The Prophet's Prayer [صلى الله علیه وسلم] Described

Author: Imaam Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaanee

Published: Friday 15th January, 2016

Standing In Prayer

He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) used to stand in prayer for both obligatory and voluntary prayers, carrying out the command of the Exalted:

"And stand before Allaah devoutly." (Baqarah, 2:238).

As for during a journey, he would pray voluntary prayers on his riding beast.

He set the example for his ummah to pray during severe fear on foot or while mounted, as has been mentioned, and that is the purpose of the saying of Allaah:

"Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer [1], and stand before Allaah devoutly. If you fear (an enemy) then pray on foot, or while riding. But when you are in security, celebrate Allaah's praises in the manner He has taught you, which you did not know before." (Baqarah, 2:238-9)

"He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) prayed sitting during the illness of which he died." [2] He also prayed sitting on another occasion before that, when he was injured, and the people behind him prayed standing; so he indicated to them to sit, so they sat (and prayed). When he finished, he said,

You were going to do as the Persians and the Romans do: stand for their kings who sit. So do not do so, for the Imaam is there to be followed: when he makes rukoo', make rukoo', when he rises, rise; and when he prays sitting, pray sitting [all of you]. [3]

The Prayer Of A Sick Person In A Sitting Position

'Imran ibn Husain (رضي الله عنه‎) said, "I was suffering from haemorrhoids (piles), so I asked the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) and he said,

Pray standing; if you are not able, then sitting down; if you are not able to do so, then pray lying down. [4]

'Imraan ibn Husain also said, "I asked him (صلى الله علیه وسلم) about the prayer of a man while sitting, so he said:

He who prays standing, that is better; he who prays sitting, his reward is half that of the former. He who prays lying down (and in another narration: reclining), has half the reward of the one who sits. [5]

This applies to the sick person, for Anas (رضي الله عنه‎) said, "The Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) came out to the people while they were praying sitting due to illness, so he said:

Verily, the prayer of one who sits is (worth) half of the prayer of the one who stands. [6]

Once "he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) visited a sick person and saw him praying (leaning) on a pillow, so he took it and cast it aside. So the man took a stick to pray (leaning) on it, but he took it and cast it aside and said:

Pray on the ground if you can, but otherwise make movements with your head, making your sujood lower than your rukoo." [7]

Prayer On A Ship

He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) was asked about prayer on a ship, so he said,

Pray on it standing, unless you are afraid of drowning. [8]

When he grew old he took a support at his place of prayer to lean on. [9]

Sitting And Standing In The Night Prayer (Tahajjud)

He (صلى الله علیه وسلم), used to pray long through the night standing, and long through the night sitting, and if he recited standing, he would bow standing, and if he recited sitting, he would bow sitting." [10]

Sometimes, "He would pray sitting, so he would recite sitting until about thirty or forty verses of his recitation wre left; he would then stand up to recite these standing and then bow and prostrate, and he would do likewise in the second raka'ah." [11]

In fact, "he prayed as-subhah [12] sitting down towards the end of his life when he had grown old, and that was a year before his death." [13]

Also "he would sit cross-legged." [14]

Prayer Wearing Shoes And The Command To Do So

"He used to stand (in prayer) bare-footed sometimes and wearing shoes sometimes." [15]

He allowed this for his ummah, saying:

When one of you prays, he should wear his shoes or take them off and put them between his feet, and not harm others with them. [16]

He encouraged prayer wearing them sometimes, saying:

Be different from the Jews, for they do not pray in their shoes nor in their khuffs (leather socks). [17]

Occasionally he would remove them from his feet while in prayer and then continue his prayer, as Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri has said:

"The Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) prayed with us one day. Whilst he was engaged in the prayer he took off his shoes and placed them on his left. When the people saw this, they took off their shoes. When he finished his prayer he said,

Why did you take your shoes off?[

They said, 'We saw you taking your shoes off, so we took our shoes off.' He said,

Verily Jibreel came to me and informed me that there was dirt - or he said: something harmful - (in another narration: filth) on my shoes, so I took them off. Therefore, when one of you goes to the mosque, he should look at his shoes: if he sees in them dirt - or he said: something harmful - (in another narration: filth) he should wipe them and pray in them. [18]

"When he removed them, he would place them on his left" [19] and he would also say:

"When one of you prays, he should not place his shoes on his right nor on his left, where they will be on someone else's right, except if there is no one on his left, but he should place them between his feet." [20]

Prayer On The Pulpit (Minbar)

"Once he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) prayed on the pulpit (in another narration: '... which had three steps') [21]. Hence [he stood on it and said takbeer and the people behind him said takbeer while he was on the pulpit,] [then he made rukoo' on the pulpit,] then he rose and descended backwards to make sajdah at the foot of the pulpit. Then he returned, [and did on it as he had done in the first rak'ah], until he completed his prayer. He then turned to the people and said:

O people! I have done this so that you may follow me and learn my prayer. [22]

The Sutrah [23], And The Obligation To Have One

"He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) used to stand near to the sutrah, so that there was (a distance of) three cubits between him and the wall" [24] and "between the place of his prostration and the wall, (there was) enough space for a sheep to pass." [25]

He used to say:

"Do not pray except towards a sutrah, and do not let anyone pass in front of you, but if someone continues (to try to pass) then fight him, for he has a companion (i.e. a shaytaan) with him." [26]

He would also say:

"When one of you prays towards a sutrah, he should get close to it so that Shaytaan cannot break his prayer." [27]

Sometimes "he would seek to pray at the pillar which was in his mosque." [28]

"When he prayed [in an open space where there was nothing to use as sutrah] he would plant a spear in the ground in front of him and pray towards it with the people behind him" [29]; Sometimes "he would to set his mount sideways and pray towards it" [30] but this is not the same as prayer in the resting-place of camels [31], which "he forbade" [32], and sometimes "he would take his saddle; set it lengthways and pray towards its end." [33]

He would say:

When one of you places in front of him something such as the stick on the end of a saddle, he should pray and not mind anyone who passes beyond it. [34]

Once "he prayed towards a tree" [35] and sometimes "he would pray towards the bed on which 'Aa'ishah (radi-Allaahu anhaa) was lying [under her sheet]." [36]

He (صلى الله علیه وسلم), would not let anything pass between him and his sutrah, hence once "he was praying, when a sheep came running in front of him, so he raced it until he pressed his belly against the wall [and it passed behind him]." [37]

Also, once "while praying an obligatory prayer, he clenched his fist (during it), so when he had finished, the people said: 'O Messenger of Allaah, did something happen during the prayer?' He said:

No, except that the devil wanted to pass in front of me, so I strangled him until I could feel the coldness of his tongue on my hand By Allaah! Had my brother Sulaimaan not beaten me to it[/i] [3838], I would have tied him (the devil) to one of the pillars of the mosque so that the children of Madinah could walk round him. [So whoever can prevent something intervening between him and the qiblah, he must do so]." [39]

He also used to say:

When one of you prays towards something which is a sutrah between him and the people and someone intends to cross in front of him, then he should push him in the throat [and repel, as much as he can], (in one narration: he should stop him, twice) but if he refuses (to not pass) then he should fight him, for verily he is a devil. [40]

He also used to say:

[i]"If the person who passed in front of someone praying knew (the sin) on him, it would be better for him to wait forty than to pass in front." (Abu an-Nadr said, "I do not remember exactly whether he said forty days, months or years."). [41]

What Breaks The Prayer

He used to say:

A man's prayer is cut off when there is nothing such as the end of a saddle in front of him, by: a [menstruating] [42] woman, a donkey or a black dog.

Abu Dharr said, 'I said: "O Messenger of Allaah, why the black dog rather than the red one?" He said,

The black dog is a shaytaan. [43]

Prohibition Of Prayer Facing The Grave

He used to forbid prayer facing the grave, saying:

Do not pray towards the graves, and do not sit on them. [44]


[1] i.e..,the `Asr prayer according to the correct saying of the majority of scholars, among them Abu Haneefah and his two students. There are ahaadeeth about this which Ibn Katheer has given in his Tafseer of the Qur'aan.

[2] Tirmidhi, who declared it saheeh, and Ahmad.

[3] Muslim and Bukhaari, and it is given in my book Irwaa' al-Ghaleel under Hadeeth 394.

[4] Bukhaari, Abu Daawood and Ahmad.

[5] ibid. Khattaabi said, "The meaning of `Imran's hadeeth is intended for a sick person who is able to undergo hardship and stand with difficulty. Hence the reward of praying sitting has been made half of the reward of praying standing: encouraging him to pray standing while allowing him to sit." Ibn Hajr said in Fath al-Baari (2/468): "This deduction is valid".

[6] Ahmad & Ibn Maajah with a saheeh sanad.

[7] Tabaraani, Bazzaar, Ibn as-Samaak in his hadeeth book (67/2) & Baihaqi . It has a saheeh isnaad as I have explained in Silsilah al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah (323).

[8] Bazzaar (68), Daaraqutni, `Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi in his Sunan (82/2) and Haakim declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.

[9] Abu Daawood and Haakim, who declared it saheeh, as did Dhahabi. I have given it in as-Saheehah (319) and Irwaa' (383)

[10] Muslim and Abu Daawood.

[11] Bukhaari and Muslim.

[12] i.e. voluntary prayer (night or forenoon), named so due to its content of tasbeeh (glorification).

[13] Muslim and Ahmad.

