Sunnah acts of prayer:
The prayer also has certain acts which are sunnah. It is preferred that the person performs them to get their reward.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Raising the Hands:
This must be done at the beginning of each prayer's takbir. Says Ibn al-Mundhir, "All scholars agree that the Prophet raised his hands at the beginning of his prayer."
Commenting upon this report, Ibn Hajr says, "The Prophet's raising his hands at the beginning of his prayer has been narrated by fifty companions, inluding the ten who were given the tidings of Paradise. " Al-Baihaqi related that al-Hakim said, "I do not know of any sunnah other than this one which is accepted by the four rightly-guided khalifahs, the ten companions who were given the tidings of Paradise, and other companions scattered across many lands." Summing up his evaluation of the report, al-Baihaqi says, "And it is as our teacher Abu 'Abdullah has said."
Sunnah acts of prayer, How to Raise the Hands:
Many narrations have been recorded concerning this subject. Many scholars have chosen the following forms: the hands are raised to the shoulders with the fingertips parallel to the button of the ears. Says an-Nawawi, "This is how ash-Shaifi combined the hadith (on this question), and the people found it to be good." It is preferred that one extends the fingers while raising the hands. Abu Hurairah said, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, stood for prayer, he would raise his hands (with them being) open." (Related by "the five," except for Ibn Majah.)
Sunnah acts of prayer, When to Raise the Hands:
One must raise the hands at about the same time he makes the takbir. Nafa' related that when Ibn 'Umar would begin his prayer he would say the takbir and raise his hands. The Prophet also did this. (Related by al-Bukhari, an-Nasa'i and Abu Dawud.) He also reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would raise his hands upon making the takbir until they were parallel to his shoulders or close to that. (Related by Ahmad and others.)
As for raising the hands just before the takbir, Ibn 'Umar reported, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, stood for prayer, he would raise his hands until they were parallel to his shoulders and would make the takbir. (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) A hadith from Malik ibn al-Huwairith has the wording, "Make the takbir and then raise your hands." (Related by Muslim.) This implies that the takbir comes before the raising of the hands, but Ibn Hajr says, "I have not met anyone who holds that the takbir comes before the raising of the hands."
It is preferred to raise one's hands while going to bow and upon coming up from the bow Twenty-two companions narrated that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did so. Reported Ibn 'Umar, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, stood to pray, he would raise his hands until they were the same height as his shoulders and then he would make the takbir. When he wanted to bow, he would again raise his hands in a similar fashion. When he raised his head from the bowing, he did the same and said, 'Allah hears him who praises Him.' (Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Baihaqi.) Says al-Bukhari, "He would not do that when he was going to prostrate nor when he came up from his prostration." Al-Bukhari also says, "He would not raise his hands between the two prostrations." Al-Baihaqi has the addition, "He did not stop doing that until he met Allah." Ibn al-Madini said, "In my opinion, that hadith is a proof for the whole creation. Whoever hears it must act by it. There is nothing wrong with its chain." Al-Bukhari wrote a pamphlet on this topic, and related from al-Hassan and Humaid ibn Hilal that the companions used to (perform their prayers) in this manner.
On the contrary, the Hanafiyyah say that one should only raise his hands at the beginning. This is based on the hadith of Ibn Mas'ud, who reported, "I prayed with the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and he raised his hands only once." This is a weak opinion, and many hadith scholars have criticized this report. Ibn Hibban, though, said that this is the best report.
The people of Kufah narrated that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did not raise his hands upon bowing or rising. But, in fact, this is a very weak statement, for it contains many defects and is therefore invalid. Even if we accept it, as at-Tirmidhi did, it does not invalidate the authentic and well-known hadith mentioned earlier. The author of at-Tanqih says that perhaps Ibn Mas'ud forgot that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, raised his hands. Az-Zaila'i writes in Nasb ar-Rayah, quoting the author of at-Tanqih, "It is not strange that Ibn Mas'ud may have forgotten that. Ibn Mas'ud forgot some things from the Qur'an that the Muslims after him never differed about, and those are the last two surahs of the Qur'an. He forgot how two people are to stand behind the imam, that the Prophet prayed the morning prayer on the Day of Sacrifice (during the hajj) at its proper time, how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, combined his prayers at 'Arafah, the position of the forearms and elbows during the prostration, and how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recited, 'And Him who created the male and the female.' If it is possible that Ibn Mas'ud forgot all of these things concerning the prayer, is it not possible that he also forgot about raising the hands?"
Nafa' related that when Ibn 'Umar stood for the third rak'ah, he would raise his hands, an action which he ascribed to the Prophet. (Related by al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'i.) While describing the Prophet's prayer, 'Ali said that when he stood from the two prostrations, he would raise his hands until they reached his shoulders and make the takbir.
Women have to do this the same way. Says Ash-Shaukani, "Know that this sunnah is to be done by men and women. There is no proof to show that there is any difference between them on this point. There is also no proof to show that they are to raise their hands to different levels."
