Question # 197: Assalamu Alaikkum, Please do let me know, the action of forefinger during Attahiyat in prayer.

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Raising the forefinger in the tashahhud is Sunnah, and the reason behind it is to indicate the Oneness of Allah and it is harder on Shaytan than iron. The following is the Sunnah way of doing this:

  • The person offering prayer, must clench (join) the fingers of the right hand making a fist with the middle finger touching the tip of the thumb, making a circle.
  • The person offering prayer must look down at this index finger (and not beyond it) during the entire session of sitting for tashahhud until salaam.
  • The index finger of the right hand must be pointed towards the direction of Qiblah and it should be moved (up and down) with every phrase of the du’aa’.

The scholars differed concerning this and there are several points of view over each of the steps mentioned above. Nevertheless, this matter should not lead to division and discord between seekers of knowledge. 

Long Answer: The scholars differed concerning that and there are several points of view:

  1. The Hanafis say that the finger should be raised when saying “Laa (no)” in the phrase “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah (I bear witness that there is no god except Allah)” and it should be lowered when saying, “ill-Allaah (except Allah)”.
  2. The Shafi’is say that it should be raised when saying “ill-Allaah”.
  3. The Maalikis say that it should be moved right and left until one finishes the prayer.
  4. The Hanbalis say that one should point with the finger when saying the name of Allah, without moving it.

Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said: There is no basis for any of these definitions and manners in the Sunnah. The closest of them to the correct view is the Hanbali view, were it not that they limited raising the finger to when saying the name of Allah. (Tamaam al-Minnah).

With regard to the evidence concerning this issue:

  • It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr (رضي الله عنه) said: When the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sat during the prayer, he would place his left foot between his thigh and calf, and tuck his right foot underneath him, and place his left hand on his left knee, and place his right hand on his right thigh, and point with his finger. (Narrated by Muslim) In al-Nasa’i and Abu Dawood it says: “He used to point with his finger when making du’aa’ but he did not move it.” This addition – “but he did not move it” – was classed as da’eef (weak) by Ibn al-Qayyim in Zaad al-Ma’aad. It was also classed as da’eef by al-Albaani in Tamaam al-Minnah.
  • It was narrated that Waa’il ibn Hajar said: I said: I will certainly watch how the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) prays. So I watched him and he stood up and said takbeer (“Allaahu akbar”), and raised his hands until they were level with his ears. Then he placed his right hand on his left hand, wrist and lower forearm. When he wanted to bow, he raised his hands likewise, and put his hands on his knees, and when he raised his head he raised his hands likewise. Then he prostrated and put his hands level with his ears, then he sat with his left foot tucked underneath him and put his left hand on his left thigh and knee, and he put the edge of his right elbow on his right thigh. Then he held two of his fingers and made a circle, then he raised his forefinger and moved it, making du’aa’ with it. (Narrated by al-Nasa’i; classed as sahih by Ibn Khuzaymah; Ibn Maajah; classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen quoted this hadith – “moving it, making du’aa’ with it” – as evidence that moving the forefinger during the tashahhud should be done with every phrase of the du’aa’. He said in al-Sharh al-Mumti’: “The Sunnah indicates that he should point with it when making du’aa’, because the wording of the hadith is “moving it, making du’aa’ with it”. So every time you make du’aa’, move your finger thus indicating the exalted nature of the One to Whom you are addressing your du’aa’s. So we say: “Al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu (peace be upon you, O Prophet)” – you should point your finger because this salaam is a kind of du’aa’. “Al-salaamu ‘alayna (peace be upon us)” – you should point your finger. “Allaahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad (O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad)” – you should point your finger. “Allaahumma baarik ‘ala Muhammad) O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad)” – you should point your finger. ‘A’oodhu Billaahi min ‘adhaab jahannam (I seek refuge with Allah from the torment of Hell)” – you should point your finger. “Wa min ‘adhaab al-qabr (and from the torment of the grave)” – you should point your finger. “Wa min fitnat il-mahya wa’l-mamaat (and from the trials of life and death)” – you should point your finger.  “Wa min fitnat il-maseeh il-dajjaal (and from the tribulation of the Dajjaal) – you should point your finger. Every time you make du’aa’ you should point your finger, indicating the greatness of the One to Whom you are making du’aa’. This is closer to the Sunnah.”

  • Ahmad narrated that Naafi’ said: When ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar sat during the prayer, he would put his hands on his thighs and point with his finger whilst looking at it. Then he said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “It is harder on the Shaytan than iron,” meaning the index finger. (This hadith was classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Sifat Salaat al-Nabi)

Next, it is Sunnah when pointing to look at your finger. Al-Nawawi said: “The Sunnah is not to let your gaze go beyond the pointing finger. There is a sahih hadith concerning this in Sunan Abi Dawood. You should point in the direction of the qiblah and intend when pointing to affirm the Oneness of Allah and exclusive devotion to Him.  (Sharh Muslim)

The hadith to which al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) referred is the hadith of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Zubayr quoted above. The version narrated by Abu Dawood is: “And he should not let his gaze go beyond his pointing finger.” Classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood)

Next, it is Sunnah to point with it towards the qiblah. It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) that he saw a man moving pebbles with his hand whilst he was praying. When he finished, ‘Abd-Allah said to him: “Do not move pebbles whilst you are praying, for that comes from the Shaytan. Rather do what the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do. He put his right hand on his thigh and pointed with the finger that is next to the thumb towards the qiblah, and he fixed his gaze on it.” Then he said: “This is what I saw the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) doing.” (Narrated by al-Nasa’i; Ibn Khuzaymah; Ibn Hibbaan. classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasa’i)

Next, as for bending the finger slightly when pointing, Numayr al-Khuzaa’i reported, “I saw the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sitting in the prayer with his forearm along his right thigh. His index finger was raised, curved (or bent) a little, and he was supplicating.” (This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ibn Khuzaimah with a good chain) (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)  [However, the hadith of Numayr al-Khuzaa’i is classified as da’eef (weak) in Tamaam al-Minnah by al-Albaani.

It says in Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah: “Pointing with the finger throughout the tashahhud and moving it when offering supplication (du‘aa’), and clenching the other fingers should continue until the salaam.”

To summarize, it is said in Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah: “Raising the forefinger in the tashahhud is Sunnah, and the reason behind it is to indicate the Oneness of Allah. Whoever wishes may move it and whoever wishes may not move it. This matter should not lead to division and discord between seekers of knowledge. If a person does not raise it at all, or he raises it but does not move it, this is a minor matter that should not lead to denunciation and resentment. However the Sunnah is to raise it throughout the shahaadatayn, until the worshippers says the salaam, as an affirmation of divine Oneness. With regard to moving it, that should be when reciting the supplication, as is narrated in the sahih Sunnah.”

(The above reply is based on various answers by Islamqa.info, unless stated otherwise)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam