Position of Feet in Salaah


The Ahadith

1. Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Straighten the sufoof, line up the shoulders, close the gaps and become tender in the hands of your brothers. Do not leave any gaps for shaitaan. Whoever joins the saff, Allah will join him. And whoever cuts the saff Allah will cut him.” (Bukhari & Abu Dawood)[Become tender: that is to comply when a brother musalli in the saff touches your shoulder indicating that you should bring it in line with the shoulders of the other musallis in the saff.]

2. Hadhrat Baraa’ Bin Aazib (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) used to enter the saff from end to end, touching our chests and our shoulders. He would say:“Do not be irregular (in your rows), for then your hearts will become irregular (i.e. discord will overtake you).” He would (also) say:“ Verily, Allah Azza Wa Jal and His Malaaikah dispatch Salaam on the first sufoof” [When the word ‘Salaat’ is related to Allah Ta ‘ala, it denotes Rahmat, i.e. He sends down mercy. When it is related to the Malaaikah, it means that they supplicate to Allah Ta`ala to send His mercy upon His servants.]

3. Hadhrat Anas Bin Maalik (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Iqaamah for Salaat was given. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) turned towards us and said: “Straighten your sufoof and stand close together, for verily I see you from behind.” In a narration of Hadhrat Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) it is mentioned: “Everyone among us would put his shoulder with the shoulder of his companion (alongside) and his foot with his foot.”

4. Hadhrat Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Join your sufoof and stand close together, and stand in line with (your) necks. I take oath by The Being in Whose power is my life that most certainly I see shaitaan entering the gaps in the saff as if he is a lamb.” (Abu Dawood)

5. Abul Qaasim Jadli (rahmatullah alayh) said :“I heard Nu’maan Bin Basheer (radhiyallahu anhu) say: ‘Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) turned towards the people (the musallis) and say three times: ‘By Allah! Most certainly, you should straighten your sufoof otherwise Allah will create discord in your hearts.’ Thereafter I saw that a man would attach his shoulder to the shoulder of his companion (the one standing alongside), his knee to the knee of his companion and his ankle to the ankle of his companion.” (Bukhari & Abu Dawood)

6. Nu’maan Bin Basheer (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: “Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would arrange (set in order) our sufoof. One day he came out (from his home) and saw a man (in the saff) whose chest was protruding in front of the (chests of) the community (i.e. the musallis). He then commented: ‘Straighten your sufoof otherwise Allah will cast discord in your faces (i.e. in the words coming from your mouths).” (Tirmizi)

7. Maalik Ibn Abi Aamir Ansaari (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: “Uthmaan Bin Affaan (radhiyallahu anhu) would recite in his Khutbah: ‘When the Salaat is ready, arrange the sufoof properly and line up with the shoulders’ (i.e. the shoulders of the musallis should all be in line and touching).” (Muatta Imaam Muhammad)

8. Hadhrat Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrated that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Join your sufoof and draw close among yourselves and line up with the necks.” Reported by Abu Dawood and Nisai. Authenticated by Ibn Hibbaan. (Bulooghul Maraam)–*I’laaus Sunnan.

These are about all the narrations pertaining to the manner and style of standing in Jamaat Salaat.

Explaining these Ahadith, Imaam Bukhaari (rahmatullah alayh) states in the section captioned:“JOINING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER”:

“This is what the Jamhoor have said: ‘Verily, the meaning (of joining in this context) is complete nearness and lining up, not actual joining (or touching).’” Al-Haafiz said: “The meaning of this is to emphasise in straightening the saff and closing the gaps.” And Aini too has said so. With this, the indication is towards emphasis in straightening the sufoof and closing the gaps. Qustulaani and others have also said this.”(Laamiud Duraari—commentary of Bukhari)In Faidhul Baari it is reported as follows:“It is stated in Sharhul Wiqaayah: ‘The musalli should stand apart (with his feet) so that there is a distance of four fingers in between them, and that is also the view of Imaam Shaafi (rahmatullah alayh), In another view it is said that the distance (between the feet) should be one hand (i.e. about 10 cm).’ (The author says): I did not find any difference of opinion among the Salf (i.e. Salf-e-Saaliheen) between the stance (of the musalli) in Jama’ah and in infiraad (i.e. performing alone). There is no difference regarding the gap (between the feet). It is not that the spreading of the feet should be more in Jama’ah than when performing Salaat alone.”

