maqâsid
of our Deen (i.e. the aims and objectives).
Firstly a sample of a few of the hadith on this issue from a total of over one hundred on this chapter alone:
The Prophet (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam
) said –
“Straighten your lines or Allah will cause conflict amongst you.” (Muslim 128, Tirmidhi 227
“Prepare your lines – (repeated three times) – for by Allah you must straighten your lines or of a surety Allah will cause conflict between your hearts!” (Nu’man b. Basheer the narrator then said) ‘I saw a man thereby join his shoulder to the shoulder of the one next to him, his knee to his knee and his ankle with his ankle.” (Abu Dawud 657, Bukhari ta’liqan
“Prepare the lines, align your shoulders, close the gaps, make easy your arms for your brothers, and do not leave any gaps for the Devil. Whoever connects a line, Allah will keep him and whoever cuts off a line, Allah will cut him off.” (Abu Dawud 662, al-Nasa’i 818
“Straighten and tighten your lines, bring them close and align your necks. By the One Whom my soul is in His Hand, indeed I can see the Devil entering the gaps in your rows as if they were small black lambs.” (Abu Dawud 663, al-Nasa’i 814
“Straighten your lines for indeed straightening of the lines is from the completion of the Prayer.” (Bukhari 723, Muslim 124
And they go on and on and on.
All the words used for commanding the Muslims to be straight and orderly in their lines share very similar meanings; I’tadilû, Sawwû, Istawû, ‘Addilû, Russû, Aqîmû
and then more specifically Qâribû
Sounds like a confused Brazilian second eleven!
The key then to understanding all these very clear narrations is to recognise the objective behind them. Everyone agrees that the line must be as straight as possible and that everyone should be standing as close together as possible.
This is a matter of agreement amongst the scholars. As for the ruling of such a line?
To straighten up the Prayer line (called a Saff
in Arabic) is considered to be Mustahab
(recommended) by the massive majority of the Scholars.
A few of the ‘Ulema such as Imam al-Bukhari believed it to be obligatory in of itself i.e. that one would be punished if he did not stand in line correctly as the above hadith require. A few later scholars supported this opinion amongst them al-Shawkani.
Ibn Hazm went even further as he often does and considered it to be an obligation from the Salâh
itself so if one doesn’t keep straight and close the gaps in the line, his prayer in invalidated (Muhalla 4/52
Ok so that’s the general stuff dealt with but what about the little details?
Interestingly if one takes a look at all the hadith and athâr
narrated on this subject, one finds a huge amount of emphasis on the straightening of the line and the aligning of peoples’ chests and bodies – but not much for the feet.
In the Sunan
of al-Nasa’i we find authentic reports showing the Prophet (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam
) entering in between the lines, and going from one end to another end, pulling the Companions forwards and backwards so that their shoulders and necks would align up, and that they were close together (Kitab al-Imamah
This makes absolute sense. One can clearly see that to try and ensure the feet are to be touching full contact with your neighbour all the time will still leave large gaps between the upper parts of the body. In fact, the hadith mentioning all such aligning and especially the statement of Nu’man b. Basheer where he saw the Sahabah putting their ankles and shoulders together to create a solid straight line are meant to be understood in a more holistic fashion.
Ibn Hajr says (al-Fath, 2/273
), “The intention behind that is to exaggerate in the issue so as to straighten the row and close its gaps.”
And that is also why none of the early scholars or the Madhahib
made it obligatory for a person’s ankle to be touching his neighbour’s ankle as long as the row is straight and they are as close as possible, with the shoulders touching and both shoulders and necks in a straight line – so as if one was to go to the end of the line and look down it, one wouldn’t see people sticking out unless due to their larger size etc.
The two Caliphs Sayyidina ‘Umar and Sayyidina ‘Uthman would delegate specific people from the front row to go round the entire congregation straightening up everyones’ rows, physically bringing people backwards and forwards. Only until they returned with the full Ok would they then start the prayer.
In fact, Bilal and ‘Umar even used to hit the peoples’ legs to make them stand straight and close in their lines but as ibn Hajr again said, this does not indicate that putting the feet together is an obligation for these two companions were well known to discipline people if they left what they believed to be Sunnah!
