Question # 480: Assalamu alaikum, Brother I have a pet cat at home, which moves freely in the house. When I pray at home, it will either come & sit in front of my prayer carpet, even though I keep some water bottle or some barrier in front of me, or she may cross my prayer mat from the middle, when I am praying. I try to stop her sometimes in prayers by my leg movement. Is the Salaah valid due to her movement. Does keeping water bottle or any barrier in front, while praying, she sitting behind or next to it (in front) makes my Salaah invalid. Please reply

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: If a cat passes before you during the prayer from behind the sutrah, if you use any, then leave it, because the sutrah stands between you and the cat. If it passes between you and the sutrah or passes closely before you, in case there is no sutrah and you are not in the standing position, then push it away as much as you can. Your prayer is valid regardless of whether it goes away or not. If it passes before you while you are standing in the prayer, then push it with your foot if you can, but never lean over while you are standing to push it away in order for your prayer not to be invalid.

Long Answer: Prayer is invalidated if one of three things walks in front of the worshipper as mentioned in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه), who said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Prayer is invalidated by a woman, a donkey or a dog; that may be prevented by something equal in height to the back of a saddle [placed in front of the worshipper as a sutrah or screen].” (Narrated by Muslim)

According to one report, “a black dog.” The narrator said: “I said, ‘O Abu Dharr, what is the difference between a black dog and a red or yellow dog?’ He said, ‘O son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) the same question, and he said, “The black dog is a devil.”’” (Narrated by Muslim)

This ruling applies if one of the things mentioned passes in front of the worshipper and he does not have a sutrah or object to serve as a screen in front of him. But if he has a screen in front of him and the person or animal passes beyond that sutrah, then his prayer is not affected, because of the hadith of Abu Juhayfah who said: “I heard my father narrating that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) led them in prayer in al-Bat-ha’, and in front of them was an ‘anzah (a short spear, iron-tipped at its lower end). He prayed two rak’ahs for Dhuhr followed by two rak’ahs for ‘Asr, and a woman and a donkey passed in front of him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

This ruling applies to the imam and to one who is praying alone; with regard to the members of a congregation praying behind an imam, the sutrah of the imam is also a sutrah for them.

As for cats, they do not invalidate the prayer even if they pass in front of you, because the basic guideline is that the prayer is valid, and there is no evidence to suggest that cats can invalidate the prayer. [However, if it passes before you while you are standing in the prayer, then push it with your foot if you can, but never lean over while you are standing to push it away in order for your prayer not to be invalidated.]

[In all cases,] the worshipper should try hard to ensure that nothing passes in front of him. ‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb narrated from his father that his grandfather said: “We stopped with the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in Thaniyyat Adhaakhir and the time for prayer came, so he prayed facing a wall which lay in the direction of the qiblah, and we were behind him. A lamb came and tried to pass in front of him and he kept pushing it back until its belly was pushed up against the wall, then it passed behind him.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood; al-Albani said in Saheeh Abi Dawood, it is hasan sahih)

[On this occasion, it is worth discussing the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) mentioned above,]… the one who reads this hadith will realize that the “likening” referred to here has nothing to do with the bad attributes of either donkeys or dogs, or that women are on the same level as these animals – Allah forbid. This is wrong thinking and a foolish notion. ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) did not mean that at all when she heard this hadith and said: The things which annul prayer were mentioned before me (and those were): a dog, a donkey and a woman. I said, “You have compared us (women) to donkeys and dogs. [By Allah! I saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) praying while I used to lie in (my) bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I disliked to sit and trouble the Prophet. So, I would slip away by the side of his feet.”] (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

Rather the similarity between them that is referred to here is their simply having a specific action in common that has to do with the prayer, which is distracting the worshipper from his humble focus and connection with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) did not agree that the passage of a woman (in front of one who is praying) disrupts the humble focus of the worshippers towards Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), but many of the Sahabah disagreed with her on that.

Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “That is because a woman may be a source of fitnah, a donkey may bray and a dog may be frightening, and the one who thinks about that may become so distracted that his prayer is interrupted and spoiled. Because these things could lead to interruption of the prayer, they are described as interrupting it.” (al-Mufhim lima ashkala min Talkhees Saheeh Muslim)

Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said, after mentioning a similar interpretation: “…Women – because women are the traps of the Shaytan, and when a woman goes out of her house, the hopes of the Shaytan are raised; the Shaytan sought to bring about the expulsion of Adam from Paradise by means of women. The black dog is a devil, as is stated in the hadith. The same applies to donkeys, hence one is to seek refuge with Allah when hearing the voice of a donkey in the night because it has seen the Shaytan.

Hence the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) instructed the worshipper to draw close to the sutrah (screen), lest the Shaytan interrupt his prayer. But that does not necessarily mean that the prayer is invalidated and must be repeated, and Allah knows best. Rather it detracts from the prayer, as was stated by the Sahabah such as ‘Umar and Ibn Mas‘ood – …about a man passing in front of a worshipper: the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) instructed him to shove him and fight him, and he said, “for he is nothing but a devil”; according to another report, he said: “for he has the qareen with him.” But the interruption that is caused by the passing of these animals which are particularly associated with the Shaytan is greater. This is what is meant by interrupting the prayer; it does not mean that it is rendered invalid and must be repeated. And Allah knows best.” (Fath al-Baari by Ibn Rajab)

(The above reply is based on various answers on similar topics provided by:

  • Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar; and
  • Islamqa.info)

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