Salat (namaaz) or prayer is one of the most important pillars of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) warned that the first thing man will be questioned about on the Day of Resurrection is prayer. Abu Hurairah said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying:
The first act of worship man shall be questioned about on the Day of Resurrection is prayer. If it was performed correctly1, man shall certainly succeed and prosper, if it is not, he shall certainly lose and fail. If, however, man’s prayer was incomplete, the Lord, the Exalted, would say (to His Angels), “See if my slave performed supererogatory (nafl) prayers to make up what he had missed of the obligatory prayers. The rest of man’s deeds will be reckoned in the same manner2.
Buraidah reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, The covenant3 which is between us and those (who embrace Islam) is prayer. Whoso neglects it, becomes an unbeliever4.
On the other hand, Allah has prepared great rewards for the believers who observe prayer and are particular about it. Perfect prayer effaces sins. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Have you considered, a river running by the door of you in which he bathes five times a day; would any of his dirt stay on him? They said “None of his dirt would stay on him.” The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said So does Salah; therewith Allah eliminates sins5.
Therefore, brothers and sisters it is very important to be regular on prayer, and perform it correctly. One may perform prayer according to the way he was taught by his parents or sheikh, according to their madthhab. But you should always remember that it is only the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) who must be followed. The angels will not ask you, while in the grave, “Did you follow this imaam or that imaam?” Your imaam will not be with you then, nor will he defend you on the Day of Resurrection.
The traditions quoted here, and in every issue of Ad-Deen an-Naseehah, are authentic. Anyone who rejects the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) exposes himself to destruction, as stated by Imaam Ahmed.
The following are some common errors committed by Muslims in their Salah. These errors must be avoided hoping that Allah would accept this act of worship and reward us for it.
1) Wearing pants, or garments that hangs below the ankles.
This is one of the greatest sins. Abu Dtharr reported that the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, There are three people whom Allah shall not speak to on the Day of Resurrection, nor shall he look at them, nor shall he purify them, and they shall have a painful torment: One whose garment hangs down below his ankles, almanaan6, and (a merchant) who sells of his merchandise by means of false oath7.
Some people think that wearing clothes that hang below the ankles is not a sin if they abstain from doing so while praying only. Others think that wearing such a garment is a sin only if it is worn out of pride; otherwise, they believe there is no harm in doing so. However, the above and many other traditions indicate clearly that wearing clothes that hang below the ankles (for men) is a grave sin regardless of whether such garments are worn out of habit or pride. There are other authentic traditions that emphasize wearing clothing that hangs below the ankles out of pride entails harsher punishment. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said The part of the garment which hangs below the ankles is (punishable by) Fire (on the Day of Resurrection)8.
It is commonplace to see brothers folding up the hems of their pants for prayer. However, as soon as prayer is completed, they unfold their pants. The belief that wearing garments that hang below the ankles is prohibited during prayers only is a misconception commonly held by many Muslims. Such Muslims are unaware that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) forbade praying with folded clothes9. Based on this prohibition, scholars have agreed that praying with folded sleeves or pants is unlawful.
2) Consuming food of bad smell such has garlic or onion, or smoking10 before coming to prayer.
Angels and the praying people are bothered by offensive smell. On the contrary, one should wear perfume, if available before coming into mosques. Jabir reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: He who eats from the smelly plant [garlic or onion], let him come not near our mosque; the angels are bothered by that which bothers men11.
3) Proceeding to mosque for prayer with brisk walk, or even running for fear of missing part of the prayer.
This may disturb those who are already in prayer. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: When prayer has already started, do not walk quickly to join in. Proceed calmly and reposefully; then join in whichever part you catch up, and complete whichever part you missed (i.e., soon after the imaam ends the prayer)12.
4) Saying Takbeer al-Ihram while in rukoo’.
Many of those who come late to the mosque and join in prayer which is already in progress, rush to take the same posture, while people are in rukoo’, and say takbeer al-Ihram, or the opening takbeer of prayer while bowing for fear of missing that ruk’ah. Takbeer al-Ihram is to be pronounced when one is standing upright, only.
5) Mumbling the niyyah or intention, and uttering it in a low audible voice.
The heart is the place of intention. Mumbling words such as “I intend to pray such prayer or such number of rak’aat, or I intend to fast, or do such act of worship or another,” just before starting prayer is a bid’ah which was practiced neither by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) nor his companions, nor by their followers.
Uttering the above words of niyyah allows shaitaan to put irrelevant words in the mouth of the person who utters the niyyah. Do you remember at one time or another that once you stood up for dhuhr prayer and discovered yourself saying, “I intend to pray four rak’aat of Isha,” or when you were standing for Asr prayer you made your intention to pray fajr instead? This confusion is from shaitan. Had you kept silent, shaitan would have no chance of confusing you.
6) Neglecting raising the hands in the opening takbeer of salah and before and after rukoo’, and upon standing up for the third rak’ah.
