IRSYAD AL-HADITH SERIES 353: HADITH ON STRAIGHTENING OF THE SAF

IrsyadHadith 353

 

Question:

Is it true that the Prophet PBUH would always utter the statement that the imams always said before prayer?

سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصَّفِّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلَاةِ

“Straighten the saf for straightening the saf is included as the perfection of prayer,”

 

Answer:

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.

Straightening the saf is included as one of the manners of congregational prayer. It is sunnah for the imam to not begin the prayer until the saf is straightened and it is also sunnah for him to instruct the makmum behind him to straightened the saf. As for huge mosques, then it is sunnah to appoint someone to ensure all the saf are straightened by inspecting or instructing in a loud voice. It is also sunnah for everyone in the congregation to ask for the saf to be perfected if there is imperfection in the saf. The reason is, it is included as amar makruf and helping in good deed and piety where the perfection in the saf is included as the perfection of prayer. (See al-Muktamad, 439/1)

There are several hadiths which explained the importance of straightening the saf and the consequence if it is neglected. Among them are:

  • From Abu Mas’ud RA, he said:

كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَمْسَحُ مَنَاكِبَنَا فِي الصَّلَاةِ، وَيَقُولُ: اسْتَوُوا، وَلَا تَخْتَلِفُوا، فَتَخْتَلِفَ قُلُوبُكُمْ

The Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) used to touch our shoulders in prayer and say: “Keep straight, don't be irregular, for there would be dissension in your hearts.”

Sahih Muslim (432)

  • From al-Nu’man bin Basyir RA, the Prophet PBUH said:

لَتُسَوُّنَّ صُفُوفَكُمْ، أَوْ لَيُخَالِفَنَّ اللَّهُ بَيْنَ وُجُوهِكُمْ

"Straighten your rows or Allah will alter your faces."

Sahih al-Bukhari (717)

  • From Abdullah bin Umar R.Anhuma, the Prophet PBUH said:

وَلَا تَذَرُوا فُرُجَاتٍ لِلشَّيْطَانِ وَمَنْ وَصَلَ صَفًّا وَصَلَهُ اللَّهُ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَ صَفًّا قَطَعَهُ اللَّهُ

“And do not leave openings for the devil. If anyone joins up a row, Allah will join him up, but if anyone breaks a row, Allah will cut him off.”

Sunan Abu Daud (666)

According to the above question, there are numerous hadiths that narrate on the instruction of the Prophet PBUH to straighten the saf before praying, among them are:

  • From Anas bin Malik RA, the Prophet PBUH said:

سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصَّفِّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلَاةِ

“Straighten your rows. for the straightening of a row is a part of the perfection of prayer.”

Sahih Muslim (433)

  • From Anas bin Malik RA, the Prophet PBUH said:

سَوُّوا صُفُوفَكُمْ، فَإِنَّ تَسْوِيَةَ الصُّفُوفِ مِنْ إِقَامَةِ الصَّلاَةِ

"Straighten your rows as the straightening of rows is essential for a perfect and correct prayer. "

Sahih al-Bukhari (723)

  • From Abdullah bin Umar R.Anhuma, the Prophet PBUH said:

أَقِيمُوا الصُّفُوفَ وَحَاذُوا بَيْنَ الْمَنَاكِبِ وَسُدُّوا الْخَلَلَ

"Arrange the rows in order, stand shoulder to shoulder, close the gaps,”

Sunan Abu Daud (666)

The above are some examples of the hadiths that state the commandment of the Prophet PBUH to straighten the saf to his companions before the Prophet PBUH begins the prayer. However, if an imam uses other words, then it is not an issue as long as the statement convey the meaning meant which is to straighten the saf. Moreover, Imam al-Nawawi state that this hadith proves the encouragement of straightening the saf and the permissibility of talking in between the iqamah and prayer. This is the opinion in our madhhab (madhhab Syafie) although there are scholars who prohibit it (talking after iqamah). However, the accurate opinion is that it is permissible to tallkregarding matters that are related to prayer or otherwise. (See al-Minhaj, 157/4)

The Meaning of Straightening the Saf

Imam al-Iraqi cited the opinions of scholars in understanding the meaning of straightening the saf, which is:

  • To attain istiqamah and I’tidal outwardly as it is sanctioned in one’s heart.
  • To avoid from the disturbance of the shaytan that intends to harm the prayer with doubts.
  • Give a good impression or environment.
  • So that even more makmum can join the congregation for if there are too many people and the saf are filled with gaps it will be cramped.
  • Preventing the makmum from being distracted by looking at other things.

(See Tharh al-Tathrib, 326/2)

The Stories of the Salaf al-Soleh (Past Righteous People)

Among the stories of salaf al-Soleh related to the stories of the Companions who emphasize the straightening of the saf are:

  • Narrated from Saidina Umar bin al-Khattab RA:

أَنَّهُ كَانَ يُوَكِّلُ رِجَالًا بِإِقَامَةِ الصُّفُوفِ فَلَا يُكَبِّرُ حَتَّى يُخْبَرَ أَنَّ الصُّفُوفَ قَدْ اسْتَوَتْ

“As for him (Saidina Umar), he appointed several men to straighten the saf. He will not perform the takbir (takbirat al-Ihram) until he is informed that all the saf is straight.”

 

  • From Suwaid bin al-Ghaflah, he said:

كَانَ بِلَالٌ يَضْرِبُ أَقْدَامَنَا فِي الصَّلَاةِ وَيُسَوِّي مَنَاكِبَنَا

“As for Bilal, he would hit our legs before beginning the prayer and straightened our shoulders.”

 

Conclusion

To conclude, any words said by the imam to straighten the saf of the makmum is considered as the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH. Thus, every imam should play his role in this matter before beginning the prayer. If he is incapable, then he can appoint another person to fulfil this responsibility. Lastly, may Allah SWT give us understanding in this religion. Amin

Wallahua’lam.


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