Salaah and Qibla

QI have recently discovered that I was offering my prayer towards the wrong direction and I am quite concerned by this error on my part. Also, I am very much confused as to how I should be praying because different books and different people tell me different things.

ABismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi

Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, accepts our actions and rewards them generously with His best rewards, as long as: they are carried out Allaah Ta’aala’s with the sole intention of pleasing Him; they are accurate according to the currently available knowledge; and they are carried out with the best of our abilities and the means available to us. He does not expect us to do something beyond our power, means or abilities.

When you performed your Ŝalaah towards a direction sincerely believing it to be the correct direction of the Qibla, all your Ŝalaah was good, valid and acceptable to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala. It is not the direction itself that is important, it is the sincerity of our intention and the spirit of properly following His commands correctly that have value with Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala. Because you started praying to the right direction as soon as you found out that the direction you were facing was not correct, everything is fine for you.

It should, however, be noted that Ŝalaah of a person will not be valid if he or she disregards the currently available authentic knowledge and prays in a different direction claiming that direction is not important. That person has disobeyed Allaah’s command of facing towards the Qibla.

As for other rules about the format of Ŝalaah are concerned, the main rule is that we must pray as the Prophet ŝal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prayed. We can neither devise anything new in the prayer nor can we drop anything he used to do.

When we look at all the reports and practises about Ŝalaah that came from generation to generation in our Ummah, we find that there were some things he always did the same way consistently, but there were some things in which his practise varied. For the things the Prophet ŝal-Alalahu ‘alayhi wa sallam performed consistently in the same manner, it is evident that no variation is allowed. A Muslim must perform those things exactly as he did. For example, in every Raka‘h, one must stand (Qiyaam), bow (Rukoo’) and prostrate (Sajdah) twice. No Ŝalaah will be valid without these things in that order. On the other hand, in some minor things where different practices have been reported from him, there is flexibility and he demonstrated that flexibility by adopting a variety of practices. They are the practices such as: position of hands while standing (in Qiyaam); raising hands while changing positions; and position or movement of witness finger whilst sitting. All those variations mentioned in various books of Fiqh are valid. Muslims must accept as well as practice this flexibility and variety instead of insisting on a certain way.

The most important thing to remember is that the essence and spirit of Ŝalaah is the remembrance of Allaah Subĥaanahu wa Ta‘aala, by submitting with all of your heart, body and soul in front of Him with humility in reverence, obedience and slavery to Him. Although the form must conform to the Sunnah of the Prophet ŝal-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, without this spirit, the form will be not of much benefit.

September 25, 2003

Follow up

In response to my previous email about Ŝalaah and direction of Qibla, some forum members have raised questions about facing towards Qibla when travelling in a railway train or aeroplane.

Allaah SWT, being very kind and extremely merciful, does not put burden on anyone that he or she cannot bear. Although He has made Ŝalaah obligatory on us to be offered on a timely basis in all situations regardless of where we are and what condition we are in as long as we are still conscious of time and space, He makes it easy for us to perform it by making the rules for Ŝalaah very lenient in special situations such as sickness and travel. Accordingly, in case of sickness or travel, we need to observe the rules about its format and direction only as much as our given circumstances allow, without endangering our safety and security.

Therefore, for long haul flights or for travelling by train, each individual has to evaluate as to what is the best way of performing the Ŝalaah so that the essential rules of Ŝalaah can be fulfilled to the maximum extent in those circumstances. When a prayer time starts, if a prayer can be offered within its time at the next train or plane stop in correct format and correct direction of Qibla, it should be performed at that next stop in due format and correct direction. If that is not possible, then the prayer should be performed as the train or aeroplane is moving towards their destination. While performing Ŝalaah when they are moving, it should be performed as much as possible towards the correct directions. If there is no such space available or if it is not safe to do so, then one can perform it in whatever direction closest to the real Qibla direction that is possible within confines of one’s own seat or berth.

These are just a few examples. A Muslim’s own heart is the best judge to decide as to “what is the best I can do without endangering my safety and security in my given circumstances to offer Ŝalaah as close as possible to its correct format and direction”.

Again, we must always remember, that while paying attention to the format, the spirit of remembrance of Allaah as well as that of surrendering oneself to Allaah in obedience, humility and slavery should always remain paramount in the heart and the mind during the Ŝalaah.

October 2, 2003


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