Clarity from Obfuscation: Where to place the hands in the prayer?

The Messenger of Allah is certainly a good example for those of you who have hope in Allah and in the Day of Judgment and who remember Allah very often.  (Qur’an 33:21)

And perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and bow with those that bow.”  (Qur’an 2:43)

And obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then Our Messenger is responsible only for conveying the message clearly. (Quran 64:12)

It has been attributed to the Blessed Messenger (saw) in the following hadith:

Malik ibn Al-Huwayrith reported: We came to the Prophet, (saw), while we were young men and we stayed with him twenty nights. Then the Prophet considered that we were anxious to see our families, so he asked us who we had left behind to take care of them and we told him. The Prophet was kindhearted and merciful, and he said, “Return to your families, teach them, and enjoin good upon them. Pray as you have seen me praying. When the time of prayer arrives, then one of you should announce the call to prayer and the eldest of you should lead the prayer.” (Source: al-Bukhari 5662, Muslim 674)

The hadith above have been used by many people to advocate that Muslims should try and pray the way that the Blessed Messenger (saw) prayed.    Often what they really mean is to pray the way THEY THINK he prayed.  In reality, we don’t have any video footage recorded of the Blessed Messenger (saw).

What we have are two ways of obtaining evidence about the way the Blessed Messenger (saw) performed his prayer.

Before we get into that it is important to understand exactly what the prayer means to us as Muslims.

I would encourage you to read the following:

Clarity from Obfuscation: Where to place the hands in the prayer?

We have a situation in the Muslim Ummah in which there are certain groups who go around and police other people’s prayers.   They are like the ‘prayer police’.  I honestly think that many of them are coming from a place of sincerity in that they only want you to follow what they believe the Blessed Messenger (saw) was doing.

However they give the false impression that the correct way of doing the prayer is to place the right hand over the left hand (SOMEWHERE.…)  -we will come to this latter.  Thus, they will give the impression that anyone who does anything different than this is not doing the prayer of the Blessed Messenger (saw) or worse yet they are doing innovation! Interestingly enough the ‘evidence for placing the hands on the chest’ is not contained in either of the two most authentic collections of the hadith  al- Bukhari or ‘Muslim’ 

First things first.

It should be noted that according to the Majority group , ‘al-Bukhari’ and ‘Muslim’ are the two most authentic hadith collections. (most authentic according to the Sunni)

However, you will be quite surprised to know that NEITHER of these collections will you find the following information:

  1. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand over your left hand behind your back.
  2. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand over your left below your navel.
  3. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand over your left hand in the mid-section.
  4. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand over your left wrist and grip it.
  5. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand over your left forearm.
  6. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand on your left shoulder.
  7. It doesn’t tell you to place your right hand under the chin at the top of the sternum.

Neither of these two hadith collections will inform you to do any such thing at all!

That being said we do have a hadith in ‘al-Bukhari’ that should have many of you scratching your heads:

Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d:

“The PEOPLE WERE ORDERED to place the right hand on the left in the prayer. Abu Hazim said, “I only know that it is attributed tot he Prophet .” ( Source: Volume 1, Book 12, Number 707)

Like why would people need to be ordered to do something that the Blessed Prophet (saw) did? Any Muslim would rush to imitate a sunnah of the prophet!

I would encourage you to reflect upon all the oral traditions you have heard attributed to the Blessed Messenger (saw).  How often do you hear this terminology “THE PEOPLE WERE ORDERED” ??

The people were ordered to sleep on their right side?

The people were ordered to wash their right hands?

The people were ordered to do two rakats upon entering the Masjid?

The Hadith of Sahl closer look:

“Abdullah ibn Maslama related to us from Malik from Abu Hazim from Sahl ibn Sa’d He said: “The people were ordered that a person is to place their right hand over their left hand during Salat.” Abu Hazim said, “I know only that he attributes that (yanmi dhalika) to the Prophet.” Isma’il said,” (I only know that) That is attributed (yunma dhalika).” And he didn’t say: “He attributes” (yanmi).

This hadith -in spite of being in the Muwatta of Imam Malik and the Sahih of Imam Bukhari is not definite proof that the Prophet’s sunnah was to pray while holding his left with his right hand. What weakens such an assumption made from this hadith are the following:

#1) It is not an explicit report or statement or action of the Prophet (saw).

#2) The statement, “That the people were ordered that a person is to place their right hand over their left forearm during Salat” is the statement of the Companion, Sahl. And he doesn’t say that the Prophet (saw) gave this order. So there is a possibility that another could have given this order.

#3) The statement, “I know only that he attributes that (yanmi dhalika) to the Prophet” is not the statement of Sahl. Rather it is the statement of the Tab’i Abu Hazim. So there is no certainty that Sahl actually attributed this to the Prophet since Abu Hazim is merely conjecturing about what he remembers.

