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Detailed discussion about placing the hands beneath the Navel during Salaah being Sunnah

By Maulana Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf

The Position of Hands in Qiyaam

Upon entering a Masjid, a person sees a multitude of different people. Some of them he sees standing in prayer with their hands clasped together on the chest. Others he sees with their hands beneath the navel. Then as he proceeds further he observes one with his hands held together just beneath the chest. Following that he catches sight of a person who seems to be merely standing there. However, when he takes a closer look, he finds that this person too is engrossed in prayer, but he has not brought his hands together. instead he has left them at his sides.

It is from situations such as these, where the questions arise, ‘Where exactly did Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) place his hands whilst standing in prayer?’ The following discussion will seek to determine the exact Sunnah method of keeping the hands whilst in Qiyaam. However, before all else it should be borne in mind that the debate is not regarding one method being prohibited and another permissible or Fardh but, similarly to the issue of Aameen, this one is also only concerning which is the more preferable method of holding the hands together whilst in Salaah.

Now moving on to the difference of opinions, it is worth knowing that there are really two different disputes here. Firstly. lmaam Malik’s (RA) opinion that one should leave his hands hanging at the sides of his body whilst in Qiyaam and he should not hold the hands together. As opposed to this other scholars have reached a total agreement that the hands must be held together and they should not be left loose on the sides.

Stemming from this, the second group then have a conflict of views between them as to where exactly is the most preferable place for one to grasp his hands. Should they be held below the navel, beneath the chest or directly upon the chest? The problem is however, that there are very few sahih ahadith concerning this issue and most of the reports which express the different ways of keeping the hands have all been classified as being either totally weak or with some degree of defect in their authenticity. Due to the lack of authentic narration on this subject, it makes the issue slightly more difficult than the other issues of Salaah. Nonetheless, by the end of the chapter after sound analysis and reasoning the most preferable method which could also be designated as the sunnah one, will become evident.

Opinions of the Ulama in Detail

The first difference of opinion:

lmaam Malik’s (RA) more popular opinion which is related by lbnul Qasim (RA) is that the hands should be left hanging at the sides. A secondary view of his, this time via lbnul Munzir (RA) is that the hands will be joined together and placed on the body instead. lmaam Abu Hanifah (RA), Shafi’ee (RA), Ahmad (RA) and the majority of Ulama are of the opinion that the hands should be held together and not left to hang. lbn Abdil Barr (RA) states. "There is nothing reported from Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) which is on the contrary to this (opinion). and this view is a/so the unanimous one of all the Companions and Tabi’een."

The second difference of opinion:

Following this dispute number two is regarding the exact portion of the body upon which the hands should be positioned after locking them together. lmaam Abu Hanifah (RA) and Abu lshaaq Al Marwazi (RA) from the Shafi’ees assert that to tie the hands together below the navel is Sunnah. lrnaam Shafi’ee’s (RA) view is to lock the hands together and hold them beneath the chest according to the books, Waseet and Kitabul-Umm (books on Shafi’ee fiqh). This is also Imaam Shafi’ee’s (RA) most popular opinion and the one followed by his school of thought. A second and more unusual view of his is that the hands should be situated directly on the chest. This is mentioned in the book Haawi. As for Imaam Ahmad, he holds three different opinions: One is similar to that of lmaam Abu Hanifah (RA) – lbn Habeerah has said this to be his more popular opinion. The second opinion is the same as lmaam Shafi’ee’s (RA) view and the third is, the Musalli has a choice between placing them beneath the navel or on the chest because both of these methods are derived from ahadith.

The Differences to be found in the Narrations and their reasons:

Ulama state that there are no sahih ahadith which could substantiate lmaam Malik’s opinion of leaving the hands to remain at the sides. Some have stated the reason for him holding that opinion, to be absolute fear, awe and reverence of Almighty Allah; that once a person is stood before Him, he forgets to bring his hands together and they are left to hang at the sides. Whatever the case maybe, they do have a few reports which outline some Sahaahah leaving their hands hanging loose whilst in the standing posture of Salaah. Although these reports are not mentioned here, they can be found in the book Musannaf-Ibn-Abi-Shavbah.

As opposed to this, there are a number of narrations which establish Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) joining the hands together, although they then vary as regards to where the hands were exactly placed. One very confused narration is that of Wa’il Ibn Hujr (RA) which is found in a number of books. He reports,

“I performed Salaah with Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam), (in which) he placed  his right hand on the left one. upon his chest.”

This particular report is from S’ahih-Ibn-Khuzamah. The version mentioned in Musnad-ul-Bazzar instead of the term. ‘upon his chest’ has the words. ‘near his chest’ and the one found in Musannaf-Ibn-Abi-Shavbah contains the statement. ‘beneath the navel’. The first two reports, apparently establish the Shafi’ee’s point of view and the third one is in favour of the Hanafi’s opinion. It should be remembered, however, that all three reports do contain some type of a weakness or another, therefore, they will all have to individually undergo an analysis in order to deduce the reasons for the weaknesses and their levels. Furthermore, can any of the three stand as evidence or not, will also be determined.

