The Forgotten Sunnah In Prayer: Like The Angel’s Rows
Author: Tanzilul Furqan
(Graduates of Ma’had Ali Al-Imam Asy-Syafii Jember, Indonesia)
Dear readers, may Allah have mercy upon you, in this edition, we’ll discuss about a topic that is tightly related with prayer in congregation, that is, to tighten and straighten the rows of prayer (shalat).
Why shall we discuss it?
There are several reasons why it is important to discuss about it, among which are:
- How this noble sunnah is considered as foreign concept to many people
It is a reality among our society these days that they have adopt the habit of loosening the rows, and they do not stand except on their own mat (sajadah), feeling uneasy and awkward if their brother muslim tries to put his feet right next to them, adhere to their feet. It even arises misunderstandings that lead to hatred and violence, to the extent that in a certain region, there was a beating happened to a man who tried to put his foot right next to his brother’s foot who prayed next to him, because that brother assumed he was an effeminate man. Subhanallah! Only to Allah alone we weep about the alienation of practicing this noble part of shari’a. Al Allamah (one with profound knowledge) Shiddiq Hasan Khan recounted what happened during his lifetime. He said, “in These days, even before that in the past, This evident and sound sunnah has been neglected, as if it has been erased, thus it is almost unseen in prayer or mosque… Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.” (See: As-Siraj Wahhaj 2/292)
- To prevent misunderstanding from the very beginning
If we do not correct this misunderstanding, it will be assumed as a guidance which our children and common people, from one generation after another, will imitate.
- Being noble by practicing the sunnah
Islam is noble and beautiful, and the more its teaching become known and practiced, the more its beauty will shine. Islam is sunnah, and sunnah is Islam. Muslims will have their honor and confidence if they are being steadfast on practicing sunnah. Leader of the muslims, Umar Ibn Khattab, expressed his pride by saying, “We are lowly and ignoble people – without Islam, until Allah ennobled us with Islam. Thus if we seek for nobility from outside Islam, Allah will despise us.” (See: Tabsiratul Anam bi Al-Huquq fi Al-Islam- Shaleh bin Thaha Abdul wahid, page 207).
Row of the Angels
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “Verily we range ourselves in rows (as humble servants).” (Chapter As-Shaffat : 165).
Qatada said, “The angels form their rows in the sky.” (See: Tafsir Ibnu Katsir : 7/ 5).
How do the angels range their rows? Jabir Ibn Samurah said that one day, the Messenger of Allah came out to us, saying, “Don’t you want to range row as the angels’ rows in the side of their Lord?”. We asked, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah, then how is the angels’ rows in the side of their Lord?”.He answered, “They perfected the first row and are tight in their rows.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 430, and Abu Daud no. 661, An Nisai no. 815, Ibn Maja no. 992, and Imam Ahmad in his musnad, book 2/95),
Row of Prayer, A Special Characteristic of the Muslims
Brothers -may Allah have mercy upon you all-, know that the row in prayer is an exclusivity that Allah bestowed upon this followers of this religion, since by doing it, they resemble the row of the angels in the sky.
From Khudzaifa, he said that the Messenger of Allah has declared that, “We are being regarded as special compared to other nations with three things : Our rows is made as the rows of the angels…” (Narrated by Muslim in his book of valid hadith, book of Imama/Leadership, part 2, page 43. Albani included it in his work, Shahih An-Nasa’i, part 1 page 178; he said that it is valid hadith).
Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir narrated from Abu Nadhrah, he said, “It was Umar, who, when iqamat has been announced, stood facing the congregation and said,’ Tighten and straighten your rows! Verily, Allah wish you to imitate the trait of the angels’ rows’ and he recited the verse, ‘Verily we range ourselves in rows (as humble servants).” (He said again), “Retrear, O so-and-so, and forward, O so-and-so.” Then he move to the front and recited takbeer (See: Tafsir Ibnu Katsir part 7, page 43).
Order to Straighten the Row
There are numerous hadith that contain the order to uphold this sunnah, such as,
From Anas, (he said that) the Messenger of Allah said, “Tighten your rows, bring yourselves closer one another and align your shoulders. By Allah, Who has my soul in His hand, indeed, I see satan slip between your rows like a small, black goat.” (Narrated by Abu Daud no. 667, classified as sound hadith by Sheikh Al Bani in his work, Shahih Abu Daud 3 / 245)
From Anas, he said that the Messenger of Allah said, “Straighten your rows, indeed, the tidiness of rows is among the perfection of praying.” (Narrated by Bukhari no. 723)
From Ibn Mas’ud, he said that the Messenger of Allah said, “Straighten the rows, and do not clash one another, because it will cause a clash among your hearts.” (Narrated by Muslim no. 432).
From Ibn Umar, (he said that) the Messenger of Allah said, “Straighten your rows, align your shoulders, fill the blank (loose) row, be gentle to your brothers, and do not leave any blank space for satan. Whoever continue the row, Allah will do the same to him, and whoever break it up, Allah will break him up.” (Narrated by Abu Daud no. 666 and classified as sound hadith by Albani in Shahih Abu Dawud 3/243).
