[Study] Is Praying Feet To Feet In The Congregational Prayers a Bid’ah (Innovation)?

Some Muslims believe a person praying in congregation should not and must not stand feet with the person either side of him. They claim there must be a gap in between the feet but the shoulders should be touching. The even go as far as to attribute standing feet to feet in prayer in congregation as a bid’ah (innovation) of the Salafis.

However the truth of the matter is that the Salafis never invented this act of worship in the prayer, standing feet to feet in the prayer is authentically attributed to the prophet Muhammed, sall’Allahu alayhi wasalam in many ahadeeth and there are also statements from two sahabis, Anas Ibn Maalik and an-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (may Allah be pleased with them) confirming they saw the other sahaba praying feet to feet in congregation.

The prophet, sall’Allahu alayhi wasalam said, “Straighten your rows and come close together, for indeed I see you behind my back”

The hadeeth is reported by al-Bukhari [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 prayer was made the Messenger of Allah turned to us and said…” (Then he mentioned the above hadeeth). Bukhari adds in one narration of this hadeeth: “(He turned to us and said) before pronouncing the opening Takbeer (the first Allahuakbar in the prayer)…” 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: the sahabi Anas Ibn Maalik 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 (isnad) 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-Bukhari 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).

Also the prophet, sall’Allahu alayhi wasalam said, “Straighten your rows (he said it three times), by Allah either you straighten your rows or Allah 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 companion.”

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 chain of narration for the purpose of supporting reports (add extra authenticity to authentic hadeeths), 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-Bukhari 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.

So after reading what has gone before it is clear that praying feet to feet in the five daily congregation prayers is halaal, recommended and was a practice of the sahaba, it is not a bid’ah of the Salafis as some Muslims claim.

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