And as Anas (may Allah be pleased will all these blessed Companions) complained that people would run away from them like wild donkeys if they attempted to make full contact with their feet in the Saff
, and that was THEN
. So what are you guys complaining about now
? I’m glad we still even STAND in a line!
All of the above shurooh of these hadith are not from my own pocket but has been taken from the Sharh Sunan al-Nasa’i
of Sheikh ‘Ali b. ‘Âdam al-Îtûbî, Sharh Sunan Abu Dawûd
of Imâm Badr al-Dîn al-‘Ainî, ‘Awn al Ma’bûd
of al-‘Adhîmabâdî, Fath al-Bârî
of Ibn Hajr, Badâ’i al-Sanâ’i
of al-Kasâni, al-Muhalla
of ibn Hazm, Bidâyat al-Mujthahid
of Ibn Rushd, al-Mabsût
of al-Sarakhsi, as well as other FiqhMadhabs
– may Allah shower His immense Mercy upon our great and blessed scholars, Ameen!
Folks – never
diss the Imams. When the Madhabs
all agree on something, it’s no joke. None of the four Madhabs
require the Musallî
to join his feet with the next man throughout Salâh
. Rather it is a recommended action for the majority of scholars if it allows one to achieve a good solid straight line with no gaps and
it causes no harm
to the neighbour.
If the line produces a gap at the upper end of the bodies by joining the feet then that’s no good. But if you can join your shoulders and produce a comfortable yet tight line with only a little gap between the feet or even the feet touching each other at a 45 degree angle then that’s ok too. To point the feet straight to the Qiblah
is not an obligation in the Salâh
for any Madhab
If you are able to try and do what the Sahabah used to try and do at the beginning
of their Salâh
which is to put the feet together, make the feet straight too, and get the rest of the legs and shoulders touching each other too, then you’ll be a superstar and you’ll have done something which 1400 years of the Muslims have not been able to do without someone running off as if the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot had just started.
Remember too that to disturb the next man in your Salâh
is a major issue. You will be sinning and be punished for this because this is Harâm
. But if you leave trying to touch his feet and concentrate in just closing the gaps between the shoulders, you’ll have obtained a better and more worthwhile Sunnah
and Allah knows best.
We have to seriously think about our priorities in the Salâh
. It might be a cliché now but it really is more important to concentrate on the Salâh
itself rather than the position of the feet for there is no evidence making their position an obligation of the Salâh
whereas everything else is! Forget looking at his feet and just make sure you’re all standing straight in the same line and that should be good enough insha’Allah.
A little anecdote to finish with. One of my favourite scholars from my lifetime, the amazing Sheikh ‘Uthaymeen (rahimahullah
) was once about to pray in Masjid al-Nabawi
next to someone and he lined up next to the Sheikh thinking that he’s doing the right thing and all that, placing his foot right up against the foot of the Sheikh…
(I couldn't think of another sound effect and seeing that 'Batman 37' opens soon...)
Yes. That was the sound of Sheikh ‘Uthaymeen punching
the brother in his chest, to get him well away from his foot, get back into line and start again. Then they started the Salâh
and that was that.
So have I confused you all even more?
Ok, this is what I do in the prayer. If the next man wants to stand close to me feet to feet, I will oblige him. If he doesn’t, then I’ll at least make sure that I am not standing so as to leave any gaps between our shoulders. I’ll usually look down and the feet will be virtually touching anyway if the gaps at the shoulders are closed. If my companion doesn’t want his feet anywhere near mine then fine. It is not allowed to move around after him in the Salâh
without a real Shar’iSalâh
becomes void. And we don’t want that now do we?
It’s all about being easy with the People and being balanced in our Deen, without compromising that which is dear and sacred to us. There is no need to take extremes in our ‘Ibâdah
, for often we’ll be stuck close to each other in one mosque and then we’ll be a bit more relaxed in another mosque. And maybe one day you might even actualise the lovely hadith of the Prophet (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam
) when he said:
texts of the other reason otherwise the “The best of you are those with the easiest shoulders in the Prayer.” (Abu Dawud 653
What this means is that if someone wants to have a bit of a breather in the line, you’ll loosen up for him. Also, you allow yourself to be moved by someone who wants to straighten the line further. Also it means you can move to close a gap somewhere or even relax to let someone else move. Also, if someone reckons he can fit in to your line to avoid standing alone by himself in a second line, you can let him in.
