The Man who Prayed Badly – Shaikh Muhammad Amaan Al-Jaamee

AUTHOR: Shaikh Muhammad Amaan Al-Jaamee [D. 1416H]
SOURCE: Sharh Shuroot as-Salaat (pg. 25-27)

In his explanation of Imaam Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab’s classical treatise Shuroot-us-Salaat,  Shaikh Muhammad Amaan Al-Jaamee, may Allaah have mercy on him, said:

This story is well known amongst the students of knowledge. It is a story about a person who was known as “the man who prayed badly.” At that time perhaps there were few like him which explains why he came to be known by this nickname. But as for today how numerous are those who pray badly like this man!

Perhaps the students of knowledge who see these people praying badly don’t inform them of their error out of politeness or because they think that the only thing that is required of them is to perform their own prayer and that they are not required to do anything else with respect to others. This is a wrong notion that some students of knowledge have, i.e. that a person should not be concerned with anything more than performing acts of worship for himself. So he forgets the issue of commanding good and forbidding evil and sincerely advising the servants of Allaah.

On the other side, some people are unaware of this issue and that praying like this invalidates the prayer, i.e. such as those who peck on the floor in their prayer, condensing the pillars of (1) lifting the head and (2) sitting between the two prostrations. Many people are negligent about these two pillars of the prayer since they peck like chickens on the ground and do not observe tranquility. No sooner does his back rise from prostrating than he prostrates again before he sits up straight. He barely lifts his head from the first prostration, and before sitting tranquilly for a moment, he rushes down for his second prostration. Whoever does this, his prayer is invalid and he falls under the label of “the man who prayed badly.”

So it is upon the students of knowledge to advise those who pray badly, and they are many in these days.

The story of this man is known to the students of knowledge. A man once entered the masjid while the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sitting amongst his Companions. So he offered his prayer, made the tasleem, then greeted the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet returned his greeting and said to him: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.”He (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not teach him right away. Instead he told him: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.”

This is since it is possible that the man knew (how to pray properly) but hastened and left off (those pillars) for some reason, as is the case with many of the people who rush through prayer. So the man went back and prayed just as he did the first time. Then he came back and greeted the Prophet. The Prophet returned his greeting and said to him: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.”

So the man went back and prayed just as he did the first time. He then returned a third time and greeted the Prophet. The Prophet told him again after returning his greeting: “Go back and pray for you have not prayed.”

This is the point where the man declared his ignorance, saying: “By the One who sent you with the truth, I can’t do any better than this.” Meaning: “This is all that I know. I don’t know any other way to pray.”

This was after the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) made this man devote special attention to his prayer by making him repeat it several times and after he confirmed that the man didn’t know any other way to pray and that he only prayed badly due to ignorance. This repetition on the part of the man kindled his interest and made him ready to receive (knowledge of the correct way). Had the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught him upon the first instance, the man would not have given it that much attention nor would he have accepted it in the same manner.

This is one of the points of wisdom that the people of knowledge have indicated, i.e. that the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not teach the man in the first instance. It is recommended for a teacher to interact with his students in a similar manner when going over certain issues. He should ask his student and inform him what he knows about a certain issue. But if his student hesitates and doesn’t know the answer, the teacher should not rush to give him an answer immediately. Rather, he should leave the matter open so that the student’s mind could preoccupy itself with reflecting on it and trying to find an answer for it. He should tell his student: “Bring the answer tomorrow” or something like that unless the issue is of an urgent nature. This is what the leading teachers from among the elders whom we reached would do.

The teacher should present issues in the form of questions to the student of knowledge who is unprepared. He should not answer the questions but rather leave it so that the student could do some research and bring an answer in a later gathering. This is from the aspects of wisdom.

