Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam alaikum
I have read that to fold one’s sleeves in prayer past half of the forearms is prohibitively disliked. So does the prayer need to be repeated in this case?
What about short sleeves?
There are two issues related to the prayer here: (1) the act of folding your clothing, and (2) praying with short sleeves.
In general, folding up your sleeves or trousers for the prayer would be disliked- and the level of such dislikedness would depend upon the neatness or otherwise of the folds.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was commanded to prostrate on seven [limbs], and not to gather up hair or clothes.” [Bukhari] Gathering up, here, or raising your clothing is the specific thing indicated by the text, and folding applies to it by extension. The reason given for the interdiction is that such an action is indicative of haughtiness, an attribute which contravenes the sunna of humble worshipfulness (khushu`) in the prayer, or that it distracts from one’s concentration, namely, when undertaken in the prayer itself.
As for folding, there would appear to be a difference of opinion as to whether it is disliked to do so (1) specifically up to the elbow, or (2) to simply fold full stop, even if only a little. The former is what was chosen by Munyat al-Musalli, Khulasat al-Fatawa, and Ibn al-Humam in his Fath al-Qadir. The other position was chosen by the Ibn Nujaym in the Bahr, Halabi in his Ghunyat al-Mustamli, Tahtawi and others. Ibn Amir Hajj mentions the specific point about “beyond half of the forearm” perhaps because less than this isn’t of consideration; nevertheless, this is in following the latter position (2) above.
Moreover, praying with folded sleeves or trousers, when a person did not do it specifically for the prayer, such as one who had them folded for the ablution (wudu) and then entered the prayer in a hurry, is also differed upon. In such a case, what would be more precautionary and proper is to unroll the clothing with slight movements so as to not invalidate the prayer. What we can understand from this is that it would be better and safer to avoid any type of raising or folding of the clothing during the prayer altogether.
And as for praying with short sleeves, it would return to whether or not such an action is dignified or unbecoming in your particular context. Normally, it is disliked to pray while dressed in clothing that you wouldn’t wear in front of respectable people, such as pyjamas, for instance. Note that the interdiction discussed above relates to the action of folding and pulling or gathering your clothing together, and not simply to the uncovering of that area of the arm.
[Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar; Shurunbulali, Ghunyat Dhawi al-Ahkam; Ibn Nujaym, al-Nahr al-Fa’iq]
And Allah Most High alone knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.