Chapter Three: Offering Salat with open hands
Think about this matter from an outside perspective. Non Muslims will no doubt mock the fact that Muslims are still not able to ascertain how the Prophet (s) prayed. Consider this. After the declaration of Prophethood, the Prophet was alive for 23 years, which means that He (s) must have offered Salat infront of the Sahaba atleast 700,000 times, and yet Muslims are still unable to agree on whether the Prophet (s) would pray with his arms open or folded! The confusion is not a new phenomenan; rather it dates back to the Sahaba themselves!
We read in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 664:
That she used to hate that one should keep his hands on his flanks while praying. She said that the Jew used to do so
This tradition shows that there were indeed people (who were either Sahaba or Tabaeen) in times of Aisha, who used to pray while putting their hands at sides (may be on flanks, or may be straight).
So the question is why did these Sahaba or Tabaeen practice in this manner?
Doesnt it show that there were indeed very basic differences between Companions themselves? Is it not a sad irony that the greatest generation of the Salaf ( who had the fortune of sitting in the midst of the Prophet for 23 years with Rasool (saw), were unable to be 100% sure where Rasool (saw) used to put his hands during Salah.
The easiest way to resolve such confusion would be to refer the matter back to Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s) as is stipulated in the Qur’an. Therefore we hereby ask our opponents on the basis of the Qur’an, to show us Qur’anic evidence that the arms should be folded during Salat. Lets turn to the words of the Prophet, about whom ‘Allah (swt) said says in Surah Nisa verse 65
But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction
In light of this instruction consider the guidance of our Prophet (s):
“I am leaving amongst you two things, the Qur’an and my Ahlulbayt, if you follow them you will never go astray”.
Sahih Muslim, part 7, Kitab fada’il alSahabah, Chapter 4 (Fazail-e-Ali Ibne Abi Talib) [Maktabat wa Matba`at Muhammad `Ali Subayh wa Awladuhu: Cairo] pp. 122-123
In light of this Hadeeth it is clear that we need to learn the method of Salat from the Ahl’ul bayt (as). As Maulana Shibli Numani had said in his biography of Abu Haneefa:
We are confident that the act of folding the hands cannot be [proven from the Qur’an nor from Hadeeth which has only nine traditions with chains. We challenge the Ahl’ul Sunnah to bring us a Sahih tradition where in accordance with the rules of Ahl’ul Sunnah, the narrators are all Thiqah
One who offers Salat is like soldier of Allah (swt) and there is absolute consensus that ‘Mehrab’ means the place of war, if an officer tells his soldier to stand to attentyion and he responds by folding his hands, what will his reaction be? If he folds his arms this will be an objectionable act. Similarly Allah (swt) says ‘Qeema Salat’ that means stand striaght for Salat, if our arms are not straight then how is this manner of Salat correct?
If we were to restrict the discussion to the ordinance ‘Qeema Salat’ from the Qur’an, The verse actually means stand straight, not being crooked, always remaining upright, and always being stable etc, this place one at a 90 degree angle. When one does not remain straight in Salat what trust can we have in the rest of the acts associated with Salat?
Islam is the Deen of Fitrah, and Salat is accordingly a natural act. The opening of arms is a natural act. We come into this world in the natural state with our hands straight, and when we die, we also are laid in the grave with hands straight. When we come in this world we come with open hands, when we go back to His Majesty, we go with hands open, and that is how we stand when we are offering prayers, it is the natural state. Folding the arms is not a natural act. Salat by folding the arms is an unnatural act and hence if we ask why it is perfoemed in this way, we neither get a logical response nor a reliable narration. When men perform an unnatural act there needs to be some rational basis for it.
Since Salat is the most superior of acts of worship, and most liked by the creator, an unnatural act connected to it will not be liked by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) declares in Surah Nur verse 041:
Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And Allah knows well all that they do.
The verse proves that Salat is a natural act and is performed with the arms out stretched. There is no Qur’anic evidence to support the unaturual act of closing the arms during Salat. If Mu’awiya’s followers insist on picking fault with the Shi’a Salat, then allow us to throw a challenge down to them:
Show us any verse from the Quran, Hadeeth of the Prophet (s) or Fatwa from your Mufti declaring the act of offereing Salat with the arms open to be an act of Bidah that negates the Salat.
If Nasibi try to counter this asking that we prove the act of opening the hands from the Qur’an, then we will point out, that there is clear evidence of Allah (swt) deeming the traits of closing hands to be of Yahhud, Munafiqs and those that will perish in the Fire on the Day of Judgement.
Condemnation of folding the arms
We read in Holy Quran:
YUSUFALI: "The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse."
This verse stipulates that closing the hands is the sign of a hypocrite and they are condemned in connection with this act. If the hypoctite hadn’t closed his hands Allah (swt) would not have condemned him, hence such an act cannot be incoprprated into an act of worship. When Allah (swt) condemns the closing of hands, then he would not incoprpare this same act into the great act of worship, Salat. The verse is of general application, and is not restricted to a specific individual. At no other times have there been any orders to close the arms such as when conducting, Hajj, giving Zakat, participating in Jihad. This proves that the condemnation of folding the arms is common.
YUSUFALI: “The Jews say: "Allah's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them we have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief.”
Allah (swt) cursed the Jews for saying that His Hands are tied, hence the act of folding hands is a bad act, and whoever attributes this to someone is cursed. This verse can also be linked to Salat, since good deeds cannot no be achieved via closing one’s hands, Salat is a good deed, and hence cannot be be performed by closing the hands. These individuals are astrayed from the correct path, and are criminals and the Muslims should be at distance from their customs, as Allah (swt) advises us:
We read in Surah Qalam verses 35-36:
35. Shall We then treat the (submitting) Muslims like the Mujrimûn (criminals, polytheists and disbelievers, etc.)?
36. What is the matter with you? How judge you?
In light of this verse how can the folding of the arms be correct? Particularly when the method of reading Salat has been set by Allah (swt), then how can He (swt) like the act of folding the arms? The act of folding the hands is like the act of a criminal, when they are brough before the court in handcuffs. Similarly we read in Surah Bani Israil verse 017.029
YUSUFALI: Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard's) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute.
It is clear that Allah (swt) not only hates that act of folding the arms, but He (swt) does not even wish to hear about such an act. Anyone who seeks to associate this to Allah (swt) even by mistake, is worthy of being cursed and his curse is such that both his hands will be tied. This makes it clear that Allah (swt) states both his hands are open, and this refers to the hands of the Prophet (s).
In the Shi’a madhab men and women read Salat differently, men open their arms, placing their hands by their sides. Women open the arms and place them separately, straight infront of them. Non Shi’a men and women fold their arms. We have the words of Allah (swt) in Surah Tauba:
YUSUFALI: The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse.
It is clear that closing the arms is a sign of hypocrites and their men and women have the same method, their arms are folded. Some people translated ‘Yud’ and fist, but we tell them that in the verses of Wudhu Allah (swt) clarifies the meaning of Yud, and this makes matters clear
YUSUFALI: (The stern command will say): "Seize ye him, and bind ye him,
A Momin does not wish to share any similarities with the Jews, likewise folding the hands in the presence of the Creator.
How did the Holy Prophet (s) offer his prayers?
One of the most unfortunate dilemmas of Muslims lies in the fact that the Muslim Sects can still not agree on how the Prophet (s) performed Salat, there is a wide disparity in the way each school prays. This difference is not only between the Shi’as and the Sunnis, but even the sub sects of Sunnis have differences amongst them in this regard.
How can an action performed by the Prophet (s) (which was not done on a few occasions in isolation) cause so much confusion? It is a fact that the Holy Prophet (s) led the congregational prayers five times daily until his last days, yet the Ahl’ul Sunnah perform prayers in five different ways.
Following are the comments of the Sunni scholars on the issue:
1) The Hanafis say that the males should place their right hand over the left and place them below the navel and the females should put their hands on the chest.
2) The Hanbalis are of the view that both the males and the females should put their right palms on the back of their left hands and place them below the navel.
3) The Shafis say that both the males and the females should place their right palms on the back of their left hands and place them above the navel but below the chest, as it is the Sunnah.
Al-fiqa al-Mazahib al-Arba’a, page 399-400, compiled by Allama Abdul Rehman Al-Jazeeri, published by Ulema Academy, Department of Auqaaf, Punjab
4) The early three Sunni Imams were born far away from Madina, but Imam Malik bin Anas was born there, he grew up he saw the elders, the literary people and the scholars of Madina offering prayers with unfolded hands, and therefore he ordered that the prayers be offered likewise. Allama Ghulam Rasool Sa’eedi writes about him in Sharh Muslim.
“According to Imam Malik the prayers should be offered with unfolded hands, he considers the folding of hands as undesirable in obligatory prayers and permissible in Nafl prayers.”
Sharh e Muslim, volume 1, page 590, by Allama Ghulam Rasool Sa’eedi, Published in Lahore
5).The Ahl’ul Hadeeth have graded the traditions in the “Sihah Sittah” on the folding of hands as weak, and place their folded hands on their chests, this act is performed both by their men and women.
Salat ar-Rasool, page 190, compiled by Maulana Muhammad Sadiq Sialkoti, Published in Lahore.
The writing of a Sunni religious scholar from Saudi Arabia, regarding the folding of hands
The uncertaintly over the issue of placement of hands can be best examplified by the statement of Sunni scholar Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Faysal in his book “Namaz e Paighambar (s)” wherein he claims that he started the book sitting in the shadow of the Holy Ka’ba sitting near the “Place of Abraham”, wrote a part of it in the Mosque of “Nabawi” and ended it again sitting in the shadow of the Holy Ka’ba.
Namaz e Paighambar (s), by Sheikh Muhammad Ilyas Faysal, page 300, Taqdeem Muhammad Shafeeq As’ad of Medina University, published by Sunni publications, Lahore
A point to be noted is that on pages 13-23 there are appraisals of the book by many esteemed Sunni scholars such as Maulana Muhammad As’ad Madni’s successor of Sheikh ul Islam Maulana Hussein Ahmed Madni, Dr. Sayyed Sher Ali (PhD Medina University and Ex-Educator in Nabawi Mosque), Maulana Muhammad Malik Kandhalwi, Sheikh al Hadeeth Jamia Ashrafia, Lahore, Maulana Muhammad Abdullah Speaker of central Mosque, Islamabad, and others.
In that book he asks:
“Should hands be folded below the navel or above it? There is no certain and final divine judgement on this, infact there are certain traditions on both the sides which have been discussed by the Hadeeth grading scholars, despite this, the traditions about the placement of hands below the navel seem to be comparatively more authentic and clearer.”
Namaz e Paighambar (s), page 120
The above mentioned statement proves that the Sunnis do not have any conclusive proof for offering prayers with folded hands and the traditions on both the sides are weak, and as far as Sheikh Ilyas’s claim that the traditions about the placement of hands below the navel seem to be more authentic is concerned, the Salafis state Hadeeth purporting the placement of hands on the chest being more authentic and those about placing the hands below the navel are weak.
