Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mistake or Uncertain of Number of Rak’ahs

Mistake or uncertain of the number of Rak'ahs
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

I make mistakes many times during my prayers. Either I forget how many 'rakaat' I have done or something else of the sort. How would I go about correcting it? Do I stop my prayers and do it over, or continue?

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the Praise is to Allah Subhanahu wa ta`ala. Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad His Messenger

Perform Sujud Al-Sahwi if one in Doubt in Solat

The prostration of forgetfulness (Sujud al-Sahwi) is required whenever one inadvertently adds extraneous parts or misses parts or is in doubt regarding parts of the arkan (essential pillars) of the prayer and or its other requirements.

The question posed is what to do when in doubt regarding the number of raka’at prayed, and the answer is covered in the following points:

First, definition of doubtfulness: when two possibilities are equally probable without knowing or feeling one is more likely true than the other.

Second, when one doubts after performing Salam: One should disregard such doubt. For example, take the case of one who has completed praying dzuhur then questions after finishing the prayer, "Did I really pray four raka’ats or only three?" Such doubt should be disregarded completely unless it is substantiated by clear and certain indications; otherwise, it opens the door to waswasah (the whispering of Satan) and unwarranted extraneous additions to the prayer.

Third, when one doubts during Solah; this must fall into one of the following two cases:

1. One can discern that one of the two possibilities about which one is in doubt is more likely or more certain by virtue of one’s prevalent feeling or most likely inclination: In this case, one should act according to his best assumption and perform the prostration of forgetfulness after the Salam.

The evidence for this opinion is based on a hadith related by Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, (radialahu`anhu) who said, The Prophet s.a.w performed solat either an extraneous addition or missed an essential part of the prayer (one of the narrators of the hadith was in doubt which). After saying ‘salam,’ it was said to him (s.a.w):

"Oh Prophet, Has there been a new change in [the way of performing] the Solah?"

He s.a.w replied, "Why [would you say that]?"

They responded, "You prayed in such and such manner."

So he bent his legs and faced towards the qiblah and performed two prostrations then performed taslim (saying ‘salam’ to the right then the left).

After facing towards us, the Prophet s.a.w said:

"If something new had been introduced regarding the prayers, I would have informed you about it. To the contrary, I am but a human like you—I forget as you forget, so if I forget, remind and inform me. If any of you doubts during his prayer then he should try to discern the more certain and correct case, then complete the prayer based upon it, then perform tasleem, followed by two prostrations."

[Al-Bukhari, Fath Al-Baari No: 401, Muslim, 1168]

2. One cannot discern nor is there any prevalence apparent to indicate which of the two cases is more certain: In this case, one should assume the least of the two and continue based on this assumption, then perform the two prostrations of doubt after tasleem. An example of this would be one who while praying the dzuhur prayer is completely uncertain whether he has completed three or four raka’at and cannot determine which is truer. Thus, he would assume the lesser of the two, i.e. three, and complete another raka’ah then sit for the tashahhud, then prostrate two times before saying "salam."

The basis for this ruling is the hadith related by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri, r.a, in which he said: the Prophet s.a.w said:

"If any of you doubts during his prayer and he does not know how many [raka’at] he has prayed, whether it is three or four, then he should discard and cast away his doubt. He is to continue upon what one is sure of [i.e. the lesser] then performs two prostrations before making tasleem. If he ends up [in reality] praying five [raka’at], then his prayer will be an intercession for him; and if he ends up completely the [requisite] four [raka’at] then it is targheeman for shaytaan."

(Targheeman: i.e., a way of vexing Satan and humiliating and debasing him, as well as rejecting him as a result of his failure to achieve his desire of disturbing the worshipper.)

[Al-Nawawi in explaining the hadith from Sahih Muslim, 5/60].

[Excerpted from Islam QA]

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