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Excessive Movements Invalidate the Prayer

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher

I know that too much unnecessary movement invalidates the salah. What about communicating through signs or gestures, e.g. you are praying and you see someone whose attention you want, so you nod at them or some one asks a second person a question and the third person praying replies by showing them on his fingers (i.e. four fingers)?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Asalamu ailaikum

Excessive movements certainly do invalidate the prayer. These are defined as any movements that are such if seen by an onlooker from afar he would conclude that one is certainly not praying [1:420, Radd al-Muhtar, Dar Li Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi]. Non-excessive movements if done for the interests of the prayer are somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan) [1:439, Al-Durr al-Mukhtar, (published with Radd al-Muhtar)].

Any speech consisting of two letters or more invalidates the prayer [1:412, Radd al-Muhtar, Dar Li Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi].

Included as speech are sounds that indicate human speech. For example the prayer of a lady who cries during the prayer due to the death of her son and produces sounds thereby, is invalidated because it is as if she said ‘Woe is me. O my son.’ or words to that effect [1:416, Radd al-Muhtar]. Likewise are the moans of a sick person as they are as if to say ‘O I’m in such pain’ and so on. So sounds that indicate meanings count as speech and invalidate the prayer.

As for words of remembrance that typically belong to the prayer if uttered in response to another person they also invalidate the prayer. Examples of this are a persons saying ‘inna lillah wa inna ilaihi raji’un’ (indeed we are Allah’s and to him we return) upon hearing somebody inform one of somebody’s demise as it is considered responding to that person’s statement. Another example is saying ‘amin’ in response to a supplication offered by somebody outside of the prayer, or saying ‘yarhamakallah’ (may Allah have mercy on you) in response to somebody’s sneezing, and so on.

So even forms of dhikr and verses of the Qur’an if mentioned for the sake of communicating with somebody else or responding to somebody else’s statement or circumstances is considered speech with that person and so will invalidate the prayer [1:417, Radd al-Muhtar].

Movements, however, that entail communicating with somebody, if slight, will not invalidate the prayer even though these can be seen to be as if speaking with that other person. This can be deduced from a number of scenarios mentioned in the fiqh books, amongst these is:

a. Replying to somebody’s greeting one by assalamu alaykum with an indication with one’s hand is somewhat disliked (makruh tanzihan) [1:414, al-Durr al-Mukhtar, Dar li-Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi(published with Radd al-Muhtar].

b. If one praying is asked about something and responds with his head to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ the prayer is not invalidated. [1:98, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi (quoting from Tabyin al-Haqa’iq of al-Zayla’i] and [443, al-Halabi al-Kabir, Dar Sa’ada]

c. If somebody passes in front of one as one is praying one can ward him of with an indication with one’s hand, head or eye. [Radd al-Muhtar, 1:429, Dar li Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi]

However there are also scenarios where physically responding to somebody else does invalidate one’s prayer. Of these is the case where if one is told to move forward and one complies then one’s prayer is invalid. [1:418, Al-Durr al-Mukhtar, (published with Radd al-Muhtar)]. They differed, however, concerning the person who, whilst praying, moves to make space for somebody who enters a gap in a row; if it was an instinctive reaction to that person’s joining the row it invalidates the prayer according to al-Haskafi but not if the person thinks first and then does it of one’s own volition as one’s motion will not then be for the sake of another person. [ibid]. Ibn ‘Abidin, however, prefers the opinion that the prayer in this case is not invalidated regardless of one’s intention [ibid quoting al-Tahtawi]. Furthermore ibn ‘Abidin quotes Minah al-Ghaffar of al-Tumurtashi that if one is praying and someone pulls one back and one complies and steps back, this does not invalidate the prayer [1:383, Radd al-Muhtar]. To explain the difference between these cases Ibn ‘Abidin quotes Sharh al-Quduri that the former case, where one is told to move forward the prayer is invalidated as it entails obeying other than Allah in one’s prayer and in the other cases there is no direct obedience entailed.[1:384, Radd al-Muhtar] Al-Tahtawi offers the explanation that if the movement was purely for the sake of the other person with no regard to the fact that making space for somebody is countenanced by the sacred law then it will invalidate and otherwise not[ibid]. And Allah knows best.

One can therefore conclude that one can make slight movements in the prayer to communicate something to somebody else. One may not however undertake a movement at somebody’s behest as this would be obeying other than Allah in the prayer and would invalidate it.

And Allah Most High knows best.

Sohail Hanif

This answer was indexed from Qibla.com, which used to have a repository of Islamic Q&A answered by various scholars. The website is no longer in existence. It has now been transformed into a learning portal with paid Islamic course offering under the brand of Kiflayn.

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