Sunnah acts of prayer, Placing the Right Hand upon the Left:
This is a preferred act of the prayer. There are twenty hadith from eighteen companions and their followers on this point. Said Sahl ibn Sa'd, "The people were ordered to place their right hand on their left forearm during prayers." Commenting on this, Abu Hazm says, "I do not know if he ascribed this to the Prophet." This hadith is related by al-Bukhari, Ahmad and Malik in his al-Muwatta. Al-Hafez maintains, "Its ruling is considered to be from the Prophet, upon whom be peace, as it is implied that the one who ordered them to do so was the Prophet." He also related that the Prophet said, "All prophets have been ordered to hasten the breaking of the fast and to delay the (pre-fast dawn) meal, and to place our right hands on our left during prayer."
There is also a hadith from Jabir which says, "The Prophet, upon whom be peace, passed by a man praying with his left hand over his right, and (the Prophet) pulled them away and put his right over his left." This is related by Ahmad and others. Evaluating its chain, an-Nawawi says, "Its chain is sahih. Ibn 'Abdul-Barr holds, "Nothing has reached me different from that. It is the opinion of most companions and their followers." Malik mentioned it in his al-Muwatta and states, "Malik never stopped doing it until he met Allah."
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Position of the Hands:
Al-Kamal ibn al-Hamam is of the opinion, "There is no authentic hadith stating that one must place the hands under the chest or below the navel. According to the Hanifiyyah, the hands are to be placed below the navel, and the Shafiyyah say below the chest. Ahmad has two narrations corresponding to these two opinions. The correct position is somewhere in the middle - to be equal." Observes at-Tirmidhi, "Knowledgeable companions, their followers and those that came after them believed that one should put his right hand over the left during prayer, while some say above the navel and others say below the navel..." Nevertheless, there do exist hadith that the Propet, upon whom be peace, placed his hands on his chest. Reported Hulb at-Ta'i, "I saw the Prophet, upon whom be peace, praying with his right hand over his left upon his chest above the elbow." This is related by Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi, who grades it as hassan.
Reported Wa'il ibn Hajr, "Once when I prayed with the Prophet, upon whom be peace, he placed his right hand over his left upon his chest." The report is recorded by Ibn Khuzaimah, who considers it as sahih, and by Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'i with the wording, "Then he put his right hand over the back of his left wrist and forearm."
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Opening Supplication:
It is preferred for the person to begin his prayer with one of the supplications that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to begin his prayers. This occurs after the opening takbir and before the recitation of al-Fatihah. Some of the supplications that have been related are:
1. Reported Abu Hurairah, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, made the opening takbir, he would be quiet for a little while before his recitation. I asked him, 'O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, why are you quiet between the (opening) takbir and your recitation? What do you say (at that time)?' He said, 'I say, O Allah, make the distance between me and my sins as far as you have made the distance between the East and the West. O Allah, cleanse me of my sins as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O Allah, purify me from my sins by snow, rain and hail." (Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah.)
2. Reported 'Ali, that when the Prophet stood for prayer, he would make the takbir and then say, "I have turned my face to the one who created the heavens and the earth as a sincere submissive (person), and I am not one of the polytheists. My prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. He has no partner. That is what I have been ordered and I am of those who submit. O Allah, you are the King and there is no Lord besides You. You are my Lord and I am Your slave. I have wronged my soul and You are aware of my sins, so forgive all of my sins. No one forgives sins save You. Guide me to the best character. No one can guide to the best of that save You. Turn me away from its evil, and no one can turn me from its evil save You. At your beck and call, all the good is in Your hands and evil is not to You. And I am for You and to You are the blessings and the exaltedness. I seek your forgiveness and return unto You." (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and others.)
3. It is related that 'Umar used to say, after the beginning takbir, "Glory be to You, O Allah, and to You is the praise. Blessed is Your name and most high is Your honor. There is no Lord besides You." This hadith is related by Muslim with a broken chain. Ad-Daraqutni traces it back to the Prophet and back to 'Umar.
Commenting on it, Ibn al-Qayyim says, "It has been authenticated that 'Umar began with that in the place (of the preceding prayer) of the Prophet, upon whom be peace. He would recite it aloud and teach it to the people. And owing to that fact, it is considered to have its source with the Prophet, upon whom be peace. For that reason, Imam Ahmad says, "I act by what has been related from 'Umar. If a person begins with something that has been related, it is good."
4. 'Asim ibn Humaid asked 'Aishah how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, began his late-night prayers. She replied, "You have asked me about something that no one before you has asked. When he would stand for prayer, he would make the takbir ten times (after the opening takbir), and then say 'Al-hamdu lillah' ten times. He would then ask forgiveness ten times, and then would say, "O Allah, forgive me, guide me, provide for me, sustain me and give me refuge from a constraining place on the Day of Resurrection." (Related by Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah.)