#4) The statement of Isma’il that (I only know that) That is attributed (yunma dhalika).” And he didn’t say, “He attributes (yanmi)”. further emphasizes the belief that Abu Hazim didn’t actually hear Sahl attribute the order to the Prophet.

#5) Notice that many Muslims pray with their arms below their navel or up midway above the navel or high up on the chest. So obviously that hadith above (which has been shown not to be firmly established from the Prophet) doesn’t help us to know where to place the hands. You could even do takbir and than put your hands behind your back taking the left forearm with the right as in the picture below!

#6) A very important point. Many among the Salafis think that just quoting the above hadith is enough to negate sadl-laying the arms at the side. However, that is simply not the case at all! Because that hadith does not indicate if this was to be done before the first ruku or the returning position after ruku. We will return to this point later insh’Allah. 

(The above illustration is ‘taking the left hand with the right hand’)


Example being: Ibn Tumart who forced theological positions at sword point!

It is nothing but bigotry and small-mindedness, if not political, Indeed, in Morocco, when Al-Mahdi b.Toumart returned from his travels seeking knowledge in the East, meeting many great Ash’ari scholars like Al-Kiya Al-Harrasi, he proceeded to disseminate the school throughout Morocco, When he claimed to disseminate the school throughout Morocco. When he claimed to be the Mahdi, and established the Almohad state, he obliged the population to adhere to the school, and fought against the school of the early Muslims, dismissing the previous Almoravid state as “anthropomorphists”,  when they actually were upon the way of the early Muslims in their beliefs. He called his own dynasty  Muwahhidun (“Monotheist”). He also opposed the Maliki school and the scholars of Morocco and Andalusia who adhered to it. In this way, enmity developed between the two groups; and the inherent cause was political.”   -The Hadith Scholar, Professor ‘Abdullah Guenon Al-Hasani, President of the Morrocan League of Scholars and Member of the Islamic World League, Mecca’  taken from page 326 (Notions that Must Be Corrected by Shaykh Muhammad b ‘Alawi Al-Maliki Al Hasani)

Example being: The Shirazi Shi’a dynasty that forced people to adopt their prayer as well as adopt their version of Shiasm in general!

“It was, however, nothing less than a reign of terror that inaugurated the new dispensation. On capturing Tabriz in 907/1501, a city two-thirds Sunnite in population, Shah Esmāʿil threatened with death all who might resist the adoption of Shiʿite prayer ritual in the main congregational mosque, and he had Qezelbāš soldiers patrol the congregation to ensure that none raise his voice against the cursing of the first three caliphs, viewed as enemies of the Prophet’s family. In Tabriz and elsewhere, gangs of professional executors known as the tabarrāʾiān would accost the townsfolk at random, forcing them to curse the objectionable personages on pain of death. Selective killings of prominent Sunnites occurred in a large number of places, notably Qazvin and Isfahan, and in Shiraz and Yazd, outright massacres took place. Sunnite mosques were desecrated, and the tombs of eminent Sunnite scholars destroyed (Aubin, 1970, pp. 237-38; idem, 1988, pp. 94-101).”  (Source: Hamid Algar

So yeah these people were not really impressed by the verse: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an 2:256)

Often when a Muslim politic conquered a rival Muslim politic they would have the muezzin add to the prayer: “So and so is now the commander of the faithful” -because this was their way of mass communication in those times.

In fact, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf had quoted something very interesting from the great Hanafi master of fiqh and hadith: Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari.

Quoting from Mulla ‘Ali Qari Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says,

“Mulla ‘Ali Qari says It could have been the Prophet, It could have been the Khulafa, or it could have been the rulers that were telling people to do that.”

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf continues:

“So even the Hanafi, one of the great Hanafi scholars of hadith it’s not clear who was telling who to do what.”

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf continues:  “My conclusion is I actually think its a political thing. Because the two people who were leaving their hands at their side were the people who were most resistant to the Ummayad rule. And that was the Kwarij and the Shi’a. So it’s very interesting that the thing that immediately distinguishes your political allegiance is in the prayer. ”  (Source is:  @ 07:20 seconds into the video

In fact further proof of what Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says comes to us in the following report:

Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr in his book al-Tamheed narrates that (20:76):

Abd Allah ibn al-Izar said, ‘I used to make tawaf around the Kaba with Said ibn al-Jubayr. Once, he saw a man placing one hand over the other, so he went to him, separated his hands, and then returned to me.

Placing the hand over the other was considered to be munkar by Said ibn Al-Jubayr because you can only change an act that is known to be munkar. It is also interesting that he (Said ibn Al-Jubayr) observed a person doing this meaning that it ‘stood out to him’.  So the majority practice during the time of the companions and their successors was to place the arms at the side.

