The Sutrah and Mistakes Regarding It

Shaykh Mashhoor Hassan : from his book : al-qawlul mubeen fee akhtaa’il musalleen

Ibn ‘Umar (radhiyaAllaahu anhum) said : ‘The prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said :

“Never do your Salāt but towards a Sutrah and never let any one pass in front of you [while doing Salāt] even if you had to fight with him , for Shaitan accompanies him’. (1)

Abū Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said: Allāh’s Messenger (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said:

‘When you do your Salāt, do it towards a Sutrah and come close to it. And never let any one pass between you and your Satrah even if you have to fight him for the Divil is with him’. (2)

In another narration, the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said : ‘for the devil passes between it [the Sutrah] and him [the praying muslim]’.

Sahl Ibn Abī Hathmah (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) related that the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said :

‘when you do your Salāt towards a Sutrah, come close to it and never give a chance for Shaitān to render it invalid’. (3)

In another narration, the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said:

‘When you intend to do your Salāt, do it towards a sutrah and come close to it lest Shaitān passes in front of you’. (4)

Commenting on Abū Sa‘īd’s (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)narration, Ash – Shaw Kānī said:
‘It states the obligation of doing Salāt towards a Sutrah (5) … Most of the ahādīth affirm this obligation to which we must adhere unless there are circumstantial evidences that may shift the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) order from being an obligation to a recommendation.
As for the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) hadīth: ‘Those who pass in front of you shall not harm you [i.e. your Salāt]’, it must not be considered as one of the circumstantial evidences for avoiding whatever that could render one’s Salāt invalid or lessens its rewards is an obligation’. (6)

The Sutrah protects one’s Salāt from being invalid in case a [grown up] woman, a donkey or a black dog passes in front of him/her – as is narrated in one of the ahādīth – and also prevents those who want to pass in front of him/ her from doing so. (7)

For the Sutrah’s great importance, the righteous Salaf (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) were keen to perform their Salāt towards it and urged other muslims to do the same and condemned those who did the opposite.

‘Umar (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) gives us a great example; Qurrah Ibn Iyās said : “‘Umar saw me performing Salāt between two poles. He took hold of me and directed me towards a Sutrah [one of the poles] and then said: “Do your Salāt towards it’. (8)

Commenting on this event, Al-Hāfith Ibn Hajar said: “‘Umar intended to teach Ibn ’Iyās that he should do his Salāt towards a Sutrah’. (9)

Ibn ‘Umar (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)said : ‘When you intend to perform your Salāt, do it towards a Sutrah and come close to it lest Shaitān passes in front of you’. (10)

Ibn Mas ‘ūd (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said: ‘Four are of the characters of the hard – hearted people: to do one’s Salāt without taking a Sutrah… or to hear the ’Athān and not attending the congregational Salāt in the mosque’. (11)

‘Pay heed, dear muslim brother – may Allāh guide me and you to the right path – to the series of the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) orders of the necessity of taking a Sutrah in Salāt. Verily, obeying his (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) orders leads to obeying Allāh (subhanahu wa ta’ala) ; for he (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) received these rulings through the Wahy.
And reflect on the Sahābah’s care to follow them- as did the second great Caliph ‘Umar (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) and Ibn Mas‘ūd (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) who considered abandoning it as one of the serious sins that equals abandoning the congregational Salāt’. (12)

’Anas (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said: ‘I saw the prophet’s Sahābah rushing towards the poles of the mosque -to perform the two Rak‘ah optional Salā t (13) – between the sunset ’Athan and the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) coming [to lead the Salāt]. (14)

Nāfi’(radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said: ‘Ibn ‘Umar -who never did his Salāt but towards a Sutrah’- (15) used to do it towards one of the mosque’s poles. In case they are all occupied [with praying muslims] he used to ask me to turn my back to him as a Sutrah’. (16)

Salamah Ibn Al-’Akwa’ used to heap up stones and perform his Salāt towards them. (17)

The previous ‘Athar indicates the affirmed obligation of performing Salāt towards a Sutrah whether in indoor or outdoor places.
This is the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) Sunnah, as Ash-Shawkānī stated. (18)

The eminent ‘Ālim, As-Safārīnī said: ‘It is indeed recommended that one does his/ her Salāt towards a sutrah even if there is no chance of some one passing in front of him/ her’.
Imām Mālik held the opposite opinion regarding the last part of As-Safārīnī’s opinion and Ibn ‘Aqīl Al-Hanbalī stated in his “Al- Wādih” that the Sutrah should be a wall or something prominent.
Imām Ahmad held the opinion that a Sutrah should be wide’. (19)

The soundest of all opinions is that the order of taking a Sutrah is a general and a comprehensive one that should not be restricted to certain times, places or shapes. The reasons previously mentioned [by the Imāms] are mere mental deductions that stand on no hard evidences. Imām Mālik’s opinion ignores the many ahādīth that assert the necessity of doing one’s Salāt towards a Sutrah.
Besides, those whom you are not able to see i.e. -Shaitān- may pass in front of your as is clearly stated in the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) ahādīth and shown in his deeds’. (20)

