Fiqh of Placing a Barrier (sutra) In Front of One’s Prayer Place  

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Ilyas Patel

I wanted to know if one is praying in the mosque, then does he need something in front of him to stop someone breaking the prayer (I think this is called sutra??) Could you tell me the ruling for breaking someone’s prayer? How actually does walking in front or walking across break the prayer? Is it the same if in the mosque or if not?

Answer:
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “If someone passing in front of a person performing the prayer knew of the penalty for it, it would be better for him to wait for forty.”  (Bukhari)

Whether the Prophet (Allah bless him and give peace) said, forty days, months or years was not mentioned by the narrator.

Imam Shurubulali mentions in his masterly Maraqi al-Falah:

“If a person who intends to pray thinks that someone will pass by, then it is recommended (mustahab) for him to place barrier (sutra) in front of himself.”

It has been reported by Hakim on the authority of Abu Huraira that he said, “The size of the rear of a saddle is sufficient for a barrier, even if it is thin as a hair.”

Imam Tahtawi quotes from Ibn Amir Haj,

“The sunna in placing a barrier is that there should be a metre and a half or so between it and the person praying.

If one does not find something to place, then one can draw a line horizontally/in perpendicular (to one’s chest) like the crescent/new moon, because it has been reported in the works of hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that, “ If one does not find a stick with him, then he can draw a line.”

It is recommended (mustahab) to leave pushing back the person passing by. This is why it is better to keep them from passing by merely gesturing with the head; eye or other than the two, or by saying subhan-Allah.

 It would be makruh (offensive) to combine the both.

 A man may push back by raising his voice by saying Subhan Allah aloud.

 A woman should do so by gesturing, by striking the right hand fingers on the left hand.

The barrier of the Imam is sufficient for the followers.” (Hashiya al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi’l-Falah, 297-299)

It is a sin to pass immediately in front of a person praying, but that person’s prayer will not be invalid (as people commonly yet mistakenly believe).

If one passes unintentionally he will be excused and not sinful.

The best way to avoid passing in front of a person praying is as follows and kept in mind:

  • If one is sitting in front of the person praying, then it is permissible for him to stand up and leave (as this is not passing in front of a person).
  • If two persons want to pass by, then one should stand with their back to the person praying, letting the other pass by. Then the other should do the same and let the other pass by. We come to know that if a person is sitting in front of someone praying, then it is permissible for him to pass by. (Umdatu’l-Fiqh, 2.276)

The above is the best way to get out of this situation if the person praying has not put a barrier.

Who will be sinful in the following cases:

  1. The passerby will be sinful if he had other space to leave and go and the person praying had no other place to pray.
  2. The person praying will be sinful if he had other space to pray and the person passing had no other space/room to leave.
  3. If the passerby has room to leave and the person praying space to pray, then both will be sinful. Both, the people praying and passing by should be cautious all the time. (Umdatu’l-Fiqh and other works )

Ilyas Patel

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