Based on these hadith, we could figure our the gravity of this matter. How it is not, if the Messenger of Allah had explained and emphasized its importance in different contexts. Will an honest muslim who knows about this order, dare to belittle it? Where have the heart of the muslims gone, in expressing their love to the Messenger of Allah? May Allah ease us all to follow the sunnah of His messenger.
Threats for People who Are Careless of the Row
Brothers – may Allah give me and you His guidance-. The Messenger of Allah didn’t just order us to tidy up our row, but he also threatened those who disobey with a very harsh treat.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Verily, you are willing to tidy up your rows, or else Allah will spark feud among you.” (Narrated by Bukhari no. 717 and Muslim no. 436)
Imam ash Shon’ani commented in “Subulus Salam” 3/84, after bringing upon some hadith regarding this matter, “The previous hadith and what lies in it of threat point out how it is compulsory to tidy up the row in prayer, however, pity that many people disparage it.”
Pearl of Wisdoms
Al Imam Ibn Katsir asy Syafii commented, while explaining about chapter Ash Shaf no. 4, “As if they are a strongly built building.” He quoted a saying of Qatada, “Don’t you see the building owner, how he doesn’t want it to be unbalanced? Likewise, Allah is pleased if His order is done in balance. Indeed, Allah had arranged the rows of the believers during their battle and their prayer. Thus, it is compulsory for you to hold onto Allah’s order, because verily, that is an ismah (guarantee of being protected from doing mistake), for whoever wishes to take it.” (Narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim, see: Tafsir Ibnu Katsir part 8 page 81).
How to straighten the Row
Indeed, the companions are the most knowledgeable, and comprehend the best of the meaning of straightening the row.
Anas Ibn Malik said that the Messenger of Allah said, “Straighten your rows for I see you from behind my back.” Anas added, “Everyone of us used to put his shoulder with the shoulder of his companion and his foot with the foot of his companion.” (Narrated by Bukhari no. 725)
Al Hafidz Ibn Hajar al Asqalani Asy Syafii said in “Fathul Barri 2/247,”, This narration points out that the act was practiced during the time of the Prophet. Hence, this hadith may serve as an indication to explain the meaning of straightening the row and its trait..”
In another narration, there’s a addition from Anas Ibn Malik, “Had you practiced it today, you’ll certainly see one of them (the people) as if he is a donkey tortured by hot weather.” (See: Silsilah Al-Ahadits ash Shahihah page 31).
And that is the reality among our society, what he said is indeed happening, and it is one of the signs of his prophethood.
Several Important Cautions regarding The prayer row
- Praying between pillar
Abdul Hamid Ibn Mahmud said, “I ever performed prayer with Anas Ibn Malik, then we were cornered to a pillar, thus we move forward and backward.” Anas said, “During the time of the Prophet, we avoided such thing.” (Narrated by Abu Daud, Nisa’i, Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban, with a valid narration. See: As-Shahihah 1/656).
- Pulling another person to align row with
None of the hadith regarding this act is valid; rather, the correct act is either to join the row if it is possible, or pray alone behind the row if it is not, and the prayer is valid.” (see: Ad-Dha’ifah 2/322 by Al Bani).
Some negative impacts of this pulling are:
- Retreating a person from a better place.
- Creating gap in between row, whereas we are ordered to close it
- Disturbing concentration (devotion to prayer)
- Worshipping without any sound basis
(See: Taudhihul Ahkam 2 / 509 by Sheikh Alu Bassam ).
- Position of Imam with only one follower (makmum)
Among the mistakes that often occurred repeatedly if there’s only one follower is that the imam move and stand a bit forward; what’s right is their positions is in one align, as Ibn Abbas did when he prayed with the Messenger of Allah. Imam Bukhari made a chapter for this hadith, “Chapter: If there’s only imam and a follower, then the follower stands on the right side of imam, in align with him.” Thus, it is neither moving forward or backward. See the explanation by Ibn Hajar in Fathul Bari 2/223.
- Who is the most rightful of the first row, nearest to Imam
The Messenger of Allah said, “I wish that the one who stand behind me among you is the best of you and the smart one, then next and next…” (narrated by Muslim no. 432).
Imam Nawawi Asy Syafi’i explained that, “In this hadith, it is suggested to prioritize a person whose position near the Imam, because he is more prominent and respected, and who knows, probably the imam needs him to replace himself, remind him when he forgets that none beside him could do, and so that they understand the characteristic of prayer, preserve it, inform and teach people of it, so that people behind him will follow his example, thus he is more rightful to be prioritized.” (See: Sharah Shahih Muslim-Imam Nawawi for hadith no.432 ).
Last but not least, I’d like to bring up the appeal and advice of the expert of hadith of this century, Sheikh Muhammad Nashiruddin al Albani, to the muslims particularly the imams of the mosque. “Verily, I appeal to muslims, particularly the imams of the mosque who are attempting to follow the example of the Prophet and wishing to obtain reward of reviving the sunnah, to practice this noble sunnah devotedly and call to people to perform it, hence they’ll be free from the threat. (See: Silsilah Ahadits As-Shahihah 1/73 ).
Hope this article is useful for you.