Similarly, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would present questions at time to his Companions to the point that they would say: “Allaah and His Messenger know best.” They would declare their lack of knowledge and afterward he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would teach them. This is what the man who prayed badly did and afterward the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught him that the first thing he should do is face the Qiblah and make the takbeer. Meaning: He should commence the prayer with the initial takbeer. This is proof that one should not vocalize his intention before the initial takbeer. The place of the intention is the heart so saying it out loud is an innovation as we stated previously. This is also since everything the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught the one who prayed badly to do in prayer – in most cases – is either a pillar or a requirement of the prayer. And whatever part of the prayer that was not mentioned in this prophetic lesson is neither a pillar nor a requirement. This is with respect to those who differentiate between a pillar and a requirement. Some madh-habs do not distinguish between a pillar and a requirement. They do not regard there being any distinction between the two except in matters of Hajj and ‘Umrah contrary to what we are upon today.

Then after making the initial takbeer, he should recite what he is able to from the Qur’aan. “What he is able to from the Qur’aan” has been explained in another narration as the opening chapter of the Qur’aan, Surah Al-Faatihah. The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not mention the opening supplication however it has been mentioned in some other narrations. Likewise, making the ta’awudh (seeking refuge in Allaah from the Devil) is also prescribed. So therefore, not everything that has been mentioned in this hadeeth is obligatory even though the scholars of Fiqh have differed as to whether or not the ta’awudh and the opening supplication are obligatory or not.

Then the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ordered the man to bow and to remain tranquil while in the bowing position. This is where the basis of this issue is found since one of the most important things that the man left out of his prayer was being tranquil and calm while in each position. Then the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ordered him to rise from the bowing position and to balance himself while standing. This second standing is known as ‘Itidaal (and not Qiyaam). This standing has been reported clearly in some ahaadeeth with the wording ‘Itidaal. This is the point used by some scholars who hold the view that it is not necessary to place the right hand over the left hand on the chest after rising from the bowing position since this standing is not referred to as Qiyaam (standing) unless there exists a clear contextual proof.

And if the word Qiyaam (standing) is used in the general sense, then it refers to the standing which takes place before the bowing. So based on this, the statement of the Companion: “When the Messenger of Allaah would stand in prayer he would place his right hand over his left hand on his chest while standing” means that the word “standing” here if applied in the general sense refers to that which occurs before the bowing position. And as for the standing that takes place after rising from the bowing position, then that should not be called Qiyaam (standing) unless it is accompanied by some clear contextual proof. Rather, it is called ‘Itidaal (straightening).

When discussing this issue previously, we stated that the most precise understanding on this issue is that of Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal, who did not regard this issue as something too troublesome, may Allaah have mercy on him. He held that a person has the choice when he stands after bowing on whether or not he wants to place his right hand on his left hand over his chest. So he may choose – If he wishes, he may put his hands on his chest and if he wishes he may not. Why is this? This is from the intricate matters of Fiqh since the hadeeth does not literally state this type of standing. It only literally states the first standing. So whatever is stated literally (i.e. verbatim), there should be no differing in regards to that issue. And whoever does oppose it should be advised.

As for the second standing, then there is also an implied meaning that is derived from the (above) hadeeth which is not literal. So whatever is implied from a text, then that is usually the place where differing most likely occurs amongst the scholars of jurisprudence. So if the jurisprudent scholars of the past and present differed on this issue, we should pardon all of them. Those who say the hands should be placed on the chest are pardoned because they have gone by what is implied from the hadeeth, i.e. what is probable from the text not literal.

And as for the one who holds that the hands should not be placed on the chest in the second standing, he too should be pardoned because the hadeeth is not literal but rather implicative, as we stated previously.

This is one of the causes for the differing between the scholars of jurisprudence on subsidiary issues of Fiqh. Whoever amongst the students of knowledge wants to find out what these causes are and research them should refer to the booklet which is small in size yet grand in terms of the knowledge contained within it, “Raf’ul-Malaam ‘an-il-A’immat-il-A’laam” (of Ibn Taimiyyah) in order to find out the reasons why the scholars of Fiqh differed.

One of these causes, which we are discussing now, is when a scholar, for example, understood from the proofs that they include the first and second standing, while another scholar says that it only includes the first standing whereas the second standing is not included since it is known as ‘Itidaal (straightening) and not Qiyaam (standing) unless there is a clear contextual proof, and if this is not the case then the Qiyaam (standing) is only applied to the first standing. So the probability exists and Allaah knows best.

Published on: May 6, 2007

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