Keep in mind that Said ibn Al-Jubayr took part in the Battle of Dayr al-Jamājim against the Ummayds!

Also, keep in mind that not everyone who opposed the Ummayads prayed sadl (hands to the side).

An example of this is  Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib.   Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib refused to give allegiance to Abdullah ibn Al-Zubayr who was opposed to the Ummayads.

Also narrated in al-Tamheed: ‘Abd Allah ibn Yazid said, “I never saw Said ibn al-Musayyib holding his left hand with his right hand in the prayer, he used to lay them straight.”

Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib was one of the biggest Tabi’een in Madina, and this was thus the practice of the people of Madina that Imam Malik witnessed. (Source: al-Tamheed Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr 20:76)

Another example of the prayer being an issue of politics is the history of the rivalry in West Africa between the two Sufi Tariqah: The Tijani and The Qadiri.

“Beginning with the 1949 demolition of the Tijani mosque in Sokoto Province at the order of the sultan of Sokoto, tensions between Tijaniyya and Qadiriyya periodically erupted into violence throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A 1956 riot in two districts of Sokoto resulted in four deaths, including that of a Qadiri imam. In 1965, again in Sokoto Province, clashes attributed to Tijaniyya-Qadiriyya disputes resulted in the deaths of eleven policemen. As in Mali , a potent symbol of and perhaps pretext for inter-brotherhood antagonism remains the posture of arms during prayer: Tijanis cross their arms over the chest (kabalu), whereas Qadaris keep their arms straight at their sides. The Qadiris regard kabalu as heretical.(Source: The History of Islam in Africa  page 219)

The exact ritual of prayer has long been an expression of difference-especially whether the arms are folded (kablu) or at one’s side(sadlu) when standing in the course of prayer. After Friday prayer, there is also the issue of what dhikr is said and for how long-and whether, as a novelty, bandiri drums are used. There were thus very visible and audible differences between Qadiri and Tijani Muslims, and these could become a source of much controversy. In some emirates, the Tijaniyya clearly represented opposition to the ruling establishment when that establishment was Qadiri. Given that ‘Uthman dan Fodio was a Shaikh of the Qadiriyya and his son was a successor Muhammad Bello refused to abandon his father’s tariqa in favour of the new, radical Tijaniyya (which a visitor to Sokoto, ‘Umar al-Futi, was then strongly promoting), then joining the Tijaniyya was in effect an act of dissidence or at least dissent.” (Source:  Sects & Social Disorder: Muslim Identities & Conflict in Northern Nigeria page 43)

The issue of the kabalu (folding the hands) or the sadlu (leaving them)  was ordered in the Tijani Tariqa an outward display of political dissonance and a means of separating them and making them distinct.

“For example, Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) strongly recommended us to recite the Basmalah loudly before the Fatihah. This is against the Maliki and Hanafi Madh-habs, but we have to follow it. Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) ordered his (mostly Maliki) followers to pray with folded hands, so Maliki Tijanis have to do it, even if it goes against the Maliki Madh-hab. Indeed, when he was ordered by Allah, Rasul (SAW), and Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) to order the people to pray with folded hands, many people in West Africa fought him. They said to him: “But your father (RA) prayed with open arms???” He replied: “Al-Humduli’Llah! Allah has not ordered us to follow anyone absolutely but the Prophet (SAW)”. Also, when someone said: “But Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) is related to have prayed with open arms too?” Baye (RA) replied: “We take the Tariqah from Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) and we don’t go an inch against him. But, we take the Shari’ah from Rasul-Allah (SAW).” As Shaykh Mahy Cisse told me, Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) also wished to pray Qabd but was not given the permission than as he had other affairs to see to, as well as the fact that his following in Fes and Morocco was not big enough to bring about such a major change. Everything has a time, and the Shaykh al-Tijani (RA) ordered Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) to revive this Sunnah among the Malikis.”


We should be careful to not take our fiqh and our ijtihad from dreams as anyone can say anything.

With a Shaykh, especially a Sufi Shaykh does such a thing they put you in a difficult position. They are either lying or telling the truth

All that you have read was tell you the political history in regards to the Muslims and in particular the politics surrounding the prayer of the Blessed Messenger (saw).


Now we will be looking at the only three pieces of evidence to support the majority practice (all three of them hotly disputed).

1) The Hadeeth of Wa’il Ibn Hujr in Ibn Khuzaimah
2) The Hadeeth of Halb At-Taa’ee in Tirmidhi
3) The Mursal report of Tawus in Sunan Abu Dawud

A very important note.   When I said the pieces of evidence about where the hands are placed as the ‘majority practice’  there is a caveat here. Allow me to remind you of point 6.

