Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: As salamu alaikum,
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on placing feet together when praying in congregation by a lot of brothers. I find it very uncomfortable and it really affects my concentration in Prayer. Could you please shed some light on this issue in regards to what I should do to better the situation, and is there actually any validity for this?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
If their actions distract you from your prayer, tactfully avoid standing besides them if reasonably possible.
Otherwise, politely inform them before the prayer begins to give you a little space. In general, it is not permitted to deliberately hurt or annoy a fellow believer.
Is it a Sunna for the Congregation to Join their Feet together during the Prayer?
As for discussion on whether this is from the sunna, I’d advise reading the section from Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf’s Fiqh al-Imam, wherein he discusses this issue in detail. Below is a selection from the aforementioned work:
“Another interpretation of this hadith is that the narrator Nu’man ibn Bashir only intended to describe how the Companions attempted to form extremely straight rows at the instructions of the Messenger e, and not that they actually joined their feet, shoulders and ankles together. It is for this reason that the title of a chapter in Sahih al-Bukhari “Chapter on the Joining of the Shoulders and Feet Together Whilst Forming the Rows” has been classified by Hafiz Ibn Hajar to be based on exaggeration. He writes in his commentary Fath al-Bari, (Imam Bukhari’s) reason for choosing this specific title is to exaggerate (mubalagha) the importance of straightening the rows and filling the gaps in between. (Fath al-Bari 2:247)
This means that the narration is not to be taken literally. Imam Shawkani, who is constantly referred to by those who prefer not to follow a school of thought in Islamic jurisprudence, has not taken it for its literal interpretation either. He writes in his book Nayl al-Awtar:
(The statement of the Companion) means, place the parts of the body (shoulders, etc.) in line with each other, so that the shoulder of each person performing prayer is in level with the shoulder of the next person. This way everyone’s shoulders, knees and feet will be in a single straight line (Nayl al-Awtar 3:65*).
In clear words, this indicates that the real reason for joining the shoulders and other parts, was to straighten the rows, not that the joining itself is an obligatory act.”
And Allah alone gives success.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.