5. 'Abdurahman ibn 'Auf asked 'Aishah how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, began his prayer when he would pray during the night. She said, "When he would get up during the night, he would begin his prayer with, 'O Allah, Lord of Gabriel, Mikhail and Israfil, Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the Unseen and the Seen. You will judge between Your slaves concerning matters wherein they differ. Guide me to the truth in those matters wherein they differ by Your permission, for You guide whom You will to the straight path." (Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, anNasa'i and Ibn Majah.)
6. Nafa' ibn Jubair ibn Mut'am related from his father who said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah say in his voluntary prayer, 'Allahu akbar kabeera' three times, 'al-Hamdu lillah katheera' three times, 'Subhanallahi bukratan wa asila' three times, and then 'O Allah, I seek refuge in You from Satan the accursed and from his pricking, spittle and puffing.' I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, what are his pricking, spittle and puffing?' He said, 'His pricking is the insanity by which he takes the children of Adam. His spittle is arrogance, and his puffing is (evil) poetry." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban.)
7. Ibn 'Abbas related that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, got up for the night prayer, he would say, "O Allah, to You is the praise. You are the support of the heavens and the earth and whatever is therein. To You is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and the earth and whatever is therein. To You is the praise. You are the Truth. Your promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your speech is true. Paradise is true. Hell-fire is true. Your prophets are true. Muhammad is true. The hour is true. O Allah, to You have I submitted, and in You have I believed. In You I put my trust, and to You do I come. For You do I dispute, and to You is the judgement. Forgive me my earlier and later sins, and what has been private and public. You are the predecessor and the successor. There is no god except You. There is no lord other than You. There is no power or might except in Allah." This hadith is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and Malik. In Abu Dawud's version, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said that after the opening takbir.
8. It is a preferred act for the one in prayer to seek refuge from Satan between his opening supplication and his Qur'anic recitation. Allah says, "When you recite the Qur'an, seek refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan." In the preceding hadith of Nafa' ibn Jubair, the Prophet is reported to have said, "O Allah, I seek refuge in you from Satan, the outcast." Said Ibn al-Mundhir, "It has been related from the Prophet, upon whom be peace, that he would say, 'I seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the outcast' before reciting."
9. It is sunnah to say ,"I seek refuge in..." silently. In al-Mughni, it states, "One should say the seeking of refuge silently and not aloud, and I do not know of any difference of opinion on that point." But ash-Shaf'i was of the opinion that one may choose between saying it silently or aloud in those prayers recited aloud. It has been related that Abu Hurairah recited aloud, but this report has a weak chain.
10. The seeking of refuge is to be done in the first rak'ah only. Reported Abu Hurairah, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would get up for the second rak'ah, he would begin with 'al-Hamdu lillahi, rabb ul-'aalimeen', without having any period of silence." (Related by Muslim.)
Speaking of it, Ibn al-Qayyim says, "The jurists differ over whether or not that is a time to say, 'I seek refuge...' But they agree that it is not a place to make the opening supplication. On the former point, there are two opinions, both of them related from Ahmad. Some of his companions concluded that either the prayer is only one recitation, so it is sufficient just to seek refuge once, or that each recital is a recital by itself that requires the seeking of refuge. They do not dispute the fact that the opening supplication is for the whole prayer. It is sufficient to seek refuge only once, as it is apparent from the authentic hadith." Then he mentions the preceding hadith of Abu Hurairah, and says, "It is sufficient just to make one opening supplication, since there is no real break between the recital of the prayer. The only thing that is between them is the remembrance of Allah, and so on. Therefore, it will be considered as one recital. Ash Shaukani has the final word, and says, 'It is best just to do what has been related from the sunnah, and that is to seek refuge in the first rak'ah only."
Sunnah acts of prayer, Saying 'Ameen:
It is sunnah for everyone to say 'ameen after reciting al-Fatihah. The word ameen is not part of al-Fatihah, but rather a supplication meaning, "O Allah, respond (to or answer what we have said). It should be said aloud in the prayers where the recital is aloud, and quietly in the prayers where the recital is silent. Said Na'eem al-Mujamir, "I prayed behind Abu Hurairah and he said, 'In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,' then recited al-Fatihah, and closed it with 'ameen. The people also said 'ameen. After the prayer, Abu Hurairah said, 'By the One in whose Hand is my soul, I have followed the prayer of the Prophet."
Al-Bukhari mentioned this hadith in mu'allaq from while others, such as an-Nasa'i, Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban and Ibn as-Siraj related it. Al-Bukhari records that Ibn Shihab (az-Zuhri) said, "The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, would say, 'ameen."
Says 'Ata, "'Ameen is a supplication." Ibn az-Zubair and those behind him would say 'ameen and the mosque would ring with their voices.