[14] Nasaa'i, Ibn Khuzaimah in his Saheeh (1/107/2), `Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi in his Sunan (80/1) & Haakim, who declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.

[15] Abu Daawood & Ibn Maajah. It is a mutawatir hadeeth as Tahaawi has mentioned.

[16] Abu Daawood & Bazzaar (53, az-Zawa'id); Haakim declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.

[17] ibid.

[18] Abu Daawood, Ibn Khuzaimah & Haakim, who declared it saheeh and Dhahabi and Nawawi agreed. The first one is given in Irwaa' (284)

[19] ibid.

[20] Abu Daawood, Nasaa'i & Ibn Khuzaimah (1/110/2) with a saheeh isnaad.

[21] This is the sunnah about the pulpit: that it should have three steps, not more, To have more is an innovation, from the period of Bani Umayyah, which often causes an interruption in the row, and to get out of that by having it in the western corner of the mosque or in the mihrab is another innovation, as is the raising of it in the wall like a balcony to which one ascends by means of steps in the wall! Whereas the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم). See Fath al-Baari (2/331).

[22] Bukhaari , Muslim (who collected the other narration) & Ibn Sa`d (1/253). It is given in Irwaa' (545)

[23] lit., "screen, cover"; in the context of prayer, it refers to an object just beyond the place of prostration, within which nothing should pass, as is detailed in this section.

[24] Bukhaari & Ahmad.

[25] Bukhaari & Muslim.

[26] Ibn Khuzaimah in his Saheeh (1/93/1) with a sound isnaad.

[27] Abu Daawood, Bazzaar (p. 54 - Zawaaid) & Haakim, who declared it saheeh and Dhahabi and Nawawi agreed.

[28] Bukhaari. The sutrah is a must for the Imaam or a person praying alone, even in a large mosque. Ibn Haani said in his Masaa'il from Imaam Ahmad (1/66):

"Abu `Abdullaah (i.e. Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal) saw me one day when I was praying without a sutrah in front of me, and I was in a (large) congregational mosque, so he said to me: `Take something as a sutrah', so I took a man as a sutrah."

This contains an indication that Imaam Ahmad did not differentiate between big or small mosques in taking a sutrah - and that is surely correct, but this is something neglected by most people, including imaams of mosques, in every land that I have visited, including Arabia which I was able to tour in Rajab of this year (1410), so the `ulamaa should tell the people and advise them of this, explaining its ruling and that it is also required in the Two Sacred Mosques.

[29] Bukhaari, Muslim & Ibn Maajah

[30] Bukhaari & Ahmad.

[31] i.e., their kneeling place.

[32] Bukhaari & Ahmad.

[33] Muslim, Ibn Khuzaimah (92/2) & Ahmad.

[34] Muslim & Abu Daawood.

[35] Nasaa'i & Ahmad with a saheeh isnaad.

[36] Bukhaari , Muslim & Abu Ya`laa (3/1107).

[37] Ibn Khuzaimah in his Saheeh (1/95/1), Tabaraani (3/140/3) & Haakim who declared it saheeh and Dhahabi agreed.

[38] Referring to the following prayer of the Prophet Sulaimaan (عليه السلام) which was answered by Allaah, as described in the Qur'aan:

"My Lord! Forgive me, and grant me sovereignty not allowed to anyone after me, for You are indeed the Granter of Bounties. So we subjected to his power: the Wind, gently flowing to his order, wherever he wished; and the devils, every kind of builder and diver, and also others bound together in fetters." (Saad 38: 35-38)

[39] Ahmad, Daaraqutni & Tabari with a saheeh isnaad, and similar in meaning to this hadeeth is found in Bukhaari and Muslim and others on the authority of several Companions. It is one of the many ahaadeeth which the Qadiani group disbelieve, for they do not believe in the world of the jinn which is mentioned in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. Their method of discarding the texts is well-known: if it is from the Qur'aan, they change its meaning e.g. the saying of the Exalted,

"Say, it has been revealed to me that a group of jinns listened" (72:1);

They say "i.e. a group of humans"! making the word "jinn" synonymous with "human"! Hence they play with the language and the religion; if it is from the Sunnah, then if it is possible for them to change it with a false interpretation they do so, otherwise they find it easy to declare it to be false, even if all the Imaams of Hadeeth and the whole ummah behind them are agreed on its authenticity, nay its being mutawaatir. May Allaah guide them.

[40] Bukhaari & Muslim, and the additional narration is from Ibn Khuzaimah (1/94/1).

[41] ibid.

[42] i.e. mature, and what is meant by `cut off' is `rendered futile'. As regards the hadeeth: "Nothing cuts off the prayer", then it is a weak hadeeth as I have shown in Tamaam al-Minnah (p. 306).

[43] Muslim, Abu Daawood and Ibn Khuzaimah (1/95/2).

[44] ibid.


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