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General Issues Pertaining to the Prayer
  Connecting the Lines for Prayer
Author: Abu Khaliyl
Source: Al-Huda Magazine
Article ID : IBD050002  [7360]  
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Ibn Umarreported that Allaah (AWJ)'s Messengersaid, Establish your lines [straight], for indeed the angels [pray] in lines. Align your shoulders, close the gaps, yield your hands to your brothers, and do not leave any gaps for Shaytaan. Whoever connects a line, Allaah maintains him, and whoever breaks a line, Allaah cuts him off. (Ahmad, Aboo Daawood, an-Nasaa`ee and others. See Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 1187)

Anyone who has prayed with different groups of people will probably have experienced the following situation: When you line up for prayer, the person next to you prevents your feet from touching theirs. If you try to move closer to them, they move away, if you persist trouble will most likely erupt.

The evidence for standing four fingers width away?

Most people who stand away from their neighbor during group prayer do so simply out of custom. It would not be fair to claim that it is based upon a certain mathhab, for one will not find it taught in any of the source books for the mathhabs. For example, in the famous Hanafee fiqh book "Haashiyah" by Ibn `Aabidayn, the only mention of one not touching the feet to their neighbor during group prayer, is in the case of a man praying with his wife! . Similarly, it is not mentioned in "al-Um" by ash-Shaaf`ee. However, the opinion stating that it is allowable for one to stand four fingers width away from the person praying next to them is collected in some comparative fiqh books.(1) This opinion, we hope to show, is pure baseless conjecture, and furthermore implementing it violates numerous general and specific texts which govern how to stand in line for group prayers. Additionally, the manner in which the companions prayed in the presence of the Prophetis an evidence for the Muslims to follow. especially when hesaid,

...For surely I can see you from behind my back... (Al- Bukhaaree)And he said so after commanding the companions to correct their lines. Were they to have not followed his command properly, or if they were excessive, then he, being able to see them in that state, surely would have corrected them further. And this is the argument against those who claim that concern over this matter constitutes excessiveness.

Furthermore, this opinion is one that requires the praying person to do an additional act, that is - to move away, whereas were he to stand still when the person next to him put his foot next to his, he would be doing less, and less action is the rule in prayer unless there is an evidence otherwise! This is especially true in the light of the texts as we will prove if Allah (AWJ) allows.

The command to straighten the rows and close the gaps, and that it is Waajib

The Prophetsaid Make good your standing in the rows during prayer. (Ahmad and Ibn Hibaan. Authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 195) And, Establish your lines [straight], and consolidate... (al Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others)

Imaam al-Baghawee comments on the word "taraassoow" [translated here as consolidate] saying, "His saying taraassoow means to cling together until there are no gaps between you. As Allaah (AWJ) said, Surely Allaah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks as if they were a solidified [marsoosan] wall. (as-Saff 61:4) meaning they join together with each other. In this is the evidence that the Imaam should turn towards the people commanding them to straighten their lines."(2)

The Prophetalso said, Straighten your lines, for indeed straightening the lines is part of the completeness of the prayer. (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim), about which Imaam ash-Shawkaanee noted, "From this it is understood that straightening the lines is waajib." (Nayl ul-Aawtaar)

And hecommanded,Close the gaps... (Ahmad, Aboo Daawood, an-Nasaa`ee and others. See Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 1187)

Ordering the action by way of a verb accompanied by the "laam" of command

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