is preferred for the one who is praying to place a sutrah (or some sort of
partition) in front of him in order to keep others from passing in front of him
and to keep his eyesight from going behind this partition. Abu Sa’id reports
that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam said: “When one of you prays, he
should pray toward his sutrah and he should be close to it.” This is related by
Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah. Ibn ‘Umar relates that “when the Prophet Sallallahu alehi
wasallam went out to pray salatul ‘id, he asked for a spear and placed it in
front of himself and he offered salah toward it and the people prayed behind
him. And he would do that while he was traveling so that those in authority
[for the affairs of the Muslims] would also do this.” This is related by
al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud. The Hanafi and Maliki scholars are of the
opinion that one should place a sutrah in front of him only if he fears that
someone may pass in front of him; if he does not fear that someone will pass in
front of him, it is not desirable for him to place a sutrah in front of
himself. This opinion is based on the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas who said that the
Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam prayed in an open area and there was nothing
in front of him. This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Al-Baihaqi related it
and said: “It is supported by a report from al-Fazhl Ibn ‘Abbas with a reliable
chain of transmitters.”
FOR A SUTRAH OR PARTITION
Anything which the person sets up in front of him will qualify as a sutrah, even if it is only the end of his bed. Sabrah ibn Mu’abid reports that the Messenger of Allah said: “When one of you prays, he should make a partition for his Salah, even if it is an arrow.” This is related by Ahmad and by al-Hakim who said it is Sahih according to the criteria of Muslim. Al-Haithami observes: “Ahmad’s narrators are sound.” Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet said: “When one of you prays, he should place something in front of him. If he cannot find anything, he should prop up his staff [in front of him]. If he does not have a staff, he should draw a line [on the ground in front of him] then nothing that passes in tront of him will harm him.” This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and Ibn Hibban. The later classifies it sahih as did Ahmad and Ibn al-Madini. Al-Baihaqi says: “There is no problem with that hadith regarding that ruling, Allah willing.” It is related that the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam prayed toward a column in his mosque, toward a tree, toward a bed upon which ‘Aishah was lying, and toward his riding animal, and toward his saddle, and so on. Talhah says: “We used to pray and the animals would pass in front of us. We mentioned that to the Prophet and he said: “If anything the size of a saddle is in front of you, nothing that passes beyond it would harm you.” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmizhi who calls it hasan Sahih.
SUTRAH OF THE IMAM IS SUTRAH OF THE FOLLOWERS
The sutrah of the imam is the sutrah of everyone behind him. ‘Amr ibn Shu’aib relates from his father on the authority of his grandfather who said: “We were descending on a path near Makkah with the Messenger of Allah and the time for prayer came. The Prophet prayed toward a wall and we were behind him. A lamb tried to pass in front of him and he kept preventing the lamb from doing so until its stomach was up against the wall. Finally, it passed behind him.” This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Ibn ‘Abbas says: “I was riding a donkey and was at the time on the threshold of maturity, and the Prophet was leading the people in Salah at Mina. I passed in front of the row and let the animal graze, and then I joined the rows and no one objected to this.” This is related by the group. These hadith prove that it is allowed to pass in front of people following the imam, and that the sutrah is required for the imam and the people praying individually.
OF THE SUTRAH
Al-Baghawi says: “The people of knowledge prefer that the sutrah be so close that there is only enough space to make the sajdah, and the same applies to the distance between the rows in the prayer. “ In the hadith mentioned in the beginning of this section it is stated: “And he should be close to it.” Bilal reports that between the Prophet and the wall in front of him there was a distance of three arm spans. This is related by Ahmad and anNasa’i, and al-Bukhari has recorded something similar. Sahl ibn Sa’d says: “Between the Messenger of Allah [and his sutrah] was enough space for a sheep to pass.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
OF PASSING IN FRONT OF A PRAYING PERSON
It is forbidden to pass in front of a person who is praying (i.e., between him and his sutrah). There are many hadith which forbid passing between a person and his sutrah, and describe such an act as a major sin. Busr ibn Sa’id says that Zaid ibn Khalid sent him to Abu Juhaim to ask him what he had heard from the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam concerning passing in front of someone who is praying. He said that the Messenger of Allah said: “If one knew [the sin] of passing in front of one who is praying, he would rather wait forty [...] than to pass in front of him.” This is related by the group. Zaid ibn Khalid relates that the Messenger of Allah said: “If the one who passes in front of one who is praying knew what was upon him [of sin], it would be better for him to stand [and wait] for forty autumns than to pass in front of him.” This is related by al-Bazzar with a Sahih chain. Ibn al-Qayyim writes: “Ibn Hibban and others say that the prohibition mentioned in this hadith applies when one is praying with a sutrah. If one is praying without a sutrah, it is not forbidden to pass in front of him. As a proof, Abu Hatim [i.e., ibn Hibban] argues by the hadith, in his sahih, from al-Mutalib ibn Abi Wid’ah who said: ‘I saw the Prophet, when he finished the circumambulation [of the Ka’bah], he went to the end of the circuit and he prayed two rak’at and there was nothing between him and the people who were circumambulating.” Abu Hatim says: “This report proves that it is permissible to pass in front of a person who is praying but without a sutrah. In this lies a clear proof that the warning concerning passing in front of one who is praying refers only to one who is praying toward his sutrah and does not refer to one who does not have a sutrah.” Abu Hatim explains that the Prophet’s prayer was without anything between him and the people circumambulating the ka’bah. At the end of the hadith of al-Mutalib, he records: “I saw the Prophet of Allah offering Salah facing the black stone and the men and women were passing in front of him and there was no sutrah between him and them. In ar-Raudah anNadiyah, it is stated that if one has no sutrah or is far away from the sutrah, then he is not to keep anyone from passing in front of him and it is not forbidden to pass in front of him although it is preferred not to do so.
SOMEONE FROM PASSING IN FRONT OF A PRAYING PERSON
It is permissible to keep someone from passing in front of a person who is praying. If a praying person has a sutrah in front of him, then it is allowed for him to prevent any human or animal from passing in front of him. If a person passes in front of him from beyond the sutrah, then the person in Salah is neither to prevent the passer-by nor will he be harmed by him. Abu Saleh as-Saman said: “I will narrate to you what I heard and saw from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri. One day I was with Abu Sa’id and he was offering salah on Friday facing something which concealed him from the people when a young man from the tribe of Mu’ait came and tried to pass in front of Abu Sa’id. He pushed him back. He tried again and Abu Sa’id struck him harder. The two scuffled. The man went to Marwan to complain. Abu Sa’id also went to Marwan. Marwan asked: ‘What has happened between you and the son of your brother that caused him to complain?’ Abu Sa’id said: ‘I heard the Prophet Sallallahu alehi wasallam say: ‘If any of you prays toward a sutrah and someone tries to pass in front of you, then turn him away. If he refuses, use force for he is a devil.”’ This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
To Be Continued