Attending the mosque and meeting your fellow brothers and sisters is a joyous occasion, and it only becomes more enjoyable when we follow the Sunnah to the T. Truly, our deen is complete in every sense, not a jot is left out, such that even the manner in which we line up for prayer is not neglected. In that lining up there is harmony, unity, love, and care for each other, if it is done in accordance with the Sunnah.
Some of these simple sunnahs may seem obvious, nonetheless, we will mention them to ensure that all our readers are made aware.
Narrated from Anas that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Complete the first row, then the next one, and if there is to be any incomplete row let it be the last row.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and An-Nisa’i, Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)
Common sense dictates that one fills the rows closest to the front, so as not to cause inconvenience to others nor obstruct latecomers. The second row should not commence until the first is complete. Furthermore, the first row yields more reward than the second, and the second more than the third etc… Furthermore, if a person leaves from the first row, it is incumbent for someone to fill his empty space.
It was narrated from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of perfecting prayer.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
According to another report narrated by Bukhari: “Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of establishing prayer.”
We yearn for a perfect prayer, but we fall short many a times. So let us adopt this Sunnah, as step towards perfecting our prayers and getting a fuller share of its reward. When we line up to pray, none should be in front of the other, we should be side by side, cohesively together.
An-Nu’maan ibn Basheer said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to straighten our rows, as if he was straightening the shaft of an arrow, until he saw that we had learned it. Then he came out one day and was about to say the takbeer, when he noticed a man whose chest was sticking out from the row. He said: “Slaves of Allah! Make your rows straight or Allah will cause discord among you.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet paid attention to this minute detail; because every small action adds up in the scale, and not an atom’s weight will be omitted. Thus, it is upon us to ensure that every deed is a for us and not against us on the Day of Judgement.
“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) turned to face the people and said, ‘Straighten your rows,’ three times, ‘for by Allah either you straighten your rows or Allah will create division among your hearts.’ And I saw men standing shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, ankle to ankle.” (Abu Dawood, classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)
Firstly, this hadith is a warning to those who do not seek to straighten the rows. We are apart in the way we stand for prayer. How pitiful! The dissension in the ummah hangs thick in the air, so let us follow this command, in hope that Allah would rectify our condition.
Secondly, this hadith explains the extent to which the sahabah followed the orders of the Prophet. They took his words literally and fulfilled them. They are examples of complete obedience, whom we should strive to imitate, so as to reach their status and be united with them in the paradise.
It was narrated that Abu Mas’ood said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to touch our shoulders when we were praying and he would say: “Make the rows straight and do not differ, lest your hearts differ.” (Muslim)
Our Prophet was the best imam, and he checked his followers behind him, until they learnt what to do. We should strive to be like the Sahabahs; learn from their example, for they were the best generation to walk the face of the earth. They loved each other, their bodies were one unit working together to attain the pleasure of Allah, and thus their hearts were one also.
Jabir ibn Samurah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) came out to us and said: “Why do you not make your rows as the angels make their rows in the presence of their Lord?” We said: O Messenger of Allah, how do the angels make their rows in the presence of their Lord? He said: “They complete the first rows and they make the rows compact.” (Muslim)
The angels are a glorious creation, never disobedient to their Lord, continually at His service, fulfilling His command, and never neglecting His orders. They line up perfectly straight, in rows, subservient to their Lord. This is what we desire, to be obedient, and humble before our Lord. The manner in which we line up only illustrates our frame of mind when we pray. If we truly understood the Might and Majesty of Allah, we would line up ‘poker straight,’ humble to Allah’s command.
To make the rows compact, is to leave no gaps between the worshipers.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Straighten the rows, for you form rows like the angels, and keep your shoulders in line with one another, and fill the gaps, and do not leave any room for the Shaytaan. Whoever joins a row to complete it, Allah will take care of him and whoever interrupts a row, Allah will cut him off.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud, classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)
The shaytaan is our arch-enemy, we should be aware of his malicious schemes to deprive us of the mercy of Allah. We all desire the mercy, and Face of our Lord, so why then do we perform actions to cut us off and pleasing the Shaytaan?
Abdullah ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Make your rows straight, stand shoulder to shoulder and close the gaps, and do not resist your brothers’ hands. Do not leave any gaps for the Shaytaan. Whoever complete a row, Allah will reward him, and whoever breaks a row, Allah will forsake him. Narrated by Abu Dawood, An-Nasaa’i, classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)
Do not resist your brother’s hands in correcting the rows, and moving you closer to another worshipper.
From these Ahadith, we can derive many benefits amongst them:
- Fill up the first row and that which is closest to the imam, before beginning the next
- If there is an empty space in the row ahead, fill it to complete the row
- Line up straight, parallel to each other
- Leave no gap between you and the person praying next to you
- Join shoulder-to-shoulder, and feet-to-feet
- Be as close as possible to the person next to you, without inconveniencing them
- The imam should check the rows of the congregation before praying
- The imam should teach the congregation until they learn
- It is permissible to correct the rows, using the hands
Knowledge is only beneficial if it is applied and implanted, otherwise it may well be a proof against you in the hereafter. Hence, the next time you stand to pray, contemplate the Greatness of the One whom you stand before, and let it touch your heart. Connect with your brothers or sisters in the row, join with the them in body by standing shoulder-to shoulder and Allah will open your hearts to unity, and cohesion.
May Allah aid us in implementing the knowledge we gain.