Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
What is the proof for the way Hanafi men place their hands under their navels in prayer?
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful.
It is sunna for men to place the hands beneath the navel in prayer. This is the opinion of the Hanafi school in this regard and also the Hanbali school [as mentioned in Buhuti’s Kashshaf al-Qina` and other major works]. There are a number of hadiths which substantiates this. There are also other hadiths on this issue which express others ways of holding the hands However, the hadith on placing the hands beneath the navel have been judged to be least problematic and most superior.
The following excerpts will provide more insight into the issue.
[Excerpted from “Chapter 2: The Position of the Hands in Prayer” from the third edition of “Fiqh al-Imam” soon to be published by White Thread Press www.wtpress.com]
Evidence of the Hanafis
Ali (Allah be pleased with him) states,
To place one palm over the other beneath the navel, is from the sunna of prayer (Bayhaqi 312 u, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba 1:391).
It is a known fact that whenever a Companion utters the words “It is from the Sunna” regarding any action, it means it is something acquired from the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself. Hence, Ali (Allah be pleased with him) could have only reported this practise as sunna after observing the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) do it. The problem with this narration is that it contains Abd al-Rahman ibn Ishaq in its chain who has been classified as weak. The Hanafis have not fully relied on this narration as a basis for their opinion, but since there are many other narrations which reinforce it, it could still stand as supplementary evidence.
Wa’il ibn Hujr (Allah be pleased with him) narrates,
I saw the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) placing his right hand upon the left one below his navel in prayer (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, Athar al-Sunan 90).
This is the third version of Wa’il ibn Hujr’s narration that was mentioned at the beginning of the chapter containing the words “below the navel”. Some Hanafi scholars have stated that this version cannot be used as conclusive evidence for their opinion, because the words “below his navel” are only to be found in some editions of Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, and not in them all. This is aside from the fact that, as we mentioned, it has an inconsistent text. However, it is stated in Fath al-Mulhim that Allama Qasim ibn Qutlubgah has judged this version to be of sound transmission. Allama Muhammad Abu l-Tayyib al-Madani writes in his commentary on Sunan al-Tirmidhi that this narration has a strong chain, and Shaykh Abid Sindhi states, “Its narrators are trustworthy.” Also, a number of scholars have verified that the addition, “below the navel” is to be found in many manuscripts of Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, even if it is not found in the recently published editions [see Athar al-sunan 148].
Therefore, despite the problematic nature Wa’il ibn Hujr’s narration, this version of it cannot be rendered totally unacceptable, since there are many other reliable reports that strengthen it.
3. Hajjaj ibn al-Hasan relates:
Either I heard Abu Mijlaz saying it or I inquired from him, “How should one position his hands [during prayer]?” He replied, “He should place the inner portion of his right hand upon the back of the left one beneath the navel” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba 1:390).
The transmission of this hadith is sound [hasan], as Allama Mardini (also known as Ibn al-Turkumani) states in his book al-Jawhar al-naqi.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf