Assalaamu alaykum. We have developed a product that records prostrations and rakʻahs (units of prayer) performed by the worshipper while praying. The product is placed in front of the prayer mat. A small screen that displays the number of prostrations performed is mounted on the product. It does not contain any video or music. People often forget the amount of prostrations while praying and are confused and distracted. Using this product, the worshipper can concentrate and focus on his prayers, which is very important. In earlier times, people would used pebbles and rings and so on in order to remember. Please advise whether it is permissible to use this product for people who forget in Islam. May Allaah bless all Muslims.
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Placing a screen in front of the praying person to count the rakʻahs or prostrations would likely distract him from concentrating in the prayer. We have previously issued a fatwa in the Arabic section underlining the ruling on using an electronic rakʻah-counter in the prayer for whoever claims to take all the needed measures in the counter not to distract the praying person. We have highlighted therein that the Prophet said, "Verily, prayer demands one’s whole attention." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] Therefore, the Muslim should not use what distracts him during the prayer; rather, he is enjoined to devote himself wholly to the prayer, mindful of the greatness of his Lord, The Almighty, and pondering over the meanings of the verses, thikr (remembrance of Allaah) and supplications that he is reciting.
We believe that this rakʻah-counter, and the screen for a greater reason, may distract the praying person; and the claim of taking all the measures not to distract him is not guaranteed. The Prophet himself was distracted during the prayer with the curtain bearing images at the house of 'Aa'ishah . She had a qiraam (a thin marked woolen curtain) with which she had screened a niche in the wall. The Prophet said to her, 'Remove this qiraam of yours; its images distract me during my prayer.' He was also distracted in prayer by a khameesah (striped garment) that had a pattern on it. He ordered it to be given back to Abu Jahm. The two ahaadeeth were authentically reported in Saheeh Al-Bukhari.
Moreover, this screen or rakʻah-counter may cause the praying person to lose the very essence of the prayer, namely khushooʻ (state of full submission, humility and absolute concentration), rendering it mere routine movements void of life and devotion. The praying person should devotedly concentrate in his prayer with an attentive heart. If he makes a mistake or forgets performing any act of the prayer, then he should simply perform sujood as-sahw (prostration of forgetfulness). Placing such a screen or counter is a distraction.
However, we are only saying that it is better not to use this product. We are not saying that it is impermissible to use it, because some scholars stated that it is permissible to use a similar technique for the person who is very forgetful. Ibn ʻUthaymeen wrote:
"He may count the number of rakʻahs, and there may be a need to do so because many people used to forget and they resort to counting them on their fingers, in which case there is a problem, because when the praying person bows, he has to spread his fingers, and when he prostrates, his fingers should be straight. Therefore, he may count them using pebbles or date stones. So he can put four date stones in his pocket, then when he has prayed the first rakʻah, he throws out one of them, and so on, until they are finished. There is nothing wrong with this, because there is a need for it, especially when one is very forgetful." [Ash-Sharh Al-Mumtiʻ]
Allaah knows best.
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