Reported by Marthad bin `Abdullah Al-Yazni: When Malik bin Hubairah (RA) offered a funeral prayer and found a small number of participants, he would divide them into three rows and would say that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “If three rows of men offer funeral prayer over anyone, his entry into Jannah will become certain.” [Abu Dawud & Tirmidhi]
I would like to know if the prophet [S.A.W] meant exactly three lines or at least three lines.
As Salaamu Alaikum,
He meant three lines. Based on this tradition, the Jurists have stated that it is mustahab (commendable) to divide the people into three lines for Janaza Salaah (the funeral prayer) if it is possible to do so.
This should be done even with a small amount of people. In this regard, the Jurists have stated that if there are seven people for the funeral prayer, then one should go in front to be the Imam, three should stand in the first line, two in the second line and one in the third line. In this way, they can have three lines. (Raddul Muhtar vol.2 pg214).
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan
This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.