Question # 229: How and where should the worshipper place his hands while in standing position during 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: As for the manner of placing hands when standing in prayer, the most authentic view from the sunnah is to place one’s right hand on the back of one’s left hand, wrist and forearm. As for its position, there are conflicting and controversial reports in this regard; nevertheless, most of the contemporary scholars favor putting them on the chest based on hadith of Wa’il bin Hujr. Although, there is some weakness in the hadith, it is more authentic than others. As for placing them below the navel as was reported in a narration from ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه), it is classed as da’eef (weak), and the hadith of Wa’il bin Hujr is stronger than it. As for placing them over the heart on the left side, this is an innovation without any basis. Also, there is no hadith to prove that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) let his arms hang by his sides when standing during prayer. Lastly, the hadith about placing one’s hand below the chest but above the navel is sahih; however, the action is not marfu i.e. the action is not reported from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Long Answer:

 MANNER

Clasping hands when praying by placing the right hand over the left when standing in prayer is one of the sunnah of prayer, and is proven from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). This is the view of the majority of scholars.

Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “As for placing the right hand on the left during prayer, it is one of the sunnah of prayer according to the majority of scholars. That was narrated from ‘Ali, Abu Hurayrah, al-Nakha’i, Abu Majlaz, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr, al-Thawri, al-Shaafa’i and ashaab al-ra’i. It was also narrated by Ibn al-Mundhir from Maalik.” (Al-Mughni)

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “We Prophets have been commanded to delay our suhoor and to break our fast straight away, and to place our right hands over our left hands when praying.” (Narrated by Ibn Hibbaan in al-Saheeh)

The scholars of the Standing Committee said: “Clasping the hands in prayer means placing the right hand over the left hand, and letting the arms hang means letting them hang down by the sides. It is proven that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) placed his right hand on his left during prayer, when standing to recite Qur’an, and when standing after rising from bowing. This is according to the report narrated by Ahmad and Muslim from Waa’il ibn Hajar (رضي الله عنه), that he saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) raising his hands and saying takbeer when he started to pray, then he wrapped his cloak around himself, then he placed his right hand on his left. When he wanted to bow, he brought out his hands, then he raised them and said takbeer, then he bowed. When he said “Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah (Allah hears the one who praises Him)” he raised his hands, and when he prostrated, he prostrated between his hands.” According to a report narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawood he said: Then he placed his right hand on his left hand, wrist and forearm. According to a report narrated by Abu Haazim from Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Saa’idi: The people were commanded to place the right hand on the left forearm when praying. Abu Haazim said: All I know is that he attributed it to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). (Narrated by Ahmad and al-Bukhari) …” (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)

POSITION

As for where the hands are to be placed, it is on the chest. Ibn Khuzaymah narrated that Waa’il ibn Hujr (رضي الله عنه) said: “I prayed with the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and he placed his right hand over his left hand on his chest.” (Classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Tahqeeq Saheeh Ibn Khuzaymah)

Al-Albaani said in Sifat Salaat al-Nabi (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “Placing them (the hands) on the chest is what is established in the Sunnah, and doing otherwise is either weak (based on weak evidence) or has no basis.”

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “The most correct opinion in this matter is that they should be placed on the chest, according to the hadith of Wa’il bin Hujr (رضي الله عنه). He said that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to place his right hand over his left hand on his chest. (Reported by Ibn Khuzaimah in the Book of Prayer, in the Chapter: Placing the Right Hand Over the Left and by Al-Baihaqi) And although there is some weakness in the hadith, it is more authentic than others…” (Fatawa Arkanul-Islam)

Opinions of the four Madhhab

Hanafi

“The Hanafis say: The preferable form is for a man to place the palm of his right hand on the back of his left hand below the navel, and for a woman to place her hands on her chest.” (‘The five school of Islamic Law’ by Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “…As for placing them below the navel, this has been reported in a narration from ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) (Reported by Imam Ahmad and by Abu Dawud in the Book of Prayer, in the Chapter: Placing the Right Hand Over the Left in Prayer) but this report has been classed as da’eef (weak) [by al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar and others,] and the hadith of Wa’il bin Hujr is stronger than it. (Fatawa Arkanul-Islam)

Al-Sindi said in Haashiyat Ibn Maajah: “Just as it is Sunnah to clasp the hands and not let them hang by one’s sides, it is proven that they are to be placed in the chest, not elsewhere. As for the hadith “It is Sunnah to place one hand over the other beneath the navel when praying”, the scholars are agreed that it is da’eef (weak).”