A Sunni scholar’s assertion that all of the different methods are correct
Many scholars amongst the Ahl’ul Sunnah deem both methods dropping and folding the arms to be acceptable, which is why Mufti al Baseer in column ‘Baseer’ that formed part of the Karachi based magazine Noor al Hidayath’ Volume 2, October 1972 page 145 responsded to a query by Fayz Allah Khan as follws:
“Question: Shi’a’s drop their arms when offereing Salat, and I have seen Sunni’s folding their arms during Salat. Ahl’ul Hadeeth offer Salat by placing their hands on their upper chest. Which is the obligatory method amongst these three? Should Salat be performed by keeping the arms open, placing them over the chest or on the navel?
“Answer: These differences are due to problems that have no correlation with Usool-e-Deen, keep the arms open, placing them over the chest or on the navel is not obligatory, it is a Sunnah, and the Ulema from each sects produce Hadeeth in relation to the opening and folding of hands, hence none of these methods should be criticised. The dropping of the hands is not restricted to the Shi’a, amongst the Sunni the adherents of Imam Malik pray with their arms hands. Placing the arms over the chest is not restricted to the Ahl’ul Hadeeth, rather amongst the Sunnis the adherents of Imam Hanbal (that includes the great Saint Abdul Qadir) would pcae their arms over the chest. Shaafi’s deem folding the arms above the navel and the Hanafees placing them below the navel to be the best method. There is hence no need to go into deep discussions on this matter”
This proves that the Ahl’ul Sunnah are not in absolute agreement on the folding of the arms.
Strange comments by the Sunni religious scholars
We can all comprehend that Holy Prophet (s) offered the prayers in a single manner every time, and he taught his companions that very same method of offering the prayers because there is a famous tradition in Bukhari ‘Pray as you see me pray’. With this in mind, which one of the five mentioned Sunni ways of Salat did the Holy Prophet (s) practice? Did he:
- place his folded hands on his chest like the Salafi?
- place his folded hands on his stomach like the Shafis?
- place his hands below the navel or did he offer the prayers with unfolded hands like the Malikis?
Incapable of resolving this confusion the Ahl’ul Sunnah offer some strange arguments, such as those recorded by Imam Nawawi in his Sharh e Muslim:
“Imam Ahmed Auza’i and ibne Manzar have said that it is up to the worshipper to perform the prayer in the way he wants. Imam Malik said that a worshipper may fold his hands and place them on his chest and he may pray with unfolded hands, and that is what the Malikis got accustomed with, he further said that hands should be unfolded in obligatory prayers and should be folded in Nafl prayers and Lais bin Sa’ad also said the same thing. ”
Sharh Muslim by Nawawi, volume 2, page 28, translated by Maulana Waheed uz-Zaman, published by No’mani Book Store, Lahore
A similar accommodating view is provided by Maulana Waheed uz-Zaman, discussing the placement of the hands, and whether they should be on the chest, stomach or below the navel, or open he writes in the footnote of Sunan ibn e Majah: : “No objection shall be made on this because Imam Tirmidhi has said
that is, each of them is permissible in the view of scholars.”
Sunan Ibn e Majah, volume 1, page 413-414, printed by Mehtab company, Urdu bazaar
Maulana Waheed uz-Zaman in Sharh Bukhari while commenting on Prayers, writes:
“Ibn e Qasim has reported the unfolding of hands from Imam Malik, and that is what is practised by the Imamia sect [Shi’as].”
Tayseer al Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, page 489, published by Taj Company, Karachi.
Imam Malik’s comment further adds to the confusion that the obligatory prayers shall be offered with unfolded hands and the Nafl prayers shall be offered with folded hands. Were all these traditions prevailing in the same way during the days of Prophet (s)? When the Holy Prophet (s) led the congregational prayers did some of the companions fold their hands while offering the prayers and place them on their chests whilst others folded them, placing them under their navels? Did some Sahaba place them on their bellies and another group prayed with unfolded hands? This would have never been the case, the Holy Prophet’s (s) would never offer the morning prayers with his hands placed on the chest, noon prayers with his hands placed on the stomach, afternoon prayers with hands placed under the navel and Maghrib and Isha prayers with open hands, since we have mentioned that Rasulullah (s) told the Sahaba to pray as he prayed.
The Ahl’ul bayt Imams’ method of offering the prayers
The more the Sunni scholars show leniancy in this regard, the more determined are the Shi’a jurists on this issue that Holy Prophet (s) offered prayers in a single manner, and the same method has reached us through our Imams. The Imams from Ahl’ul bayt used to offer prayers with unfolded hands. The Shi’a books repeatedly quote that Imam Jafar e Sadiq (as) demonstrated this method when educating his companion Hammad about prayers.
Sheikh Muhammad Ya’qoob Kulaini [rah] and Sheikh Sadooq [rah] state:
“Our Master turned his face towards the Ka’ba. Completely removed any contact between his hands and placed his hands on his thighs, closed his fingers and placed his feet near to each other.”
1. Al-Shafi, translation of Furoo al Kafi, volume 2, page 65, published in Karachi.
2. Man la Yuhdhirah al-Faqeeh, volume 1, page 166, published in Karachi.
Imam of Ahl’ul Sunnah Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar, volume 2 page 67 also admits that the Ahl’ul Bayt of the Holy Prophet (s) offered prayers with unfolded hands.
Prophet (s) didn’t teach the folding of Hands during prayers
Imam Shawkani records the following statement of Ibn Manzar who was one of the teachers of Imam Bukhari:
“There is no such proven tradition from Holy Prophet (s) in regard to folding of hands, therefore it is up to the worshipper [whether he offers the prayers with either folded or unfolded hands]”.
1. Nayl al Awtar, Volume 2, page 203
2. Aun al-Ma’bood, Sharh Sunan Abi Daud, volume 2, page 322, published by Dar ul-Kutb e Ilmia, Beirut.
Prophet (s) tought Sahaba to offer prayers without folded hands
Imam Ahmed reocrds:
Jabi bin Samara said: ‘Once Allah’s messenger (s came to us andid: ‘Why you fold your hands as the tails of horses, you have to settle in prayer’’.
