Question # 457: Is there a height requirement for Sutrah?
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).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: It is permissible for a worshipper to use any object as a sutrah like an arrow, a spear or a stick. If one cannot find anything to put as a sutrah, he should draw a line on the ground and this would serve as a sutrah. Imam An-Nawawi said: “If one does not find a stick or the like, he should gather some stones or soil or even his belongings in front of him, otherwise he can put a rug or draw a line.” The scholars even said: He can screen himself with a thread or the edge of the rug.” Lastly, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “The best sutrah …is the height of the back of a saddle… but if it is less than that, it does not matter; even if it is an arrow or a stick, it is acceptable.” Also Refer Question # 446: Ruling for Sutrah (Barrier) and Someone Passing in Front of a Praying Person.
Long Answer: It is permissible for a worshipper to use anything as a sutrah [an object placed in front of him to “screen” him whilst he is praying], even if it is an arrow, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When any one of you prays, let him place a sutrah for his prayer, even if it is an arrow.” (Narrated by Ahmad; classed as sahih by al-Albani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah)
The scholars even said: He can screen himself with a thread or the edge of the rug. Indeed it says in the hadith that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said whoever cannot find a stick, let him draw a line, as it says in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, according to which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When any one of you prays, let him face towards something, and if he cannot find anything, let him use a stick, and if he does not have a stick, let him draw a line, then it will not matter whatever passes in front of him.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah, Al-Bayhaqi [and Ibn Hibban) The later classifies it sahih as did Ahmad and Ibn al-Madini. Al-Baihaqi says: “There is no problem with that hadith regarding that ruling, Allah willing.”]; Ibn Hajar said in Buloogh al-Maraam: Those who said that this hadith is weak are incorrect; rather it is hasan)
All of this indicates that the sutrah does not have to be big, rather it is sufficient for it to be something that indicates that it is serving as a screen.
If one cannot find anything to put as a sutrah, then Imam An-Nawawi said: “If one does not find a stick or the like, he should gather some stones or soil or even his belongings in front of him, otherwise he can put a rug or draw a line.”
Finally, in case one draws a line, it should be drawn horizontally from the right to the left side. However, Imam Ahmad is of the view that the line should be drawn arched like a crescent.
[Further, it was reported] by Muslim from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) who said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was asked about the sutrah for one who is praying and he said: “Like the back of a saddle.”
Imam Al-Nawawi said: “In this hadith it is recommended to have a sutrah in front of the one who is praying, and it explains that the minimum sutrah is the back of a saddle, which is the length of the forearm, or approximately two thirds of a cubit. This purpose may be served by anything that he sets up in front of him.” (Sharh Muslim by al-Nawawi)
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “With regard to whether it should be thick or thin, there is no definition that we are aware of. It may be thin like an arrow or a spear, or it may be thick like a wall. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to use a short spear as a sutrah. Abu Sa‘eed said: We used to use an arrow or a rock as a sutrah for prayer. And it was narrated from Saburah that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Use a sutrah for prayer even if it is an arrow.” (Narrated by al-Athram) Al-Awzaa‘i said: “An arrow or a whip is sufficient. Ahmad said: And what is broader than that is preferable to me. That is because the words “even if it is an arrow” indicate that something else is more appropriate than it.” (al-Mughni)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about the size of the sutrah for one who is praying. He replied: “The best sutrah that a person puts when he prays is the height of the back of a saddle, approximately two-thirds of a cubit, but if it is less than that, it does not matter; even if it is an arrow or a stick, it is acceptable.” (Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)
(The above reply is based on the following resources:
- Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar
- Various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on similar topics
- ‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)
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.