Abdullah bin Umar said, “I saw the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) raising his hands to the level of his shoulders, upon starting prayer, and before bending for rukoo’ and when he stood up again13.
Raising hands with every takbeer, subsequent to the first takbeer in janazah, Eed or rain prayers is not recommended. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to put his hands on his chest (while standing in prayer)14.
7) Neglecting the opening du’a of prayer, t’awwudth, and basmalah.
T’awwudth is saying “Aoudhu billahi min ashshaitan ir-rajim” and basmalah is saying “Bismillah hirRahmaan irRaheem.”
8) Neglecting praying facing a sutrah.
The sutrah is an object, such as a wall, or a post, which a person faces while praying. Or any other object which a person places to serve as a sutrah, by putting it on the ground in order that no one may cross in front of him while praying. The Messenger of Allah SAWS said: Pray facing a sutrah, and let no one cross in front of you while praying. If he insists, then prevent him by force because he is accompanied by shaitan15.
And he said: When one of you prays facing a sutrah, let him pray close to it so that shaitan may not be able to nullify his prayer16.
The above tradition indicates clearly that shaitan crosses in front of a praying person who prays without a sutrah, causing his prayer to be null and void without being aware of it. Even if one prays in an open field, he should place a sutrah in front of him.
Allah says: (Verily) He (the shaitan) and his own people see you while you do not see them17.
9) Reluctance to stand in the front line in congregational prayer.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Were people to realize the value of making adthan (the call for prayer), and the great reward (for doing so) and the virtue of standing in the first line (in congregational prayer), and had no choice but to make a draw (to decide who makes adthan or stands in the first line) they would have justifiably done so. And were people to know the significance of coming early to (congregational) prayer, they would have raced with one another (to reach the mosque first). And if they were to know the great reward (for coming to mosque) for Isha’ and Fajr prayers, they would have come even if they had to crawl (i.e. even if they were disabled, they would have come crawling for fear of missing its great reward.)18.
10) Gazing upward during prayer, or looking at the imam, right or left.
This may cause loss of concentration. We are commanded to lower our gaze, and look at the point at which the head rests during sujood. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) warned: Let those who raise their gaze up during prayer stop doing so, or else their sights would not return to them. [i.e. lose their eyesight]. (Muslim)
11) Leaving gaps in lines of congregational prayer.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded: Straighten your lines, level your shoulders and block the gaps. Shaitan passes through [line] gaps19.
12) Reciting surat al-Fatiha fast without pausing after each verse.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to pause after each verse of this surah20.
13) Fidgeting during prayer, or looking at a watch or fiddling with one’s fingers, clothes or moving feet or other parts of the body restlessly.
All of this diminish the reward for prayer. Submissiveness is a condition of acceptance of prayer. Allah’s command signifies: And stand [in prayer] to Allah submissively21.
14) Holding the Qur’an and reciting from it by the muqtadi in congregational prayer to check the imam’s recitation.
This act distracts the person who is doing so and prevents him from concentration. It is a dispraised act during salah.
15) Racing with the imam, or moving with or before him in congregational prayer.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Move not before the imam does. When the imam says. Allahu akbar, you say, Allahu akbar. When he says, waladh-dhalleen’ you say, aameen. In another narration, he said: Surely the imam is there to be followed22. He also said: Does not the one who raises his head before the imam does fear that Allah would transform his head into a donkey’s head23.
16) Lowering the head excessively, or pushing it up, and arching the back during rukoo’.
The head must be kept in normal position, while the back must be straight during rukoo’ to form with legs a right angle.
17) Sticking the arms to the sides of the body, in rukoo’ or sujood, and sticking the belly to the thighs in sujood.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Let not one of you support himself on his forearms (in sujood ) like the dog. Let him rest on his palms and keep his elbows away from his body24. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to keep his arms away from his body during rukoo’ and sujood that the whiteness of his armpits could be seen25.
18) Praying while part of the back is exposed.
This happens to those who wear tight and short shirts or tight pants; when they bow or prostrate, part of their backs are exposed. Such part of the body is awrah, or the part which must be covered always. Exposing part of the back during salah, renders salah null and void.
19) Neglecting ta’meen (to say ‘Aameen) loudly when the imam recites the concluding verse of surat al-Fatiha, “waladh-dhalleen”.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded: When the imam says, ‘waladh-dhalleen’, say ‘Aameen’, because the angels also say, ‘Aameen’, and the imam says, ‘Aameen’. He whose aameen coincides with the aameen of the angels, Allah forgives his past sins26. In another narration, the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Then say, ‘Aameen’, Allah loves you27.
20) Resting only the tip of the head on the floor during sujood.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: I am commanded to prostrate on seven bones the forehead and the nose, the two hands [palms], the two knees, and the two feet28. Applying the above command necessitates resting the forehead and the nose on the ground during sujood.
