the Lines for Prayer
reported that Allaah (AWJ)'s Messenger
said, Establish your lines [straight], for indeed
the angels [pray] in lines. Align your shoulders,
close the gaps, yield your hands to your brothers,
and do not leave any gaps for Shaytaan. Whoever connects
a line, Allaah maintains him, and whoever breaks a
line, Allaah cuts him off. (Ahmad, Aboo Daawood,
an-Nasaa`ee and others. See Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 1187)
Anyone who has prayed with different groups of people
will probably have experienced the following situation:
When you line up for prayer, the person next to you
prevents your feet from touching theirs. If you try
to move closer to them, they move away, if you persist
trouble will most likely erupt.
Evidence for Standing Four Fingers Width Away?
Most people who stand away from their neighbor during
group prayer do so simply out of custom. It would
not be fair to claim that it is based upon a certain
mathhab, for one will not find it taught in any of
the source books for the mathhabs. For example, in
the famous Hanafee fiqh book "Haashiyah" by Ibn `Aabidayn,
the only mention of one not touching the feet to their
neighbor during group prayer, is in the case of a
man praying with his wife! . Similarly, it is not
mentioned in "al-Um" by ash-Shaaf`ee. However, the
opinion stating that it is allowable for one to stand
four fingers width away from the person praying next
to them is collected in some comparative fiqh books.(1)
This opinion, we hope to show, is pure baseless conjecture,
and furthermore implementing it violates numerous
general and specific texts which govern how to stand
in line for group prayers. Additionally, the manner
in which the companions prayed in the presence of
is an evidence for the Muslims to follow. especially
surely I can see you from behind my back... (Al-
Bukhaaree)And he said so after commanding the companions
to correct their lines. Were they to have not followed
his command properly, or if they were excessive, then
he, being able to see them in that state, surely would
have corrected them further. And this is the argument
against those who claim that concern over this matter
Furthermore, this opinion is one that requires the
praying person to do an additional act, that is -
to move away, whereas were he to stand still when
the person next to him put his foot next to his, he
would be doing less, and less action is the rule in
prayer unless there is an evidence otherwise! This
is especially true in the light of the texts as we
will prove if Allah (AWJ) allows.
Command to Straighten the Rows and Close the Gaps,
and That it is Waajib
said Make good your standing in the rows during
prayer. (Ahmad and Ibn Hibaan. Authenticated by
al-Albaanee in Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 195) And, Establish
your lines [straight], and consolidate... (al
Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others)
Imaam al-Baghawee comments on the word "taraassoow"
[translated here as consolidate] saying, "His saying
taraassoow means to cling together until there are
no gaps between you. As Allaah (AWJ) said,
Allaah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks
as if they were a solidified [marsoosan] wall.
they join together with each other. In this is the
evidence that the Imaam should turn towards the people
commanding them to straighten their lines."(2)
also said, Straighten your lines, for indeed straightening
the lines is part of the completeness of the prayer.
(Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim), about which Imaam ash-Shawkaanee
noted, "From this it is understood that straightening
the lines is waajib." (Nayl ul-Aawtaar)
commanded, Close the gaps... (Ahmad, Aboo Daawood,
an-Nasaa`ee and others. See Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 1187)
the Action By Way of a Verb Accompanied by the "Laam"
Among the well known signs of an obligation or waajib,
in usool ul-fiqh, is when the commanding verb is preceded
by the Arabic letter laam. This type of laam is known
as laam al-amr, or the commanding laam. Whenever it
is used then we understand that the address is an
obligation, unless it is accompanied by an act or
saying which indicates that it is only reccommended.