Shafi’i

There are three reports from Imam Shafi’i:

  • One places them below the chest but above the navel.
  • Placing them upon the chest.
  • Placing them below the navel.

The different opinions are because it is reported by different sources from Imam Shafi’i.

“The Shafi’is state: The preferable form is to place the right-hand palm on the back of the left hand between the chest and the navel and towards the left side.” (‘The five school of Islamic Law’ by Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “…As for placing them over the heart on the left side, this is an innovation without any basis…” (Fatawa Arkanul-Islam)

Also, the report by Abu Dawud in his Sunan from Jarir ad-Dabbi who said, “I saw ‘Ali grasping his left wrist with his right hand above the navel.” Though this hadith is sahih, the action is not marfu i.e., the action is not reported from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Maliki

The Maliki were of the opinion that one leaves his hands free [by his sides] in prayer (irsal). Ibn al-Qayyim said in I‘lam after mentioning the ahadith concerning placing the hands in prayer, “these narrations are contradicted by the narration of al-Qasim from Malik that he said, ‘leaving it is more beloved to me’ and I do not know anything else that contradicts them.”

So, the Maliki madhhab preferred the narration of al-Qasim. However, from Imam Maalik himself there are three different opinions reported:

  • One does irsal (most famous opinion).
  • That one places his hands below the chest but above the navel.
  • One has a choice between placing and irsal.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “[In fact,] there is no hadith to prove that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) let his arms hang by his sides when standing during prayer.” (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)

It was said that when Imam Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him) refused to accept the position of qadi (judge), he was beaten, and he could not put his hands on his chest when praying, so he held them by his sides because of the pain. Some of those who saw that thought this was Sunnah so they transmitted this from him. But he (may Allah have mercy on him) definitely did not say that the arms should be held by one’s side at all. This is a misunderstanding of some written statement and it goes against what he stated clearly in al-Muwatta’ about the right hand being placed on top of the left. This was explained by a group of Maalikis and others, in various books which number approximately thirty, apart from what is mentioned in various commentaries.

Further, Ibn Hajar said: “Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said: There is no different report narrated from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and this is the view of the majority of the Sahaabah and Taabi’een. This is what was mentioned by Maalik in al-Muwatta’, and Ibn al-Mundhir and others did not narrate anything different from Maalik. Ibn al-Qaasim narrated that Maalik had said that the arms should be held at the sides, and most of his companions followed him. And it was narrated that he said there is a difference between obligatory and naafil prayers. Some of them regarded it as makrooh to hold one hand with the other. Ibn al-Haajib narrated that this means it is makrooh when one does it for the purpose of resting the hands.” (Fath al-Bari)

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

Hanbali

There are three reports from Imam Ahmad as well:

  • Placing them below the navel.
  • Placing them below the chest.
  • A choice between the above two.

“The preferable form is to place the right-hand palm on the back of the left hand below the navel.” (‘The five school of Islamic Law’ by Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah)

Fiqh us-Sunnah

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 Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) placed his hands on his chest. Reported Hulb at-Ta’i, “I saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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. (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)

In his commentary on Ibn Qudamah’s Umdat al-Fiqh, Dr. Hatem al-Haj, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America narrates: “…There are conflicting and controversial reports in this regard, and the various positions are equally strong; you may choose any of them, and that is the position of another opinion in Hanbali madhhab, Ibn Mundhir, Ibn Tayamiyyah’s choice. Nevertheless, most of the contemporary scholars favor putting them on the chest.”

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