On Salah

Contemporary Fatawa, Fiqh / Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Q. Some people seem to recite words used in Salah without moving their lips. What is the correct method?

A. Well, reciting words verbally is necessary in salah, no matter how low the voice is. But, the movement of the tongue, and the movement of lips in the required words, is necessary. Now, if a person stands in salah and recites everything within his heart, his salah will remain simply unperformed.

Q. Some people look here and there while in salah. Is this permissible?

A. For a person who stands to perform his salah, the masnun method is to set his eyes on the spot where he is to perform his sajdah; and if his eyes are not on that spot and he is looking towards that is in front of him, his act is of his contrary to sunnah, but the salah will still be valid. Now, if a person is looking towards his right or left and he has done it in a manner that his neck has not turned towards either side, his salah will be valid, although doing so unnecessarily is makrooh (reprehensible). and if he intentionally looks towards his right and left having turned his neck then, this is outright impermissible ; and if anyone does this in a way that the average onlooker finds it totally foreign to salah, then, the salah
itself will become invalid.

Q. When we follow the Imam in salah, we are supposed to make an intention that we are doing so. Do we make this intention verbally, or in the heart, or just stand which will become the symbol of our intention to follow the Imam?

A. A lot of misunderstanding seems to be concerning niyyah or intention in salah. People think if they do not actually say the set words of niyyah before starting to offer their salah, their salah will not be valid. This is not correct. Niyyah means the intention of the heart. When a person is going to offer his salah in a congregation behind an Imam, it is not necessary that he should say this in words. The formal set of words used ‘to form’ an intention should not be taken to mean that salah will not be established if these are not repeated verbally. This notion is incorrect. Think of a person who joins the congregation
with the Imam going for Ruku’ (bending position) and while he is still standing and struggling with the formalized words of intention, the Imam rises from the ‘Ruku’. So, as I said earlier, this formal verbalization of the words of intention is not necessary at all.

The same is true about the intention (niyyah) of keeping a fast. I get a lot of telephone calls at the time of suhur (sehri : pre dawn snacks in Ramadan) telling me that something terrible has happened to the caller. When I ask him as to what it could be at this hour, he would say that he has eaten his suhur but forgot to make the intention to keep the fast. When I ask, “Why did you eat your suhur on this dawn of Ramadan?” the answer is, “To fast” . I ask, “How is it that you made no intention then?” The answer is, “Well, Sir, I did not say the words of intention,” that is, ” I intend to keep the fast of the month of Ramadan for tomorrow” . So, all this formalism is wrong. Niyyah is the intention of the heart. Therefore, anyone standing behind an Imam to offer his salah, for all practical purposes, intends in his heart that he is going to follow the Imam.

Q. It is common observation these days that a late joiner of congregation would join in by saying the takbir (Allahu-Akbar) and go for Ruku’ (bending position) without making it a point to observe Qiyam (standing position). At times, the essential takbir, because of this hurry, is dragged into the Ruku’, where it does not belong.given this situation, will the salah be valid?

A. This rakah will not be counted as valid. Standing, even if it be for a while, and saying Allahu-Akbar in that standing position is necessary. One goes for Ruku’ after having done that.

Q. A person joins the congregation after the Imam has performed the Ruku’ and he stands in the row and waits for the Imam to rise for the next rakah since he knows that he has lost the Ruku’ and therefore, the rakah too. Is this correct?

A. No. He should go for sajdah after the Imam immediately. He should not wait for the Imam to rise for the next rakah. This has been explicitly prohibited in Hadith.

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