Reported Nafa', "Ibn 'Umar did not encourage the people to say it aloud, nor did he discourage them. I have heard him report that." Reporting on this same subject, Abu Hurairah said, "When the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, would recite, '...Not with those with whom You are displeased and not of those who have gone astray,' he would say, 'ameen such that those close to him could hear him." (Related by Abu Dawud.) Ibn Majah's version is, "Until the people in the first row would hear him, and the mosque would ring with the sound." Al-Hakim also relates this hadith, and says that it is sahih according to the criterion of al-Bukhari and Muslim. Al-Baihaqi calls it hassan sahih. Ad-Daraqutni considers it as hassan.
A similar report from Wa'il ibn Jubair says, "I heard the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, recite, '...and not of those who have gone astray,' and then say 'ameen, and make it long with his voice." This was related by Ahmad. Abu Dawud has it with the wording, "And he would raise his voice with it." At-Tirmidhi classifies it as hassan and states, "More than one knowledgeable companion and those who followed them have said that a person should raise his voice while saying 'ameen and not make it silent." Ibn Hajr holds that the chain of this hadith is sahih. Reported 'Ata, "I have found two hundred companions of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, in this mosque and when the imam recited,'...and not of those who have gone astray,' I heard them say 'ameen."'Aishah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, 'The Jews do not envy you for anything more than they envy you for the salutations and the saying of 'ameen behind the imam." (Related by Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
It is preferred to say 'ameen along with the imam, and not before or after him Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, When the imam recites, '... not of those with whom You are angered nor of those who have gone astray,' you should say 'ameen. If this corresponds to when the angels say it, he will have all of his previous sins forgiven." (Related by al-Bukhari.) He also reported that the Prophet said, "When the imam recites, '...not of those with whom you are angered nor of those who have gone astray,' then say 'ameen (along with the imam), for the angels say 'ameen and the imam says 'ameen. If his 'ameen corresponds to the 'ameen of the angels, he will have his previous sins forgiven." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'i.)
Sunnah acts of prayer, Qur'anic Recitation after al-Fatihah:
It is sunnah for the person to recite a section of the Qur'an after al-Fatihah during the two rak'ah of the morning prayer and the Friday prayer, and the first two rak'ah of the noon, afternoon, sunset and night prayers, and in all of the rak'ah of the superogatory prayers. Abu Qatadah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would recite al-Fatihah and some surah in the first two rak'ah of the noon prayer, and only al-Fatihah in the last two rak'ah. Sometimes he would recite some verses. The first rak'ah's recital would be longer than the second. That was how it was done in the afternoon and morning prayers. This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim and by Abu Dawud, who adds, "We think he did that in order to allow people to catch the first rak'ah."
Jabir ibn Sumrah reported that the people of Kufah complained about Sa'd to 'Umar, causing 'Umar to dismiss him and replace him with 'Ammar. They had many complaints about Sa'd, even claiming that he did not pray properly. 'Umar sent for him and said, "O Abu Ishaq (Sa'd), these people claim that you do not pray properly." Sa'd replied, "By Allah, I prayed with them in the same manner that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, prayed with us, and I never shortened it in any way. I would lengthen the first two rak'ah of the night prayer and shorten the last two." Said 'Umar, "This is what I expected of you." He sent him back to Kufah with one or two people to ask the people of Kufah about him. All of the people praised him until they went to the mosque of the tribe of 'Abs. A man named Usamah ibn Qatadah, also known as Abu Sa'da, stood and said, "Since I am under oath I must inform you that Sa'd never accompanied the army, did not distribute the booty justly, and was not just in his legal verdicts. Sa'd then said, "I pray to Allah for three things: O Allah, if this slave of Yours is lying and stood only for show, then give him a long life, increase his poverty and put him to trials." Years later, when Usamah was asked how he was doing, he would answer that he was an old man in trial due to Sa'd's supplication. 'Abdul-Malik (one of the narrators) said that he had seen the man afterwards with his eyebrows overhanging his eyes due to old age, and he would tease and assault the young girls along the paths. (Related by al-Bukhari.)
Said Abu Hurairah, "A recitation should be done in every prayer. What we heard from the Prophet, upon whom be peace, we let you hear. What he was silent about, we are silent about with you. If one does not add anything to al-Fatihah, it is sufficient. If one does add something, it is good." (Related by al-Bukhari.)