The hadith shows both that the original state of those in the line would be a nice tight unit and it also shows that the tight unit is a flexible one when the time comes round for it to be so.
Just like Islam really.
If after all
that, for all those who are still
not satisfied, for those who’d really really
like to feel the flesh of the next Miskeen’s foot full on contact
, bones to bones and all that, then here are my final few suggestions:
1. Have a shower. Being stinky is not conducive to a close contact.
2. Change your perfume. Try ‘Higher’ by Dior. Or ‘Aqua di Gio’. If you’ve got that on, you can close contact me anytime
3. Dry your feet with some tissue after Wudhu
(do NOT use the face towels like some guys do). No-one likes their nice dry feet to be splattered with your soaking ones.
4. Change those dirty white sport socks! Not only is it not cool to wear them with your sandals and stuff, but they are very uncool next to our black woollen Pringles.
5. Close contact is hard enough as it is but with scaly dry cracked feet? That hurts our soft feet so try some 50:50 WSP Ointment, available from all good Pharmacists.
6. Stinky damp athletified foot? Think again Jose. Try some Miconazole cream in-between those toes and Miconazole powder for your dirty socks, available from all good Pharmacists. Try close contact again after 4 weeks.
7. Or try standing at the end of the line only. That way, where exactly is he going to move to? He’ll keep on going and you can follow him all the way down until he gives up Miskeen and starts to cry.
8. Are you reading out aloud again? Who do you
prefer listening to – Sudais or Tony Christie? Exactly. If you can be quiet for once during the Imam’s recitation, maybe he’ll let you stand a tad closer.
9. What’s with all the scratching and itching and stuff? Be like a rock as the Sahabah used to be and maybe the next man won’t even notice you. Then you can stand in between his legs if you can fit.
10. Wear one of those really baggy Egyptian thawbs
– you know, the ones where you can’t see your feet anyway and more importantly, neither can he. Then just move in on the sly under thawb
cover and before you know it, you’ll have close contact.
11. If you play footie then you’ll know about the ‘Magic Spray’. Use the branded PR Freeze spray on the next guy and then you can even stand on his foot if you wish. Available from all good Pharmacists.
12. Played Twister before? Neither have I but I think if you put your foot in between his two feet and then twist it round his left shin a few times, he’ll have to be Houdini’s dad to get away from that one. Don’t try this on anyone bigger than you though.
13. Have you checked those grotty rotten toenails? Be a bit original and try painting on a few attractive designs. Remember the rules though – no stars, no stripes, no crosses and only Henna. Doh! Not many options left there then.
14. Still struggling on your own? You need the team approach - your mate one side and you on the other and keep progressing inwards for close contact until he’s well and truly squashed. That’ll teach him.
15. If you’re a group then ever better. Stand altogether at one end and keep pushing inwards till the old faithful end up in the Wudhu-khana
. Now that’ll definitely teach them.
16. Now if you really really
care about the ‘Sunnah’
then put your money where your mouth (or fingers I suppose in our case) is. It’s time to start paying off the Musalleen
. Once they realise you’ll give a nugget for each close contact per prayer, you’ll soon have a solid and obedient line – for ever. Hanafi or not. Start saving guys…
17. Maybe you’re just pushing your luck with the old faithful of the front line. Try the last line with all the kids because they love playing close contact. They’ll let you stand on their feet if you let them nudge, kick and poke you in Sujûd
. Deal? Done.
18. Good old brute force. During the Iqâmah
, warn next man that if he moves his foot from yours even once during the prayer, you’re going to make his blood halâl
and drink it before Fajr the next morning and break your fast with it the next evening too. That should do the trick. If you’re too small for that then what the hell are you doing in our front line anyway?!
19. Why don’t you pray by yourself and make a whole new line? Problem solved! And it fits your Usul
that to try and fulfil a lesser Sunnah
means leaving all the other Wajibat
of the Saff
20. Finally, the perfect solution. Never go to a mosque ever again. Ever. Just watch out though in case the ‘Amr bil Ma’ruf
boys come round and burn your house down…