Leaving Hands at Ease during the Qiyām
Question asked by .
Answered by Jhangeer Hanif

Can you please send me a breakdown on the Prophet’s (sws) mode of Wudū (ablution) and Salāh (the prayer). You see I studied under scholars who are of the Mālikite school of thought. I want to make sure I am worshipping my Creator rightly.


I really appreciate your concern and carefulness regarding as important a matter as worshipping the Lord. I will definitely address your question and try to present before you our point of view along with arguments thereon. As far as my knowledge goes of the Mālikite fiqh (jurisprudence) and other fiqh of Sunni scholars, I do not find any difference of opinion on the method of performing ablution. However, the adherents of Mālikite fiqh contend that one should not hold one’s hand when standing before the Almighty in Qiyām (standing posture during the prayer). This is the only point of difference where we need to ascertain the right standing of the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) and the Muslim generations of later ages.

Before we begin our debate on this point, it needs to be clarified that any method of worshipping the Lord of which a person is intellectually convinced under the light of his innate as well as divine guidance will stand accepted with the Lord. This means that you should not keep worrying whether your prayers will be accepted by the Lord while you are intellectually convinced that the right way of offering the prayers is yours. Allah of course does know what is in the hearts; and your sincerity of heart will bring reward to you in the Hereafter.

As I pointed out earlier, the adherents of the Mālikite fiqh maintain that one should not hold one’s hands while standing before the Almighty during the prayer. We however have problem ascribing this standing to the pioneer of this fiqh, Imam Mālik. The statement which is quoted in this regard from Imam Mālik becomes questionable when it is read in the context of other reports and facts. This statement is quoted in al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrā:

And about placing one’s right hand over the left during Prayers, Mālik said: ‘I am not aware of this practice in the obligatory prayers’. Mālik detested this practice [in obligatory prayers], but considered it acceptable in supererogatory prayers, to support oneself, when the standing posture (Qiyām) can be quite prolonged.1

This is the statement from which is construed Imam Mālik’s point of view regarding leaving hands at ease when being in the obligatory prayers; and in supererogatory prayers it is however allowable to support oneself by holding hands in case of a prolonged Qiyām. Although this statement is clear and it would have been decisive in ascertaining the viewpoint of Imam Mālik regarding leaving one’s hand at ease when offering the prayer, yet we have some other information which presents quite a different picture as regards Imam Mālik’s views. We have some reports recorded in the Hadīth collection of the Imam, which supports the opinion of the mainstream Muslims in this regard. I quote:

‘Abd al-Karīm al-Basarī says that amongst the sayings of the Prophet (sws) was: ‘If you do not have shame in your heart, then you do whatever you may feel like doing and that he [ie., the Prophet (sws)] put one hand over the other during the prayer, he would put his right hand over his left. (Mu’attā: No. 377)

Sahal Ibn Sa‘ad says that people used to prescribe upon others to put their right hands on their left elbows during prayers. Abū Hāzim [who reports from Sahal Ibn Sa‘ad] says: I am sure that this was ascribed to the Prophet (sws). (Mu’attā: No. 378)

The very existence of these reports in the Hadīth collection of the Imam without any objection note thereon shows that he held them to be true in this regard. The least we can however establish from these reports is that he had an idea of this practice. Keeping the purport of these reports in mind, one can hardly understand why the Imam said:

And about placing one’s right hand over the left during Prayers, Mālik said: ‘I am not aware of this practice in the obligatory prayers’.

So much so that he is reported to have shown great disapproval of this practice in the obligatory prayers.

Moiz Amjad, Editor, www.understanding-islam.com, while answering a similar question, has pointed out another fact which carries due consideration. He says:

Another important factor which renders Imam Mālik’s opinion cited in al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrā quite questionable is the fact that the people of Madīnah, whose actions form one of the primary basis of the juristic opinions of Imam Mālik are generally reported to have offered their prayers with their hands folded in front of them while in the standing posture.

Finally, in his notes on al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrā, Ibn Rushd writes:

With reference to the statement ‘putting the right hand over the left...’, Ashhab has said that there is no harm in doing so whether in obligatory prayers or in supererogatory prayers due to the Hadīth cited in this regard and also due to the fact that standing with one’s hands folded in front is the posture of servitude and subservience in front of one’s Lord... In Matraf’s and Ibn Mājishūn’s ‘Al-Wādihah’, there is a third saying ascribed to Imam Mālik in this regard according to which it is held that the Imam preferred to fold one’s hands, over not doing so.2

I therefore believe that the right approach in this regard is to follow the practice prevalent among the majority of the Muslims. These Muslims of course have received this practice as an established form of offering the prayer from the preceding generations—a form which is not based on the statement of one scholar. This suggestion is reinforced in the context where we are not able to even substantiate the authenticity of what is described as Imam Mālik’s view.

Nevertheless, I would again say that it is actually a matter of personal judgment. If my explanation does not convince you, there is nothing to worry about. Your prayers will be accepted by the Lord as long as you worship him in accordance with what you have derived from the practices of the Muslims and use your intellectual faculty regarding points of differences among the Muslim jurists.





1. Al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrā, vol. 1 (Beirut, Dār al-Fikr, 1986), p. 76.

2. http://understanding-islam.org/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=2155

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