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The Five kinds of Movements In Salah- A Fiqh Study

Abu Qatada (Radi Allahu anhu) The Prophet (ﷺ) came out towards us, while carrying Umamah, the daughter of Abi Al-As (his granddaughter) over his shoulder. He prayed, and when he wanted to bow, he put her down, and when he stood up, he lifted her up.[ Al-Bukhari (516) and Muslim (543)]

Abu Hurayrah (Radi Allahu anhu): The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Kill the two black things during prayer, the snake and scorpion.[Sunan Abi Dawud 921- graded as being Sahih by  Al-Albani]

Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin(Radi Allahu anha): The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was praying with his door bolted. I came and asked to have the door opened. He walked and opened the door for me. He then returned to his place for prayer. He (the narrator Urwah) mentioned that the door faced the qiblah.  [Sunan Abi Dawud 922-graded as Hasan by Al-Albani]

The same hadith was mentioned in Sunnan An-Nisa’I (1206) with the wording, “Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was offering a voluntary prayer.”

Abu Sa`id said to him, “I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, ‘If anybody amongst you is praying behind something as a Sutra and somebody tries to pass in front of him, then he should repulse him and if he refuses, he should use force against him for he is a Shaitan (a Satan). [Sahih Al-Bukhari(509) and Muslim(505)]

These four authentic hadith are some of the hadith the scholars use to show what kind of movements unrelated to the prayer are allowed to be done. Moving in the prayer has been divided into five categories; Wajib, Sunnah, Halal Makrooh, Haraam.

It’s essential for the Muslim offering the prayer to realize that he is in  direct conversation with his Lord the Most High. Therefore, he needs to offer his prayer in the best manner possible. Allah said: And stand before Allah with obedience” [Quran : Al-Baqarah :238] and

He said : Successful indeed are the believers.Those who offer their Salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. [Quran: Al-Mu’minun :1-2]

The Muslim standing in front of Allah needs to try and bring his undivided attention with him to the Salah. In this article I want to discuss some of the actions of a prayer which we face every day and pray next those who do them. Sometimes we need to do certain actions and movements that aren’t related to the prayer and other times we must avoid them. Which actions are they?

Imam Al-Uthaymeen divided the movements in prayer into five categories:

Wajib it’s obligatory –for the praying person to do. These actions are those that must be done so that the prayer is valid. For example a person while praying remembers that there are some impurities on his head covering, another part of his clothing or on his footwear. In this instance he removes it, by removing his Kufi, Gutra, or cap or removes his shoes, socks and Khuffs or sandals. Cleanliness is a condition for the Salah to be correct. This is based on the hadith narrated from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri:

While the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was leading his Companions in prayer, he took off his sandals and laid them on his left side; so when the people saw this, they removed their sandals. When the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) finished his prayer, he asked: What made you remove your sandals? The replied: We saw you remove your sandals, so we removed our sandals.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) then said: Gabriel came to me and informed me that there was filth in them. When any of you comes to the mosque, he should see; if he finds filth on his sandals, he should wipe it off and pray in them. [Sunan Abi Dawud 650]

Another example of an obligatory action in the prayer is if a person isn’t facing the Qiblah then he should turn or be directed to its correct position. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to pray towards Bait-ul-Maqdis, then it was revealed (to him):” Indeed We see the turning of the face to heaven, wherefore We shall assuredly cause thee to turn towards Qibla which shall please thee. So turn thy face towards the sacred Mosque (Ka’ba)” (ii. 144). A person from Banu Salama was going; (he found the people) in ruk’u (while) praying the dawn prayer and they had said one rak’ah. He said in a loud voice: Listen! The Qibla has been changed and they turned towards (the new) Qibla (Ka’ba) in that very state.[Sahih Muslim 527]

In view of the two hadith mentioned we learn that any action that affects the validity of prayer is a must.


The next type of movement in the prayer is recommended and sunnah. This kind of action includes a person moving forward to close a gap in the row, or if a person is praying of the left side of the Imam, and then the Imam moves him to his right. Additionally, it’s sunnah to kill a snake, scorpion while praying or anything else that could be harmful to the people in prayer.


Following the Wajib and the Sunnah movements of prayer are the actions that aren’t allowed to be done in the prayer; as doing them can render a person’s prayer unacceptable. Some of these acts are when a person moves repeatedly during the prayer for no reason. For instance a person plays with the pen in his pocket, constantly fiddles with his watch or gutra or his money.i.e he takes out of his pocket then puts it back. Its actions like these which nullify a prayer when done for no reason and continually. With this in mind, if a person moves in this fashion but not continually then this wouldn’t affect his prayer. To put it in another way if he moved a little in first rakah,and then a little bit more in the second and so forth until the end of the prayer ,and although altogether these movements are many, they  wouldn’t invalidate his prayer. Also if he turns to look at women out of lust while praying then this would also invalidate his Salah.


After mentioning the Haraam acts that undermine the acceptance of a prayer, the acts that are disliked to be done while praying remain. These types of actions are those that are few and done for without necessity. Imam Al-Uthaymeen titled these acts as Makrooh.


Lastly the next kinds of actions between these are Halal, Mubah or simply mentioned as – allowed-. The allowed actions in prayer are those which the slave hasn’t been ordered to do, but he’s allowed to do them, if he has a reason out of necessity. This is similar to a person opening the door, or if someone asks his permission to enter or leave then he can reply by nodding his head or wave his hand.[Refer to  Fatawa Nur al Darb, # 2375-2376/ Ta-leeq ala Al-Muntaqa Vol 1/pg 613-617, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Salih Al-Uthaymeen.]

Issues related to moving the Salah for those following the Imam.

  • [Moving towards a Sutra] If the Imam finished the prayer and you missed some of the prayer then there is no harm to move a little bit to right or left or forward a bit for a sutra.[Al-Mudouwana,vol 1/pg 183, Imam Ibn Al-Qassim]
  • [Passing between rows behind an Imam] Imam Malik said, “There’s no harm for a person to pass between the rows while in the Imam is praying. The Imam is his followers’ sutra.”[Ibid pg 185]
  • [Killing bedbugs/ lice while praying] Imam Malik disliked a person to kill bedbugs or lice on his body while in the masjid, or fling them off his body,but if he’s not in the masjid then there’s no problem.[Ibid pg 166]
  • [Looking at text messages while praying] If a person takes out his mobile phone and reads a message how should he consider his prayer? Ibn Al-Qassim said if a person takes out book and reads it while praying intentionally then he invalidates his prayer, but if it happens unintentionally then he should make the Sujud As-Sahw.[Ibid pg 170]
  • [ Looking up while praying ]Abu Huraira reported: People should avoid lifting their eyes towards the sky while supplicating in prayer, otherwise their eyes would be snatched away.[Sahih Muslim 429] Ibn Hazm [456H] said: “This is a severe warning and warnings like this are only mentioned for actions that are major sins.[Al-Muhalla, vol4/pg 16]
  • [ Looking here and there while praying ]Aisha:I asked the Prophet (ﷺ) about one’s looking here and there during the prayer. He replied, “It is what Satan steals from the prayer of any one of you.”[Sahih Al-Bukhari 751] Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali said: “The person who looks here and there during Salah loses some merit in his prayer but he doesn’t have to re-pray again.[ Fathul Bari, vol 6/pg447]
  • [Closing your eyes during Salah] Shaykh Salih ibn Ali Ghosoun[1419H] said there’s no harm in closing your eyes in order to help you with your concentration and heart’s focus in the prayer.”[Fatawa Shaykh Salih ibn Ali Ghosoun ,vol4/pg 460]
  • [Glancing at your watch while praying]Shaykh Salih ibn Ali Ghosoun[1419H]said: “There is no harm to look at your watch while you are praying if you need to know if it’s early or late, but you should keep doing this throughout the Salah.[Ibid vol5/pg 372]
  • [Sending Salutations on the Prophet[ﷺ]during prayer]Shaykh Salih ibn Ali Ghosoun[1419H] said: “There is nothing wrong with offering salutations on the Prophet[ﷺ] when the verses where his mentioned are read.i.e Al-Fath 29, Al-Ahzab 40 Al-Fath 27,Al-Imran 144,Al-Ahzab 56][Ibid vol 5/pg 361-362]
  • [ Talking unintentionally while praying]Shaykh Salih ibn Ali Ghosoun[1419] said inshallah the prayer is still valid and they should make the prostration for forgetfulness.[Ibid vol 5/pg 361]
  • [Itching while praying]Shaykh Muqbil[1422H], “If a person needs to scratch or move in another way out of necessity then we can say his prayer will be invalid.[Q/A in San’a side 2]
  • [Stopping your prayer when the baby cries] Shaykh Muqbil [1422H] : “It’s not permissible to stop your prayer only because the baby is crying. But you are allowed to go forward or move backwards a little to pick  up your baby  and then breastfeed him a little, or hasten your prayer.[Q/A for sisters on Hajj/ side 1]



What are the guidelines to determine if a person’s actions are few or many?