The summary of this is: When we do not find the Sahaabah and the Taabi-een differentiating in their standing position between Jama’ah and individual Salaat, then we understand that the only meaning of Rasulullah’s statement of ‘joining the shoulders’ is to line up closely and to abstain from leaving gaps (between the musallis).

The following appears in Laamiud Duraari, Commentary of Saheeh Bukhaari:“The Authorities (the Fuqaha) stated that it is best for the musalli to keep his feet about four fingers apart. They did not say that the feet should be united in ruku’ or sajdah. Aini says in Binaayah: ‘It is appropriate that there be the distance of four fingers between the feet of the musalli, for verily, this is nearest to khushoo.’”

Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhuma) would not spread (widely) his feet nor would the one foot touch the other, but between this there would be neither much closeness nor much distance.

In Raddul Mihtaar it is reported as follows:“The meaning of joining ankles to ankles is that everyone in the Jama’ah should stand alongside the other (i.e. in a straight line). So is it said in Fataawa Samarqand).” (I’laaus Sunan).

From all the narrations and views of the Muhadditheen and Fuqaha of the Khairul Quroon era it is abundantly clear that the Hadith which mentions joining foot with foot does not have a literal meaning. It simply means that the feet should be all in line, and this is achieved by the heels of the musallis all being in the same line. This will ensure a straight saff on which the emphasis of all the Ahadith is.

The Salafis

The Salafis of this age, while grabbing the words ‘foot with foot’, ignore ‘neck with neck’, ‘shoulder with shoulder’, ‘knee with knee’ and ‘ankle with ankle’. The narrations command joining of the necks just as it instructs joining of the feet. And, in the same way it commands joining of the knees and ankles. How is it possible for the neck of one musalli to touch the neck of the musalli alongside? At most, shoulders can touch. But to achieve the phenomenal act of joining necks, the musallis will have to ruin their Salaat and stand on their toes balancing at a precarious angle to achieve the goal of touching each other’s neck. But no one has ever advocated this ludicrous stance. Similarly, if the literal sense of the ‘ankle with ankle’ has to be accepted, it will place the musallis under great stress to achieve what is not simple because the protruding heels are barriers for this achievement. Also, if ‘knee against knee’ had to be literally considered, the musallis would have to stand with ugly bandied legs, stretching even their thighs hideously in order to join their knees with the knees of their companions? But, not even the Salafis have ventured such ludicrousness.

Why do the Salafis choose only ‘foot with foot’ out of the several instructions pertaining to the joining of various bodily parts? For this choice they have only their intransigent nafsaani desire –no daleel whatsoever. What is the determining factor to choose only feet and to ignore necks, knees, shoulders and ankles? On the other hand, the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah — the followers of the Four Math-habs — *have a mass of evidence to support ‘joining of the shoulders’. Furthermore, joining or lining up of the shoulders is simple, rational and fulfills in the best way the instruction of straightening the saff.

It should be noted that the emphasis is on closing the gaps. There should be no gap between two musallis standing in the saff. But, the wider the legs are spread apart, the more the distance between the shoulders will increase. Thus, spreading the legs wide apart defeats the very command issued in the Hadith to close the gaps and straighten the sufoof.

In order to achieve ‘foot with foot’ literally, the Salafis are constrained to turn their feet at angles away from the Qiblah. In this hideous exercise they manage only to touch the toes of the adjacent musalli with much difficulty and irritation to those whose peace of mind is disturbed with the unruly encroachment of his companion’s toes. When the toes are made to touch with the feet in diagonal positions, the shoulders cannot touch, the knees, ankles, necks, etc. are thrown completely out of alignment.

When shoulders are not lined up, it is impossible to achieve straight sufoof. It is for this reason that the Hadith emphasises more on shoulders. Feet are mentioned only once. The Sahaabah and the Taabi-een relate the instruction ‘to line up’ and straighten the saff to the shoulders, necks, knees, ankles and the feet. In other words, all these should be in line, not out of alignment. It is for this reason that the Hadith clearly mentions that the Khulafa-e-Raashideen, in fact Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself, would order protruding chests to recede into line. Never did any of the Authorities of the Shariah speak about feet which should touch.

