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Straightening The Rows And Joining The Feet In
Shaykh Muhammad Naasir Ud-Deen al-Albaanee
[Translated by Oways al-Haashimee]
An abandoned Sunnah that must be revived 
There are many authentic ahadeeth from the Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam concerned
with the command to straighten the rows (for congregational prayer), and so this
is rarely hidden from any of the students of (Islaamic) knowledge let alone
their teachers. However it remains unknown to many that straightening the rows
requires straightening it with the feet, not just the shoulders. Indeed we have
often heard some of the Imaams of the Masaajid (Mosques) pointing out - when
ordering the people to straighten the rows - that the Sunnah is to do so with
the shoulders to the exclusion of the feet! Since this is contrary to what is
established in the authentic Sunnah, I thought it necessary to mention some
ahadeeth that exist on this topic, as a reminder for whoever wishes to act in
accordance with the authentic Sunnah, not being deceived by the widespread
customs and habits present in the Ummah.
There are two authentic ahadeeth on this topic: The first is the hadeeth
reported by Anas, and the second is that reported by An-Nu’maan ibn Basheer, may
Allaah be pleased with them both.
As for the hadeeth of Anas, then it as follows;
The Hadeeth of Anas ibn Maalik
"Straighten your rows and come close together, for indeed I see you behind my
The hadeeth is reported by al-Bukharee [2/176 - al-Fath, Boolaaq edition], Ahmad
[3/182 and 263], and al-Mukhallis in al-Fawaa’id [1/10/2], all of them reporting
via a number of transmission paths (turuq sing. tareeq) from Humayd at-Taweel
who said Anas ibn Maalik narrated to us saying:
"The call for commencing of salaah was made, the Messenger of Allaah Sallallaahu
‘alayhiwasalam turned to us and said..."
(then he mention the above hadeeth). Al-Bukhaaree adds in one narration of this
"(He turned to us and said) before pronouncing the opening takbeer..."
Also adding at the end
"...each of us would adjoin his shoulder with that of his companion (standing
next to him) and his foot with that of his companion."
This addition also occurs in the report of al-Mukhallis and Ibn Abee Shaybah
[1/351] with the following wording: Anas said ~
"...So I saw each of us adjoining our shoulder with those of our companions and
also (adjoining) our feet with those of our companions, but if you were to
practice this today, a person would flee (from you) like a restless mule."
Its chain of narration (sanad) is also saheeh according to the conditions
stipulated by the Two Shaykhs (al-Bukhaaree and Muslim). Al-Haafidh (Ibn Hajr)
ascribed this wording to Sa’eed ibn Mansoor and al-Ismaa’eelee. Al-Bukhaaree
gave a chapter heading for this hadeeth by saying:
Chapter: 'Adjoining the shoulder with the shoulder and the foot with the foot in
the row (for prayer).'
As for the hadeeth of an-Nu’maan (ibn Basheer) then it is as follows:
The Hadeeth of an-Nu’maan ibn Basheer
"Straighten your rows (he said it three times),by Allaah either you straighten
your rows or Allaah will cause conflict between your hearts."
The hadeeth has been selected by Aboo Dawood [no.662], Ibn Hibbaan [no.396],
Ahmad [4/276] and ad-Doolaabee in al-Kunaa [2/86] from Abil-Qaasim al-Jadalee
Husayn ibnil-Haarith who said; I heard an-Nu'maan ibn Basheer say:
"The Messenger of Allaah turned to us and said..."
(then he mentioned the above hadeeth). Then an-Nu'maan ibn Basheer added:
"...So I saw each man joining his shoulder; knee and ankle with that of his
The sanad of this hadeeth is saheeh, al-Bukhaaree quoted it in discontinuous (mu'allaq)
form in a decided manner (indicating that he considered it authentic). Ibn
Khuzaymah also connected its chain of narration in his Saheeh [1/82,83] and al-Mundhiree
[at-Targheeb 1/176] and al-Haafidh [al-Fath 2/176] both confirmed this. Ibn
Hibaanselected the hadeeth in his Saheeh [14/396 - Mawaarid] reporting through
the tareeq of ibn Khuzaymah.
The text of the hadeeth is also reported by ad-Doolaabee by way of Baqeeyah
ibnil-Waleed who said: 'Hurayz narrated to us saying: I heard Ghaylaan al-Muqri'
narrate from Abee Qutaylah Marthad ibn Wadaa'ah (who said: I heard) an-Nu'maan
ibn Basheer say...', (then he mentioned the hadeeth).
There is no problem with the sanad for the purpose of supporting reports (mutaab'aat),
its reporters are reliable apart from Ghaylaan al-Muqri' . Perhaps he is
Ghaylaan ibn Anas al-Kalbee (their mawlaa) ad-Dimishqee. If that is the case
then his condition (as a reporter) is unknown. A group of the reporters have
narrated from him and al-Haafidh (ibn Hajr) said about him: 'He is acceptable (Maqbool).'
Then it became clear that identifying this reporter in the sanad as al-Muqri'
was a mistake, as al-Bukhaaree and ibn Hibaan had said, and that in fact he is
Ghaylaan ibn Ma'shar al-Muqraa'ee [Lubaab 3/237]. Ibn Abee Haatim [7/53] has
given a biography for him, mentioning that a number of people have reported from
him, and Ibn Hibaan [5/290] declared him reliable.
The Fiqh of these Ahadeeth
In these two ahadeeth there are a number of important points of benefit and fiqh.
1. The obligation to straighten the rows for salaah and to stand close together
in them, due to the command mentioned in the ahadeeth. The rule concerning such
commands is that they constitute an obligation (wujoob) except if accompanying
evidence (qareenah) proves otherwise as is well established in the science of
fiqh principles. The qareenah here in fact emphasizes the obligation, and that
is in the saying of the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam, "...or Allaah will
cause conflict between your hearts", since such a warning is never given for
leaving that which is not obligatory as is quite clear.