21) Hasty performance of prayer which does not allow repose and calmness in rukoo’ or sujood.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saw a man who did not complete his rukoo’ [bowing], and made a very short sujood [prostration]; he said: If this man dies while praying in this manner, he would die upholding a religion other than the religion of Muhammad. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, said: My beloved friend, Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) forbade me to perform postures of prayer copying the picking of a rooster; (signifying fast performance of prayer), moving eyes around like a fox and the sitting like monkeys (i.e. to sit on thighs)29.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: The worst thief is the one who steals from his own prayer. People asked, ‘Messenger of Allah! How could one steal from his own prayer?’ He said: By not completing its rukoo’ and sujood30.
To complete rukoo’ is to stay in that posture long enough to recite ‘subhana rabbiyal Adtheem’ three times, slowly, and ‘subhana rabbiyal-a’ala’ three times, slowly, in sujood. He also announced: He who does not complete his rukoo’ and sujood, his prayer is void31.
22) Sitting in tawarruk position in the last rak’ah of Fajr and Jum’ah prayers.
It is praiseworthy to take tawarruk position only in the last rak’ah of Dhtuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha’ prayers. Tawarruk is described in Sahih al-Bukhari as resting the body, during sitting position, on the left thigh and putting the left foot under the right leg, while setting the right foot upright; and supporting the body by the left hand with which the left knee is grasped. See the accompanying diagram, which was hand-drawn (not copied) after looking at “The Reliance of the Traveler.”
23) Moving the two palms upon saying, ‘assalamu aleikum warahmatul-lah’ to end prayer.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saw some of his companions doing so. He objected: Why do I see you moving your hands like the tails of wild horses. They never did that again32.
24) Counting tasbeeh with the left hand.
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to count tasbeeh on the fingers of his right hand after salah. Abdullah bin Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, (There are) two good deeds, any Muslim who does them shall enter Jannah but few are those who do them: to say, “subhanAllah” ten times, and “alHamdulillah” ten times, and “AllahuAkbar” ten times. And I have seen the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) counting them on his hand. lbn Qudamah said: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used his right hand for tasbeeh33.
The above hadeeth indicates clearly that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used only one hand for counting tasbeeh. No Muslim with sound mind would imagine that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used his left hand for counting tasbeeh. Aa’ishah, with whom Allah is pleased, said that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used his left hand only for Istinjaa’, or cleaning himself after responding to the call of nature. He never used it for tasbeeh. Yasirah reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded women to count tasbeeh on their fingers.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: They (the fingers) will be made to speak, and will be questioned (on the Day of Resurrection.)34
The above hadeeth indicates that it is preferable to count tasbeeh on the fingers of the right hand than to do so on masbahah (rosary).
25) Shaking hands with other praying people right after fardh prayer is over, saying, ‘taqabbala-llah’, or ‘haraman’
This is a bid’ah which was never practiced by the Prophet’s companions or their followers, may Allah be pleased with them.
26) Raising hands for dua’ soon as prayer is over.
This was not the practice of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam). The Sunnah is to start with dthikr soon after salah is over. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: When you recite, ‘At-tahiyyat…’, (just before tasleem), choose whichever du’a you like35.
The best forms of du’a are those authentically related to the Prophet, (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam).. Insha’ Allah, we will publish the authentic du’a masnoon, soon.
27) Walking away right after tasleem, at the end of prayer, and neglecting dthikr.
Dthikr is reciting subhanal-Lah 33 times, alhamdu Lilah 33 times Allahu Akbar 33 times, reciting La ilaha illal-Laah 10 times reciting ayat al-Kursi [i.e. verse 255 of surah 2 al Baqarah], or other authentic dthikr.
28) Crossing in front of a praying person.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) warned: Were the one who crosses in front of a praying person to know the consequences of doing so, he would have waited for forty better than to cross in front of him36. The forty in the tradition may be days months or even years. Allah knows best.
29) Neglecting prayer when one is sick or ill.
Salah is one of the most important pillars of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) never neglected it during his sickness, nor while combating enemies. Prayer must be performed regardless. If one cannot perform ablution for one legal reason or another, then he must perform dry ablution tayammum by patting with his palms a dusty surface, then wiping the face and hands. If he cannot stand up in prayer, he may pray while sitting or lying down on his side. Otherwise, it is enough for him to pray by moving his eyes up for rukoo’ and down for sujood, and complete the rest of the prayer postures in the same manner.
30) Praying in a graveyard.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: Pray not in graveyards, nor sit on graves37.
The format of prayer is enjoined by the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam). No imam or a scholar has the right to alter it by adding to or deleting from it. There is no book of authentic hadeeth or Prophetic tradition reporting that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded men to pray in one way, and women in another. He commanded: Pray as you saw me praying38. The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) did not differentiate between men and women in prayer.
Some scholars opine that it is better for women to gather themselves in sujood. As every body knows, prayer is an act of worship, and like every other act of worship, there must be a textual proof for it in the Qur’an or the authentic Sunnah. A future issue of Naseehah will, insha’Allah, include the format of prayer as reported in the authentic traditions. Let us pray to Allah, extolled be His glory, seeking His forgiveness, and asking him to guide us to the straight path. Aameen.