In the adoption of the Salafi mode, the movement is excessive in Salaat. Neither is proper Ruku’ nor proper Sajdah possible if this hideous posture has to be retained throughout Salaat. In fact Sajdah is not at all possible with the feet spread wide apart. Therefore, the Salafis are constrained to shift positions repeatedly when going to ruku’. This excessive movement in Salaat in negatory of khushoo’.

THE FOUR MATH-HABS

While the case of the Four Math-habs is logical, the actual daleel (proof) for our view is not rational interpretation, but is narrational evidence. Such evidence has been transmitted down the centuries from the Sahaabah. It should be understood that the Aimmah-e-*Mujtahideen — the Imaams of the Math-habs — had acquired their knowledge of Islam from either the Sahaabah or the Taabi-een who were the Students of the Sahaabah. Whatever they taught is therefore, what the Sahaabah had instructed. It is the height of folly and deviation to differ with them and to choose a way which is at variance with what they had disseminated.

It is not conceivable that the Salf-e-Saaliheen — all the Imaams of the Math-bas were among them — were in deviation and the present-day Salafis are on Rectitude. This is unacceptable to any Muslim who is prepared to reflect a bit. The greatest daleel for the view of the Math-habs is that whatever they teach has been acquired directly from either the Sahaabah or the Taabi-een.

The Salafi practice of spreading the feet wide apart and the irritating attempt to touch the next man’s toes are in conflict with the Sunnah as the aforegoing Shar’i evidences have established.

Conclusion

1. According to the Hambali Math-hab there should be a ‘small’ gap between the feet of the musalli.

2. According to the Maaliki Math-hab, the distance should be moderate, neither together nor so wide apart which is considered repugnant.

3. According to the Shaafi Math-hab, the gap between the feet should be one hand. It is Makrooh to spread the feet wider than this.

4. According to the Hanafi Math-hab, the distance between the feet should be four fingers. This is the Sunnah and the Way of the Salf-e-Saaliheen. The Salafis have no authority from the Salf-e-Saaliheen to substantiate its view of bid’ah.

COMMENTS

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In the Hanafi school (also in the Shafi’i school), there are predominantly two views. One is to stand with a gap of four fingers in between one’s feet, as is mentioned in Ibn ‘Abidin’s authoritative commentary of the al-Durr al-Muhtar (1:462). The second view, mentioned in the commentary of Sunan al-Tirmidhi,Ma’arif al-Sunan, is that there is no specified distance to be maintain between one’s feet and it is permissible to stand as one finds comfortable.

The hadith, related by Imam Abu Dawud and others, which is normally used to prove that one must touch their feet to those of the adjacent person, has been misunderstood. The Prophet (upon him be peace) only commands that the Companions straighten their rows.

In some narrations he also commands that shoulders be leveled together. It is the narrator who mentions that the Companions employed the joining of the feet together (and according to the narration in Sunan Abu Dawud, the knees were also linked together) to ensure the straightening of the rows. The Prophet (upon him be peace) did not order this.

Nowadays, since the rows are clearly marked in our masjids, there is no need to link the feet together. Standing with the heels on the marked lines will normally ensure that the rows remain straight and orderly.

Manner of standing in the rows of the jama`ah

It is established from several ahadith that the row should be absolutely straight and no gaps should be left between the worshippers. However, some people insist on spreading their feet and standing in such a manner that their ankles touch the ankles of their neighbour. What is the reality of standing in this fashion?

Those who stand in this way base their practice upon a hadith narrated by Nu’maan bin Basheer (radhiallahu anhu). He says: “Once Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) faced us and said: “Straighten your rows”. He repeated this thrice. He then said: “By Allah, you must most certainly straighten your rows or else Allah Ta’ala will disunite your hearts”. Hazrat Nu’maan bin Basheer (radhiallahu anhu) says: “I then saw the people joining together their shoulders and ankles”. [Abu Dawood, Sahih ibn Khuzaima]

The concluding statement of Hazrat Nu’maan (radhiallahu anhu) is also reported in Sahih Bukhari.

However, upon analysing this hadith, several points come to light: Firstly, Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) never commanded the joining of the ankles. No hadith has yet been found wherein Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) himself instructed the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhu) to join their ankles. The Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhu) had themselves adopted this manner in order to fulfil the command of straightening the saff. Secondly, this hadith clearly mentions that Nu’maan bin Basheer (radhiallahu anhu) saw the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhu) doing this PRIOR to the commencement of the salah. There is no mention of this position being maintained even after the salah had commenced.