Sunnah acts of prayer, How to Perform the Recital after al-Fatihah:
This may be done in any of the following manners: Said Al-Hussain, "In the fighting at Khorasan we had three hundred companions with us, and one of them would lead the prayer, recite some verses from the Qur'an and then bow." It is related that Ibn 'Abbas would recite al-Fatihah and some verses from al-Baqarah in every rak'ah. (Related by ad-Daraqutni with a strong chain.) Al-Baihaqi narrates from 'Abdullah ibn as-Sa'ib that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recited al-Mu'minun in the morning prayer, and when he came to the part which refers to Moses, Aaron or Jesus, he would cough and bow." 'Umar read in the first rak'ah 120 verses from the seven long surahs (Mathnawi). Al-Ahnaf read al-Kahfin the first rak'ah and Yunus or Yusufin the second, and said that he prayed the morning prayer with 'Umar (and he recited them). Ibn Mas'ud read forty verses from al-Anfal in the first rak'ah and a surah from the ten short surahs (Mufassil) in the second. Qatadah reported about a person who read one surah in two rak'ah or repeated the same surah twice, and then commented: 'It is all the Book of Allah." 'Ubaidullah ibn Thabit related that Anas said, "One of the helpers (Ansar) led the people in prayer at (the mosque) of Quba'. Before he began his recitation he would always recite, 'Say: He is Allah, the One,' until he finished that surah, and then he would recite another surah. He did that in every rak'ah. They said to him, 'You begin with that surah, but we don't find it sufficient until you add another surah to it?' He said, 'I will not stop doing so. I like to lead you in the prayer with that. If you don't like it, I will leave (leading you in the prayers).' They thought that he was the best among them, so they didn't want someone else to lead them. They referred the matter to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and he said, 'O so and so, what has kept you from doing what your companions have asked you? Why do you keep reciting that surah in every rak'ah?' He said, 'I love that surah.' The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, 'Your love for that surah will cause you to enter Paradise." A man from the tribe of Juhinah reported that he heard the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recite, "When the earth quakes," in the morning prayer in both rak'ah. And the man said, "I do not know if he forgot that he had recited it or if he did it on purpose." This hadith is related by Abu Dawud. The chain has nothing in it that can be criticized.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Recitation after al-Fatihah:
Here we shall mention what Ibn al-Qayyim learned about the Prophet's recitation following al-Fatihah in different prayers. He commented, "When the Prophet finished al-Fatihah, he would sometimes make a lengthy recitation, and sometimes a short one if he was travelling or similarly engaged. But most of the time, he made a recitation of intermediate length.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Morning Prayer:
He would read from sixty to one hundred verses during the morning prayer. Sometimes he would read surah Qal; ar-Rum, at-'Takwir, or az-Zilzal in the last two rak'ah. While travelling, he would sometimes read the last two surahs of the Qur'an. Sometimes he would read the first portion of al-Mu'minun until he would reach the story of Moses and Aaron in the first rak'ah, and then he would cough and bow. On Fridays he would read Alif; Lam, Mim, Tanzil as-Sajdah, or ad-Dahr in their complete forms. He did not do what many people do today, which is reciting part of this surah and part of another. Many ignorant people think that it is best to recite something with a prostration on Friday morning. But this is just plain ignorance. Some scholars dislike that one should read a surah with a prostration due to this ignorant thought. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to recite these two surahs because they contained reminders of man's creation, the return unto Allah, the creation of Adam, the entry into Paradise and Hell-fire, and other matters that did or will specifically occur on a Friday. Therefore, he would recite them on Friday to remind his companions of the events of that day. He would recite Qaf, al-Qamr, al-A'la and al-Ghashiyyah on days of great importance like Friday, the 'Id days, and so on.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Noon Prayers:
He would sometimes make this recitation lengthy. Abu Sa'eed even once said, "While he was standing in the noon prayer, one could go to al-Baqi'e and take care of some matter, return to his family, make ablution, return, and still find the Prophet, upon whom be peace, in the first rak'ah due to the length of his recital." (Related by Muslim.) He would sometimes recite all of Alif, Lam, Mim, Tanzil, or al-A'la, or al-Lail, or sometimes al-Buruj or at-Tariq.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Afternoon Prayer:
This would be half the length of the noon prayer recitation if that recitation was long or the same length if it was short.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Sunset Prayer:
The Prophet would recite different surahs in the sunset prayer on different days. Sometimes he would recite al-A'raf in the two rak'ahs and sometimes at-Tur or al-Mursilat. Says Abu 'Umar ibn 'Abdul-Barr, "It is related that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recited al-A'raf or as-Saffat or Ha-Mim Dukhan or al-A'la or at-Tin or the last two surahs of al-Mufassil. All of that is related through authentic chains. " Marwan ibn al-Hakim used to do this, and when Zaid ibn Thabit objected to it he said, "What is wrong with you that you always recite one of the short surahs from al-Mufassil during the sunset prayer? I have seen the Prophet, upon whom be peace, reciting a long chapter therein." Marwan asked, "And what is a long chapter?" He answered, "Al-A'raf." This hadith is sahih. Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi related it. An-Nasa'i records that 'Aishah said, "The Prophet, upon whom be peace, read al-A'raf during the sunset prayer and he divided it between the two rak'ahs." To always recite a short surah from al-Mufassil is an act that differs from the sunnah, and this is what Marwan ibn al-Hakim did.
The Recitation in the Night Prayer:
In the night prayer, the Prophet would recite at-Tin, and he taught Mu'adh to recite ash-Shams, al-A'la, al-Lail, and so on. He objected to Mu'adh reciting al-Baqarah at that time. After the prayer, he (Mu'adh) went to the tribe of 'Amr ibn 'Auf, and when part of the night had passed, he repeated his prayer, and recited al-Baqarah there. On being informed about him, the Prophet said to him, "Mu'adh, are you one who puts people to hardships?''
