When I stand in the prayer line and someone places their feet next to mine. My foot sends a message to my brain that is far from positive! It distracts me to the extent that I cannot concentrate on the prayer. Normally I have to repeat the prayer. Yet the brother who stands next to me is so convinced that he has to place his foot next to mine. Rather than react with a swift strike to the jaw. I wanted to examine the proofs to see if something was missed. So first we will look at various evidences and then come to a conclusion.
Where is your proof akhi?
Here it is akhi!
عنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رضي الله عنه عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ , فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصَّفِّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلاةِ رواه البخاري ( 690 ) ومسلم ( 433)
وفي رواية للبخاري ( 723 ) : سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ , فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصُّفُوفِ مِنْ إِقَامَةِ الصَّلاةِ
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Arrange your lines because standing in lines is part of the prayer.” Reported Al-Bukhari (690) and Muslim (433). In another narration of Al-Bukhari (723), “Arrange the row because arranging the rows is part of establishing prayer.”
This hadith proves that standing in straight lines is part of the prayer and nothing is mentioned about putting the feet anywhere, yet!
وعَنْ أَبِي مَسْعُودٍ رضي الله عنه قَالَ : كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَمْسَحُ مَنَاكِبَنَا فِي الصَّلاةِ وَيَقُولُ
( اسْتَوُوا , وَلا تَخْتَلِفُوا فَتَخْتَلِفَ قُلُوبُكُمْ ) رواه مسلم 432
Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) (made us line up by) touching our shoulders in the prayer saying, “Line up and do differ because your hearts will differ.” (Muslim 432).
This hadith clearly states that staying in line by lining up your shoulder to the person next to you is the best way of staying in line. Note feet are not mentioned! The Malikis and Hanafi’s take this hadith because it is very clear. I think the Shafis line up feet but that might not be the reliable position please check with a Shafi scholar.
قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : (( تراصوا ولا تدعوا فرجات للشيطان ))
رواه أبو داود وهو صحيح
The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Close ranks and do not leave a space for satan.” Abu Dawood rated authentic.
This is our man problem that some brothers think that leaving space between the feet helps satan. But this hadith does not back up this understanding. It says not to leave a space i.e. a space for person. None of the early community understood this to mean slap your foot on your brothers foot!
رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قال أَقِيمُوا الصُّفُوفَ، وَحَاذُوا بَيْنَ المَنَاكِبِ، وَسُدُّوا الخَلَلَ، وَلِيْنُوا بِأَيْدِي إخْوَانِكُمْ، وَلا تَذَرُوا فُرُجَاتٍ لِلشَّيْطَانِ، وَمَنْ وَصَلَ صَفّاً وَصَلَهُ الله، وَمَنْ قَطَعَ صَفّاً قَطَعَهُ الله أخرجه أبو داود والنسائي
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Straighten your rows, align the shoulders, fill in the gaps, be gentle with your brothers to your brothers, do not leave gaps for satan. Whoever arrives to purity is because Allah caused it. Whoever is severed from purity is severed by Allah.” (Abu Dawood and Al-Nisa’i)
There are quite a few points here. Firstly, the lines need to be aligned at the shoulder, gaps for people should not be left, and brothers should not hit each other, because that can happen, when we are close together. So again nothing about feet, so where are they getting this idea?
Abu Al-Qasim al-Jadali reports, “I heard Nu’man ibn Bashir relate that the Messenger (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him) faced the people and instructed, “Straighten your rows. By Allah, you should straighten your rows or else Allah will create disagreement between your hearts.” Nu’man ibn Bashir then states, “I saw each person join his shoulders, knees and ankles to the persons next to them.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 1:104).
Before we answer this question let us look at this hadith narrated by the same companion.
عن النُّعْمَانَ بْنَ بَشِيرٍ رضي الله عنهما قال : كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُسَوِّي صُفُوفَنَا حَتَّى كَأَنَّمَا يُسَوِّي بِهَا الْقِدَاحَ ، حَتَّى رَأَى أَنَّا قَدْ عَقَلْنَا عَنْهُ ثُمَّ خَرَجَ يَوْمًا فَقَامَ حَتَّى كَادَ يُكَبِّرُ ، فَرَأَى رَجُلا بَادِيًا صَدْرُهُ مِنْ الصَّفِّ ، فَقَالَ : ( عِبَادَ اللَّهِ ، لَتُسَوُّنَّ صُفُوفَكُمْ أَوْ لَيُخَالِفَنَّ اللَّهُ بَيْنَ وُجُوهِكُمْ ) . رواه البخاري ( 717 ) ومسلم (436) .
Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) would straighten the rows until they resembled arrow until he knew we understood it. One day he came out to pray and was about to commence then saw a bedioun whose chest was out of the line then said, “Servants of Allah, straighten your rows or Allah will cause your faces to oppose.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Now the first hadith reported by Al-Nu’man says that the companions lined up their knees, feet and shoulders. This seems very strange and extremely difficult to line up ones knees to the person next to you. But the shoulders or feet would be easy. So is that why the wahabis/salafis have taken feet and the Hanafi’s and Malikis shoulders? Nope let us look carefully at the hadith.
One is statement from a companion and one is an action of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him). Which has priority? Of course the action in the second hadith over the statement of the companion.
Two if they had to line up using feet then why did not the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) arrange them as such? Answer – the first report from Al-Nu’man was an isolated event. Had it been correct then there would be a similar statement in the second hadith to confirm it. So that is why the feet nor the shoulder or knees can be taken.
Where do we take the shoulder from?
From the first hadith reported that explicitly mentioned shoulders. Not from this hadith which itself does not give us definite knowledge because it is not repeated elsewhere. A ruling cannot be built on conflicting information that is where the whole wahabi argument lies. Therefore, you can see how flimsy this argument is. I do think that the statement of the knees is not actual but is exaggeration/mubalaghah meaning that they were lined up tightly.
The commentary of Nur Al-Idah states that the feet should be four fingers apart. (P.141 trans Wesam Charkawi).
تفريج القدمين في القيام قدر أربع أصابع (لأنه أقرب إلى الخشوع)
Or in the Arabic commentary of this Hasiyah Al-Tahatawi it states it is Sunnah and standing in this manner ‘Is closer to attaining presence of heart in the prayer.’ As well as, “The text of this is in (Abu Jafar Al-Tahawi’s Kitab) Al-Athar that the Imam says there is no opposition to this.” (p.262 in the chapter of prayer).
نص عليه في كتاب الأثار عن الإمام ولم يحك فيه خلافا
Abu Jafar Al-Tahawi’s work Kitab Al-Athar contains many reports from which the fiqh is derived. And Sheikh Al-Tahatawi says there is no opposition to this which informs us that none of the early scholars agreed with touching the feet of the person next to you in prayer. If none of the early community did it then it cannot be a point that could possibly be wajib/necessary. Why because the evidence is not clear and does not reach a level where it could be considered as wajib.
In Al-Mufasil fi Fiqh Al-Hanafi by Muhammad Majid ‘Attir (one of the peers of Nuruddin ‘Attir),
يسن أن يباعد بين قدميه قدر أربع أصابع ليكون أمكن له في قيامه
“It is Sunnah to have four fingers gap between feet so that it is possible in the standing position.” (p.121)
الحقائق شرح كنز الدقائق للإمام الزيلعى الحنفي: وينبغي للقوم إذا قاموا إلى الصلاة أن يتراصوا ويسدوا الخلل ويسووا بين منا كبهم في الصفوف،
Imam Al-Zaylai Al-Hanafi said in the commentary of Kanz Al-Daqaiq, “It is necessary for people when they pray to line up, close the gaps and line up using the shoulder.”
These statements back up the hadiths previously mentioned.
We have proved beyond any doubt that touching the feet of the person next to you is not only unproven but also based on conflicting reports.
Something that they insist on doing cannot be based on anything but sound information like the positions the four Sunni schools. We have highlighted the Hanafi school because we know that the best.
So even if you do not agree with all we have presented then get ready for me to knock the ball out of the park!
Why do we have just one hadith about the feet? Did not all the companions pray or was it just one? If it was more than just one companion then we should have hundreds of reports of companions touching each other’s feet! Yet we only have a single conflicting report! If we had hundreds of reports then it would be mass transmitted/mutawtir which means we would have no doubt to its authenticity. Then denying it would be a grave sin indeed!
Instead, we have a rare hadith that none of the scholars of the early community acted with or built anything upon. Unlike the wahabi/selefis who have built an unsound ruling then spent their lifetimes touching the feet of strangers!
Do you have any doubt in this? If they are building unsound rulings on simple matters of fiqh then ponder what else they are getting wrong in matters of faith!