Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
My family is from India and we follow Imam Shafi‘i. However, when we talk with some of our Arab brothers, we differ regarding some issues related to prayer:
- I say that during the fourth rak‘ah one should sit differently than the way one sits during the second rak‘ah but they say this is not obligatory.
- I say that one should not move one’s [m: index] finger during prayer but they say one should.
- I say that it is not permissible for us to pray isha after half the night has passed and they say it is permissible until fajr.
Who is right in these matters? Are all of these opinions found in the Shafi‘i school?
The relied-upon positions of our school regarding the three points above are as follows:
1. No particular style of sitting is obligatory during the first or second tashahhud. However, the sunnah is for one to sit in the style of iftirash during the first tashahhud. This entails that one flatten (Ar. yafrishu) one’s left foot under oneself [m: by sitting on it] and erect one’s right foot. During the last tashahhud, one sits in the style of tawarruk by placing one’s left thigh (Ar. wirk) on the ground, erecting one’s right foot, and pushing one’s left foot outwards from under one’s right [m: shin]. However, if one does otherwise by not sitting in these styles, one’s prayer is valid. [m: See The Reliance of the Traveller, pp. 139, 141 for illustrations of these two positions.]
2. The sunnah during the tashahhud is to lift the index finger and point with it without moving it. If one does move it, one’s prayer will not be invalid, but it is disliked to do so. This [m: ie, raising the finger and pointing with it without moving it repeatedly] is the established practice of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), as Imam Nawawi mentions in the Majmu‘ (3.454) from Abu Dawud and others with a sound chain of narrators on the authority Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubayr (Allah be pleased with him), that he described the prayer of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) by saying, “He would point with his finger while supplicating without moving it.” As for what is present in the narration that mentions, that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) “used to move it”, the expression, “move it”, is an unreliable anomalous (Ar. shadhdh) narration because the narrator who relates [m: this hadith] on the authority of the Companion Wael Ibn Hujr (Allah be pleased with him) contradicts everyone else who narrated from him [m: ie, Wael Ibn Hujr] regarding this issue: a large number of trustworthy hadith masters (Ar. hafiz) and hadith experts (Ar. muhaddith) have narrated from Ibn Hujr without mentioning movement [m: of the finger]; rather, they have only mentioned pointing with it. Therefore, their narration is given precedence over the narration of the person who was alone in dissenting. [h: The dissent is confirmed by the fact that] an explicit negation of moving [h: the finger] is found in the narration I quoted above, which Imam Nawawi declared as being rigorously authenticated (Ar. sahih). Even if we assume that the narration that mentions “move it” is authentic, then movement here would mean pointing and not repetitive movement (in order to make it conform with the previously mentioned rigorously-authenticated narration). This is what the imam and hadith master, Al-Bayhaqi, indicates, and Nawawi agrees with this in the Majmu‘ (3.454).
As for the hadith that is related on the authority of Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that “moving of the finger during prayer terrifies the Devil”, it is not authentic, as Imam Nawawi mentions in the Majmu‘ (3.454). He then mentions, “Al-Bayhaqi says, ‘Al-Waqidi was alone in narrating this, and it is weak.’”
3. The time for the isha prayer starts with the disappearance of red twilight and extends until the breaking of dawn, so it is permissible to pray isha at any time during this interval, whether before or after half the night. However, it is better to pray it at the beginning of its time. [m: What is meant by half the night is half the span of time between maghrib and fajr. Some people mistakenly believe that “half the night” means midnight, or 12 am.]
(Translated by Moustafa Elqabbany and Hamza Karamali)