Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed
When going down for prostration, is it valid to place the palms of the hands on the ground before placing the knees?
What you’ve asked about does not affect the validity of the prayer. However, the scholars have differed about the optimal way [the Prophetic way] for descending into the prostration. Our Imams maintain that the Sunna is to place the knees first, then the hands, then the forehead, then the nose. This is what most scholars say, as stated by Imams Tirmidhi and Khattabi in Imam Nawawi’s al-Majmu’. And Imam Malik differed in this [issue], when he said: The Sunna is to put the hands down before the knees.
Imam Nawawi said in the Majmu’, “Those who called for placing the hands first based their argument on hadiths, and those who called for the opposite [knees first] also based their argument on hadiths. And neither position is preferred over the other in terms of the Sunna.”
One of the proofs of the majority is the hadith of Wa’il ibn Hajar, may Allah be pleased with him, when he said, “I saw that the Prophet, peace be upon him, when prostrating, would place his knees down before his hands.” Imam Nawawi said in the Majmu’, “This [hadith] was narrated by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, and others. Tirmidhi said that this hadith is well authenticated, and Khattabi said that this hadith is more reliable than the hadith about placing the hands first; [placing the knees first is also] easier on the worshipper and looks better to the eye.”
Imam Malik’s proof is the hadith of Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said When one of you prostrates, he should not kneel as the animal kneels, and instead, should place his hands down before his knees.'” Imam Nawawi said in the Majmu’, “This was narrated by Abu Dawud and Nasa’i with a good chain of transmission, and Abu Dawud did not find it weak.”
[Translated by Zaynab Ansari]