Musnad Ahmed bin Hanbal, Volume 5 page 93 Hadith 20905
Shaykh Shoib Al-Aranut stated about this Hadith:
‘The chain is Sahih according to Muslim’s standard’
Imam Showkani records in Nail al-Awtar, Volume 2 page 200:
Those who deem unfolding relied on the tradition of Jabir bin Samara (why do you fold your hands).
Logical deduction that the Holy Prophet (s) prayed Salat with open hands
We read in Sahih al Bukhari, Chapter on the Virtues of the Prayer Hall (Sutra of the Musalla) Volume 1, Book 9, Number 495:
Narrated Abu Qatada Al-Ansari:
Allah’s Apostle was praying and he was carrying Umama the daughters of Zainab, the daughter of Allah’s Apostle and she was the daughter of ‘As bin Rabi’a bin ‘AbduShams. When he prostrated, he put her down and when he stood, he carried her (on his neck).
We read Sharh Sahih Muslim by Nawawi Volume 1 page 205:
Narrated Abu Qatada Al-Ansari:
On one occasion Allah’s Apostle lead the prayer congregation and Umama the daughter of Zainab, the daughter of ‘As bin Rabi’a bin ‘AbduShams was on his neck. When he prostrated, he put her down and when he stood, he carried her (on his neck). When he prostrated, he put her down and when he stood, he carried her (on his neck).
We would appeal to our readers to inspect these two traditions closely, the ability to hold a child and the recite Takbeer, and then continue to pray Salat whilst folding his hands! If we are to accept this hadeeth from al Bukhari then we have to accept that the Prophet (s) must have offered Salat with his hands open.
Clear tradition proving that the Holy Prophet (s) prayed Salat with open hands
Ibn Hajr Asqalani writes in ‘Talkhees al-Habeer fee Takhreej Ahadeeth’ Volume 1 page 333, Bab Sifat al Salat:
“Maaz narrates that when the Prophet (s) would stand for Salat, he would raise both hands to his ears, and after saying Takbeer would then drop his hands”.
Online ‘Talkhees al Habeer fee Takhreej Ahadeeth’ by Ibn Hajar Asqalani – (Cached)
We read in Hidayah, Volume 1 page 104 part 20:
“Imam Malik’s evidence for dropping the hands lies in the fact that the Prophet would start by raising his hands for Takbeer and would then drop his hands”.
We read in Nayl al-Awtar, Volume 2 page :
“Narrated by Ibn Munzar from Ibn Alzubair, Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Al-Nakh’ey that he (Holy Prophet) used to pray with unfolded hands and do not fold the right hand on the left hand, quoted by Al Nawawi from Al Laith bin Sa’edd and quoted by Al-Mahdi in Al-Bahr from Al-Qasimiyya, Al-Nasiriyya and Al-Baqar”
Online Nayl al Autaar – (Cached)
We further read in same book:
“The Holy Prophet taught Al-Musya’ae prayer and didn’t mention the folding of the right on the left hand”
Abdul Hai Lucknawi states:
“Ma’az says that when Holy Prophet (s) used to stand for offering the prayers, he used to raise his hands up his his ears while reciting “Takbeer” and then he would leave his hands unfolded.”
Fataawa Sheikh Abdul Hai Lucknawi, Volume 1, page 326, first edition
We read in Umadatul Qari Sharah Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9 page 20:
Ibn al-Manzar narrated that Abdullah Ibn Zubair and al-Hassan al-Basri and Ibn Sireen that he (prophet) would offer Salat with his hands open and so did Malik”.
The well known scholar of Ahl Hadeeth cult namely Allamah Waheed uz Zaman Khan writes:
“Whoever says that offering prayers with unfolded hands is a custom related to Shi’as, that person is at fault in this regard, because not only the Shi’as but the whole Muslim Ummah offered the prayers in the same way, especially during the life time of Holy Prophet (s) the companions did it the same way and no one knew about the folding of hands.”
Hadiyatul Mahdi, by Maulana Waheed uz Zaman, Volume 1, page 126
Abdullah Ibn Zubair would offer Salat with his hands open
We read in Sunan Ai Daud, page 131 H 729 declared ‘Sahih’ by Al-Albaani:
“Ibn Abbas (r) said: ‘If you want to see the prayer of Holy Prophet (s) then follow the prayer of Abdullah Ibn Zubair’
This proves that if one would like to know whether Prophet (s) performed prayer with open or folded hands then one can look at the method Abdullah Ibn Zubair performed his prayers. Now how did Abdullah Ibn Zubair exactly pray? We get its answer from Imam Ibn Abhi Sheybah who records a tradition in his Al-Musnaf, Volume 1 page 344 which has been declared ’Sahih’ by Usama bin Ibrahim:
Amro bin Dinar said: ‘Abdullah Ibn Zubair used to offer prayers with open hands’
Imams of Ahle Sunnah Saeed ibn Jabayr and Ibn Masayyib also prayed with their arms open
Allamah Ibn Abdul Barr records the following tradition in his book ‘Al Tamheed’:
“Abd Allah ibn al-Izar said, “I used to make tawaf around the Kaba with Saeed Ibn al-Jubayr. Once, he saw a man placing one hand over the other, so he went to him, separated his hands, and then returned to me”
Everyone is aware of the prestigious place of Saed bin Jubayr among the early Ulema of Islam. According to Ibn Kathir Saeed bin Jubayr was among the students of Ibn Abbas [ra] and was Imam in various studies of Tafsir and Fiqha. [Al Bidayah wal Nihayah (Urdu), Vol 9 page 177 ‘Events of 94 H’.].