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Friday Prayer:
He would recite alJumu'ah, al-Munafiqun or al-Ghashiyyah, in their complete forms, or al-A'la and al-Ghashiyyah. He never recited just the ending of some surahs which began with "O you who believe..." surah alJumu'ah). Those who insist on doing so every Friday are not following the sunnah.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Recitation in the Two 'Ids:
He would recite Qafor al-Qamar completely, and sometimes al-A'la and al-Ghashiyyah. The rightly guided caliphs did the same. Once Abu Bakr read al-Baqarah in the morning prayer until the sun was about to rise. They said, "O successor of the Messenger of Allah, the sun is about to rise." He said, "Had it risen, you would not have found us negligent." 'Umar would recite Yusuf, an-Nahl, Hud, al-Isra' and similar surahs. If reciting long surahs was abrogated, it would have been known to the khalifahs or to those who may have criticized them. Muslim records from Jabir ibn Sumrah that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, recited Qaf in the morning prayer, and that his subsequent prayers during that day would be shorter. Umm al-Fadhl heard Ibn 'Abbas recite al-Mursilat and she told him, "O my son, that recital reminded me of that surah. It was the last one that I heard the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recite, and he read it in the sunset prayer." That is one of the latest actions that we have from him.
Given the above, we may now interpret the Prophet's hadith, "O you who lead the people in prayer, be easy on them," and Anas' statement, "The Prophet, upon whom be peace, conducted the prayer very lightly, though it was complete." 'Easiness' or 'lightness' is a relative term. We must return to how the Prophet behaved to understand and follow his example correctly. It is not to be determined by the whims and desires of those who are present for prayer. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, did not order the people to differ from his practice, even though he knew that behind him were the aged, weak and people with needs to tend to. He performed his prayer in the same manner that he asked others to pray--'light' or 'easy'. If his prayers were somewhat long, they were still easy compared to how long he could have made them. The guidance that he came with and practiced is the one that decides our affairs and disputes for us. This is supported by the hadith recorded by an-Nasa'i and others in which Ibn 'Umar reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, ordered those who lead prayers to be 'easy' by reciting as-Saffat. Therefore, a surah the length of as-Saffat2 is part of what the Prophet, upon whom be peace, meant when he said that the imams should be easy on the people.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Reciting a Specific Surah:
The Prophet, upon whom be peace, did not confine his recitation of the Qur'an in prayers to some specific surahs, (except for the Friday and 'Id prayers). Concerning the other prayers, Abu Dawud has recorded a hadith from 'Amr ibn Shu'aib from his father on the authority of his grandfather who said, "There is no separate surah, large or small, except the ones I heard the Prophet recite while leading the people in one of the obligatory prayers. He used to recite the entire surah in two rak'ahs, or just the initial part of the surah. It has not been recorded from him that he would recite from the middle or the end of the surah, nor that he would recite two surahs in one rak'ah during the obligatory prayers. He would, however, do so during voluntary prayers. Said Ibn Mas'ud, "I know the surahs the Prophet used to recite together in one rak'ah: ar-Rahman and an-Najm, al-Qamar and al-Haqqah, at-Tur and adh-Dhariyat, al-Waqi'ah and Noon, and so on." But this hadith does not tell us if this was during obligatory or voluntary prayers. The latter is more probable. He rarely recited one surah in two (both) rak'ahs. Abu Dawud records that a man from the tribe of Juhainah heard the Prophet, upon whom be peace, recite the complete surah az-Zil~al twice in both rak'ahs of the morning prayer. The man commented, "I do not know if he did this out of forgetfulness or if he recited it twice intentionally."
Sunnah acts of prayer, Lengthening the First Rak'ah of the Morning Prayer:
The Prophet, upon whom be peace, would make the first rak'ah of the morning prayer longer than the second. At times, he would continue to prolong his recitation until he heard no more footsteps (of the people coming to catch the prayer). He made the morning prayer the longest of his (obligatory) prayers. This is because its recitation is witnessed by Allah and the angels. It is also stated that it is witnessed by both the angels who record the daytime deeds and those who record the nighttime deeds. Whether it is Allah and His angels or His angels alone who witness that time, or does it continue until the morning prayer is over or until the sun rises cannot be said with certainty, though both of the statements are correct.
Furthermore, since the morning prayer has the least number of rak'ah, the recitation is prolonged to compensate for it. It is prayed right after sleep. As such, people are well rested. Also, it occurs before they have engaged themselves in their livelihood and other worldly affairs. The spirit as well as the body is responsive to the words of Allah. This makes the recital easier to ponder over and comprehend. Also, prayer is the basis and the first of all works. Therefore, it is preferred to prolong the recital of the morning prayer. This would be recognized by one who is familiar with Islamic law and its aim, purpose and wisdom.