#6) A very important point. Many among the Salafis think that just quoting the above hadith is enough to negate sadl-laying the arms at the side. However, that is simply not the case at all! Because that hadith does not indicate if this was to be done before the first ruku or the returning position after ruku. We will return to this point later insh’Allah. 

This is the majority practice (before the first ruku -bowing).

After the first ruku-bowing leaving the hands at the side (becomes the majority practice) and those putting the hands back on the chest or navel become the minority!!

Now, this is a ‘Salaah Guide’ a guide on doing the prayer according to one of the Sunni Muslim views.

Now notice that in figure 3 the hands are folded above the navel.   In figure 4 the person is bowing.  However, in figure 4a after coming up from bowing the hands are placed at the sides!

Placing the hands at the side in the prayer after ruku (is the majority practice) among all Muslims worldwide!


As you can observe in the following video there are those Muslims who when they come back up from the ruku they will fold their hands back. In doing this it becomes the (minority practice).

You can see that here:

It is a point of dispute among those Muslims who claim to be following ‘The way of the Salaaf‘.   Among the big Salafi Shaykhs who practice this are:

Shaykh Badeeu deen As-Sanadi and Shaykh Bin Baaz whereas Shaykh al-Albaani declared that those who did that are innovators.

The proof text that Bin Baaz uses for his position is the very hadith under discussion above!  So this hadith does not tell us if the hand is placed one over the other (where are they to be placed) and if they are to be folded (before or after the ruku)!

So opposed to the diagram above those people who take the position such as Bin Baaz

they believe the hands go like this before and after the ruku!

Now we will be looking at the only three pieces of evidence to support the majority practice  (all three of them hotly disputed).

Before I begin this section I want to say that the proofs and evidence are largely taken from the Sunni Maliki scholar: Mukhtar ibn Muhaydimat ad-Daudi ash-Shinqiti.

He wrote a treatise called: “The Legality of Draping the Arms in Salah“.  His works are often used but rarely is the source credited.  May Allah (swt) bless all who have contributed towards learning and truth!

1) The Hadeeth of Wa’il Ibn Hujr in Ibn Khuzaimah
2) The Hadeeth of Halb At-Taa’ee in Tirmidhi
3) The Mursal report of Tawus in Sunan Abu Dawud


Sayyiduna Wail bin Hujr says, ‘I prayed with the Prophet (saw) and he placed his right hand over his left on his chest’. ( Source: Ibn Khuzaimah, 479)

This hadith has been reported by Muammal bin Ismaeel from Sufyan al Thawri from Aasim bin Kulaib from Wail bin Hujr  -However, it is only Muammal who reports these additional words from Sufyan al Thawri.

Sufyan’ al Thawri’s other student, Abdullah bin al Waleed who also narrates this hadith from him does not include these words in his narration as recorded in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad. (Source: Ahmad 18392)

Ibn al Qayyim al Jawziyyah also says in I’laam al Muwaqqieen, ‘No one has said upon the chest apart from Muammal bin Ismaeel.’ (Source: I’ilaam al Muwaqqieen 2/361)

It is an accepted principle of hadith that if a certain authentic and reliable narrator contradicts other equally authentic or more reliable narrators in his wording of a hadeeth then his narration will be declared shaadh and will not be accepted.

Study the following observations of the scholars of Jarh and T’adeel about Muammal bin Ismaeel:

Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani has made it clear in his Fath al-Bari that there is daif (weakness) in Muammal bin Ismaeel’s narrations from Sufyan (Source: Fath al Bari, 9/297). The above hadith has this very chain of narration.


Imam Bukhari mentions that Muammal ibn Ismaeel is among the munkarul Hadith (denounced in hadith). ( Source: Aathar Us-Sunan Pg. 65, Chapter: Placing the hand on the chest).

(People who view Imam Bukhari as the ultimate authority in matters of hadith should note his following statement: ‘It is not permissible to narrate from anyone whom I have labeled munkar al hadith‘  [Source: Mizan al I’itidal. 1/119]

Shaikh ibn al-Hammaam said in ‘at-Tahreer’, ‘when al-Bukhari says about someone, “there is a problem in him” then his hadith are not depended upon or used for support, or given any consideration.’