Ibn Hajar Asqlani writes about Saeed bin Jubayr:
“….He narrated hadiths from Ibn Abbas, Ibn Al-Zubair, Ibn Umar, Ibn Maqal, Uday Ibn Hatem, Abi Masood Al-Ansay, Abi Saeed Al-Khudari, Abu Hurayra, Abu Musa Al-Asha’ari, Al-Dahak Ibn Qais Al-Fehri, Anas, Amro Ibn Maymoon, Abi Abdulrahman Al-Sulami and lady Aysha….. Ibn Abi Mughera said that when people of Kufa visited Ibn Abbas to ask him for Fatwa, he used to say to them: ‘Isn’t Saeed Ibn Jubayr among you?’…. Amro Ibn Maymoon said that his father said: “Saeed Ibn Jubayr passed away but there was not a single person who had not attained knowledge from him”… Abu Al-Qasem Al-Tabari said: “He is a reliable Imam and hujah on Muslims”…..Ibn Haban Said that Saeed was a jurist, worshiper, righteous and pious.”
Tahzib Al-Tahzib, Volume 4 No. 14
We would also like to mention the position of hands Saeed bin al Mussayyib used to kept during Salat but for those who know less about this notable person, we are presenting the text recorded by Ibn Kathir in his book:
“He heard hadiths from Hadrath Umer Farooq, Hadrath Uthman, Hadrath Ali, Saeed and Abu Hurairah …Zuhri said: “I lived with him for seven years and I haven’t seen anyone more knowledgeable than him”. Makhool said: “I went all over the word in pursue of knowledge but never found anyone more knowledgeable than Saeed”. Auzai says that someone inquired Zuhri and Makhool about the most prestigious jurists in their eyes, both of them unanimously said ‘Saeed bin al Mussayyib’. People used to call him “Faqih al Fuqaha” [jurist of all jurists]… Rabi` has stated with reference to Imam Shafi that even a mursal hadith from Saeed bin al Mussayyib is equal to a Hassan hadith and it is equal to a Sahih hadith in the eyes of Imam Ahmed. Has also said that Saeed bin al Mussayyib is superior to all Tab`een… Abu Zar`ya said: “He was Madani and Thiqa Imam”. Abu Hatim said: “No one among Tabaeen was unique and superior to him”
Al Bidayah wal Nihayah (Urdu), Vol 9 page 179-180 ‘Events of 94 H’. (Nafees Book Academy Karachi)
In the book ‘Al Tamheed’ by Ibn Abdul Barr we further read that Imam of Ahle Sunnah and Jurists of all Jusrits Saeed ibn al-Musayyib used to pray like Shia do:
“Abd Allah ibn Yazid said, “I never saw Saeed ibn al-Musayyib holding his left hand with his right hand in the prayer, he used to lay them straight.”
Ibn Abdul Barr’s book “Al Tamheed” can also be downloaded from the following Wahabi/Salafi website
Imam Malik offered Salat with his hands open
We read in Fatah ul Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2 page 224:
“Ibn Qasim reports Imam Malik offered prayers without folding hands.”
The same narration has also been recorded in Tayseer al Bari Sharh Sahih al Bukhari, translated by E’tiqad Publishing house, Delhi, volume 1, chapter 707, page 489
We read in Sharh Muslim by Nawawi Volume 1 page 173:
“The other narration of Malik is that the hands should remain open in Salat, not closed and this opinion is the most prevelant amongst the Sahaba of Malik”.
Imam of Ahl’ul Sunnah Ai’ni in Sharh Kunz ul Daqaiq, page 250, published in Nolakshoor, writes:
Imam Malik said that the order is certainly about unfolding the hands but prayers can be offered with the folded hands. The Holy Prophet (s) and his companions used to offer prayers with unfolded hands to the extent that their finger tips got red due to the blood getting blocked there.
In Al Kifayah Volume 1 page 250 and al Ghayah Volume 1 page 250, both of which are commentaries of Hidayah, we read this narration:
“Imam Malik gave a Fatawa that the hands should be pointing in the direction of the ground”
Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman Dimishquee Shafee writes in Rehmath al ummah Volume 1 page 37, Dhikr Salat:
“The narration of Imam Malik is well known that he would pray with open hands”
Sunni scholars Sherani in Meezan al Kubra Volume 1 page 150, Dhikr Salath says:
“The Fatawa of Imam Malik is well known, namely that he would pray with open hands”
The darling of the Wahaby and Deobandi movement Muhammad Ismaeel Shaheed writes in Tanveer al Aynayn page 41:
“The Syrian companions fo Imam Malik bin Ums narrate that he would offer Salat with his hands open. This Fatawa related to his obligatory Salath, and Imam Qasim narrates that he would read the obligatory and Sunnah prayers with open hands. Shuhaib also records that Malik prayed open hands, and he narrates that Imam Malik’s Sahab acted upon this”
We read in au Jaza al Masalik fee Sharh Muwatta Imam Malik Volume 3 page 166:
“There exist various narrations from Imam Malik on the opening of the hands, and amongst the Malikis the opening of the hands is preferred and better, and Imam Malik deemed the act of folding during obligatory prayers to be Makruh, but Musthahab in Sunnah prayers”
Maulana Ishfaque ur-Rehman in Imam Malik’s Muwatta (Arabic), page 142, printed by Noor Muhammad Asah Al-Mutabe’ Karachi, border/margin of Kashful Ghita writes:
That is, “About placing the right hand on the left hand, Imam Malik said: “In the obligatory prayers, I am not even aware of the folding of hands” so in obligatory prayers Imam Malik wasn’t convinced that the hands should be folded, and he considered it as abominable. But while offering the Nafl prayers in order to ease up things he allowed folding the hands if the position of Qayyam gets lengthy.” (He might have felt the need for relaxation in the Taraweih prayer, using one biddat to support other Biddat, What Intelligence!).