In the following texts, such laam precedes the verb,
Ietting us know that the statement is a command: Establish
your lines [straight], [in one narration this
follows: By Allaah either you establish your lines
(straight),] or Allaah will cause dissension in your
hearts. (Aboo Daawood, Ibn Hibaan. Authentic,
see Saheeh at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb no. 512 and the
addition is with Aboo Daawood, see Saheeh ul Jaami
And: Straighten your lines or Allaah (AWJ) will
cause dissension to appear upon your faces. (Al-Bukhaaree,
Muslim and others)
Imaam an-Nawawee explains as follows, "Meaning that
anger, animosity and disagreement will appear in the
hearts. As when it is said, 'So and so's face changed
towards me.' It means, 'his face shows his dislike
for me.' So their differing in their rows is an apparent
type of dissension, and outwardly evident differences
are the cause for inner dissension"(3)
the "Laa" of Prohibition
The laa of prohibition is called such be cause it
means, "Do not do such and such." In all such cases
of prohibition (nahee), then it implies that the act
is haraam, unless it is accompanied by an act or saying
which indicates that it is only disliked.
not leave gaps for Shaytaan (Ahmad, Aboo Daawood,
an-Nasaa`ee and others. Saheeh ul-Jaami no 1189)
not differ, or your hearts will dissent. (Muslim,
Ahmad, an-Nasaa`ee and others.)
not make your chests irregular, or your hearts will
dissent. (Ibn Khuzaymah See Saheeh at-Targheeb
wat-Tarheeb no. 513)
not let your lines be irregular or your hearts will
dissent. (Aboo Daawood, an Nasaa`ee and others.
See Saheeh at- Targheeb wat-Tarheeb no. 513)
aginst the gaps
said, Beware of the gap. Meaning in prayer
(at- Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer and others, see as-Saheehah
said, Straighten your lines, and align your shoulders,
and yield your hands to your brothers, and close the
gaps, for indeed Shaytaan comes between you through
them, just as the small lamb does. (Ahmad, at-Tabaraanee
and others and it is Saheeh.)(4)
warning of being cut off from Allaah (AWJ)
connects a line, he is maintained by Allaah (AWJ),
and whoever breaks a line, Allaah (AWJ) cuts him off.
(See note for first hadeeth.) And such a severe warning
would not be issued for a deed that is simply recommended.
Behavior of the Companions
Umar and Bilaal
are both reported to have hit the feet of people in
order to straighten their lines.(5) And
as Ibn Hazm noted, they would not hit anyone unless
felt an obligation.
the lines" explained
reported that in al-Madeenah he was asked whether
he found anything to have changed from the time of
the Prophet ,
to which he replied, "I have not found any change
except that you do not straighten your rows properly."
It would be enough for us to understand his saying,
"taqeemoona as-sufoof" to mean simply, your lines
are zig-zagged and you don't straighten them. But
the following narration of Anas
enlightens us to the true meaning of straightening
the lines "[After standing for prayer, before the
takbeer, Allaah (AWJ)'s Messenger
faced the people and said:]
your lines and consolidate, for indeed I see you from
behind my back. (Two separate narrations from
Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.) In one narration Anas added,
"I saw that one of us would connect his shoulder to
the shoulder of his companion, and his heel to his
heel, and if one were to do this today, one of you
would flee as if he were an untamable donkey."(6)
An-Nu'maan bin Basheer
said, "...So I saw a man clinging his shoulder to
his companion's shoulder, and his foot to his foot,
and his ankle to his ankle." (Al-Bukhaaree)
Argument that Tightening the Lines Prevents Concentration
After all of what we have noted, some people insist
that standing closely to another during prayer causes
them to have distracting thoughts. Due to this problem
they believe that their prayer is more apt to be accepted
if they stand away from the person next to them. However
this is a poor excuse, because one's lack of ability
to concentrate during prayer is not a reason for him
to encourage Shaytaan to enter the ranks; And clearly
the command as well as the virtue is with the people
who pray close not separately as the Prophet
best of you is the one with the friendliest shoulder
in prayer. (Aboo Daawood and others. It is hasan
according to al- Albaanee, Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 3264)
two are praying...