Therefore we find that great muhadditheen such as Hafiz ibn Hajar (R.A.) and Allama Shawkani (R.A.) have regarded this as an extreme measure which was occasionally adopted by the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhu) to ensure that the row is straight.

In fact, a hadith of Hazrat Anas (radhiallahu anhu) makes it absolutely clear that this practice was merely a measure adopted BEFORE the salah to ensure the straightening of the row. He says: “If I had to do that (join the ankles) with anyone of them (the tabi’een) today, they would run like wild mules”. [Fath al-Bari, vol.2, pg.176]

This simply means that the taabi’een severely disliked that anybody should join their ankles with them. Several points are understood from this: Firstly, Hazrat Anas (radhiallahu anhu) had stopped doing this completely. Had this been a sunnah and not just a manner of ensuring that the saff was straight, it is impossible that Hazrat Anas (radhiallahu anhu) would have left it out merely upon somebody disliking it.

Secondly, the taabi’een would never have disliked it if they had observed many of the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum) continuously practicing upon this. It was only due to the fact that they had not generally observed the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum) adopting this procedure that they disliked it. Hence this makes it crystal clear that the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum) had only occasionally adopted this practice to ensure the straightening of the saff. It was not a sunnah in itself, otherwise they would never have left it out.

It has already been made clear that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) never himself instructed the joining of the ankles, nor is there any mention of the Sahaba (radhiallahu anhum) having maintained this position even IN salah. However, if for a moment we do accept that this position must be adopted during the course of the salah as well, the question is: In which posture of salah must this position be maintained? Must it be maintained during qiyam, ruku, sajdah and qada or in only some of these postures? If one says that the ankles should be joined only in the qiyam posture, on what basis were the other postures excluded? If it is argued that it is difficult to do so in ruku and sajdah, the same could be said for qiyam, since to stand with one’s feet spread apart is naturally awkward and hence it presents a certain amount of difficulty and uneasiness for many people.

In short, this practice is not established as a sunnah of salah. It was merely adopted initially by the Sahaba (radiallahu anhum) BEFORE the commencement of salah to ensure that the rows are straight.

COMMENT

Abul Qaasim Jadli (rahmatullah alayh) said :I heard Nu’maan Bin Basheer (radhiyallahu anhu) say: ‘Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) turned towards the people (the musallis) and say three times: ‘By Allah! Most certainly, you should straighten your sufoof otherwise Allah will create discord in your hearts.’ Thereafter I saw that a man would attach his shoulder to the shoulder of his companion (the one standing alongside), his knee to the knee of his companion and his ankle to the ankle of his companion. (Bukhari & Abu Dawood)

If we take the literal meaning of this hadith which a few people( WAHABIS) take , then we have to join our knee with the knee of the person standing next to us in suhoof, which is PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE if the two person are of different height, because the height of knee from ground will be different for two person of different height.( I really tried this!)

These people who take literal meaning fail to answer thisIn the endeavour to sustain the practice of stretching the legs wide open while performing Salaat, the Salafis have gone to the extreme of adopting this ugly stance even when performing Salaat alone.

The Salafis claim that it is Sunnah to stretch the legs wide apart and for a musalli’s toes to touch the toes of the musalli standing alongside him in the saff. This ludicrous position is imposed by the Salafis on even women who are obliged to stand with their legs wide open. What an ugly, miserable and immodest stance for a woman to adopt? A woman is an object of concealment according to the statement of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). When she has to stretch her legs wide open, she adopts the stance of lewd and shameless women. Throughout Salaat, a woman’s postures are to be constricted — made small and drawn in, not asserted like a man asserts and expresses his actions during Salaat.

COMMENT

Hadhrat Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrated that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: Join your sufoof and draw close among yourselves and line up with the necks. Reported by Abu Dawood and Nisai. Authenticated by Ibn Hibbaan. (Bulooghul Maraam)–*I’laaus SunnanSo the hadeeth tells up to line with Necks and not touch necks.

Even if the hadith tells us to LINE NECK ( AND NOT TOUCH) how woould WAHABIS explain this that if two brothers of different height are standing next to each other in a line during salah then their NECK WOULD not be in a straight line, rather the neck of the shorter person will be near the chest of the taller person, making NECKS in zig zag path rather than a straight line!

