Gaps in the prayer rows
Fatwa No: 88447

Question

Salat is the only ritual left with the Muslim Ummah which they offer in a state of complete discipline. But lately I have seen a trend especially in those of the Arab origin that when they stand for Salat they keep their feet very wide apart to the extent that there is a very wide gap between those offering Salat. At the time of Sajdah they shuffle and when they stand again after Sajdah then all that gap is slowly filled with the distraction on part of the others and also there remain a lot of gap between them.
Is it not appropriate to keep the shoulders just touching so that there is not enough space between them and the 'Saf' to retain its integrity?
Please clarify this in light of Hadith. Allah bestow Janna on you for the guidance that you provide to others.

Answer

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  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Straightening rows in prayers means standing closely, shoulders to shoulders and feet to feet as reported in the Sunnah.  Anas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: "Straighten your rows for I see you from behind my back.Anas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him added: "Every one of us used to put his shoulder to the shoulder of his companion (i.e. the person standing next to him) and his foot to the foot of his companion.' [Al-Bukhari]

It is reported in Sunan Abu Dawood that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) used to order thrice (before starting the prayer): "Straighten your rows. I swear by Allaah, you straighten your rows otherwise Allaah will turn your heart against one another."  The narrator said: "I noticed after that everyone of the companions joined his shoulder to the shoulder of the person standing next to him, his knee to his knee and his ankle to his ankle." Anas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said: 'If you want to do the same today, people would bolt as if they were balky mules." [Abu Shaybah]

Besides, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: "Straighten your rows and stand close to each other." He [the Prophet] aslo said: "Join your rows and stand shoulder-to-shoulder. I swear by Whose Hands the soul of Muhammad is, I see the devils penetrating between the rows as does a young goat". [Al-Nasaa'i and Abu Daawood]

All the above Ahadeeth prove that straightening the rows means standing closely, joining shoulder-to-shoulder and ankle-to-ankle.

Therefore, it is wrong to leave gaps between rows as practiced by many people regardless of whether it is due to not straightening the rows or not standing close to each other.

Hence, we advise all the Muslims to follow the order of the the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) in straightening the rows.

It is possible that the disagreement and disunity of the Muslims nowadays is due to not straightening their rows as the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: "You will straighten your rows or Allaah will put disagreement in your hearts." [Abu Daawood]

Allaah Knows best.

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