Imam Al-Haramain[478H] said: “ This goes back to the custom of the people. There’s no way to actually fix the amount of movements or actions to determine if the actions are few or many. It goes back to the practice of the people in that time and area.  For instance, if a person saw him from distance he would think that this person moving in that fashion isn’t praying. Therefrom, his actions are a lot of and despite this view, if he moves frequently intentionally then his prayer would be invalid unlike the person who doesn’t move deliberately. [Nihiyatul Matlab vol 2/]

Imam Al-Uthaymeen said: “There isn’t a fixed number of actions to invalidate the prayer. The acts that nullify the Salah are when a person sees him he says he’s not in prayer. This invalidates the prayer. For that reason, the scholars have said this goes back to the custom of the people. If his actions are again and again then they invalidate the prayer and there isn’t any set number of moves. Although, some scholars have fixed this number of moves at three and this requires proof. Reason being, anyone who specifies something with a certain number or specific description must bring proof.[Fatawa Nur ala Ad-Darb # 2378]

The hadith of Aisha (Radi Allahu anha)The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was praying with his door bolted. I came and asked to have the door opened. He walked and opened the door for me. He then returned to his place for prayer. He (the narrator Urwah) mentioned that the door faced the qiblah.[Sunan Abi Dawud 922-graded as Hasan by Al-Albani]

The same hadith was mentioned in Sunnan An-Nisa’I (1206) with the wording, “Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was offering a voluntary prayer.”

Offers many benefits about actions in prayer that allowed. Shaykh Al-Uthaymeen said this hadith shows;

  • The person should close the door and cover the windows, because people inside their homes  walk around with their night clothes on.
  • It’s permissible to open to door for someone while praying as long as the door is in the direction of the Qiblah. Otherwise this would cause a person to divert from the direction of the Qiblah.
  • The Prophet’s good character. He could have opened the door up after he finished his prayer, but he didn’t.
  • The man should treat those in his household with kindness,even while praying. This brings about love and moves the hearts.
  • After a person opens the door he then returns back to where he was. He doesn’t just stand in that place after opening  the door.[Ta-leeq Al-Uthaymeen vol 1/pg 613-617]
  • Ibn Al-Qayyim said:” Voluntary prayers are done where no one can see you.[Ta-leeqat ibn Al-Qayyim ala Sunnan Abi Dawud vol 2/pg 291]
  • Ibn Rslan said: The person should close the door in front of him before he prays, so that is serves as his Sutra.[Sharh Sunnan Abi Dawud/ vol 5/pg 88, Shaykh ibn Rslan]
  • Al-Imam Badrudeen Al-‘Aynee[855H] said: “ This implies that he used one hand to open the door and not two. Using both hands invalidates the prayer.
  • The door was close to him and not far.[Sharh Sunnan Abi Dawud vol 4/ pg 155]

Even though most narrations mention he opened the door for Aisha while praying and only Imam An-Nisa’ added the wording, “Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was offering a voluntary prayer.” There is no difference for the five kinds of actions done in prayer being Wajib, Sunnah, Halal,Makrooh,and Haraam. Any act that’s allowed to be done in the voluntary prayers is also allowed to be done in the Fard prayers.[Ta-leeq Al-Uthaymeen vol 1/pg 613-617]

If the door is far away and the person knocks on it what should I do ? You can inform the person that you are praying using three methods;

  • Say, “ SubhanAllah”
  • Clear your throat, by saying , “Ahem”
  • Raise you voice during certain actions of the prayer. i.e when reciting Quran, or going into Ruku say Allahu Akbar a little louder.[Refer to Fatawa Nur Ala Ad-Darb by Imam Al-Uthaymeen # 2382]

Another key thing to remember for not limiting the amount of steps in the prayer is hadith of Abu Bakra, “ I reached the Prophet (ﷺ) in the mosque while he was bowing in prayer and I too bowed before joining the row mentioned it to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he said to me, “May Allah increase your love for the good. But do not repeat it again (bowing in that way).”[Sahih al-Bukhari 783]

Imam Al-Haramain said: He entered the masjid and found the Prophet in ruku. He didn’t want to miss the Ruku so he bowed down alone and walked until he reached the ranks and the Prophet (ﷺ) didn’t order him to repeat his prayer.[Imam Al-Haramain vol 2/205]

In conclusion, the five kinds of actions and movements in the prayer that were mentioned was a summary for a few actions done in the prayer today. I ask Allah the Most High to accept this small deed from and I ask him to allow it to benefit myself and the Muslims’ communities around the World.

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