It is for this reason that the title of a chapter in Sahih al-Bukhari ‘Chapter on the Joining of the Shoulders and Feet Together Whilst Forming the Rows’ has been classified by Hafiz Ibn Hajar to be based on exaggeration. He writes in his commentary Fath al-Bari,

[Imam Bukhari’s] reason for choosing this specific title is to exaggerate (mubalagha) the importance of straightening the rows and filling the gaps in between. (Fath al-Bari2:247).

This means that the narration is not to be taken literally. Imam Shawkani, who is constantly referred to by those who prefer not to follow a school of thought( wahabis) in Islamic jurisprudence, has not taken it for its literal interpretation either. He writes in his bookNayl al-awtar:

[The statement of the Companion] means, place the parts of the body [shoulders, etc.] in line with each other, so that the shoulder of each person performing prayer is in level with the shoulder of the next person. This way everyone’s shoulders, knees and feet will be in a single straight line (Nayl al-awtar3:65*).In clear words, this indicates that the real reason for joining the shoulders and other parts, was to straighten the rows, not that the joining itself is an obligatory act.

COMMENT

Even one of the recent WAHABI scholar (Shaykh Salih al-‘Uthaymin) says this

س234: ما المعتمد في إقامة الصفوف؟ وهل يشرع للمصلي أن يلصق كعبه بكعب من بجانبه؟ أفتونا مأجورين؟الجواب: الصحيح أن المعتمد في تسوية الصف محاذاة الكعبين بعضهما بعضاً، لا رؤوس الأصابع، وذلك لأن البدن مركب على الكعب، والأصابع تختلف الأقدام فيها، فهناك القدم الطويل، وهناك القدم القصير، فلا يمكن ضبط التساوي إلا بالكعب .وأما إلصاق الكعبين بعضهما ببعض فلا شك أنه وارد عن الصحابة –رضي الله عنهم- فإنهم كانا يسوون الصفوف بإلصاق الكعبين بعضهما ببعض ، أي أن كل واحد منهم يلصق كعبه بكعب جاره لتحقق المحاذاة وتسوية الصف، فهو ليس مقصوداً لذاته لكنه مقصود لغيره كما ذكر بعض أهل العلم، ولهذا إذا تمت الصفوف وقام الناس ينبغي لكل واحد أن يلصق كعبه بكعب صاحبه لتحقق المساواة، وليس معنى ذلك أن يلازم هذا الإلصاق ويبقى ملازماً له في جميع الصلاة . ومن الغلو في هذه المسألة ما يفعله بعض الناس من كونه يلصق كعبه بكعب صاحبه ويفتح قدميه فيما بينهما حتى يكون بينه وبين جاره في المناكب فرجة فيخالف السنة في ذلك، والمقصود أن المناكب والأكعب تتساوى

Question: What is the relied-upon position regarding the straightening of the rows (sufuf)? Is it prescribed for the praying person to join his ankle (ka’b) to the ankle of the person next to him? Please give us the fatwa, may you be rewarded.

Answer: That which is correct is that the relied-upon position regarding the straightening of the row is that the ankles should be in line with each other, not the ends of the toes, and that is because the body is supported upon the ankle, and the feet differ in regard to the toes, because some feet are long, and some feet are short. So it is impossible to ensure straightness except by the ankles (i.e. by the ankles being in line with each other).

As for joining the ankles to the ankles of the others, then no doubt this is reported from the Sahabah, radhiyallahu ‘anhum, for they would straighten the rows by joining ankles, that is, every one of them would join his ankle with the ankle of his neighbour to ensure being line, and the straightness of the row. So it is not meant as an aim in itself, but rather as a means of achieving another aim, as some of the people of knowledge have mentioned. Therefore, when the rows are completed and the people are standing, it is befitting for every one of them to join his ankle to the ankle of his companion to ensure straightness. It does not mean that he should continue this joining and remain so for the whole salah.

From the extremism that has occurred with regard to this issue is what is done by some people in that one of them will join his ankle to the ankle of his companion, and he will spread his feet so far apart until there is a gap between his shoulder and the shoulder of his companion, so he will oppose the Sunnah by doing that. But the aim is that the shoulders and ankles should be in line with each other.