Keeping the Lines Straight in Salah

It was narrated from Anas ibn Maalik that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Make your rows straight for I can see you behind my back.” 

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 686; Muslim, 425. 

It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Make your rows straight, stand shoulder to shoulder and close the gaps, and do not resist your brothers’ hands. Do not leave any gaps for the Shaytaan. Whoever complete a row, Allaah will reward him, and whoever breaksa row, Allaah will forsake him.

Abu Dawood said: What is meant by “Do not resist your brothers’ hands” is that a man should be easy-going if his brother pushes him forwards or backwards to make the row straight. (‘Awn al-Ma’bood).

Narrated by Abu Dawood, 666; al-Nasaa’i, 819. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 620.

It was narrated that al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned to face the people and said, ‘Straighten your rows,’ three times, ‘for by Allaah either you straighten your rows or Allaah will create division among your hearts.’ And I saw men standing shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, ankle to ankle.”
Narrated by Abu Dawood, 662; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 616.

Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd said:

One of the new things that we see some people doing, with no evidence in sharee’ah, is that in prayer they try to align themselves with a person on the right if they are on the right hand side of the row, or to align themselves with a person on their left if they are on the left hand side of the row, and they turn their feet inward so that their ankles are touching the ankles of the people next to them.

This is something for which there is no basis in sharee’ah and it is going to the extreme in implementing the Sunnah. This is wrong on two counts.

The alignment of the row should begin from where the imam is standing. Whoever is on the right of the row should align himself by looking at those who are to his left (i.e., closer to the imam). Thus the line will be straightened and the gaps will be filled. Alignment is done by lining up necks, shoulders and ankles, and by completing the front rows.

But to try to spread the legs wide and turn the feet inward so that one’s ankles touch one’s neighbours’ ankles is an obvious mistake and an exaggeration, and a new interpretation which is indicative of going to extremes in trying to apply the Sunnah. It causes annoyance and is not prescribed in sharee’ah, and it widens the gaps between people standing in prayer.

That becomes apparent when the people prostrate, and when they stand up again they become distracted in trying to fill the gaps and turning their feet to make their ankles touch their neighbours’ ankles, which makes them miss out on what they should be doing, which is to make the toes point in the direction of the qiblah.

Doing that is like competing with one’s neighbour and trying to take his place. All of that is not prescribed in sharee’ah.

Laa jadeed fi Ahkaam al-Salaah, 12. 13.

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