Analysis of the First Contradictory Version:

The report of Wa’il Ibn Hujr (RA) to be found in S’ahih-Ibn-Khuzamah  which has these extra words. ‘on his chest’ is probably the weakest of them all. This is stated due to a number of reasons:

1. Muaminil lbn Ismail reports the extra statement and he is known to be a weak narrator. He is said to have made a great deal of mistakes in the later part of his life when he was forced to resort to narrating from his memory due to his books becoming buried. lmaam Dhahabi (RA) states in Al-Mizan (on the Authority of Imam Bukhari (RA)). “His hadith are disowned.” Abu Hatim (RA) informs, ‘He made a great deal of mistakes.” Abu Zur’ah (RA) states. “His narrations contain a lot of mistakes.”

(ii) This same hadiih. although mentioned in many other books of ahadith, through various chains of narrations does not contain these extra words (on the chest) in any other one of the transmissions. This indicates that the narrations which contain that statement are only narrated through Muammil Ibn Ismail, who has been proven to be dha ‘eef.

Adding to this. Allamah Nimwi presents the same narration in his book through Abu Daud. Nasai and lbn Majah. It is also found in the Musnad of Abu Daud At Tayalisi. but none of them have any transmission which contains these extra words. ‘On the chest’.

(iii) Hafiz Ibn Hajar has confirmed in Fathul-Baari that the link of Muammil Ibn Ismail from Sufvan Thawri is weak. (1)

(iv) Sufyan Thawri (who is mentioned in the chain of transmission) held the opinion of placing the hands beneath the navel thus, when his narration is found to be on the contrary, it will not be accepted. according to the rules of jurisprudence.

(v) All the ahadith of S’ahih-Ibn-Khuzamah are asserted by some to be sahih. but this claim is not entirely true. Allamah Suyuti (RA) has stated in his book, Tadreebur-Rawi, that S’ahih-Ibn-Khuzamah also contains weak and munkar (disowned) reports. Furthermore, lbn Khuzaymah similar to Imaam Tirmizi routine comments on every hadih, designating their level of authenticity but, following this hadith, he does not make any statement whatsoever. Therefore, because lbn Khuzaymah has remained silent regarding this hadith, it will not be classified as sahih due to it merely being part of his book. It is also evident that if it has been sahih it would surely have been designated as such.

(vi) Even if this hadith be accepted for a moment then we could say, the reason for Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)  placing his hands on his chest was merely to inform the Companions that this method is also permissible (Bavaanan-lil-Jawaaz). In no way can one prove from this hadith that this was also done by Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) on a permanent basis.

 Analysis of the Second Contradictory Version:

2. The second narration which is found in Musnad-ul-Bazzar containing the words. ‘near the chest’ is also weak. This is because it has Muhammad lbn Hajar (2) in its chain of transmission regarding who lmaam Bukhari (RA) says. ‘His matter is unsettled'. lmaam Zahabi (RA) states, 'He has some disowned narrations'. Thus, this version will also be rejected due to being da’eef.

Along with the above hadith. lmaam Shafi’ee’s opinion is sometimes strengthened by the narration of Halab which is found in Musnad-ul-Ahmad,

"Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) would turn towards his right and left side and would place this hand upon his chest." (3)

Allamah Nimwi (RA) has proven with strong evidence that this hadith contains a written error. In place of the words ‘on the other hand’, somebody by mistake inserted the statement. ‘on his chest. Thus, this hadith will also cease to stand as evidence for them.

Another weak attempt is made to strengthen the Shafi’ee’s point of view, by a hadith mentioned in Bayhaqi. It states that Hadhrat Ali (RA) explaining the meaning of the following verse of the Holy Qur ‘an, “Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and Sacrifice (to Him only) (4), placed his right hand on the middle of his left one then placed them on his chest, as though indicating that the tafseer of the verse was to locate the hands in this manner. (5)

 However. Allamah Maardini (RA) in his book Al-.Jawharun-Naqi, establishes that the transmission and of the narration text are inconsistent. Imaam Bayhaqi (RA) narrates the same hadith from lbn Abbas (RA) as well and in that chain there is Rawh lbnul Musayyib regarding who lbn Hibban (RA) says, He narrates fabrications, it is not permissible to narrate from him. Allamah Sa’aati (RA) writes. “It is not correct to link this tafseer to Ali (RA) or lbn Abbas (RA) but as Ibn Kathir has stated, ‘The correct tafseer of the verse is that it is regarding the Sacrifice (Ourhani). (6)

Up until now two narrations have been analyzed and they have both been found to be defective. Besides these, there are also others which contradict the Hanafi ‘s point of view. Thus, a general answer and reason for any apparently contradicting ahadith is that it is acceptable that Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)  did one at time or another place his hands on his chest or below it. However, the Hanafis assert that the hands were only placed in that manner to announce that methods permissibility (Bavaanan-lil-Jawaaz).  The normal and routine method of Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) however, was to place them below the navel (as will be understood in due course).

