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 AlKafi 1667



Assalamualaikum wbt. I entered a mosque and found that all the saf are full. Thus, I stand alone behind the last saf which was full and pray alone in the back saf. What is the ruling for my prayer?


Waalaikumussalam wrt, wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصَّفِّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلاَةِ ‏

Anas reported the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Straighten your rows. for the straightening of a row is a part of the perfection of prayer.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (733) and Sahih Muslim (433)

The scholars have differing opinions on this matter and it is divided into two:

The first opinion: The prayer of the makmum is invalid and it is wajib for him to repeat his prayer. This is the opinion of Imam Ahmad, Ishak and al-Nakha’ie.

Imam Ibnu Qudamah said: “And whoever prays behind the saf alone, then he should repeat his prayer for his prayer is invalid.” (Refer Al-Mughni, 2/155). This is according to the hadith of the Prophet PBUH:

اسْتَقْبِلْ صَلاَتَكَ لاَ صَلاَةَ لِلَّذِي خَلْفَ الصَّف

“Repeat your prayer; there is no prayer for the one who is behind the row.”

Musnad Ahmad (4/23), Sunan Ibnu Majah (1003)

The Prophet PBUH from Wabisah (وَابِصَة) bin Mi’bad al-Juhaniy RA said:

أن رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - رأى رجلاً يصلي وحده خلف الصف، فأمره أن يعيد صلاته

“The Prophet PBUH saw a man praying alone behind the saf then the Prophet PBUH instructed him to repeat his prayer.”

Musnad Ahmad (4/228), SUnan Abu Daud (682) and Sunan al-Tirmizi (230)

According to the above hadith, the instruction of the Prophet PBUH to repeat the prayer proves that the prayer in invalidated. The reason is the act of repeating a prayer is an ilzam (resolution) and taklif (responsibilities). Thus, a person would not be responsible to perform a worship more than once. This shows that the instruction to repeat the prayer is a sign that the previous prayer is invalid. (Refer Al-Syarh al-Mumti' ‘ala Zad al-Mustaqni', 4/270)

Second opinion: The prayer of the makmum is valid but makruh. This is the opinion in madhhab Syafie, Hanafi and Maliki. (Refer Al-Bada'ie al-Sona'ie, 1/146; Al-Majmu' Syarh al-Muhadzzab, 4/192)

Imam Khatib al-Syirnbini said: “And it is makruh for him (the makmum) to pray alone behind the imam and he should enter the saf if there is space.” This is in accordance with the hadith of the Prophet PBUH narrated by Abi Bakrah RA:

عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرَةَ: أَنَّهُ انْتَهَى إلَى النَّبِيِّ - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ - وَهُوَ رَاكِعٌ فَرَكَعَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَصِلَ إلَى الصَّفِّ فَذَكَرَ ذَلِكَ لِلنَّبِيِّ - صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ - فَقَالَ: زَادَكَ اللَّهُ حِرْصًا وَلَا تَعُد

I reached the Prophet () in the mosque while he was bowing in prayer and I too bowed before joining the row mentioned it to the Prophet () and he said to me, "May Allah increase your love for the good. But do not repeat it again (bowing in that way).”

Sahih al-Bukhari (783)

Thus, the hadith shows that the Prophet PBUH did not ask him to repeat his prayer which proves that his prayer is valid. However, the ruling of it (praying alone behind the imam) is makruh which could abrogate the rewards of congregational prayer but does not invalidate prayer. (Refer Al-Majmu' Syarh al-Muhadzzab, 4/298; Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/558)

As for the hadith which states there is no prayer for a person praying alone (اَ صَلاَةَ لِلَّذِي خَلْفَ الصَّف), scholars said it means there is no (perfection) in prayer for a person who prays alone behind the saf. (Refer Al-Majmu' Syarh al-Muhadzzab, 4/298)

Whereas regarding a hadith which instructed for the prayer to be repeated (فأمره أن يعيد صلاته), according to scholars of madhhab Syafie the instruction of repeating the prayer can be understood as sunnah (which means it is encouraged for the prayer to be repeated) which is in line with the first hadith where the Prophet PBUH did not ask for the prayer to be repeated even when the situation is the same. (Refer Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/558)

Thus, according to madhhab Syafie, in this situation, if we are able to slip in between the people in the saf, then this is what is best. If it is impossible to enter a filled saf, it is sunnah to pull someone from the saf in front to pray together with us in the back. This is on the condition that the person must first perform his takbiratul ihram (starts praying), then pulls someone to the back with him. This is in order to avoid the khilaf of the opinion of some scholars who ruled the prayer of a person praying alone is invalid. While for the person being pulled back, he should cooperate by taking a step back to help his brother out (which is by taking a step back). This is so that he can attain the rewards of helping in piety and doing good. (Refer Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1/559)


After analysing the above discussion, we conclude this issue into several points:

  • The prayer of a person praying alone behind the saf is valid but makruh and could lead to abrogation of the rewards of congregational prayer.
  • Thus, according to madhhab Syafie it is prioritized to try to slip in between people in the existing saf, however, if the saf is completely filled, then it is sunnah to pull someone in the saf in front of him to pray with him in the back saf for him to receive the rewards of congregational prayer. This is on the condition that he must first perform his takbiratul ihram.
  • It is sunnah for the person being pulled back to take a step back to receive the rewards of helping in piety and doing good.

Wallahu a’lam.

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