Straightening Rows and Filling Gaps during Prayer

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
What is the ruling when some prayer performers annoy others about straightening rows, keeping each foot`s toes tight together, and leaving a certain distance between a person`s legs?

All perfect praise be to Allah The Lord of The Worlds, and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all of his family and companions.

Sharia (Islamic Sacred Law) recommends straightening the rows and filling the gaps during congregational prayer. The aim is to join the praying peoples' hearts and unit them under a certain order to arrive at a perfect, valid prayer. In this regard, Anas Ibn Malik narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said (What means): "Straighten your rows as the straightening of rows is essential for a perfect and correct prayer." [Agreed upon]. In addition, Ibn Abdalbar (May Allah have mercy on his soul) said (What means):" There are many sound Prophetic narrations urging people to straighten the rows during congregational prayer, which used to be observed by the righteous Caliphs after the Prophet(PBUH) had passed away." [Al-Istethkar 2/288].

Moreover, Al-Khateeb Al-Sharbini (May Allah have mercy on his soul) said (What means):" Filling the gaps during congregational prayer is an act of Sunnah, and it isn`t permissible for prayer performs to start a new row unless the preceding one is full." [Moghni Al-Mohtaj 1/493].

However, people should avoid exaggeration regarding the aforementioned issue as the Prophet (PBUH) said (What means):"The best of you are those whose shoulders are soft in prayer." [Abu Dawood]. Further, there are two interpretations for this narration. First: Al-Imam Al-Khatabi (May Allah have mercy on his soul) said:" [Whose shoulders are soft] means that a person should be in state of tranquility and humble submissiveness during congregational prayer; he should not look to his sides nor bother, with his shoulder, the person beside him. Second: a praying person should make room for others to pray beside him to fill the gaps or because the place of prayer isn`t spacious. In addition, he shouldn't push or annoy others with his shoulder." [Ma'alim Al-Sunn 1/184].

Furthermore, in order to maintain moderation in prayer, a person should leave a distance-between his legs-equal to a hand's span during all acts of prayer, since it was stated in [Moghni Al-Mohtaj 1/375]:"During prayer, a praying person should leave- between his legs-a distance of no less than a hand's span."

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that the methodology of the Prophet (PBUH) and his righteous companions rested on mercy and facilitation. Therefore, none has the right to claim that he is following the footsteps of the Prophet(PBUH) while he is-in fact-exaggerating the matters of the faith, which require wisdom and fair preaching. And Allah knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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