About the folding of hands, in the border of the very same page it is stated:
“Imam Malik has allowed the folding of hands for Nafl prayers but for the Obligatory prayers, it is not allowed.”
Ibn al-Qasim said:
“…Maalik said about placing the right hand over the left during Salat. He said: (“I don’t know (of) that in the obligatory (prayer).” And he used to dislike it. “However, in voluntary prayers (nawaafil), when the standing is extended, there is no harm in that (for one who doesn’t) support himself by it…”
Now it is clear that Imam Malik has only allowed it to ease up the Nafl prayers and has forbidden from acting the same way in obligatory prayers, because he knew that Allah (swt) dislikes folded hands, and the ill and unwell have been provided with special dispensation, even though there is no Quranic order for it. Maalik’s statement in the last narration, “I don’t know of that in the obligatory prayer”, suggests to anyone who is acquainted with his method of deducing legal rulings that he is unaware of any conclusive evidence that would be strong enough to consider placing the right hand over the left on the chest a sunnah act of the obligatory prayer. Let us not forget that Malik studied under the top ranking tabi’is and tabi’ tabi’is.
Imam Malik was one of the four Sunni Imams. He issues a Fatwa that the hands should remain open during Salat, by doing so he deemed the folding of hands to be the incorrect method. This in turn means that all of the Sunni traditions on folding the hands are false, even if there was a slight chance of them being Sahih, Malik would have never had the courage to isse an edict opposing them. Madeena was the city wherein the Prophet taught directly, hence the people of this blessed city learnt the method of Salat from their father / grandfather’s who had prayed behind the Prophet (s), they accordingly prayed with their hands open. Imam Malik did not care about the position held by the Khaleefa of the time and gave a Fatawa stating that the hands must remain open. Is it believable that in the city of the Prophet (s) the people opuld pray with their hands folded whilst their Imam would lead the Salat with his hands open? The Ijmaa amongst the Ahl’ul Sunnah is that any of the Fatawas of their four Imams is correct, hence this Fatawa is likewise correct, why do these Nasibi get perturbed when Shi’as in schools and colleges enter their prayer rooms reading the Salat open hands? They all stare at the Shi’a praying, and start pointing at him with signs of disgust expressed across their cursed faces!
All of the people of Madina would offer Salat with their arms open
The student of al Muhaddith Shah Waliyullah, Allamah Muhammad Moeen Lahori writes in Dhursuth al Beeb page 34 (Lahore edition 1868) writes:
“In my opinion the acts of the people of Madeena are a major proof, and Imam Malik deemed the ijmaa of the people of Madeena to be proof, which is why the Malaki scholars would pray with open hands by relying on the action of the people of Madeena, and rejected the Hadeeth about folding the arms on account of the situation, when one Hadeeth supercedes another Hadeeth. That is why they gave greater value to the Hadeeth from the people of Madeena. Abul Qasim narrated from the Risala of Imam Malik that the companions of Imam Malik adhered to this, and Imam Malik took narration Muwatta regarding Qabzul Yadein aqeedah that contradicted his madhab such as narrations opposing Qanoot in Fajr prayes, whilst this is allowed in the madhab of Imam Malik.
Fatwas aboput praying with open arms are not exclusively those of Imam Malik, Imam Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Shaybah narrates in al Musannaf that Ibn Zubayr would pray with his arms open. Also Shaykh Abdul Haqq Dehlavi wrote in Sharh Shafaa Sadaath that he asked the the Maliki Ulema from Hejaaz for proof for praying with open hand, they were unable to bring forth proof, even though evidence is clear, the act of the people of Madeena is a greater evidence for proving the actions of the actions of the Sahaba and Tabieen”.
Shaykh Dehlavi’s acknowledgement that the people of Madeena and Malikis prayed with open hands since they had no other evidence to refute this position means that Nasibi propaganda that Shi’a Salat is with basis and Bidah is completely baseless!
Umar and Imam Shaafi had no objection to the Salat being read with open hands
We read in Meezan al Kubra Volume 1 page 15, the Chapter on the virtues of Salat:
“It is better to drop your arms by your sides during Salat, and Imam gave a detailed Fatwa on this matter in his book ‘Ilm’, if one who stands for prayers and has done no sinful act then there is no objection to him praying with his hands open”.
We read in Kashf al Ghimma Volume 1 page 87 Part 2
“Umar used to kill knits whilst offereing Salat, to the extent that knits were clearly visible on his hands, Maaz bin Jabeel was a leader in this field”.
We challenge the Nasibi’s to demonstrate how you can kill knits whilst praying with the arms folded. You can’t even kill one, then how did Umar kill so many? He must have done this with his arms open. It is not possible to kill knits and pray with the hands folded at the same time, Umar’s act of killing knits whilst praying is clear proof that he prayed with his hands open.
Imam of Ahl’ul Sunnah Auzai said you can pray either with you arms open or folded
As evidence we shall cite the following esteemed Sunni works:
- Hidayah, Volume 1 page 102 part 21
- Nayl al Awtar, Volume 2 page 208 bab ul Salat
- au Jaza al Masalik Sharh Muwatta Imam Malik, Volume 3 page 166
- Umada tul Qari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3 page 15 Bab Salat
- al Kifaya Sharh Hidayah, Volume 1 page 25
- Meezan al Kubra, Volume 1 page 150
- Rehmat al Aima, page 37
We read in al Kifaya:
“The Sunnah is to pray with the arms folded , Imam Auzai said one has free choice in Salat, he can fold his arms or keep them open”.
Imam Shokani records in Nail al-Awtar, Volume 3 page 298:
“Ibn Sayed al-Naas narrated from Awzai that it is optional to fold or unfold”.
This Fatwa proves that folding the arms is not obligatory, neother is keeping them open an act of Bidah
A Salafi scholar’s admission that praying with unfolded hands is valid
Ahmad al-Duwaish who is a Salafi scholar of Saudi Arabia records in his book Fatawa al-Lajna al-Daema, Volume 6 page 366:
‘If some one prayed with unfolded hands, his prayer is valid, because putting the right hand on the left is neither part of prayer’s pillars nor is a condition of prayer, nor its wajib.’
Sunni Fatwa that lesser people should pray with their arms open
Imam of Ahle Sunnah Abdul Wahab Sherani records in Meezan al-Kubra, Volume 1 page 150, Bab ul Salat:
“The act of folding the hands in Salat is a special distinction for big people like the Saints and scholars, lesser people shoud adhere to the Maliki position and pray with their arms open”.
Abdul Wahab Sherani in his another book Kabriyat al-Ahmer Volume 1 page 57 records:
“The acts of placing one hands over the chest in Salat is reserved for the complete people, who have no obstruction to Allah (swt) when folding the arms. It is better for less complete people to open their hands, since via closing the hands one’s attention span towards Allah (swt) diverts”
Sunni Fatwa to recite Salat with open hands, and close them if you get tired
We will prove this via reliance on the following esteemed Sunni works:
- Muwatta Sharh Zurqani, Volume 1 page 321
- Umada tul Qari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3 page 5
- Fatah al Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1 page 324
- Kifaya Sharh Hidayah, Volume 1 page 250
Fatah ul Bari:
“Ibn Qasim recorded Imam Malik’s reading with open hands in Salat, and the vast bulk of Maliki Ulema have embraced this Fatwa, and they deem closing the arms to be Makruh, Ibn Hajaab said that folding of the arms should be restricted to ease”.
“Auzai said that closing or opening the hands is within one’s choice, the option of folding is to make life easier, as lenthy recitals would often lead blood rushing to the finger tips of the Sahaba”
Umada tul Qari:
“The known from Malik that he (prophet) used to unfold, if recitals are long then for the purposes of ease he would fold”
Sunni rationale for folding hands while offering prayers
Below is what the leading and famous scholar of Deobandis, Shah Muhammad Ismail wrote in his book Tanveer ul Ai’nain, page 30.
“The traditions of unfolding the hands have been reported from pious followers like Hasan Basri, Ibrahim, Ibn e Musaiyab and Ibn e Seerain, as reported by Ibne Shaiba. If the traditions (of folded hands) had reached these scholars, they did not deem it a Sunnah, but attributed it to a common practice. (They would have adopted it had they regarded it as Holy Prophet’s practice). Therefore they carried on with their way of unfolded hands due to it being authentic and having evidence to that effect. If these traditions had not reached them, we will assume they did not know about the folding of the hands, they told people to open their hands when praying, due to it being authentic, whereas the folding of hands is a custom with no solid evidence.”
Perhaps Shah Ismail did not regard the Malikis as Sunnis, because they still offer prayers with unfolded hands. The Shah offers no solid evidence, and has made assumptions in order to defend his faith. Worthy of note is the fact that when the Sunnis are not involved in acts themselves, they term such novelties as Bid’at.
Logical reasoning as to why the Salaf opened their arms during Salat
We have relied on the comments of two books:
- al Rauza Lundheeya Volume 1 page 197, by Siddique Hasan Khan
- Tanveer an Aynain page 58 by Shah Ismaeel Shaheed
Both authors commenting on why the Sahaba and Tabieen read with the arms open state:
“They prayed with the arms open as they were acting on the initial orders, since the foolding of the arms was a new order that required evidence, which was not proven which is why they had no other choice but to pray with the arms open”
Our challenge to our critics
We challenge those who speak and write vociferously against to produce evidence from Hadeeth wherein the Prophet (s) gave an explicit order that the arms be folded during Salat? We are confident that the Nasibi will be unable to locate any such evidence fom their books. Our next question is ‘Why did the Prophet (s) maintain silence with regards to this matter’. It begs the question as to why the Sahaba did not seek to clarify this matter either? When no order exists to fold the hands, then these Nasibi should know that opening the arms is a natural thing, which does not require any evidence to prove it.
The main reason for folding hands: to oppose the Shi’a
We shall prove this by relying on the following esteemed Sunni works:
- Fatah al Qadeer, Voilume 1 page 250, Dhikr Salat
- Kifaya Sharh Hidayah, Volume 1 page 250 Dhikr Salat
- Tanveer al Aynain, page 38
- Hidayat al Mahdi, page 126
Fatah al Qadeer:
وَعَنْ قَوْلِ أَصْحَابِ الْفَضْلِيِّ أَبِي عَلِيٍّ النَّسَفِيِّ وَالْحَاكِمِ وَعَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ : السُّنَّةُ فِي هَذِهِ الْمَوَاضِعِ الِاعْتِمَادُ مُخَالَفَةً لِلرَّوَافِضِ ، فَإِنَّهُمْ يُرْسِلُونَ
The Sunnah in Funeral prayers and Eid is to unfold and stand, the companions of Fadheli Abu Ali al-Nasafi and al-Hakim and Abdulrahman said: ‘The sunnah in such cases is to oppose the Rawafidh [Shi'a] as they pray with their arms open’.
