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Raising Hands Before and After Bowing in Ritual Prayer

Answered by Shaykh Omar Subedar

Question:

Is the practice of raising one’s hands before and after Rukū’  (bowing) in [ritual] prayer abrogated?

Answer:

The debate over whether one should raise his or her hands before and after performing rukū’ is one that has been going on for centuries. While certain Companions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم maintained this practice, other companions chose not to do so. This ultimately led their successors to debate over whether this practice was abrogated or not. Although both sides have evidence to support their view some have unfortunately adopted unwarranted extremes to prove their point.

According to the Ḥanafī School of Islamic Law this practice is one that is not encouraged. Imam Muḥammad ibn Al Ḥasan Al Shaybāni [d.189H] states, “When a person intends to enter the prayer, he should recite the takbīr and raise his hands [until they are] parallel to his ears. He is not to raise them during any takbīr of the prayer except at the opening takbīr.” [Kitāb Al Mabsōt p. 81 vol. 1, Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al Sarakhsi, Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah 2001]

He explains his rationale for this ruling in his book Al Mu’aṭṭa by writing, “This is the verdict of Abū Hanīfa [d. 150H] and in respect to this there are many narrations.”

Imam Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al Sarakhsī writes, “There is an [interesting] story recorded on this issue. Al Awzā’ī met up with Abū Hanīfa in Masjid Al Ḥarām and expressed, “What is wrong with the Iraqis? They fail to raise their hands during rukū’ and whilst raising their heads from rukū’ when in fact Zuhrī reported to me from Sālim, who reported from Ibn `Umar who reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would raise his hands when going into rukū’ and when raising his head from rukū’.

Abū Hanīfa responded, “Hammād reported to me from Ibrāhīm Al Nakhai’ī, who reported from `Alqama, who reported from `Abdullāh ibn Mas’ūd that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would raise his hands during the takbīr of ihrām (i.e. the opening takbīr) and would then not repeat it.”

Awzā’ī remarked, “I am amazed over Abū Hanīfa! I report to him a ḥadīth of Zuhrī’s, who reported from Sālim and he [counters it by] telling me a ḥadīth of Ḥammād’s, who reported from Ibrāhīm, who reported from `Alqama…?!” [In essence Awzā’ī gave preference to his narration due its transmission chain being superior].

Abū Hanīfa retorted, “Hammād is more knowledgeable than Zuhrī and Ibrāhīm is more knowledgeable than Sālim. And had Ibn` Umar not preceded [`Alqama by a generation] I would have asserted that `Alqama is more knowledgeable than Ibn` Umar.”

Abū Hanīfa gave preference to `Abdullāh’s narration due to the religious understanding (fiqh) of its transmitters and this is the [correct] methodology because preference should be given based on the knowledge (fiqh) of the reporters and not on the transmission chain being superior.” [Kitāb Al Mabsōt p. 92 vol. 1, Muḥammad ibn Ahmad Al Sarakhsī, Dār Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah 2001]

The hadīth Abū Hanīfa referred to in this dialogue has also been recorded by Abū `Īsā Al Tirmidhī [d.279H] in his Jāme’ as follows;

‘Alqama reported, “`Abdullāh ibn Mas’ōd رضى الله عنه said [to us one day], “Shall I not demonstrate the prayer of Allāh’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم to you all?”

He then prayed and did not raise his hands except at the first time.”

Al Tirmidhī then mentions, “In this regard [a ḥadīth has been reported] by Barā ibn Al Āazib رضى الله عنه. Ibn Mas’ōd’s ḥadīth is a reliable (asan) hadīth. This is the view of many scholars among the Companions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Tābi’īn. It is [also] the view of Sufyān Al Thawrī and the people of Kūfa [Iraq].