Having mentioned some ahādīth about the obligation of performing Salāt towards a Sutrah, Ibn Khuzaimah said: ‘These are all authentic ahādīth which clearly state the obligation of doing Salāt towards a Sutrah. Abdul Karim claimed that Mujāhid narrated from Ibn ‘Abbās that ‘the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) performed his Salāt in a desert (*) without having a Sutrah, and there were no buildings on ‘Arafah [mount] at that time.’ How could the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) do the opposite of that to which he ordered his Sahābah’. (21)

I believe that the lack of buildings does not entail not taking a Sutrah in Salāt; this is clearly stated in Ibn Abbās’ ’Athar. He (radhiyaAllaahu anhum) said : ” The prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) used to do his Salāt in Mina not towards a wall.” (22)

Ibn ‘Abbās said in another narration : ‘A staff was rooted before the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) while being on ‘Arfah and he performed his Salāt towards it. A donkey passed behind it’. (23)

Ibn At-Turkumānī said: ‘Lacking a wall does not entail the non existence of any other Sutrah, so on what basis did Imām Mālik hold such an opinion?!’ (24)

According to the previous discussion, we conclude the following points:

[1] Those who perform their Salāt with out taking a Sutrah have indeed committed a great mistake, even if there is a slight chance of any body -or thing- to pass in front of them, as is the case when being in a desert. This ruling applies to Makkah and else where. (25)

[2] Some ‘Ulamah held the opinion that one should place his Sutrah slightly to his left or right side and must not aim directly towards it. (26)
However, there is no hard evidence that supports such an opinion. (27)
Nevertheless, all cases are allowed. (28)

It is worth saying here that:

The height of the Sutrah should not be less than that of a saddle if one affords it.

This was clearly mentioned in a hadīth transmitted by Talha (radhiyaAllaahu anhu). He said : The prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said :
‘Do not pay attention to whoever passes in front of you while you are doing your Salāt so long as you have put a Sutrah the height of which is as that ofsaddle’. (29)

‘Aishah (radhiyaAllaahu anha) said : ” The prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) was once asked about the height of the proper Sutrah -during Tabūk Battle- he (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said : ‘[Its height is] as the height of a saddle’. (30)

Abū Thar (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said : The prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) said :
‘When you intend to perform Salāt, nothing will suffice you as a Sutrah but that the height of which is as that of a saddle. Less than that; a donkey, a grown up woman and a black dog render your Salāt invalid if they pass in front of you’. (31)

One of the eminent ‘Ulamahs’ axioms concerning the prophet’s (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) speech is that the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) never deferred any piece of information needed from its proper time.

Consequently, when the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) was asked about the sufficient height of the Sutrah, his answer was precise. Had less than that height been permissible, he (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) would have mentioned it. (32)

The height of a saddle is nearly one cubit, a stated clearly by ‘Atā’, Qatādah, Ath-Thawrī and Nāfi‘. (33)
The cubit equals the distance between the elbow down to the middle finger tip, (34) that is about 46. 2 c.m. (35)

It had been already established that the prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) performed his Salāt towards a thin staff and a spear.

This proves that the height of the Sutrah is much more important than its width.

Ibn Khuzaimah said: ‘Authentic evidences prove that the height of the Sutrah should be taken into consideration unlike its width :

One of these evidences is that he (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) performed his Salāt towards a spear, and surely its width is not as that of a saddle.

Another evidence is his (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallaam) order for the Sahābah (radhiyaAllaahu anhum) to take a Sutrah in Salāt even if it were an arrow’. (36)

Accordingly : if a muslim affords to take a Sutrah of any kind – be it a staff, piece of furniture or heap of sand/stones,as Salamah ibn Akwa did – he must do so.


[1] Narrated by Muslim in his “Sahīh” (no. 260), Ibn Khuzaimah in “The Sahīh” (no.800); the hadith’s wordings are his, Al-Hākim in “Al-Mustadrak” (vol. 1 / p. 251) and Al-Baihaqī in As-Sunan Al-Kubrā (vol. 2 / p. 268).
[2] Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 1 / p. 279), Abū Dāwūd in “As-Sunan” (no. 697), Ibn Mājah in “As-Sunan” (no. 954), Ibn Hibban in the “Sahīh” (vol. 4 / no. 48, 49) and Al-Baihaqi in “As-Sunan” Al-Kubrā” (vol. 2. p.267). Its chain of narrators is good.
[3] Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 1 / p. 279), Ahmad in “Al-Musnad (vol . 4 / no.2), At-Tayālisī in “Al-Musnad” (no. 379), Al-Humaidi in “Al-Musnad” (vol. 1 / no. 196), Abū Dāwūd in “As-Sunan” (no. 695), An-Nasā’ī in “Al-Mujtabā” (vol. 2 / no. 62) . Ibn Khuzaimah in “As-Sahīh” (no. 803), Ibn Hibbān in “As-Sahīh” (vol. 4 / no. 49), At-Tahāwī in “Sharh Ma‘ānī Al- ’Athār (vol. 1 / no. 458), At-Tabarānī in “Al-Mu ‘jam Al-Kabīr “(vol. 6 / no. 119), Al-Hākim in “Al-Mustadrak’ “(vol. 1 no. 251), Al-Baihaqī in “As-Sunan Al-Kubrā” (vol. 2 / no. 272). The Hadīth is authentic.
[4] Ibn Khuzaimah’s wordings.
[5] Naylul ’Awtār (vol. 3 / p. 2).
[6] “As-Saylul Jarrār” (vol. 1 / p. 176).
[7] “Tamāmul Minnah” (p. 300).
[8] Narrated by Al-Bukhārī in his Sahīh (vol.1 p.577) and Ibn Abī Shaibah in Al-Musannaf (vol. 2 / p. 370
[9] Fathul Bārī (vol. 1 / p. 577).
[10] Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 1/p. 279) through a sound chain of narrators.
[11] Narrated Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 2 / p. 61) and Al-Baihaqi in “As-Sunan Al-Kubrā” (vol. 2. p. 285). The hadīth is Sahīh [authentic].
[12] “Ahkāmus Sutrah Fi Makkah and else where” (pp. 13-4), Ibn Al-Qayyim publication.
[13] This is the narration of Al-Bukhārī in his “Sahīh” (no. 620).
[14] Narrated by Al-Bukhārī in his “Sahīh” (no. 503).
[15] Narrated by Abdir Razzāq in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 2 / p. 9) but there is a weak narrator in its chain of transmitters.
[16] Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 1 / p. 279) through and authentic chain of narrators.
[17] Narrated by Ibn Abī Shaibah in “Al-Musannaf” (vol. 1 / p. 278) .
[18] “Naylul Awtār” (vol. 3 / p. 6).
[19] “Sharh Thulathiyyāt Al-Musnad” (vol. 2 / p. 782).
[20] “Tamāmul Minnah” (p. 304).
* This is a weak hadīth as Al-Albānī said in “Tamāmul Minnah” (p. 305). He said: ‘It is fully narrated in “Al-Ahādithud Da‘īfah” (no. 5814) with another similar ahadīth.
[21] Sahīh Ibn Khuzaimah (vol. 2 / pp. 27-8).
[22] Narrated by Al-Bukhārī in his “Sahīh” (no. 76, 493, 861, 1857, 4412), Ahmad in “Al-Musnad” (vol. 1 / no. 341) and Mālik in “Al-Muwatta’ “(vol. 1 / no. 131), and others.
[23] Narrated by Ahmad in “Al-Musnad” (vol. 1. no. 243), Ibn Khuzaimah in “As-Sahīh” (no. 840) and At-Tabarānī in “Al-Mu‘jam Al-Kabīr” (vol. 11 / no. 243). Ahmad’s chain of narrators is a sound one.
[24] “Al-Jawharun Naqī” (vol. 2 / p. 273). See also: Ahkāmus Sutrah (pp. 88…).
[25] More about this in “As-Silsilah Ad-Da‘ifah wal Mawdū‘ah” (no. 928) and “Ahkāmus Sutrah in Makkah wa Ghairiha” (pp. 46-8), (120-6). As for the permissibility to pass in front of a praying muslim at times of need and dire necessity, this is something unescapable- especially at times of over crowdedness. Hāfith Ibn Hajar held this opinion as is stated in his “Al-Fath” (vol. 1 / p. 576) and so did Az-Zarqānī in “Sharh Mukhtasar Khalīl” (vol. 1 / p. 209). Allāh knows best.
[26] See: “Zād Al-Ma‘ād” (vol. 1 / p. 305).
[27] For more details see: “Nasb Ar-Rāyah” (vol. 2 / p. 84) and “Ahkāmus Sutrah” (pp. 113- 5).
[28] “Ahkāmus Sutrah” (p. 45).
[29] Narrated by Muslim (no. 499).
[30] Narrated by Muslim (no. 500).
[31] Narrated by Muslim (no. 510).
[32] “Ahkāmus Sutrah” (p.29).
[33] See “Musannaf Abdir Razzāq” (vol. 2 / p. 9, 14, 15), “Sahih Ibn Khuzaimah” (no.807) and “Sunan Abī Dāwūd” (no. 686) .
[34] “Lisān Al-‘Arab” (vol. 3 / p. 1495).
[35] “Mu‘jam lughat Al-Fuqhahā’ “(pp. 450-1).
[36] “Sahīh Ibn Khuzaimah”(vol. 2 / p. 12).


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Posted on March 23, 2014, in Fiqh of Prayer and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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