Sunnah acts of prayer, How The Prophet Would Recite the Qur'an:
He would draw out his voice over the long vowels, pause at the end of every verse, and elongate his voice with the recital. This ends the section that has been taken from the writings of Ibn al-Qayyim.
Sunnah acts of prayer, What Is Preferred to be Done During the Recitation:
It is sunnah to make one's voice beautiful and nice while reciting the Qur'an. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "Beautify your voices with the Qur'an." He also said, "He is not one of us who does not chant the Qur'an," "The one with the best voice with the Qur'an is the one that when you hear him, you feel that he fears Allah," and "Allah never listened to anything like he listened to his Prophet chanting the Qur'an with a beautiful voice."
Says an-Nawawi, "It is sunnah for anyone who is reciting the Qur'an, whether he is praying or not, to ask Allah for His blessings when he comes to a verse of mercy. When he comes to a verse (describing) punishment, he should seek refuge in Allah from Hellfire, punishment, evil, from what is hated, or he may say, "Allah, I ask You for well-being, etc." When he comes to a verse that glorifies or exalts Allah, he should say, "Glory be to Allah," or "Blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Worlds," and so on. Hudhaifah ibn al-Yaman is reported to have said, "I prayed with the Prophet, upon whom be peace, one night, and he started reading al-Baqarah. I said to myself, 'He will bow after one hundred verses,' but he continued. Then I said, 'He will complete it and bow,' but he moved to recite very slowly al 'Imran and then an-Nisa'. When he came to a verse glorifying Allah, he would glorify Him. If he came to a verse that mentioned a request, he would request it. If he came to something that (one should) seek refuge from, he would seek refuge." This was related by Muslim. Among the Shafiyyah, the glorifying, requesting and seeking refuge should be done during the prayer and at other times. The imam, followers and one praying by himself should all do so, for they are supplications that one should say, like 'ameen. It is preferred that when reading, "Is not Allah the most conclusive of all judges?" / at-Tin:8 / one should say, "Certainly, and I am one of the witnesses to that. When one reads, "Is not He (who does so) able to bring the dead to life? / al-Qiyamah:40 /, he should say, "Certainly, and I bear witness (to it)." When one reads, "Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High," ( al-A'la: 1 ), he should say, "Glory to my Lord, the Most High." That should be said during prayer and otherwise.
Sunnah acts of prayer, When The Prayer is to be Aloud or Subdued:
It is sunnah to recite aloud in the two rak'ah of the morning and the Friday congregational prayer, in the first two rak'ah of the evening and the night prayer, in the two 'id prayers, the prayer for eclipses, and the prayer of asking for rain. The recital should be subdued during all of the noon and the afternoon prayer, during the last rak'ah of the evening prayer, and during the last two rak'ah of the night prayer. Concerning voluntary prayers, those made during the days should be subdued, while those made during the night can be either loud or subdued.
Sunnah acts of prayer, It is best to be moderate in one's recital:
One night, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, passed by Abu Bakr when he was praying in a very low voice, and he passed by 'Umar who was praying with his voice raised. (Later), when they were together with him, he said, "O Abu Bakr, I passed by you and you were praying in a very low voice." He said, "O Messenger of Allah, the one who I was praying to could hear me." And he said to 'Umar, "O 'Umar, I passed by you and you were praying with a raised voice." He said, "O Messenger of Allah, this was to stop the drowsiness and to drive away Satan." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, "O Abu Bakr, raise your voice somewhat. And 'Umar, lower your voice somewhat." (Related by Abu Dawud and Ahmad.) If one forgets and recites aloud when he should be silent or vice-versa, there is no blame upon him. If one recalls the correction while he is doing the mistaken act, he may change to the correct way.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Reciting Behind an Imam:
One's prayer is not accepted unless al-Fatihah is recited in every rak'ah. But, one who is praying behind an imam is to keep quiet while the imam is reciting aloud, as Allah says in the Qur'an, "When the Qur'an is recited, listen and remain silent that you may attain mercy." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, also said, "When the imam makes the takbir, (you too) make the takbir. When he recites, be silent." (Related by Muslim.) One hadith states, "Whoever is praying behind an imam, the imam's recital is his recital. If the imam reads quietly, then all of the followers must also make their own recital. If one cannot hear the imam's recital, he must make his own recital.
Commenting on this subject, Abu Bakr al-'Arabi says, "What we see as the strongest opinion is that one must recite during the prayers in which the imam's recital is subdued. But, during the prayers where the imam recites aloud, one may not recite. This is based on the following three proofs:
1. This was the practice of the people of Madinah,
2. it is the ruling of the Qur'an, as Allah says, "When the Qur'an is recited, listen and remain silent," and
3. this is supported by two hadith: one from 'Imran ibn Hussain states, 'I know that some of you compete with me (in my recital...),' and 'If it is recited, you should listen.' The preceding hadith is the weightiest position according to the following argument: If one cannot recite along with the imam, then when can one recite? If one says, 'While he is silent,' then we say, 'It is not necessary for him to be silent,'7 so how can something that is obligatory be dependent on something that is not obligatory? But we have found a way in which the person may 'recite' with the imam, and that is the recitation of the heart and of concentrating on what is being recited. This is the method of the Qur'an and the hadith, and the way the worship has been preserved. It is also part of following the sunnah. One is to act by what is the strongest (opinion). This was also the choice of az-Zuhri and Ibn al-Mubarak, and it is a statement from Malik, Ahmad and Ishaq. Ibn Taimiyyah supports it and shows it to be the strongest opinion.
