[Video]: The Importance of Straightening The Rows For Prayer | Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn
The Importance of Straightening The Rows For Prayer | Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn
The Questioner: In the name of Allāh the Most Merciful Bestower of mercy. O noble Shaykh, may Allāh preserve you, is the meaning of the statement of the Imām: “straighten and arrange” does it mean to make the row straight and even or does it also involve eliminating gaps and placing feet and shoulders together?
And what is the authenticity of the ḥadīth which has been narrated from the Prophet (ﷺ) wherein he states: “You will most definitely either straighten your rows or Allāh will most certainly cause differences between your faces.” This issue has become a matter of negligence and excessiveness so we hope for some clarity and may Allāh preserve you?
Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn: “Yes. In the name of Allāh the Most Merciful Bestower of mercy. First of all, it is obligatory for us to know that for the Imām is the responsibility which is to straighten the rows. He must straighten the rows by commanding the people to do so. And if they do not conform he should come forward himself to the one who is either too far forward or backward in order to straighten him.
This is because our Prophet and our Imām and our example Muḥammad the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) used to straighten the rows as though he was straightening arrows. And he used to pass by the row and position the shoulders and chests and command them to straighten. And I do not know if the people do this today or not.
The answer… No. Rather, if the people were to see an Imām doing this, perhaps they would yell at him. However, the Sunnah of the Messenger (ﷺ) has more right to be followed. And what is important is that it is upon the Imām to place emphasis upon the straightening of the rows.
He should look to the right and face the people and then look to the left and say: ‘Straighten your rows. Do not differ such that your hearts may differ. Get close together. Close the gaps.’ All of these expressions have been conveyed from the Prophet (ﷺ). The Prophet (ﷺ) went out one day after the people understood from him [the issue of] straightening the rows and began straightening them.
Then he saw a man with his chest out; meaning he was positioned a somewhat ahead of the others and so he said: ‘O servants of Allāh, you must straighten your rows or Allāh will certainly cause differing between your faces.’ This is a threat.
And Allāh causing differing in their faces is said to have two meanings. Either it means that Allāh will turn an individual’s face such that his face is turned towards his shoulder and Allāh’s refuge is sought. Or either the intended meaning is that Allāh will create discord in your points of view such that your hearts separate and you differ as in his statement: ‘And do not differ such that your hearts differ.’
In either case, the situation is the same regardless of whether He contorts the neck until it becomes the face as it relates to the body or if the intended meaning is differing hearts. Each of them constitutes a severe threat and this indicates that it is obligatory upon the Imām to place emphasis upon straightening the row.
However, if he turns and finds that the row is straight because the rows had tightened and were made even in the area, should he say straighten [the rows] or not? What is apparent to me is that he should not say it. Meaning if only two people were behind him and he turns and they are already straightened and close together as they should be then there is no need to say: ‘straighten [the rows].’
This is because this expression is used often and it is not an expression which is only used every once in a while; it is used often. So the Imām whenever he says straighten [your rows] and he sees that they are not straight then it is obligatory upon him to repeat the statement and he should not begin the prayer [with the mention of Allāhu akbar] except after they have straightened their rows.
And don’t you know that the commander of the faithful ʿUmar () and likewise ʿUthmān, when the people’s numbers became large, they appointed someone to pass by the rows and straighten them until he came and said that they were straight and then he began the prayer [with Allāhu akbar]. All of this indicates the type of attention that the legislation [of Islām] has paid towards the straightening of the rows. Yes. Yes. So connecting the feet together and connecting the shoulders together are two matters.
The first matter is the straightening. And the second matter is the eliminating of gaps and deficiencies because if some gap were to be open between you and whoever is beside you, the shayāṭīn will come into these gaps and will distract people from their prayers.”
Translated By: Abul-Layth Qāsim Mutiva