Ibn Hajar reports by way of Ibn Juraeej who said,
"I said to Ataa, 'the man who prays with another man,
where does he stand?' He said, 'Along his right.'
I said, 'He comes parallel to him until he aligns
with him, neither of them is further back than the
other?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Do you like that
he be equal with him until there is no gap between
them?' He said 'Yes.'" (Fath ul-Baaree - Kitaab al-Athaan
of praying between pillars or columns
It is obligatory for the people to line up either
ahead of or behind the threshold of any architectural
structures in the masjid. This is derived from the
Mu`awiyah bin Qurrah reports that his father said,
"We were prohibited from aligning between "as-sawaaree"
[fences, walls, pillars, etc.] during the time of
Allaah (AWJ)'s Messenger ,
he drove us away from them." (Ibn Majaah, Ibn Khuzaymah,
Ibn Hibaan and others).(7)
And Abdul-Hameed bin Mahmood said, "I prayed with
Anas bin Maalik one Friday, we [prayed] opposite the
sawaaree, we went forward or backward, for Anas said
We were prevented from this during the time of Allaah
(AWJ)'s Messenger ."
(Aboo Dawood, An-Nasaa`ee, at-Tirmithi, and others
with authentic chain of narrators.)
It is reported that Ibn Mas`ood
said, "Do not line up between sawaaree(8)."
Al Bayhaqee commented, "This is because the columns
[prevent them from] connecting the line." Imaam Maalik
said, "There is no harm in the lines between columns
if the masjid becomes tight." And Ibn Qudaamah said,
"It is not disliked for the Imaam to stand between
the sawaree, only for the followers because it cuts
Aboo Haneefah said, "It is disiked to stand between
two pillars or in the corners or enclaves...(10)"
alone behind the line
There are numerous reports forbidding one to pray
alone behind the line. The following is an example.
Alee bin Shaybaan said, "We prayed behind him - meaning
- so the Prophet of Allaah (AWJ) finished the prayer.
He saw a man praying alone behind the line. The Prophet
of Allah (AWJ) waited until he finished his prayer,
then he said to him, Return to you prayer, for
there is no prayer for the one alone behind the line.
(Ibn Khuzaymah 1569 see Irwa ul-Ghaleel no.541)
someone back to form a line
There is no authentic evidence for pulling a person
from the line ahead to form a new line when the prayer
has begun already and one is late. However the texts
supporting this are very weak or fabricated(11).
should one do in this case?
Since it is confirmed that the reports on commanding
one to pull another back are not authentic, then it
is not allowed for one to do it, rather it is obligatory
for him to close any gaps on the lines, and if not,
then he prays alone and his prayer would be correct,
for he has done all he can correctly do, and followed
that which is legislated, and Allah (AWJ) has said
does not burden a soul beyond its ability.
references for this Article:
Taswaytus-Sufoof wa Atharhaa fee Hayaat ul-Ummah by
Al-Qawl ul-Mubeen fee Akhtaa il-Musalleen by Mashoor
al-Fiqh ala al-Mathaahab al-Arb`ah, for example
Sharhus-Sunnah vol. 3 pg 365.
See Saheeh at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb no. 491.
Reported by al-Mukhlis in al-Fawaa'id and Aboo Ya
ala in his Musnad, Sa`eed bin Mansoor in his Sunan
and Ismaa`eelee. See Fath ul-Baaree2/112. It is authentic
according to the conditions of Al- Bukhaaree and Muslim,
see as-Saheehah no. 31.
Al-Albaanee has shown it to be hasan in Tamam ul-Minnah
pp. 296-297, and as-Saheeha no. 335, and the following
report is a witness for it.
Al-Bayhaqee 3/104 and Ibn al-Qaasim in al-Mudawanah
1/106. See as-Saheehah no. 335.
Al-Mughnee. For previous quotes see as-Saheehah no.
Hashiyah Ibn Aabadayn.
See Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth ad-Da`eefah no. 921.