Observe the following list of narrators who have all reported the same hadith from Aasim bin Kulaib but none of then have included the additional words ‘upon the chest’ reported by Muammal bin Ismaeel

Sh’ubah, Abdul Wahid, and Zubair bin Muawiyah as in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad. (Source: Ahmad 18398, 18371 & 18397)

Zaidah as in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, Darimi, Abu Dawood. Nasai and Baihaqi (Source: Ahmad 18391, Darimi 1357, Abu Dawood 726, Nasai 889 and Baihaqi 2325)

Bishr bin al Mufaddhal as in Ibn Majah, Abu Dawood, and Nasai (Source: Ibn Majah 810, Abu Dawood 726 & 957, and Nasai 1265)

Abdullah bin Idrees as in Ibn Majah (Source: Ibn Majah 810)

Salam bin Saleem as in Abu Dawood Tayalisi’s Musnad (Source: Abu Dawood Tayalisi 1020)

In Layman’s understanding, it is like this.

A -B-C-D-E-F than G says…
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F

So what happens is we go and double-check what G says.  Which should be a huge eye-opener to anyone reading this.  If the prayer of the Blessed Messenger (saw) was folding the right hand over the left upon the chest it would be a mass transmitted practice. 

This is something as frequent as praying five times a day, every day until He (saw) died!  The very fact that they need to do and double-check these statements should open some eyes!   So after double-checking what G says, we go back and see transmissions from F through other chains and NONE OF THEM say what G is saying. G stands alone in his statement!


So before I would be inclined to accept such a description of the prayer just our hearts and curiosity:

1) Is it possible to have the quote from Sufyan Al Thawri or Aasim bin Kulaib where he said the prophet prayed with his hands upon his chest? I just want to make sure that I am following the Salaaf and not someone’s simple mistake by making an added addition.

2) Why did Imam Bukhari denounce Muhammal ibn Ismaeel and why does he not use him in his narrations?

3) Why did Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani declare Muhammal’s narrations from Sufyan At Thawri as weak?

4) Why accept Wail Ibn Hujr’s narration above on placing hands but not the following narration. Narrated Wa’il ibn Hujr: ‘I saw that the Prophet (saw) placed his knees (on the ground) before placing his hands when he prostrated himself. And when he stood up, he raised his hands before his knees.’?    (Source: Kitab Al-Salat): Details of Commencing Prayer’ of Sunan Abu-Dawud. 0837)


The hadith of Halb at-Taa’ee/Hulb Al-Ta’i reported by Imaam Ahmad in his ‘Musnad’/Tirmidhi/Ibn Majah, and Daraqutni,

“That Yahya bin Sa’eed narrated to us from Sufyaan At Thawri , from Samaak bin Harb from Qabeesa bin Halb from his father that, ‘I saw the Messenger of Allah (saw) turn from his left to right, and place these on his chest, and Yahya al-Yamanee depicted this by placing the right hand upon the left (on the chest) above the level of the elbows.’

The above hadeeth contains the words ‘upon his chest‘. This extra wording is not firmly established or confirmed, because of all the narrators who report this hadith from Simak, only one reports this extra wording.

Observe the following narrations of the same hadeeth without the extra wording of ‘upon his chest’.

Abu al Ahwas reports from Simak bin Harb from Qabeesah bin Hulb from his father that the Prophet (saw) would lead us in prayer and would clasp his left hand with his right.

Shareek reports from Simak from Qabeesah bin Hulb from his father who says (towards the end of a longer hadeeth), ‘I saw him place one of his hands on the other and I also saw him turn once towards his right and once towards his left.’

• Wakee reports from Sufyan from Simak bin Harb from Qabeesah bin Hulb from his father who says, ‘I saw the Prophet (saw) place his right hand upon his left in prayer and I also saw him turn away from both his right and left.’

Daruqutni narrates from Abdul Rahman bin Mahdi and Wakee’, from Sufyan from Simak bin Harb from Qabeesah bin Hulb from his father who says, ‘I saw the Prophet (saw) place his right hand upon his left in prayer.’ ( Source: Daruqutni 1087)

The above narrations all clearly show that the wording ‘upon his chest’ is an unreliable addition on the part of one of the reporters and therefore this particular narration is shaadh.

The weakness of this Hadith.

Weakness #1: Qabisa ibn Hulb has been classified as weak and unknown.

Shawkani said in Nayl Al-Awtar [2/200]: “In the chain of this hadith is Qabisa ibn Hulb. Sammak is the only one to narrate from him. Al-‘Ijli considered him to be reliable. And Ibn Al-Madini and Nasa’i said: “(He is) Unknown.”

Weakness #2: Sammak ibn Harb has been classified as weak.

Dhahabi said about him in Al-Mizan [2/422 &423]: “Sufyan At Thawri, Shu’ba, and others declared him to be weak. And Imam Ahmad said: “He is) Unstable (mudtarib) in hadith.” And Nasa’i said: “He used to be dictated to. And he would learn (from those dictated notes.).”

So there is a weak transmitter who transmits from another who is unknown. So no attention is to be shown to it!