Evidence from Ahadith:

After analyzing and thoroughly answering the contradictory ahadith, those narrations are reviewed which are in harmony to the view of the Hanafis

1. Wa’il Ibn Hujr (RA) narrates. “I saw Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)  placing his right hand in the left one below the navel, in prayer” (7)

This is a variant version of the two ahadith mentioned above which contain the extra words. ‘below the navel’. Regarding this
hadith some Hanafi scholars with all fairness confess that it cannot be used as strong evidence to reinforce their view, because the extra statement (below the navel) is only to be found in some editions of Musannaf-Ibn-Abi-Shavbah and not in all of them. Also this hadith has an inconsistent text, because it also has the words. ‘upon the chest and ‘beneath the chest’ in place of ‘below the navel’ in some variant narrations which have been mentioned earlier.

However. it is stated in Fathul-Mulhim which quotes from Aatharus-Sunan that Allamah Qasirn lbn Qutlubgah (RA) has established that this particular version has a good transmission. Allamah Muhammad Abut Tayvib Al-Madani (RA) writes in his commentary of Tirmizi, that this hadith is strong as regards to its transmission and Sheikh Abid Sindhi (RA) confirms. Its narrators are trustworthy”. Whatever the case may be the weaknesses of the hadith will not render it totally unacceptable because there are many other reports which supplement and strengthen it as will follow.

2. Hadhrat Ali (RA) states, To place one palm over the other beneath the navel is from the sunnah of salaah.“8

It is a known fact that whenever a Sahaahi utters the words. ‘It is from the sunnah.’ They mean it is being directly reported from Rasoolullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) himself. However, the hadith does contain Abdur Rahman lbn Ishaaq in its chain of transmission who is classified as weak but the narration will be still accepted as supplementary evidence, because there are also other reports which reinforce it.

3. Hajjaj lbn Hassan informs, Either I heard Abu Mijlaz saying or 1 asked him, ‘How should one place his hands (‘during salaah)?’ He replied, ‘He should place the inner portion of his right palm on the back of’ the left hand beneath the navel. (9)

The transmission of the hadith is hasan as Allamah Al Maardini (RA) states in his book Al-.Jawharun-Naqi.

4. Ibraheem Nakh’ay (RA) informs, “One will place his right hand on the left beneath the navel, whilst in salaah. (10)

The transmission of this hadith is also hasan.

5. Abu Hurayrah (RA) narrates, The placing of one hand over the other in salaah is beneath the navel (11)

6. Anas (RA) reports that there are three actions from the good qualities of Nubuwwah: to open fast early, to delay the Sahri and to place the right hand over the left beneath the navel whilst in salaah.(12)

The Concept Explained Through Other Reasons:

Ulama have given various reasons as to why the hands are best placed beneath the navel and why this method is classified as sunnah and the most preferable. They are as follows:

1. Although the ahadith of all parties involved in the dispute detailed above, have some amount of weakness. the narrations used by the Hanafis have relatively received a lesser amount of criticism from the rest due to this reason, they will acquire greater approval.

2. lbn Humaam states in his book Futhul-Qadeer. “Due to the inconsistency and contradictions found between the various narrations, It is best to resort to analogy  and reasoning. Standing before the Lord demands a pose which is filled with respect and reverence. To locate the hands beneath the navel is probably the most respectful form of standing, hence the placing of the hands beneath the navel will be deemed superior. On the other hand, the reason for women being advised to place their hands on their chest, is due to the greater adherence of purdah achieved by it."

3. It states in the book Avni. ‘‘To  join the hands’ beneath the navel has great benefits: it is a posture which signifies a greater amount of respect, it holds a greater contrast to the postures of  the disbelievers. He also says, “This is the exact posture in which one stands before the rulers (‘of this world). “He then further states, By placing the hands on the chest, it creates a similarity with women, thus, that cannot be classified as being the sunnah for men.’  (13)


To conclude the whole discussion, it could be said that although, all the ahadith which are presented as evidence by each school of thought, contain some sort of weakness or defect, the ahadith of the Hanafis have a relatively less amount of criticism directed at them and they also have other reports which are quite strong to supplement those weak ones. The ahadith of the opposition (as detailed above) have been concluded to be unacceptable in backing their opinions concerning this issue, and the reason for their non- acceptance has also been detailed.

To place the hands beneath the navel as
it has been mentioned. engenders a greater amount of respect and humility. Also just as the sitting posture of salaah which is enacted by a male differs from the method of the female, the place where the hands should be rested by both the male and female, will also vary.

This brings about the conclusion that judging from the
ahadith and by supplementing them with sound reasoning, the Hanafis have a firmer stand than the rest and the sunnah pose will be to situate the hands beneath the navel.

1.      Fathul Baari 206 *

2.      Majma-uz-Zawaa’id 135:2

3.      Aathaar-us-Sunan 87

4.      Al-Qaur’aan 2:108

5.      Bayhaqi 30:2

6.      Al Fathur Rabbani 174:3

7.      Aathaar-us-Sunan 90

8.      Bayhaqi 312 Ibn Abi Shayhbah 391:1

9.      Al Jawahurun Naqi 31:2

10.  Ibn Abi Shayhbah 390:1

11.  Al Jawaharun Naqi 31:2

12.  Al Jawaharun Naqi 31:2

13.  Ayni 16:3


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