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Establish a Sutrah
(A Barrier Between the Person Praying and Others)
Abu Sa'id reports that the Prophet said: "When one of you prays, he should pray
toward his sutrah and he should be close to it." This is related by Abu Dawud
and Ibn Majah.
Ibn 'Umar relates that "when the Prophet went out to pray salatul 'id, he asked
for a spear and placed it in front of himself and he offered salah toward it and
the people prayed behind him. And he would do that while he was traveling so
that those in authority [for the affairs of the Muslims] would also do this."
This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
Sabrah ibn Mu'abid reports that the Messenger of Allah said: "When one of you
prays, he should make a partition for his salah, even if it is an arrow." This
is related by Ahmad and by al-Hakim who said it is sahih according to the
criteria of Muslim. Al-Haithami observes: "Ahmad's narrators are sound."
Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet said: "When one of you prays, he should
place something in front of him. If he cannot find anything, he should prop up
his staff [in front of him]. If he does not have a staff, he should draw a line
[on the ground in front of him] then nothing that passes in front of him will
harm him." This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and Ibn Hibban. The later
classifies it sahih as did Ahmad and Ibn al-Madini. Al-Baihaqi says: "There is
no problem with that hadith regarding that ruling, Allah willing."
Talhah says: "We used to pray and the animals would pass in front of us. We
mentioned that to the Prophet and he said: "If anything the size of a saddle is
in front of you, nothing that passes beyond it would harm you." [This is related
by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmidhi who calls it hasan sahih]
Is it obligatory to pray toward a Sutrah?
This is a question that was directed to Imam 'Abdul-'Azeez bin Baaz (rahimahullaah)
about the Sutrah in prayer:
Question: Many of the brothers are very strict in the matter of the Sutrah, so
much so that a person will wait until a Sutrah becomes available (before
praying) if he is in a Masjid and he doesn't find an empty pillar (i.e. a pillar
that doesn't already have someone prayig toward it). Also, he will rebuke those
who do not pray towards a Surtah. Some other people are lax in this matter (of
praying toward a Sutrah). So what is the truth in this? And does the line (drawn
on the ground) take the place of the Sutrah when one is not available, and is
there anything reported that proves this?
Answer: Praying towards a Sutrah is a stressed Sunnah (Sunnah Mu'akkadah) and it
is NOT OBLIGATORY (laysat waajibah). So if a person does not find anything
erected (to use as a Sutrah) then the line (on the ground) suffices him. And the
proof concerning what we have mentioned is his (the Prophet's), sallallaahu 'alayhi
wa sallam, statement, "When one of you prays, let him pray toward a Sutrah and
let him draw near to it." Reported by Aboo Dawud with an authentic (Saheeh)
chain of narration. And his, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, statement, "The
Muslim man's prayer is cut off, if there is not in front of him something like
the end of a saddle, by: the woman, the donkey and the black dog." Reported by
Muslim in his Saheeh.
There is also the statement of the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "When
one of you prays, then let him place something in front of his face (i.e. like a
wall or pillar), and if he does not find anything, then let him erect a stick,
and if he does not find one, then let him draw a line (on the ground), then
whoever passes in front of him will not harm him." Reported by Al-Imaam Ahmad
and Ibn Maajah with a good (Hasan) chain of narration. This is what was said by
Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar, rahimahullaah, in Bulooghul-Maraam. And it has been
confirmed from him, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, that he sometimes prayed
towards other than a sutrah (i.e. without one), and this proves that it is not
obligatory (Waajibah). And excluded from this (prayer towards a Sutrah) is the
prayer in Al-Masjid ul-Haraam, for verily the person who prays (in Al-Masjid
ul-Haraam in Makkah) does not need a Sutrah in it. This is due to what is
confirmed from Ibn Az-Zubayr (radhiyallaahu 'anhumaa) that he used to pray in
Al-Masjid ul-Haraam towards other than a Sutrah (i.e. without one) and the
people making Tawaaf would be in front of him (i.e. passing in front of him). It
has also been reported from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that
which proves this, but it's chain of narration is weak.
And because Al-Masjid ul-Haraam is usually expected to be crowded and there is a
lack of ability to safe from people passing in front of the one who is praying,
then this legislation is dropped in this case due to what has preceded. Also,
Al-Masjid un-Nabawee is included in this ruling during the time when there is
crowding, and likewise other places of crowding. This is acting according to the
statement of Allaah, 'Azza wa Jall, "So fear Allaah as much as you are able."
And the Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) statement, "If I have
commanded you with something, then do it as much as you are able." It's
authenticity is agree upon. And Allaah is the Giver of success.
Ash-Shaikh 'Abdul-'Azeez bin 'Abdullaah bin Baaz
Source: Fataawaa Muhimmah Tata'allaqu bis-Salaah, pp. 36-38, no. 24.
Translated by Aqeel Walker