[Jāme’ Al Tirmidhī: 257]

According to another narration `Abdullāh ibn Mas’ōd رضى الله عنه has also reported,

“I have prayed behind the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, Abū Bakr and `Umarرضى الله عنهما  and they would not raise their hands except during the opening takbīr .” [Al Sunan Al Kubrā, Bayhaqī: 2534]

Aswad’s report further substantiates `Abdullāh ibn Mas’ōd’s رضى الله عنه observation in which he states,

“I saw `Umar ibn Al Khattāb رضى الله عنه raising his hands during the first takbīr. He then did not repeat [this action throughout the entire prayer].” [Shar’h Ma’āni Al Aathār, Tahāwī: 1329]

There are other Companions who followed in `Umar ibn Al Khattāb’s رضى الله عنه footsteps even though they reported that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would raise his hands whilst commencing the prayer, before going into rukū’ and following the rukū’ , such as `Alī رضى الله عنه and `Umar’s son `Abdullāh رضى الله عنه.

For example `Alī رضى الله عنه has reported,

“When Allāh’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم would stand for the obligatory prayer, he would say the takbīr and raise his hands till his shoulders. He would perform a similar action when he would complete his recitation and intended to go into rukū’. He would do this [again] when he would rise from rukū’…” [Sunan Abū Dāwōd: 744]

On the other hand Kulaib reports,

“`Alī  رضى الله عنه would raise his hands during the first takbīr of the prayer and would then not raise them again thereafter.” [Shar’h Ma’āni Al Aathār, Tahāwī: 1320]

Upon this Abū Ja`far Ahmad ibn Muḥammad Al Tahāwī [d.321H] has remarked, “It is not possible for `Alī  رضى الله عنه to have seen the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم raise his hands and then abandon raising [his hands] thereafter except [in a case where] the abrogation of [the practice of] raising [hands] was established according to him.” [Shar’h Ma’āni Al Aathār p.291-292 vol. 1, Abū Ja`far Ahmad ibn Muḥammad Al Tahāwī, Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah 2006]

Similarly we find `Abdullāh ibn `Umar رضى الله عنهما  reporting,

“Allāh’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم would raise his hands till his shoulders when he would begin the prayer. When he would say the takbīr for rukū’ and raise his head from rukū’  he would raise them in a similar manner…” [Bukhāri: 702]

But his student, Mujāhid relates, “I prayed behind Ibn `Umar رضى الله عنهما  and he would only raise his hands during the first takbīr of the prayer.” [Shar’h Ma’āni Al Aathār, Tahāwī: 1323]

Al Tahāwī mentions, “This is Ibn `Umar رضى الله عنهما  who saw the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم raising his hands and then left raising [them] himself [even] after [observing] the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This could only happen if the abrogation of what he witnessed the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم doing had been established by him and evidence for it was presented to him.

…If someone were to claim that Tā’ōs mentioned that he saw Ibn `Umar practice [his prayer] according to what has been reported by him regarding the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, they should be told that Tā’ōs reported it however Mujāhid contradicted it. It is possible that Ibn `Umar رضى الله عنهما practiced what Tā’ōs saw before evidence of its abrogation had been established in front of him. Once evidence of its abrogation was established he abandoned it and did what Mujāhid described.” [Shar’h Ma’āni Al Aathār p. 292 vol. 1, Abū Ja`far Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al Tahāwī, Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah 2006]

Another interesting point to note is that Imam Mālik ibn Anas [d.179H], the renowned Imam of Islamic law and one of the sub-narrators of Ibn `Umar’s رضى الله عنهما report on raising the hands, has been recorded to have said, “I do not recognize raising the hands during any takbīr of the prayer, neither while going down or getting up except during the beginning of the prayer. A person will only raise his hands slightly at that time.”

Ibn Al Qāsim said, “Raising the hands [during the prayer] was a weak practice according to Mālik except during the takbīr of ihrām.” [Al Mudawwana Al Kubra p.68 vol.1, Dar Sader Publishers 2005]

And Allāh Knows Best

This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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