As for what Tirmidhi relates from Samaak ibn Harb from Qabeesah ibn Hulb from his father who said: “The Messenger of Allah used to lead us, and take his left with his right.” and declared it to be Hasan (of fair grading), then said, “Action is in accordance with this among the companions of the Prophet (saw) “; There is no doubt that he (Tirmidhi) depending upon the hadith of Hulb in attributing this action, since there is a distance (in time) between him, and between the Sahaabah and Taabioon. Also because he didn’t mention any support for that (placing hands on the chest) other than the Hadith of Hulb.

If it (the hadith) had been Sahih (sound), it would have passed as evidence. However, it is one of the narrations of Samaak and Qabeesah. And it has already preceded that Samaak is weak… and Qabeesah is unknown (majhool). And only Samaak narrates on his authority. And Tirmidhi’s choosing of this chain from (all) the different chains going back to the Prophet in this chapter is proof that all chains of transmission fall in the center of ignominy!!!

In Layman’s understanding, it is like this.
A -B-C-D-E-F than G says…H…says
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F

So what happens is we go and double-check what G says.   So after double-checking what G says, we go back and see transmissions from F through other chains and NONE OF THEM say what G is saying.  Not only that but it is known that G is unstable as a transmitter.  Not only this but G is relying upon H and no one seems to know who H is!


1) Again why isn’t such a Hadith in Bukhari or Muslim?

2) Why did Tirmidhi choose this chain from all the different ones going back to the prophet?

3) Why did Imam Ahmad declare him (Sammak ibn Harb) to be unstable in hadith?

4) Why did Imam Nasa’i declare Qabisa ibn Hulb as unknown?


And from the hadith these people depend upon is the hadeeth of Tawus

Reported by Abu Dawood in ‘al-Maraaseel’ who said, ‘Abu Tawba narrated to us from al-Haytham (ibn Humaid) from Thawr bin Yazeed from Sulaiman bin Musa from Tawoos who said, ‘The Messenger of Allaah (saw) placed his right hand upon his left and then hold them tight on his chest while in prayer.’’ (Source: Abu Dawood 759)

Weakness #1:

This report is incompletely transmitted since there are undisclosed companion and/ or even-non-Companion intermediaries between these Tabi’in.

So the Hadith of Tawus is Musral, because Tawus is a Taabi’ee . So he could not have seen the Blessed Messenger (saw).

However, the mursal hadith is considered a proof with Imam Abu Hanifa, and the Hanafi’s have their response to this.

Status of Mursal Hadith.  Prima-Qur’an we reject the mursal hadith as evidence.

 How did the Sunni Imams deal with mursal hadith?

It is a proof with Imam Malik when it confirms the Amal of Madinah. This does not confirm the Amal of Madinah from a Maliki point of view because the view with Imam Malik is that the hands are laid to the sides.

Unless the report describes the nawaafil or sunnah prayers.

It’s a proof with Imam Ahmad in general, and we all know the best position of Imam Ahmad (r) is the hands are below the navel.

And according to Imam Shaafi’ee the mursal hadith are not acceptable unless there is another chain with a complete isnaad that backs it up.

Weakness #2: The first narrator of this tradition is Abu Tawba, whose full name is Ahmed bin Salem. Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani; said of him, “he is famous for tailoring fake traditions.”

(Source: Meizan ul E’tidaal, volume 1, page 100) 

Ibn Hajar writes in Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb that, he was unreliable and an extreme liar“. “He used to make changes in the traditions and steal traditions, he could never find a person more of a liar than him.” (Source: Taqreeb al-Tehzeeb, volume 2, page 69.)

Weakness #3: The second narrator is Haytham, whose full name is Haytham bin Hameed al-Damishqi; Abu Dawood himself has called Haytham a follower of Qadri religion, Abu Mus-har Ghasani has called him a Qadri and unreliable.

(Source: Al Mizan ul E’tidaal volume 4, page 319, series 9289)

Weakness #4:

This hadith is mursal and its isnad contains Sulaiman bin Musa who has been classified as weak by some scholars.

Bukhari claims that he has munkar narrations. (Source: Aathar Us-Sunan Pg. 65, Chapter: Placing the hand on the chest)

Dhahabi said about him in Al-Mizan volume 2, page 225, Nasa’i says that he is a weak narrator of hadith.

Weakness #5:

The third narrator is Thawr bin Yazeed; he too followed Qadri faith.  (Source: Mizan ul E’tidaal, volume 1, page 373)

In Layman’s understanding, it is like this.
A -B-C-D-E-F than G says…
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F
A -B-C-D-E-F

So in this case we have a report from G who has been declared to be an outright liar and someone who is known for making up traditions.  Than G takes from F who apparently has issues with his creed. F takes from E who apparently is classified as weak by some scholars and Bukhari outright claims he has denounced traditions!  E takes from D who again has issues with his creed.  D claims to get information from C who relates information from an undisclosed source.