“The opening of the arms in Salat is in the Madhab of the Rafidi, we fold our arms and the reason is to oppose the Shi’a”
Tanveer al Aynain:
“Imam Malik gave an order to read Salat with open arms, and the Sunni Ulema here (i.e. the Indian Subcontinent) sau that praying with open hands in the cities means imitating the Shi’a. The Hanafee Ulema have rejected opening the arms in salat, opening the arms is a Shi’a practice, and nothing else will remain, and the Prophet (s) said ‘protect yourself from acusation”
Need we say anymore? One major proof for folding the hands is to oppose the Rafidi. We should also point out that the Rawafid also recite Surah Fateha during their Salat, the followers of Mu’awiya in their opposition to the Rafidi should abandon Surah Fateha and replace with rap lyrics or some bhajhan.
When, why and how did the method of prayers change?
Every single person with a broad and research oriented mind and also those who intend to seek and extract the truths of history would want to know that prayer, that was supposed to be the symbol of Unity, how did the five or six methods of it prevail and when was the Muslim Ummah struck by this fatal blow? As far as the recitation while observing “Qayyam”, “Ruku’” (bowing), “Sajood” (prostration), and “Tashahud” etc is concerned, some of them are the same in both the Shi’a and the Sunni prayers, and the differences that exist in some of them, are very minute, therefore if our honourable scholars display a bit of tolerance on its basis the unity in the Ummah can be strengthened.
The reality about the first part of our question is that this change in prayers did not happen suddenly, infact this was a gradual process that took place over the years, to the point that we have the testimony of the Sahabi Malik bin Anas in Sahih al Bukhari Volume 1 hadith number 507:
“Anas said, “I do not find (now-a-days) things as they were (practiced) at the time of the Prophet.” Somebody said “The prayer (is as it was.)” Anas said, “Have you not done in the prayer what you have done?”
Narrated Az-Zuhri that he visited Anas bin Malik at Damascus and found him weeping and asked him the reason for it. He replied, “I do not know anything which I used to know during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle except this prayer which is being lost (not offered as it should be)”.
Of relevance is the fact that we read in Sahih Bukhari, Virtues of the Prayer Hall Volume 1, Book 12, Number 751:
Narrated Imran bin Husain:
I offered the prayer with ‘Ali in Basra and he made us remember the prayer which we used to pray with Allah’s Apostle. ‘Ali said Takbir on each rising and bowing.
If one ponders over this tradition from Bukhari and Muslim then no further explanation of the fact is required that the novelties in the method of prayers had already started in that era and that is what made Imran bin Hasayn say that Ali(as) led the prayers just like Holy Prophet (s) used to lead. And the reply to the second issue that why the changes took place, is quite simple that after Holy Prophet (s), had the Ummah stuck to one single nucleus, that is the Ahl e Bait (s.a), these differences would have not taken place, but when the nucleus was shattered then the birth of novelties and differences was something natural.
The folding of the arms was copied from the people of Rome
We shall seek to prove this via reliance on the following esteemed Sunni works:
- Al-Awaail page 209 by Allama Askari, Chapter on Islami Namaz
- Tanveer an Aynain page 58
- al Rauza Lundheeya Volume 1 page 87, by Siddique Hasan Khan
Tanveer al Aynain:
“Ibn Sireen was asked a man why e placed his right hand over the left hand in Salat, he said this was practice of the Romans”
Contradicting Fatawas amongst the Sunni Ulema on folding the arms
- Umdah tul Qari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3 page 16 Bab Salat
- al Rauza Lundheeya Volume 1 page 97, by Siddique Hasan Khan
- Nayl al Awtar, volume 2, page 204, Bab ul Salat
- Meezan al Kubra Volume 1 page 150
- Fatah ul Bari Volume 2 page 224
Fatah ul Bari:
The Ulema have said that there is wisdom behing the Sunni method of Salat, since the act of folding the hands is the act of a pathetic beggar, and positioning hands in this way prohibits bad acts and this is a purer method.
“Long recitals amongst the Muslims, meant people stood for lengthy periods. And blood would rush down to the finger nails, that’s why via wisdom of the State the order was given to fold the arms”
The Shi’a perspective is very clear and straight forward that Holy Prophet (s) used to offer prayers with straight and hanging hands, and the fact that the Holy Progeny of the Prophet (s) practiced the same manner of prayers further strengthens it.
The second evidence for the Shi’a view being valid is the uncertain and unreliable attitude of the Sunni scholars, who even say that the worshipper is free to adopt any of the methods.
The third verification of the Shi’a perspective is that the Madina born Imam of Sunnis, Malik bin Ans is of the view that the prayers should be offered with unfolded hands which is still practiced by his followers, and on the basis of the same realities a Sunni researcher, Dr. Hameed Ullah (PhD) has written:
“In my view the difference between the Shi’a and the Sunni methods of prayers has no importance. The followers of Maliki faith, who are Sunnis, offer prayers with unfolded hands like the Shi’as. This means that Holy Prophet (s) sometimes offered prayers this way, and sometimes the other way around.”
Khutbaat e Bahawalpur, by Dr. Hameed Ullah (PhD), page 34, Idara Tehqeeqat e Islamic research centre, Islamabad
The comments of Maulana Shibli No’mani also carry relevance:
“Prayers can be offered with either unfolded hands, or folded hands, they can even be placed on the chest or above the navel, Ameen can be either be said loudly or with a low voice. Therefore except a few acts, no specific method needs to be followed, that is why the numerous Imams adopted different methods.”
Ilm ul-Kalaam aur Kalaas, page 311, published by Nafees Academy Karachi
We hope that the Sunni Ulema develop some courage and let the people know about this fact so that Nasibi propaganda against the Shi’a can come to an end. Those who have been to Libya will see that the Muslims there are predominantly Malikis and they offer prayers with unfolded hands, besides this there are followers of Imam Malik in many other countries too, including the Arab ones, and they all offer prayers with unfolded hands, even behind a single Imam some worshippers offer prayers with unfolded hands while some fold their hands and this is not considered as a difference.
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