Sunnah acts of prayer, Making the Takbir upon Moving from Position to Position:
It is sunnah to make the takbir upon every rising, lowering, standing or sitting, except when one comes up from bowing, in which case one should say, "Allah hears him who praises Him." Reported Ibn Mas'ud, "I saw the Messenger of Allah make the takbir upon every lowering, rising, standing and sitting." This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa'i and at-Tirmidhi, who called it shaih.
Says at-Tirmidhi, "The companions of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, including Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali and others, acted according to this hadith, as did their followers and the majority of the jurists and scholars." Abu Bakr ibn 'Abdurahman ibn al-Harith reported that he heard Abu Hurairah say, "When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, stood for prayer, he would make the takbir while standing. Then he made the takbir while bowing. When coming up from the bowing, he would say, "Sami'Allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears him who praises Him). While standing, he would say, "Rabbana lakal-hamd (Our Lord, to You is the praise)." Then he would say, "Allahu akbar" when he would go down for the prostration, when he raised his head, and when he stood from his sitting after the two prostrations. He did that in every rak'ah until he finished the prayer. He prayed in that manner until he left this world." (Related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud.)
'Ikrimah said to Ibn 'Abbas, "I prayed the noon prayer in al-Butha behind a foolish old man. He would make twelve takbirs by saying it when he prostrated and when he raised his head." Ibn 'Abbas said, "That is the prayer of Abu al-Qasim (the Prophet)." (Related by Ahmad and al-Bukhari.) It is preferrable to start the takbir when one begins one's changing of position.
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Manner of Bowing:
When one bows, one's hands must reach one's knees. It is sunnah to make the height of the head equal to that of the hips. The hands should be supported by the knees and should be apart from one's sides. The hands should be open upon one's knees and thighs, and the palms should be flat. It is reported that 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr would bow with his arms separated, his hands on his knees, and his fingers opened beyond his knees. He said, "This is how I saw the Messenger of Allah pray." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and an-Nasa'i.)
Abu Humaid reported that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, bowed, he would be straight, his head neither up nor down (with respect to his hips), and he would place his hands on his knees as if he was holding them." (Related by an-Nasa'i.)
Muslim records 'Aishah reporting that when the Prophet bowed, his head would be neither risen nor lowered, but rather between those two positions. Said 'Ali, "If you put a cup of water on the back of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, while he was bowing, its contents would not spill." This is related by Ahmad. Abu Dawud recorded it in his Kitab al-Muraseel.
Said Mus'ab ibn Sa'd, "I prayed next to my father. I joined both of my hands and put them between my thighs (while bowing). He stopped me and said, 'We used to do that, but were later ordered (by the Prophet) to put our hands on our knees."' (Related by "the group.")
Sunnah acts of prayer, The Remembrance of Allah During the Bowing:
It is preferred to remember Allah with the following words, "Subhana Rabiyy al-'Adheem (Glory to my Lord, the Great.)" Reported 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr, "When 'Glorify the name of your Lord, the Great,' was revealed, the Prophet told us, 'Do so in your bowings." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and others with a good chain.
Reported Hudhaifah, "I prayed with the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, and while bowing he would say, 'Subhana Rabiyy al-'Adheem." (Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.)
The phrase Subhana Rabiyy al-'Adheem wa bihamdihi has been related through a number of chains, but all of them are weak. Ash-Shaukani maintains, "The different chains support each other. It is perfectly acceptable for one who is praying to limit himself to Subhana Rabiyy al-'Adheem or to add one of the following:
1. 'Ali reported that while bowing, the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, would say, "O Allah, for You have I bowed, and it is You that I have believed in and to You have I submitted. You are my Lord. My hearing, sight, marrow, bones and nerves and what is carried by my feet are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds." (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud and others.)
2. 'Aishah reported that while bowing and prostrating, the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, would say, "Glorified and Holy are You, Lord of the angels and the souls."
3. Reported 'Auf ibn Malik, "I prayed with the Messenger of Allah one night. He recited al-Baqarah and while bowing said, 'Glory be to the One of Omnipotence, the Master of the dominions, of grandeur and of honor."' (Related by Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa'i .)
4. 'Aishah said that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, bowed or prostrated, he would often say, "Glory and praise be to You, O Allah, our Lord. O Allah, forgive me." This was how he applied the Qur'an. (Related by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)
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