I would say that if a person has a creed (aqidah) whom the hadith scholars are being critical of for me that is not cause for rejection, that is simply sectarian bias.  However, as we know from history taking information from a Tabiee or even a Companion doesn’t make that person innocent of possible treachery.


1) Why isn’t such a report in Bukhari, or Muslim?

2) Why is such a description of the prayer such as ‘pressing one hands to the chest tightlyonly a Musral Hadith?

3) Is it possible that since there is a break in this chain (in the sanaad) the Blessed Messenger (saw)  may not have even done it at all?

4)  Since Abu Dawud mentions many ahadith about the positions of the hands in prayer.

He transmitted the following:

with one’s hands below the navel
on the chest
and even hands to the sides

Just like Imam Malik related the hadith about Sahl ibn Sa’d,  in his Muwatta as mentioned above.   Malik related this hadith to show his awareness of this hadith being in circulation.

Similarly, Abdu Dawud has transmitted three hadith that he was aware of in regards to the placement of the hands.

Proof that Imam Malik related the same hadith above:

“Yahya related to me from Malik from  Abu Hazim ibn Dinar that Sahl ibn S’ad said, “People used to be ordered to place their right hands on their left forearms in the prayer.” Abu Hazim added: “I know for sure that Sahl traces that back to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.” (Source: page 59 Al Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas translated by Aisha Abduurrahman Bewley)

Yet, Imam Malik who was the city of Madinah was of the view that the hands are to be placed at the sides during the prayer.

This is the opinion narrated by Ibn al-Qasim in  [ al-Mudawanna (1:74) ]

Yet there are some untruths and some huge lies being circulated concerning why Imam Malik prayed with his hands to the side.  One of these lies is being circulated by  Salafi preacher Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips.

He was severely beaten in the year 764 CE by the order of the Ameer of Madeenah, because he made a legal ruling that forced divorce was invalid. This ruling opposed the ‘Abbaasid rulers’ practice of adding in the oath of allegiance given to them by the masses the clause that whoever broke the oath was automatically divorced. Malik was tied and beaten until his arms became severely damaged to such a degree that he became unable to clasp them on his chest in Salaah and thus he began the practice of praying with his hands at his sides according to some reports.” ( Source: pg 78. The Evolution of Fiqh Islamic Law & The Madh-habs) By Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips International Islamic Publishing House.)

Some reports” such as? Doesn’t Abu Ammenah Bilal Philips have to give his evidence or are we just suppose to accept what he said?

Can such a claim be verified by and in any of the traditionally relied upon books of Islamic history?  No!  One will be hard-pressed to find any evidence substantiating this argument.

Remember what Allah said:

Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidence, and the guidance, which We have sent down after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse.” (Qur’an: 2:159)

So where is the proof? Secondly, how could Imam Malik not have enough strength to clasp his hands on his chest but still be able to do the tabkir-, go into ruku, and go into sajdah and to push his hands up from sujuud since Imam Malik’s view is that the knees go up than the hands after sajdah? What about all the other Tabieen who prayed the way Imam Malik did? Did each and every one of them have their arms broken as well? Also don’t you think Imam Malik would have said as plain as day, “Hey everyone as you know I’m only praying this way because my arm was pulled out of my socket, don’t follow me follow the Blessed Messenger!”

Likewise, where did the Shi’a get the idea to pray with the arms to the side?

Where did the so-called Khawarij get the idea to pray with the arms to the side?

Where did the Ibadi get the idea to pray with the arms to the side?

Are they all following someone who got their arms pulled out of their shoulder joint?   We need to use some common sense!


So what was  Abu Dawud’s position on the matter? Did he pray with hands below the navel, at the sides, just above the navel or pressed tight to the chest?

Inquiring minds want to know!

For example:

Abu Dawud also narrates the following:

Hadith no: 757

Narrated / Authority Of Abu Huraira
(The established way of folding hands is) to hold the hands by the hands in prayer
below the navel.

Hadith no: 755

Narrated / Authority Of Ali ibn Abu Talib
Abu Juhayfah said: Ali said that it is a sunnah to place one hand on the other in prayer
below the navel.

Source: (Chapter 3 Prayer Kitab Al-Salat)

So Imam Abu Dawud narrated ahadith about placing the hands below the navel. Does this mean he found this to be the strongest evidence or acted upon it? Why even narrate such a hadith at all?

Similarly, Imam Malik narrated the hadith that people were ordered to place ‘the right over the left’ (unspecified place). Does this mean he found this to be the strongest evidence or acted upon it? Why even narrate such a hadith at all?

