Hadiths Concerning the Prayer Ranks  and the Sutra

In the Muslim world it is striking to see the figures going through their prostrations at the rising of the sun, with the uniformity and regularity of clockwork; but it resembles the worship of machines rather than that of reasonable beings” (Dean Stanley).


We list below further examples of the prayer ranks many taken from Sahih Muslim.

 

The rows are an imitation of the heavenly scene

> “Jabir b. Samura reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) came to us and said: How is it that I see you lifting your hands like the tails of headstrong horses? Be calm in prayer. He (the narrator) said: He then again came to us and saw us (sitting) in circles; he said: How is it that I see you in separate groups? He (the narrator) said: He again came to us and said: Why don’t you draw yourselves up in rows as angels do in the presence of their Lord? We said: Messenger of Allah, how do the angels draw themselves up in rows in the presence of their Lord? He (the Holy Prophet) said: They make the first rows complete and keep close together in the row. (Muslim Book 4, Number 864)

 

The need for the rows to be straight – Muslims state that  irregular rows in prayer are a sign of slackness in discipline which would lead to dissension and distrust.

> “Anas b. Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Straighten your rows. for the straightening of a row is a part of the perfection of prayer. (Muslim Book 4, Number 87)

> “Nu’man b. Bashir reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace-be upon him) used to straighten our rows as it he were straightening an arrow with their help until he saw that we had learnt it from him. One day he came out, stood up (for prayer) and was about to say: Allah is the Greatest, when he saw a man, whose chest was bulging out from the row, so he said: Servants of Allah, you must straighten your rows or Allah would create dissension amongst you. (Muslim Book 4, Number 87)

> Here is the tradition cited from al Nasai Volume 1, pp 173 and 186-187 and also Houdas‘Al Bukhari (French translation) p. 243; Anas states that the Prophet said:” Observe your ranks, for I can see you from behind my back.” “Each one of us put his shoulder in touch with his neighbour’s and his foot with that of his neighbour.”

 

Merit is obtained through making straight rows

> “Hammam b. Munabbih reported: This is what was transmitted to us by Abu Huraira from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and, while making a mention of a few ahadith, said: (The Messenger of Allah directed us thus): Establish rows in prayer, for the making of a row (straight) is one of the merits of prayer. (Muslim Book 4, Number 873)

 

The salutation to the Muslim brother on the right and left flank

>”Jabir b. Samura reported: When we said prayer with the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), we pronounced: Peace be upon you and Mercy of Allah, peace be upon you and Mercy of Allah, and made gesture with the hand on both the sides. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him said: What do you point out with your hands as if they are the tails of headstrong horses? This is enough for you that one should place one’s hand on one’s thigh and then pronounce salutation upon one’s brother on the right side and then on the left. (Muslim Book 4, Number 866)

 

The rows prevent the entrance of Satan – The forming of ranks in Muslim prayers as they face the Mihrab is most important and therefore they are extremely careful of it. There are many traditions in this respect which can only have relation to belief in Jinn. For example, not only must worshippers stand in a row, but in a mosque it is considered most important to stand so close together that nothing can possibly pass between.

> “In prayer there should be no gaps in the ranks of the worshippers lest Satan come between.”(Al Nasai Volume 1 p.131).

 

Objects used in ensuring direction of prayer is correct

> “Ibn Umar reported: When the Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) went out on the ‘Id day, he ordered to carry a spear and it was fixed in front of him, and he said prayer towards its (direction), and the people were behind him. And he did it in the journey, and that is the reason why the Amirs carried it.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1010)

> “Ibn ‘Umar said: The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) used to place his camel (towards the Ka’ba) and said prayer in its direction.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1012)

 

The Sutra – Sutrah – lit. “That wherewith anything is concealed or covered.” Something put up before one engaged in prayer facing Mecca, to prevent others from intruding upon his devotions. It may be a stick or anything a cubit in height and an inch in thickness (Dictionary of Islam). Muslims additionally comment that Sutra means a covering or screen. An object a worshipper places before him when engaged in prayer so that there should be a sort of screen between him and other passers by in front of him.

> “When any one of you says his prayers, he must have something in front of him, but if he cannot find anything for that purpose, he must put his walking stick into the ground; but if the ground be hard, then let him place it lengthways in front of him; but if he has no staff, he must draw a line on the ground, after which there will be no detriment in the prayers from anyone passing in front of it.” (Liturgical prayers Mishkat Book 4).

> “Musa b. Talha reported it on the authority of his father: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When one of you places in front of him some thing such as the back of a saddle, he should pray without caring who passes on the other side of it. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1006)

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