2 or more persons standing for salaah.

Q. Could you please assist as I was taught from little that when performing salaat with 2 or 3 persons alone in a jamaat we should stand 1 footstep behind. However, the so called “salafs” in my jamaat have argued with me that one should stand in the same line with the Imam. A reference of a story narrated in Fazail e Amaal’s Stories of Sahabah “Children’s Devotion to Islam”, where the author said that the Sahabi was instructed to perform salaat beside the Prophet (SAW) was also brought to the table. Could you provide some evidence with which to assist me in this discussion so we can have a better understanding of this topic.

A. When one person performs salaah with the Imam, he should stand next to the Imam on the right side. This is evident from the tradition of Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) which has been recorded by Imam Bukhari as well as other compilers of Ahadith. The hadith states that Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) said, ‘I spent the night with my aunt Maimoona (R.A) (who was the wife of the Prophet S.A). During the night the Prophet (S.A) got up to perform his night salaah (Tahajjud). I also got up and stood at his left side. He then caught hold of my head and made me stand on the right side’. (Note, at this time Abdullah bin Abbas was very young and had not reached the age of puberty as yet). (Sahih Al Bukhari)

Based on this tradition, it is established that when there is one follower with the Imam, he should stand on the right side, next to the Imam. While this is the place of standing for one follower, it should be understood that it is not permissible for the follower to be ahead of the Imam in the postures that are to be performed. This refers to the position where the feet of the follower may be ahead of the feet of the Imam in the standing postures (like that of the Qiyam, Ruku and Qawma – standing after ruku positions) and also the position where the posterior (buttock) of the follower may be ahead (forward) to that of the Imam in postures like that of Jalsa (sitting) and Sajda (prostration).

Not being ahead of the Imam as mentioned above has been considered a condition for the salaah of the follower according to the Jumhoor (general body of scholars). These scholars have stated that if the Muqtadi (follower) becomes ahead of the Imam in the states mentioned, his salaah will be invalid. This is in accordance to Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R), Imam Shafi (A.R), Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (A.R) and the scholars who have accepted their opinions.

These scholars have further explained that since the duty of a Muqtadi (follower) is to follow the Imam in whatever he does, this can only truly take place if he is behind the Imam, so that he is able to view the actions of the Imam. (Al Fiqhul Islami Wa adilatihi vol.2 pg.1246)

It is in order to fulfill this requirement that Imam Muhammad bin Hasan (Ash-Shaibani) has recommended that the follower (when it is only one person) should place his toes at the level of the heels of his Imam. (Al Hidaya vol.1 pg.123 Fathul Qadeer vol.1 pg.208)

It is therefore established by all scholars that whether the follower (when it is only one person) stands next to the Imam (on the right side) or he stands a little behind (as explained above) he should at no time be ahead of his Imam. If however, due to the tallness of the Muqtadi (follower), his head happens to be ahead of the Imam’s head in Sajdah, then this will not invalidate his salaah as long as his feet or buttocks is not ahead of the Imam’s feet or buttocks (that is, with respect to the postures of standing, sitting or Sajdah). (Fathul Qadeer vol.1 pg.208)

When there are two people performing salaah with the Imam, they would stand behind the Imam. This is evident from the tradition which has been narrated by Imam Bukhari and many other compilers of hadith. In this tradition, Anas (R.A) said that his grandmother Mulaikah invited the Prophet (S.A) to partake of a meal which she had prepared for him. The Prophet (S.A) came and ate from it and then said, ‘Stand so that I may perform salaah for you’. Anas said, ‘I went to a mat which had become black due to the length of time it has been used and I washed it and then brought it. The Prophet (S.A) stood upon it (to lead salaah) and I and a young boy formed the line behind him, and the old woman (my grandmother) was behind us. So, the Prophet (S.A) performed two rakaats for us and then left’. (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Nasai, Ibn Majah, Malik, Ahmad). This hadith clearly mentions that two persons performed salaah with the Prophet (S.A) in Jamaat (congregation) and they stood behind him.

This action is also evident from another tradition recorded by Imam Muslim in his Saheeh. In this tradition, it is narrated that Jabir (R.A) said, ‘The Prophet (S.A) stood for salaah and I stood to his left side. He took me by my hand and moved me until he placed me on his right side. Then Jabbar bin Sakhr came and stood on the left of the Messenger of Allah (S.A). The Prophet (S.A) then held our hands together and moved us until he placed us behind him’. (Sahih Muslim – The chapter of Zuhd)

While on this topic, it is worth mentioning that some scholars have adopted another opinion in the case where two people are performing salaah with the Imam. They have used the tradition in which it is stated that once Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) lead salaah with two followers. He placed one of them on his right and the other on the left. Having completed the salaah, he said, ‘This is what the Prophet (S.A) did’. (Sahih Muslim, Abu Dawood)

Based on the above, some scholars have adopted this as the practice and stated that this is how two followers must stand while performing salaah with the Imam. However, as mentioned before, the established practice of the Prophet (S.A) as evident from the traditions, show that two followers (Muqtadis) must stand behind the Imam. With respect to the action of Abdullah bin Masood (R.A), the general body of scholars have given many answers. In this regard, Hafiz Munziri has stated in his Mukhtasar, ‘Abu Umar bin Abdul Barr has said, ‘This hadith being connected to the Prophet (S.A) is not sound. Instead, the correct opinion is that it is suspended (Mawqoof) upon Abdullah bin Masood (R.A). (Nasbur Rayah vol.2 pg.36)

Imam Nawawi has recorded in his ‘Al Khulasa’, ‘what is established in Sahih Muslim is that Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) did the action but did not say ‘This is what the Prophet (S.A) did’. In addition to this, the scholars have given the following responses:

1) Abdullah bin Masood (R.A) was not aware of the hadith of Anas (R.A) which clearly established the manner of standing in the case of two followers.

2) Abdullah bin Masood did this action because of the small area there was in the masjid. Imam Tahawi has recorded in Sharhul Athaar that Ibn Sireen said, ‘I do not see Abdullah bin Masood doing this, except it was due to the narrowness of the masjid or for another reason, not that it was the Sunnah and established manner.

3) Imam Baihaqi has recorded in Al – Marifah, ‘As for what is narrated from Abdullah bin Masood (R.A), Ibn Sireen has stated that it was due to the narrowness of the masjid and it has also been said that he (Ibn Masood) saw the Prophet (S.A) performing salaah and Abu Zarr was also performing it on the right side of the Prophet (S.A). Each one was performing salaah individually. Abdullah bin Masood then stood behind them and seeing him, the Prophet (S.A) indicated to him to come to his left. (Based on this) Abdullah bin Masood thought that this is the manner of standing and he did not know that the Prophet (S.A) was not leading anyone in jamaat at this time. However, Abu Zarr knew it and hence, it is narrated from him that he said ‘each person was performing salaah on his own’.

Al Hazim has also recorded in his ‘An Nasikh Wal Mansukh’ that the hadith of Ibn Masood is abrogated. This is so because he learnt this action when the Prophet (S.A) was in Makka and when the Prophet (S.A) came to Madina he left such action as recorded in the tradition of Jabir (R.A) by Imam Muslim.

Based on these explanations, it is established that two or more people performing salaah with the Imam would stand behind the Imam.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan