Sunday, June 27, 2010

Aligning the Rows during Solat

Aligning the Rows during Solat

Dr.Hatem al-Hajj

Question: I recently moved to a new town and at the masjid when we line up for Solat some of the people do not like to touch the feet together, just the shoulders. Is it obligatory to touch feet and shoulders? If so, what is the proof for this so that I can share itr with them? Jazakum Allahu khayran.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

It is an obligatory to straighten their row and to close the gaps between them in solah, which is done by standing shoulder-to-shoulder and foot-to-foot. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) placed great emphasis on straightening the rows during congregational solat and stated many hadiths concerning this issue.

'Abdullah Ibn `Umar (radiallahu’anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

"Straighten your rows, bring in line your shoulders, fill in the gaps, co-operate with your brothers and do not leave empty spaces for the devils. Whoever fills in the gap Allah will shower His mercy on him and whoever leaves a space in the row Allah will deprive him of His mercy."
[Abu Dawud]

Al-Bara' Ibn `Azib (radiallahu’anhu) reported, who said:

"The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would walk within the rows, from one side to another, straightening them. He would pass his hands over our chests and shoulders, and say, "Do not disperse; otherwise your hearts will become disunited." He would also say, "Allah the Almighty sends blessings upon those who stand in the first row and the angels seek forgiveness on their behalf."

[Abu Dawud]

Anas Ibn Malik (radiallahu’anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

"Pull your rows together, keep them close and keep your necks in line, for by He in whose hands rests the soul of Muhammad, indeed I see the devils entering the gaps in the rows as though they are small sheep."

[Abu Dawud]

We can understand from these narrations that straightening and arranging the rows of the Solat is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) through standing beside one another without leaving a gap in between. However, touching the feet with those of the next person was not established by the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), neither verbally nor through practice. Touching the feet may be a means, in the beginning of the Solat, for the purpose of straightening the rows, but not during the Solat.

Dr. Hatim al-Hajj, Associate Professor of Fiqh at the Shari`ah Academy of America and the Islamic University of Minnesota, stated:

There are three opinions in this regard: one that does not prescribe touching the feet at any time (they prescribe aligning by the shoulders), and one that prescribes it in the beginning of the Solat and throughout and a third that only prescribes this at the beginning, for the purpose of aligning the rows.

The stronger position is the third. The evidence is the hadith reported by Anas ibn Malik (radiallahu’anhu) that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said:

“Make your rows straight, for I can see you from behind my back.”

Anas then said: “Thus, each of us used to put his shoulder against his neighbour’s shoulder and his foot against his foot.”


In the hadith of An-Nu`man ibn Bashir (radiallahu’anhu), he mentioned the ankles instead of the feet.

[Abu Dawud]

The alignment of the row should begin from where the imam is standing. Whoever is on the right of the row should align himself by looking at those who are to his left (i.e., closer to the imam). Thus the line will be straightened and the gaps will be filled.

Alignment is done by lining up the heel, shoulders and ankles, and by completing the front rows.

Spreading the legs wide and turn the feet inward so that one's ankles touch one’s neighbours’ ankles is an obvious mistake and an exaggeration, and a new interpretation which is indicative of going to extremes in trying to apply the Sunnah. It causes annoyance and is not prescribed in syari’ah, and it widens the gaps between people standing in solat.

That becomes apparent when the people prostrate, and when they stand up again they become distracted in trying to fill the gaps and turning their feet to make their ankles touch their neighbours’ ankles, which makes them miss out on what they should be doing, which is to make the toes point in the direction of the Qiblah.

Doing that is like competing with one’s neighbour and trying to take his place. All of that is not prescribed in syari’ah.

[La jadid fi Ahkam al-Solah, 12. 13.]

We understand from this that they had their feet touching means only touching the feet at the beginning for the purpose of aligning; however, during the Solat, one should be focusing on the Solat and achieving a state of khushu` (attention with humble tranquillity).

The alignment of the rows at the beginning of the Solat is an important Sunnah according to the majority of scholars. Moreover, according to many of the scholars such as Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Hajar, it is mandatory and that seems to be the stronger position. This is particularly true when you contemplate this hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), who said:

“Align your rows, lest Allah will misalign your hearts.”

[Abu Dawud]

We should take heed of this threat, and realize that the exterior, as known to be a fact of psychology, has an impact on the interior.

Also, the abandonment of the Sunnah will bring about division between us, and adhering to it is the way to achieve unity. This is only common sense, since there is one prophet and one Sunnah, but there are many satanic tricks. Furthermore, the disagreement between the scholars, such as the four great imams, is not attributed to any of them abandoning the Sunnah, but rather different ways of understanding it. Once it was clear to any of them that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) prescribed something, they never hesitated to follow it.

This mandatory Sunnah has been forsaken by many Muslims. It is our duty to revive the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam).

Allah Almighty Knows Best

[Excerpted with modification from Islam Online, Ask About Islam, published Apr 29, 2009 ]

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