Perfecting the rows: as important as perfecting the prayer
By Asma bint Shameem
Perfecting the rows when we stand for prayer in congregation is clearly a very important matter in Islaam. However, we don’t pay much attention to it. Many people think it is not an important matter. Even our elders, leaders, those trying to lead an ‘Islaamic’ life, all seem to overlook the matter or disregard it as insignificant or tertiary.
They either stand with their feet close together in the form of ‘Attention!’, or leave huge gaps in between themselves and their neighbor or the rows are crooked, etc.
So, insha Allaah the following points will shed some light on the virtue and importance of perfecting them.
1) Straightening the rows is an ORDER from Rasul Allaah (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam):
Anas ibn Maalik
said that the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said: “Make your rows straight for I can see you behind my back.” (Bukhaari, Muslim
And he said: “Make the rows straight and do not differ, lest your hearts differ.” ( Muslim).
2) Straightening the rows is part of perfecting the prayer:
The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of perfecting the prayer.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)
And “Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of establishing prayer.”(Bukhari)
3) SEVERE WARNING for those who do NOT perfect the rows:
When the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) saw a man sticking out his chest he said, “Make your rows straight or Allaah will ALTER YOUR FACES.” (Bukhaari)
Nu’maan ibn Basheer said: The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) used to straighten our rows, as if he was straightening the shaft of an arrow, until he saw that we had learned it. Then he came out one day and was about to say the takbeer, when he noticed a man whose chest was sticking out from the row. He said: “Slaves of Allaah! Make your rows straight or Allaah will cause discord among you.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
“The words “or Allaah will cause discord among you” … this is undoubtedly a warning to those who fail to straighten their rows. Hence some scholars are of the view that it is obligatory to make the rows straight. If something is enjoined and a warning issued against doing the opposite, it cannot be said that it is ‘only a Sunnah’ .If the congregation does not straighten the rows, then they are sinning. This is the apparent meaning of the words of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah.” (Al-Sharh al-Mumti’)
When Anas ibn Maalik came to Madeenah after the death of the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam), someone asked him: “What do you find has changed in us since the time of the Messenger of Allaah (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam)? Anas said: I do not find anything except that you do not straighten your rows.” (Bukhaari)
4) Stand shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot with your neighbor and do NOT leave GAPS:
Making the rows straight and compact is achieved by standing foot-to-foot and shoulder-to-shoulder. Foot-to-foot does NOT mean your two feet next to each other as some people misunderstand.. It means your left foot next to the foot of your neighbor on your left and your right foot next to your neighbor on your right.
Nu’maan ibn Basheer said:
“The Messenger of Allaah (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) turned to face the people and said, ‘Straighten your rows,’ three times, ‘for by Allaah either you straighten your rows or Allaah will create division among your hearts.’ And I saw men standing shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, ankle to ankle.
” (Abu Dawood
–Sahih by al-Albaani
Another part of making the rows complete and perfect is not leaving any gaps in between.
The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said: “Straighten the rows, for you form rows like the angels, and keep your shoulders in line with one another, and fill the gaps, and do not leave any room for the Shaytaan. Whoever joins a row to complete it, Allaah will reward him and whoever breaks a row, Allaah will forsake him.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood–Saheeh by al-Albaani)
5) Align your heels:
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “Straightening the rows means that no one stands in front of anyone else….(Align) the shoulders at the top of the body, and the heels at the bottom of the body. As for the toes, they do not count, because toes vary; some people have long feet and some have short feet, so what matters is the heel.”
6) Do NOT exaggerate in this matter and do NOT FIGHT over it:
a) Some people exaggerate in trying to follow this matter and spread their legs so far apart trying to touch their neighbor’s feet that they force their neighbor to stand with his feet close together in a very uncomfortable way and not be able to stand with his feet spread at a balanced distance. The correct distance between one’s own two feet is the distance between one’s shoulders.
b) Also, making the rows compact does NOT mean crowding and cramming people in, because there is a difference between making it compact and making it crowded.
c) Feet to feet means to gently lay your foot next to your neighbor’s foot.
It does NOT, let me repeat, IT DOES NOT mean to jam your foot against your neighbor’s foot or push down, hurt, slam, squish or otherwise abuse your fellow Muslim praying next to you as some people who take it to the extreme do.
It also does NOT mean that you insist
on putting your foot next to his if he does not want to or he moves away. Realize
that you are disturbing and annoying your Muslim brother and distracting him from his salah when you do so.
Let this matter not to be a reason of division amongst you. Deal with it with wisdom, gentleness and love. At the end of the day, it’s about bringing people closer to Allaah and salaah and not push them away.
7) The BEST row for the men is the first row and for the women, the last is the best.
This is because the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) said: “The best rows for men are the first rows and the worst are the last, and the best rows for women are the last rows and the worst are the first.” (Muslim)
And he said: “Allaah and the angels send blessings on the front rows.” (al-Nasaa’i– saheeh by al-Albaani)
However, if there is a partition in between the men and women, then the first row for women becomes the best. (Fatwa–Shaykh Ibn Baaz)
8) Complete the FIRST row and then the next.
This is also part of straightening the rows. The second row should not be begun until the first row is complete, and the third row should not begin until the second row, and so on.
The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) urged completing the first row and said: “If the people knew what there is in the call and the first row, but they had no way other than drawing lots, then they would draw lots.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)
And he (Sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said: “Complete the first row, then the next one, and if there is to be any incomplete row let it be the last row.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood- Saheeh by al-Albaani)
9) The rows should start from BEHIND the imam; NOT from the extreme right:
“The rows should start from behind the imam, not from the right hand side of the masjid or the left, as some people do. Rather they should start from right behind the imam, then the row should be completed to both the right and the left, so as to follow the Sunnah of having the imam in the middle.” (islam-qa.com
“The first row in prayer should begin behind the imam, then stretch to the right and the left, not from the farthest point to the right . The same applies to the second and subsequent rows.” (Al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah in Fataawa Islamiyyah)
“However, when both sides are pretty equal, then the right side of the row is better, but NOT in absolute terms: because if it were so, it would be better when only two people are praying with the Imam, to stand on the right of the imam, but what is prescribed is that one should be on the right and one on the left so that the imam is in the middle and there is no imbalance on one side.” (islam-qa.com
And, of course the left side of a front row is better than the right side of a row that’s further back.
10) Make the rows close to one another and close to the Imam:
The Sunnah is for the imam to be close to the people who are praying behind him, and the people should be close to the imam, and each row should be close to the other. The definition of close is that there should be enough room between them to prostrate and a little more.
11) Where to place the chair in the row :