2. The forming and straightening of the rows mentioned in the hadeeth is only
achieved by joining the shoulder and the side of ones foot with the shoulder and
foot of the adjacent person. This is because that is what the Companions,
Radiallaahu 'anhum, did when ordered to straighten the rows and stand close
together in them. Hence al-Haafidh (ibn Hajar) said in al-Fath after mentioning
the additional saying of Anas in the first hadeeth that I have quoted above:
"This (wording) is an explicit explanation that the mentioned action (of the
Companions) was done in the time of the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam. With
this in mind the usage of this action as a pretext for explaining what
straightening the row means becomes complete."
It is regrettable that many Muslims have neglected this Sunnah of straightening
the row, or rather they have lost it altogether, except for a few of them. For I
have not seen this practiced by any group amongst them except Ahlul-Hadeeth (the
People of the Hadeeth). I saw them in Makkah in the year 1368AH enthusiastic and
concerned with adhering to the Sunnah as with other Sunan of al-Mustafaa
(Muhammad the Messenger of Allaah) Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam. This contrary to
others from the followers of the Madhaahib - and I do not exclude the Hanaabilah
(Hanbalees), for this Sunnah has become utterly forgotten amongst them. In fact
they have consecutively abandoned and turned away from it. This is because most
of their Madhaahib state that the Sunnah in this regard is that a space of four
fingers width should be kept between ones feet, and more than this is disliked,
as is detailed in al-Fiqh 'alal-Madhaahib al-Arba'ah [1/207].
This spacing has no foundation in the Sunnah; rather it is based on mere
opinion. If it were correct then it would be necessary to restrict this practice
to the Imaam and the one praying on his own so that the authentic Sunnah (of
standing close in the row) would not be opposed with this practice, as the
fundamental principles of fiqh (al-Qawaa’id al-Usooleeyah) necessitates.
In short I appeal to the Muslims – especially the Imaams of the Masaajid, those
who are concerned to follow the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam, and to
acquire the virtue of reviving his Sunnah, I appeal to them to act by this
Sunnah, have concern for it, and call the people to it until they unify upon it,
and by what they will be saved from that warning "…or Allaah will cause conflict
between your hearts."
I add in this addition  (of my book): It has reached from one of the callers
to Islaam (du’aat) that he belittles the status of the Sunnah that the
Companions practiced, and which they did so with approval of the Prophet
Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam. He insinuates that the Prophet Sallallaahu
‘alayhiwasalam did not teach them this practice. So he has not realized – and
Allaah knows best – that (1) this was their understanding and that (2) the
Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam approved of their understanding and their
practice. This is sufficient amongst Ahlus-Sunnah to affirm the legitimacy of
this practice, because the witness sees what the absent does not, and the
Companions are people whose followers will never be wretched (unsuccessful).
3. In the first hadeeth there is an affirmation of a clear miracle (mu’jizah)
given to the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam, and that was his ability to see
behind him without turning his head. However it should be known that this was
exclusively for the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam when he was in Salaah
since nothing exists in the Sunnah that states that he used to see behind him
without turning his head outside the Salaah. And Allaah knows best.
4. In the two ahadeeth there is a clear proof for something that many people do
not know about, although it has become recognized in the field of psychology,
and that is the fact that outer (apparent) evil and corruption affects inner
evil and corruption and vise versa. There are many ahadeeth about this, perhaps
we will undertake the task of gathering and referencing them at some later
opportunity if Allah, The Most High wishes.
5. The entering of the Imaam into the opening takbeer for prayer when the
mu’ahddhin says ‘The Prayer is about to start…’ (qad qaamati-salaah) is an
innovation in the religion (bid’ah) due to its contradicting the authentic
Sunnah, as these ahadeeth prove – especially the first one. The ahadeeth show us
that after the Iqaamah has been called there is a duty upon the Imaam which he
must fulfill, and that is commanding the people to straighten the rows,
reminding them of that, for he is responsible for them and will be asked. "…And
all of you are shepherds and all of you will be asked about your flock."
 Translated from Silsilatul-Ahadeethis-Saheehah of Shaykh Muhammad
Naasirud-Deen Al-Albaanee. Vol.1 pp70-74, Hadeeth no.31 and 32.
 TRANSLATORS NOTE ~ Standing close in the row, filling the gaps and
straightening the line carries a great reward and virtue as well as being
obligatory. This is mentioned in a number of ahadeeth, like the following:
"The best of you are those who stand with their shoulders closest (to the one
standing next to them) in the salaah, and there is no step greater in reward
than that taken by a man toward a gap in the row thus filling it." Reported by
at-Tabaraanee in al-Aswat, refer to Saheeh at-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb (1/200).
"Whoever fills a gap in the row, Allaah raises him up due to it a rank and
builds a house for him in al-Jannah." Reported by at-Tabaraanee in al-Aswat and
al-Asbahaanee in at-Targheeb, the hadeeth is saheeh as occurs in Saheeh at-Targheeb
 TRANSLATORS NOTE ~ There are a number of ahadeeth that explain the virtue of
reviving the Sunnah and the calling the people to guidance and righteousness.
For example the Prophet Sallallaahu ‘alayhiwasalam said: "Whoever calls to
guidance will have the same reward as all those who follow him in that guidance
but this will not take anything away from their reward. Whoever calls to untruth
will carry the same sin as the same sin as all those who follow him in that, but
that will not take anything away from their sins." Reported by Ahmad in his
Musnad, Muslim in his Saheeh and others.
 TRANSLATORS NOTE ~ This article is taken from the newest edition.