acts of prayer, the length of time of the prostration and what is to be said
It is preferred for the one who is prostrating to say Subhana Rabiyy al-A’la (Glory to my Lord, the Most High). ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamr related that when, “Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High” was revealed, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, “Do so in your prostrations.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim. Its chain is good.
Huzhaifah reported that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, prostrated, he would say “Subhana Rabiyy al-A’la. “ This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and at-Tirmizhi, who called it Hassan Sahih. It is a must that one not repeat these sayings less than three times during the bowings and prostrations.
Says at-Tirmizhi, “The scholars prefer the one bowing or prostrating to make the glorifications at least three times.” According to the majority, the minimum that is sufficient for the prostrations or bowings is one glorification. We have already mentioned that “calmness” is obligatory, and this requires a time of at least one glorification. According to some scholars, the complete glorification is ten.
This is based on the following hadith: Sa’eed ibn Jubair related that Anas said, “I have not seen anyone being more similar to the Prophet’s prayer than this boy (‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-’Aziz). We estimated the number of the glorifications that he made during his bowing to be ten and in his prostrations also to be ten.” This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa’i with a good chain.
Commenting on the subject, ash-Shaukani says, “Some hold that this proves that the complete (number of) glorifications is ten. The more sound opinion is that an individual who is praying may offer as many glorifications as he wishes. There are authentic hadith that state that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, elongated his glorifications during prostrations.
The imam may also do so if he knows the followers will not get tired by making it longer.” Says Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr, “It is a must that every imam should be easy (by not making the prayers too long) as has been ordered by the Prophet, even if he knows that those behind him are strong, because he does not know what may have happened to them and what needs they may have to tend to.” Ibn al-Mubarak maintains, “It is preferred for the imam to make five glorifications.
Therefore, all the people behind him would be able to make (at least) three. It is preferred that one not limit his remembrance during the prostrations to just the glorifications, but he should add some supplications to it.
In an authentic hadith, it is recorded that the Prophet said, ‘The closest one of you comes to his Lord is while he is prostrating; (therefore) make many supplications therein.’ And he also said, ‘I have prohibited you from reciting while bowing or prostrating. During the bowing, glorify the Lord. During the prostrations, strive your hardest in making supplications. Most likely, you will be listened to.” This was related by Ahmad and Muslim.
Many hadith are related on this topic, including:
1. ‘Ali reported that when the Prophet prostrated he would say, “O Allah, to You have I prostrated, in You have I believed, and to You have I submitted. I have prostrated my face to the One who created me and formed me in the best of forms. He is the One who gave it hearing and sight. Blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators.” (Related by Ahmad and Muslim.)
2. While describing the Prophet’s late night prayers, Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Then he would go to pray and during his prayer or prostration, he would say, ‘O Allah, place light in my heart, in my hearing, in my sight, on my right, on my left, in front of me, behind me, above me, below me, and make me light.” Reported Shu’bah, “Or he said, ‘And make for me light.” (Related by Muslim, Ahmad and others.)
Talking of light, an-Nawawi observes, “The scholars say that asking for light for all organs and sides means (asking) to have the truth and guidance made clear for one’s self. He asked for this so that there would be no deviation or misguidance left in him.”
3. Reported ‘Aishah, “I once noticed the Prophet missing from his place of sleep. I felt over his place with my hand and found him prostrating. He was saying, ‘O Lord, give my soul God-consciousness and purify it, for You are the best of those who purify. You are its Guardian and Protector.” (Related by Ahmad.)
4. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would say while prostrating, “O Allah, forgive all of my sins, the small and large, the first and last, the public and private.” (Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud and al-Hakim.)
5. Reported ‘Aishah, “One night I missed the Prophet from his bed. I looked for him and found him praying. He was prostrating, his feet were in an upright position and he was saying, ‘O Allah, I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your anger. I seek refuge in Your granting of well-being from Your punishment. I seek refuge in You from You. The praise cannot encompass You and You are as You have praised Yourself.” (Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa’i.)
6. She also reported that one night he was missing and she suspected that he had gone to another one of his wives. She found him while he was bowing or prostrating, and he was saying, “Glory be to You, O Allah, and to You be praise. There is no god besides You.” She said, “May my father and mother be sacrificed for you. I thought you were doing something and you were doing something else.” (Related by Muslim, Ahmad and an-Nasa’i.)
7. While prostrating the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would say, “O Allah, forgive me (those things that I have been) mistaken in or ignorant, and the action that I have been extravagant in, for You are more knowledgeable of them than me. O Allah, forgive me my serious mistakes and my joking mistakes, my mistakes (that I was unaware of) and of my intentional mistakes, and everything of that which I have done. O Allah, forgive me my past sins and later sins and what was private and what was public. You are my God, and there is no god except You.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Sitting Between the Two Prostrations
It is Sunnah to sit “spread out” between the two prostrations (to put the left foot down and to sit upon it and to keep the right foot upright with the toes pointing toward the Qiblah). ‘Aishah reported that the Prophet would lay out his left foot and keep his right foot upright. (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn ‘Umar reported that it is from the Sunnah to keep the right foot upright, with its toes pointing toward the Qiblah, and to sit upon the left foot. (Related by an-Nasa’i.) Reported Nafa’, “When Ibn ‘Umar prayed, he would face the Qiblah, even his shoes.” (Reported by al-Athram.) In the hadith of Abu Humaid, in which he described the prayer of the Prophet, he stated, “Then he would lay down his left foot and sit upon it until all of his bones were in place, and then he would go to make the prostration (again).” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi who classified it as Sahih.)
It has also been related that ifa’a (laying out both feet and sitting upon one’s heels) is a preferred act. Comments Abu ‘Ubaidah, “This is the statement of the people of hadith.” Abu az-Zubair related that he heard Tawus say, “We asked Ibn ‘Abbas about ifa’a, and he said, ‘It is sunnah to do so.’ We said, ‘We think it to be too harsh for the man.’ He said, ‘It is a sunnah of your Prophet, upon whom be peace.” (Related by Muslim.)
Ibn ‘Umar reported that when the Prophet rose from the first prostration, he would sit upon his toes. He used to say, “That is from the sunnah.” Reported Tawus, “I saw the ‘Abdullah’s (‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar and ‘Abdullah ibn az-Zubair) sitting with their feet laid flat.” The last two reports were related by al-Baihaqi. Talking of its authenticity, Ibn Hajr says, “Its chain is sound.”
Concerning iqa’a--sitting with the buttocks on the ground and with the thighs straight on the ground--it is disliked by all scholars. Said Abu Hurairah, “The Prophet prohibited us from three things: pecking like a rooster (making the prostration very quickly), sitting like a dog (iqa ‘a), and not turning one’s whole head like a fox.” This is related by Ahmad, al-Baihaqi, at-Tabarani and Abu Tala with a Hassan chain.
It is preferred for the one who is sitting between the two prostrations to put his right hand on his right thigh and his left hand on his left thigh with the fingers stretched out and directed toward the Qiblah. The fingers should be slightly separated and should not go beyond the knees.
To be continued