Rituals of the Prayer

Rituals of the Prayer

Islamic Law

Following are the rituals of the prayer which are laid down in the shari'ah:

The prayer should begin with raf' al-yadayn (raising high both hands);

qiyam(standing upright) should ensue;

It should be followed by the ruku' (kneeling down);

qawmah(standing up after the ruku') should then be done;

two prostrations should then follow;

in the second and last rak'at of each prayer, a person should do qa'dah (to sit with legs folded backwards);

during the qa'dah, the pointing finger of the right hand should be used for gesturing;

when a person intends to end the prayer, he can do so by first turning his face to the right and then to the left during this qa'dah.

These rituals are substantiated by the consensus of the Companions (rta) and perpetual adherence (tawatur) to them by the ummah. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: صَلُّوا كَمَا رَأَيْتُمُوْنِي أُصَلِّي (Offer the prayer in the very manner you see me offering it).[1] Consequently, for this purpose, the thorough and befitting manner in which the Prophet (sws) used to say his prayer is detailed out below:

Raf' al-Yadayn

Sometimes, the Prophet (sws) would do raf' al-yadayn while saying the takbir, sometimes before it and sometimes after it.[2] His hands would be open, and he would not completely join together the fingers of the hand nor open them completely.[3]He would sometimes raise his hands up to the level of his shoulders, and sometimes as high as the upper portion of the ears.[4]

It is evident from certain narratives that the Prophet (sws) at some instances did the raf' al-yadayn before and after the ruku'.[5] Similarly, he would also do it after getting up from the third rak'at[6]and sometimes before and after prostrating too.[7]


In the qiyam position[8], he would stand straight with hands tied in front.[9] He would hold his hands in a manner that a part of the right hand would be placed on the back of the left hand, a part of it below the left hand and a part on the wrist.[10] He stopped people from tying hands in a manner that the left hand be placed on top of the right one.[11]

There are some Ahadith which mention that the Prophet (sws) tied his hands on his chest.[12] This depiction can be understood to mean any place above the naval on which hands are tied. Thus it does not necessarily follow, as certain people have concluded, that the Prophet (sws) tied hands right on the chest.


While doing the ruku', the Prophet (sws) would place his hands on his knees such that it would seem that he is grasping them.[13] The fingers would be open and placed below the knees.[14] He would not let his elbows touch his sides.[15] Both hands would be stretched like a bow.[16] He would neither bend his head nor lift it upwards but would keep it aligned with his back[17] and would say: "O People! A person who did not straighten his back while kneeling and prostrating has [in fact] not prayed".[18]


When the Prophet (sws) would rise after kneeling, he would stand up straight such that his spine would come back to its original position.[19] Generally, he would stand for the same amount of time as he would kneel but sometimes would stand for longer periods of time giving the impression that he had forgotten to proceed for the next ritual.[20] He would remark: "A person's prayer would not be worth God's attention who while rising after kneeling does not straighten his back and goes into prostration".[21]


When the Prophet (sws) would go into prostration, he would join his fingers and spread his palms.[22] The fingers would face the ka'bah[23] and the hands would be placed adjacent to the shoulders and sometimes in front of the ears[24] and so far apart that a baby goat could pass below them.[25] He would also keep apart his arms from his body to the extent that a person standing behind him could see the whiteness of his arm pits.[26] He would place his feet upright,[27]join both his heels,[28] and would turn the fingers of his feet in the direction of the ka'bah[29]. He would say: "I have been directed to prostrate through my forehead, nose, both hands, both knees and the fore-feet"[30]


In between the two prostrations, the Prophet (sws) would spread his feet and composedly sit on them.[31] He would use up almost equal time in jilsah, prostration, qawmah[32]; however, sometimes, like qawmah, he would sit in the jilsah for a long time giving the impression that he had forgotten to proceed.[33] It has also been reported that sometimes instead of standing up straight after the second prostration, he would sit down and then stand up for the next rak'at.[34]


The Prophet (sws) would sit in qa'dah in just the same way as in jilsah by spreading one feet and sitting on it[35]. The right foot would be upright[36] and he would spread his right hand on the right knee and the left one on the left knee and would raise his pointing finger[37]. He would do this by coiling all the other fingers and placing his thumb on the centre finger and sometimes would make a circle with both of them[38].

In the last rak'at of the prayer, he would sometimes sit in a manner that he would place his left hip on the floor and take out the left feet towards the right one[39].

The Prophet (sws) would complete all these rituals of the prayer with thoroughness and diligence[40] and would counsel people to do so as well[41].

(Translated from Qanun-i 'Ibadat by Shehzad Saleem)

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