Bismillah Rahman Raheem
"Fiqh of Straightening the Rows"
Compiled by Yusuf Estes

All praises is due to Allah Lord of all the worlds, I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, may Allahs' peace and blessings be upon him, his family, his companions and those who follow his guidance until the day of judgment, and as to what follows:


Regarding the straightening of the rows there are three sunnahs:

1 - Establishing the row and consolidating it, where no ones' chest or anything from them protrudes out {compared to} to those who are on his side, Hence there will be no crookedness in the line.

From amongst the expressions for straightening the rows are: "Istawoo" i.e. straighten your lines, "istaqeemoo" i.e. be straight, upright, "i'tadiloo" i.e. align yourselves, and "aqeemoo saf" i.e. establish the rows. And this establishing of the row, can be accurately implemented by commanding alignment between the necks, shoulders, knees and ankles. It is clear from the guidance of the Prophet {salallahu alahi wa salam} that these expressions were all used interchangeably.

2 - Filling the gaps, to the point where there is no space in it.

From amongst the ways of expressing this {is by saying}: "sudu'l khalal" i.e. fill the gaps, and "do no not leave a space for the shaytan." This sunnah can be precisely implemented by consolidating the lines, i.e. by saying "taraasoo"

3 - Connecting the first rows and the completion of it.

This is expressed in the following ways: "atimoo'saf al awal fal awal" i.e. complete the rows, the first one, then the one behind it, and "whoever connects a row, Allah will connect him {by His mercy} and whoever breaks {from} a row {by not filling the gap}, Allah will cut him off " {by cutting him off from His overall mercy} (see: "Awn Al Ma'bood Fee Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud").

And within these sunan {plural of sunnah} there are many other abandoned sunan; like making dua and asking forgiveness for the first row three times, then those behind twice, the imam coming to the end of the row to straighten it, sending someone to check upon the lines {see: sunan At-Tirmidhee}, and so forth, all from the guidance of the Prophet {salallahu alahi wa salam} way in achieving these three sunan for the lines by: straightening it, filling the gaps and consecutively completing the ranks, beginning with the first one, then the second, then the third and so forth.

All this is indicates that straightening the rows has a very important role in establishing the salah, beautifying it, and perfecting it. In this, there is great merit and reward, in addition to binding the hearts and bringing them together as the ahadeeth bears witness to. And this blessed ummah distinguishes itself, and it is unique, in that its' rows for the salah are like that of the angels, wa alhamdulillah rabil a'lameen.

Amongst the things which have been added, is the new stance for the salah which has no source, is what we see from some musaleen {those who line up for the salah}: adjoining to the one to his right, if he is on the right side of the line, and the one to his left, if he is on the left side of the line, is such a manner that he adjusts his heels to joins his ankles to the ankles of the one beside him. This type of stance is something extra from what has been narrated, and also in it {this stance} is extremity in practicing the sunnah. This stance is contradictory for two reasons: Firstly: Joining the feet and adjusting until they are stuck to each other is a clear mistake, apparent burden, new understanding in which there is extremity in practicing the sunnah, severe tightness, bothering oneself with what has not been legislated, preoccupying oneself by trying to fill the spaces when raising up from sujood, and losing the ability to direct the toes towards the qiblah {see: "Fath Al-Bari, vol 2, pg. 344, chapter: directing the toes towards the qiblah" i.e. in sujood"}. And also {in this stance} is the taking of the spot from the one who preceded him to it, in addition to seizing the place of the feet of other without any right. And all of this is making a sunnah out of what has not been legislated. Secondly: whenever the Prophet {salallahu alahi wa salam} ordered the alignment between the shoulders and the ankles, he would also order the alignment between the "necks" as in the hadeeth of Anas {radiallahu anhu} as narrated in the sunan of An Nasa'i {pg 813}. All this meaning: straightening the row, making it parallel and the even, and filling the gaps, does not mean to literally "join or stick {ilzaaq}", for indeed joining neck to neck is impossible, joining shoulders to shoulders in every standing is clearly burdensome, joining knee to knee is also impossible, and joining ankle to ankle is to a certain extent unattainable in addition to it being burdensome, difficult, and busying oneself in every rakat, which is clear and apparent.

