Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
What is the evidence of the Hanafis that wiping the back of the neck is sunna? How come they alone stated it?
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate. May His blessings and peace be on His Beloved Prophet, the best of creation, and his family, companions, and followers
Imam `Ala’ al-Din al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) stated in his al-Durr al-Mukhtar, a commentary on Imam Tumurtashi’s Tanwir al-Absar, when mentioning the actions recommended in ritual ablution,
“(And wiping the back of the neck) with the back of one’s hands.”
Imam Muhammad Amin Ibn `Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) concurred in his Radd al-Muhtar [1.84, Bulaq ed.]; and confirmed that it is recommended (mustahabb), not an emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada). This is also the ruling mentioned in the majority of the main Hanafi works, including Imam Ibn Nujaym’s al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, Ibn al-Humam’s Fath al-Qadir, and earlier works such as Imam Sarakhsi’s Mabsut.
Imam Sarakhsi noted in his Mabsut, however, that al-Hakim al-Shahid did not mention it in his al-Kafi, in which he gathered and arranged the positions related in the central works of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (kutub dhahir al-riwaya) from Abu Hanifa, and his two main students (Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan himself). Rather, Sarakhsi states that this was from the legal deduction and preference of the subsequent Hanafi scholars. [Sarakhsi, al-Mabsut, 1.10]
The Prophet’s Wiping of the Back of the Head
In a hadith related by both Bukhari and Muslim, describing the ritual ablution of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), Abd Allah ibn Zaid (Allah be pleased with him) stated that, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) began wiping from the top of his forehead until his qafa (the back of his head), and then returned them to where he began from.” [Bukhari: 179; Muslim: 346]
What do the jurists mean by back of the neck’ (raqaba)?
By the back of the neck’, the scholars mean anything under the ears,’ as is clear from the works of the Hanafi scholars. [Shaykh Zada, Majma` al-Anhur, 1.15; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1.9]
Imam Sarakhsi (Allah have mercy on him) stated in his Mabsut, “Anything under the ears is part of the neck; anything above it is part of the head.” [1.64] This is confirmed by Imam Kasani’s words in his Bada’i` [1.5]
The purpose of wiping the neck
The purpose and wisdom of wiping the back of the neck is to lengthen the wiping of the head.
This is a means of acting on the Prophet’s recommendation (peace and blessings be upon him) to lengthen one’s washing and wiping in ritual ablution. This lengthening is by washing and wiping beyond the limits, as both the Hanafi and Shafii scholars state. [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj Sharh al-Minhaj 1.236; Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Nihayat al-Murad Sharh Hadiyyat Ibn `Imad]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
“My community will be resurrected with shining faces and legs from the traces of ritual ablution. So whoever is able to lengthen their traces should do so.” [Bukhari and Muslim, with the wording of the latter; from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him)]
Thus, there is no problem’ with what the Hanafi scholar’s statement that wiping the back of the neck is recommended.
Imam Sufyan ibn `Uyayna stated that, “Accepting what the scholars say is safety in religion.” [al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh Baghdad, 7.82, Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya]
It is also not true that only the Hanafis have stated that wiping the back of the neck is recommended: it is a strong position within the Shafii school. See:
Is it recommended to wipe the back of the neck in the Shafii school? (Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed)
And Allah alone gives success.