Recently, there is a spread of infographic on social media which depicts the position for congregational prayer where the wife should not stand on the left side of her husband, but her place should be behind the imam. My question is how should she pray if her house is cramped and the praying area could not accommodate for her to pray behind her husband?
Waalaikumussalam wrm. 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.
The Arrangement of Saf for Men and Women in Prayer
We have discussed the issue of the saf arrangement for the wife when she is praying with her husband in the article al-kafi #640: The Placement of the Wife When She is Praying with Her Husband, al-Kafi #641: Is the Prayer of Men in the Saf Beside Women Valid? In brief, there is a hadith narrated from Anas bin Malik RA who said:
أَنَّ جَدَّتَهُ مُلَيْكَةَ دَعَتْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِطَعَامٍ صَنَعَتْهُ لَهُ فَأَكَلَ مِنْهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ قُومُوا فَلِأُصَلِّ لَكُمْ ، فَقَامَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، وَصَفَفْتُ وَالْيَتِيمَ وَرَاءَهُ ، وَالْعَجُوزُ مِنْ وَرَائِنَا ، فَصَلَّى لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رَكْعَتَيْنِ ثُمَّ انْصَرَفَ
"My grandmother Mulaika invited Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) for a meal which she herself had prepared. He ate from it and said, 'Get up! I will lead you in the prayer.' " Anas added, "I took my Hasir, washed it with water as it had become dark because of long use and Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) stood on it. The orphan (Damira or Ruh) and I aligned behind him and the old lady (Mulaika) stood behind us. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) led us in the prayer and offered two rak`at and then left."
Sahih al-Bukhari (380)
Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah said:
“If the people who attend the prayer consist of men, children, intersex and women, then the first is the men, then children, then intersex, last are the women.”
Refer Al-Majmu' Syarah Al-Muhadzzab (4/293)
Afterwards, he stated the rulings related to the positions of the makmum saying:
“To conclude, indeed all the stated positions is according to istihbab commandment (encouragement or sunnah). If the makmum contradict this, then it is makruh but the prayer is still valid, this is as stated by the compiler of the book (which is Imam al-Syirazi). Likewise, if the imam is at a higher position than the makmum, or when the makmum is at a higher position than the imam, without any need for it to be so. The same for when the women makmum is a little bit ahead of the saf of men as long as it does not surpass the imam or the woman makmum is beside the imam or a man makmum, then the prayer of the woman is valid the same for the prayer of the man, without any khilaf according to us.”
Refer Al-Majmu' Syarah Al-Muhadzzab (4/297)
Makruh Matters in Prayer is No Longer Makruh When There is A Necessity
In the article Irsyad al-Fatwa Series 480: The Arrangement of Saf During an Outbreak, we have discussed the Islamic legal maxim:
الكَرَاهَة تَزُولُ بالحَاجَة
“The makruh ruling is abrogated when there is a necessity.”
Refer Ma`lamah Zayed (no.267)
Matters that are makruh in prayer are no longer makruh when there is a necessity for it.
Imam Abu Ishak al-Syirazi in al-Muhadzzab:
“It is makruh to leave sunnah matters in prayer and it is makruh to turn away without any necessity, this is in accordance with what has been narrated by Abu Dzar RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لَا يَزَالُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى مُقْبِلًا عَلَى عَبْدِهِ فِي الصَّلَاةِ مَا لَمْ يَلْتَفِتْ فَإِذَا الْتَفَتْ صَرَفَ عَنْهُ وَجْهُهُ
“Allah, the Most-High, continues to turn favourably towards a servant while he is engaged in prayer as long as he does not look to the side (by turning the neck), but if he does so, He turns away from him.”
Sunan Abu Daud (909)
It means that Allah will always bless and look favourably on a person for as long as he maintains his sight in prayer. (Refer Tuhfah al-Muhtaj (2/161) by Ibn Hajar al-Haitami)
However, if there is a necessity then it is not makruh according to the narration by Ibn ‘Abbas R.Anhuma, where the Prophet PBUH said:
كَانَ يَلْتَفِتُ فِي صَلَاتِهِ يَمِينًا وَشِمَالًا وَلَا يَلْوِي عُنُقَهُ خَلْفَ ظَهْرِهِ
"The Messenger of Allah would glance toward the right and the left during Salat but he would not turn his neck to look behind him."
Sunan al-Tirmizi (587)
It is stated in Tuhfah al-Ahwadzi (3/159) by Syeikh Abu al-‘Ala al-Mubarakfuri, Ibn Malak said: It is said that the Prophet PBUH would turn away once, or several times to explain that the act does not invalidate the prayer or it is permissible if there is a necessity to do so.
Refer al-Majmu` Syarh al-Muhadzzab (4/95)
In another example, in a hadith narrated by Abu Qatadah, the Prophet PBUH said:
كَانَ يُصَلِّي وَهُوَ حَامِلٌ أُمَامَةَ بِنْتَ زَيْنَبَ بِنْتِ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَلِأَبِي الْعَاصِ بْنِ الرَّبِيعِ، فَإِذَا قَامَ حَمَلَهَا وَإِذَا سَجَدَ وَضَعَهَا
“I saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying the prayer while he was carrying Umama, daughter of Zainab, daughter of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). and Abu'l-'As b. al-Rabi'. When he stood up, he took her up and when he prostrated, he put her down.”
Sahih Muslim (543)
Imam al-Nawawi states in al-Minhaj Syarh Muslim (5/34):
“Minor movement is permissible in prayer, then the second step does not invalidate prayer but it is prioritized to be avoided except if there is a necessity, indeed, action due to a necessity is not makruh as showcased by the Prophet PBUH. This hadith shows that it is permissible for the imam to pray at a place higher than the place of the makmum, but it is makruh when the place of the imam is higher or the place of the makmum is higher, unless there is a necessity. Thus, if there is a desperate need such as to teach the actions of prayer then it is not makruh, it is even sunnah according to this hadith. Likewise, when a makmum intends to teach another makmum the actions of the imam which calls for him to be in a higher place.”
According to the above facts and discussion, we are inclined towards the opinion which states that the prayer is not invalid, it is also not haram nor makruh for a wife to pray on the left side of her husband if their house is cramped for there is a necessity. Wallahua’lam.
May this explanation give understanding to the questioner. We pray that Allah SWT accepts our deeds and make us from among His grateful slaves.