Therefore, it is clear that aligning is in four cases: the neck, the shoulders, the knees and the ankles - all from one door. The intention behind it being to encourage the establishing of the rows, consolidating it, making it straight and even without any crookedness or spaces, and by this the goal of the legislator {Allah} is achieved.

Al Hafidh ibn Hajar says "what is meant by straightening the rows is to be aligned upright in a common manner, or what is meant by it is to fill the gaps..... " { "Fath ul-Bari" the explanation of saheeh Al Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 242}. And this is the fiqh of the ahadeeth for straightening the rows, as in the hadeeth of ibn Nu'man ibn Bashir {radiallahu anhu} who said "the Messenger of Allah (may peace-be upon him) used to straighten our rows as one would set an arrow upright, until we thought that we had understood. One day he turned with his face whereby he saw a man whose chest was bulging out from the row, so he said: straighten your rows or Allah would create dissension amongst you," {sunan Abu Dawud}. This is the sahabahs {may Allah be pleased with them} understanding of straightening the rows: Standing straight and filling the gaps, not sticking the ankles together. This is why when imam Al Bukhari said in his naming the chapter: Chapter joining the
shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot in the line, and Nu'man ibn Bashir said: "saw that a man would join his ankle to the ankle of his companion". Al Hafidh ibn Hajar said "what is intended by this is to greatly emphasize the straightening of the rows and filling the gaps." { "Fath ul-Bari" the explanation of saheeh Al Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 242}

The proof of Al Hafidh ibn Hajar untainted understanding of the hadeeth from Bukharis' title of the chapter, is Nu'man ibn Bashir statement, as also recorded in the Saheeh of ibn Khuzaymah (nos.160), the Sunan of Ad Darqutanee (vol. 1, pg. 282), and in the Sunan of Abu Dawud where Nu'man ibn Bashir said "I saw {that} a man would join his shoulder to the shoulder of his companion, his knees to his knees, and ankle to ankle" {this is the wording of the hadeeth as it came in the Sunan of Abu Dawud}.

Thus, joining knees to knees is impossible, hence, it becomes clear that the meaning of the hadeeth is encourage and emphasize filling of the gaps and straightening of the rows, and not the actual joining and sticking. This is why Al Khataabee said about the hadeeth that has been narrated by Ibn Abbas {radiallahu anhu} from the Prophet {salallahu alahi wa salam} that he said "the best of you are those of you who have the most gentle shoulder in salah" {Abu Dawud and others. It is hasan according to al- Albaanee, Saheeh ul-Jaami no. 3264) }, "the meaning of it is to have tranquility throughout the salah, and to be comfortable within it, and not to push nor rub against the shoulders of the one next to him" {Mu'aalim As Sunan, and Awn Al Ma'bood Fee Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud: vol.2 pg. 369}

This concept can be further explained by using the example of the narrations of the different wordings for "at tawaruk" in salah, {i.e. to sit with the left upper thigh on the ground and the right foot being upright, in the last at tashahud}, as in the hadeeth of Abi Hameed As Sa'dee {radiallahu anhu} who said about the Prophet {salallahu alahi wa salam} "and he would sit on his bottom". This manner of expression is a type where a general word or phrase is used, however, only part of that word or phrase is intended; "itlaq al kul wa iradtul ba'd". For it is impossible for the one who does the "tawarruk" to place his whole bottom on the ground, this is why in other wordings of the hadeeth it says: "he sat on his left side", "he put his left leg on the ground", "he sat on his left side mutawarrikan". Thus, it is not possible that a person of intelligence to derive from the wording "and he would sit on his bottom," the ability to sit his whole bottom on the ground, for this is impossible naturally and conceptually, just as the case for the wordings for being straight as has been mentioned before. Look at the hadeeth about the merits of salah in its time, for it is as ibn Daqeeq said in "Al Ahkam" {vol. 2, pg. 38}, "it has never been narrated from any of them (the salaf) that they used to be extreme (yushadid) in this, to the extent that {they say that} the first takbeer should take place exactly at the beginning of the time of the salah {to get the blessings of praying the salah in its time}"

And Allah is most knowledgeable about His rulings.

Taken from the first chapter of Bakr Abu Zayds' book "La Jadeed Fee Ahkaam As Salah"
- There is nothing new in the rulings for Salah, first printing: 1413 hijri corresponding to 1992}