*Note*   It should be understood that placing the hands below the navel is the view of the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence. It is also one of many views that are ascribed to Imam Ahmed and the Hanbali school of jurisprudence.  

The Hanafi school brings us an anomaly.  This anomaly consists of instructing men to place the hands below the navel but instructing women to place their hands. The placing of the hands-on the chest is considered ‘makrooh’ extremely disliked in the Hanafi school.  In the school it is next to haraam.  One then wonders why one standard for the men and another for the women?

Certainly, this issue has perturbed many in the Hanafi school.

So we quoted the hadith from Abu Dawud about pressing the hands on the chest and two hadith about placing the hands under the navel.  Anyone who studies these hadith knows they are fraught with issues and intra-madhab rivalry and intra-Sunni conflict on where the hands are to be placed and how they are to be placed. 

So then what about the hadith about praying with arms on the side (which is not disputed or controversial) and actually IS IN Bukhari  and is simply brushed aside?

It is related from Abu Hurayra,
“The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, entered the mosque and a man entered and prayed. He greeted the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who returned the greeting and said, ‘Go and back and pray. You have not prayed.’ He went back and prayed as he had prayed before. Then he came and greeted the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who said three times, ‘Go back and pray for you have not prayed.’ He said, ‘By the One who sent you with the truth, I cannot do any better than that, so teach me.’ He said,
‘When you stand for the prayer, say the takbir and then recite something you know well from the Qur’an and then do ruku’ until you are at rest in your ruku’ . Then stand back up until you are completely upright. Then go into sajda until you are at rest in your sajda. Then sit back until you are at rest in the sitting position. Do that throughout all of your prayers.’  (Sources:)

So where is all the Sunni critique of this hadith?  Where is the critique of its chains of transmissions, its matn, its narrators?


It has been related by Abu Dawud on the authority of `Amr ibn `Ataa al-Qurashi al-`Aamiri who said:

He said: “I heard Abu Humayd as-Sa`adi, who was present among ten of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, among whom was Abu Qatada, say the following. ‘ I am the most learned of you regarding the prayer of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’ They said to him: ‘How is this? By Allah! You did not follow him more than us nor did you proceed us in companionship to him.’ He replied: ‘Indeed, this is true.’ They then said: ‘Then show us.’ He said: ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace when he stood for the prayer he would raise his hands equal with his shoulders.

يَقِرَّ كُلُّ عَظْمٍ فِي مَوْضِعِهِ مُعْتَدِلًا

He would then make the takbir letting all of his limbs settle in their proper places…

قَالُوا صَدَقْتَ هَكَذَا كَانَ ‏ ‏يُصَلِّي ‏ ‏صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ
They all said: “You have told the truth. Likewise did he, may Allah ta`ala bless him and grant him peace perform his prayer.”

This hadith can be found in the Sunan of Abu Dawud, Ibn Maajah, and others and is sound!

Now my dear brothers and sisters and respected readers after reading all of this we have to do some reflection.

How is that the Ibadi, Kwarij, Shi’a, and even people like Said ibn Al Musayyib who were all opposed to each other historically and would jump at the opportunity to site the other for innovation and infraction can all agree that the method of the prayer of the Blessed Messenger (saw) is to let the hands be at the side?

How is that the ‘Ahl Sunnah Wal Jammah‘  who seem to have more continuity and unity than any of the groups mentioned above, and yet have such conflicting views on where the hands are to be placed in the prayer!

We have in the Hanafi school men placing the hands below the navel and women placing them on the chest.  We have disputes among the Salafi who do not know if they place the hands on the chest after the ruku or not.

In fact, the Salafi have disputes on actually where to place the hands on the chest. The Arabic word yad could refer to any part of the human arm up to and including the shoulder joint.

This is why you see them placing the hands:

Pressed on the chest……

Clasped over the left hand.

On the forearm

On the shoulder

Just below the chin…

After examination and close consideration you will find that (the majority practice)  have as their evidence basically only two ahadith and one mursal hadith.

We can see that our brothers are relying upon lone narrator reports that chalked full of problems.  However, a very clear report about the Blessed Messenger (saw) praying without placing one hand over the other is reported in Abu Dawud, Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, and the only ones seem to be following it are a few Sunni Muslims of the Maliki school.

Now, what is going on here?

May Allah (swt) open the hearts and the eyes of this Ummah!

With Allah (swt) is success!


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3 responses to “Clarity from Obfuscation: Where to place the hands in the prayer?

  1. Does it really matter where we place our hands, as long as our salat is done for Allah?

    • I’d be incline to agree with you but it is precisely that we give our prayers to Allah swt , which has structure, timings and form that I felt this entry was necessary as well as an eye opener for many (inshAllah)..

  2. Marion Eichelberger

    Excelente topic

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