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Knees in Salaat

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WHEN PROCEEDING to Sajdah, what should be placed on the ground first – the hands or the knees?  According to the Salafis, the hands should be placed first on the ground. For this view they cite the following Hadith narrated by Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu):
“When any of you prostrates, he should not kneel as a camel does (placing its knees on the ground first); instead, he should place his hands on the ground before his knees.”
This Hadith according to the Salafis is authentic and is narrated in a number of kitaabs.
According to the Hanafi, Shaafi’ and Hambali Math-habs, the knees should be placed on the ground first, then the hands. According to the Maaliki Math-hab, the hands should touch the ground first, then the knees. The following is mentioned in Al-Fiqhul Islaamiyyu Wa Adillatuhu, Vol.1, page 663:

“The Sunnah method of Sujood according to the Jamhoor (i.e. the three Math-habs) is that the Musalli should first place his knees on the ground then his hands, then his forehead, then his nose……in view of the Hadith of Waail Bin Hujar who said: ‘I saw Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) when he made Sajdah placing his knees (on the ground) before his hands.’ Al-Khataabi said: ‘This (Hadith) is more authentic than the Hadith of Abu Hurairah which is cited in the Maaliki Math-hab.”

At the outset it should be clarified that the objective of this article is not to refute the Math-hab of Imaam Maalik (rahmatullah alayh). All Four Math-habs are the Haqq and they comprise the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah. Our aim in this dissertation is to refute the drivel of the deviant Salafis sect whose members revile the followers of the Math-habs, in general, and in particular the Hanafi Math-hab.
The Salafis feast on falsehood hence they are at pains to convince the ignorant and the unwary that the rulings of the Hanafi Math-hab in particular lack Qur’aanic and Hadith basis. This particular mas’alah of the knees or hands is explained in refutation of the Salafis and to show the solid Shar’i basis for the view of the Hanafi, Shaafi and Hambali Math-habs on this issue.

In addition to the authentic Hadith of Waail Bin Hujar (radhiyallahu anhu), Alqamah and Aswad (radhiyallahu anhuma) narrated: “Of the Salaat of Umar (Hadhrat Umar Ibn Khattaab) – radhiyallahu anhu – we remember that after Ruku’ he went down on his knees as a camel goes down, and he placed his knees down before his hands.”  - Narrated by Tahaawi. Its Isnaad is Saheeh (Aathaarus Sunnan, Vol.1, page 117)”

The Hadith of Waail Bin Hujar (radhiyallahu anhu) is recorded in Tirmizi, Vol. 1, page 36 as follows: “I saw that when Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), made Sajdah he would place his knees (on the ground) before his hands, and when he rose, he raised his hands before his knees.’  He (Tirmizi) said: ……….  ‘The amal (practice) is according to this Hadith by the majority of the Ahl-e-Ilm (Ulama) whose view it is that a man should place (on the ground) his knees before (he places) his hands.”
In An-Nail he (the author) says: “This is the view of the Jamhoor. Al-Qaadhi Abu Tayyib narrated this (view) from the majority of the Fuqaha.  Ibnul Munthir narrates it from Umar Bin Khattaab (radhiyallahu anhu), Nakh’i, Muslim Bin Yasaar, Sufyaan Thauri, Ahmad, Ishaaq and the Ashaabur Raai. He added: ‘And, I too say so.”
(Vol. 2, page 145)……….Al-Ya’maree said: ‘It is of the style of Tirmizi to authenticate a Hadith of this Isnaad.”

It is also mentioned in I’laaus Sunan:  “The narration of Anas which is Marfoo’ according to Haakim, strengthens this view, and there is no blemish in this narration. Furthermore, narrations of the Sahaabah corroborate it. Of these is the narration that “Verily, Umar Bin Khattaab (radhiyallahu anhu) would place his knees before his hands (on the ground).” In Zaadul Ma-aad, Ibn Qayyim states: ‘It has been preserved from Umar Bin Khattaab (radhiyallahu anhu) that he would place his knees before his hands. Abdur Razzq, Ibnul Munthir and others besides them have narrated it.
Tahaawi has narrated with a Saheeh Isnaad from Ibraaheem An-Nakh’i that he said: ‘It is recorded from Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) that his knees would reach the ground before his hands. Then he (Tahaawi) said: ‘Mugheerah said: ‘I asked Ibraaheem about a man who begins with his hands before his knees when he makes Sajdah. He (Ibraheem Nakh’i) said: ‘It is only an ignoramus or an insane man who does so.’
“I say: ‘The narrators are authentic. Thus, the Hadith of Waail is more preferable in this issue than the Hadith of Abu Hurairah.
With regard to the Hadith of Abu Hurairah, Haafiz Ibn Qayyim said: ‘Verily, Bukhaari, Tirmizi and Daaruqutni have found defect in it.’
Al-Khataabi said: ‘The Hadith of Waail Bin Hujar is stronger (more authentic) than the Hadith of Abu Hurairah.’  Ibn Qayyim said: ‘Verily, the text (matan) of the Hadith of Abu Hurairah is mudhtarab (confused) because some have narrated  the text (which is attributed to Abu Hurairah as follows): “He (the musalli) should  place his  hands (on the ground) before his knees.’ Others have narrated the opposite (i.e.  the knees before the hands).’ Others again narrated:  ‘He should place his hands on his knees.’  Others again have completely excised this sentence.”
(Furthermore), even if it (the view of placing the hands first) is proven, then a group of the Ulama has claimed that it is mansookh (abrogated). Ibnul Munthir said: “Some of our Ashaab have opined that placing the hands before the knees is mansookh.’ (I’laaus Sunan, Vol.3, pages 34 – 37)

With regard to the prohibition of kneeling like a camel, it should be noted that the forelegs of the camel are said to be its ‘hands’. Explaining this aspect, the following is mentioned in I’laaus Sunan, Vol.3, page 36:
“Furthermore, the first portion of this Hadith (i.e. Abu Hurairah’s narration) conflicts with the last portion, for verily, when a camel kneels, it places its hands first (on the ground) whilst its legs (the two hind legs) remain erect. When it rises, then verily, it rises with its (hind) legs first whilst it keeps its hands on the ground.”

“It is  mentioned in the haashiyah (margins) of Tirmizi: ‘It is not hidden that the first part of this Hadith (of Abu Hurairah) is in conflict with the last part because when he (the musalli) places his hands  before his knees, then  certainly he  has knelt like the kneeling of a camel.”       And, this is precisely what the Hadith prohibits.

>From the aforegoing discussion, the following facts emerge:

1)    There are Hadith narrations for both views   
2)    The overwhelming majority of the Fuqaha and the Three Math-habs (Hanafi, Shaafi’ and Hambali) are of the view that it is Sunnah to place the knees on the ground first, then the hands.
3)    The Hadith of Waail Bin Hujar (radhiyallahu anhu) is stronger and more authentic than the Hadith of Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu).   
4)    There are conflicting versions attributed to Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu).
5)    The evidences, namely, the aathaar of the Sahaabah are more in corroboration of the knees first view.
6)    It is narrated that Hadhrat Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) would place his knees first on the ground.
7)    A group of Fuqaha has claimed that the hands first practice is mansookh (abrogated).
8)    Placing the hands first is in fact kneeling like a camel. A person going down  first with his hands, then with his knees resembles the mode of a camel when it goes  down to kneel.

As mentioned at the beginning of this dissertation, it is not our objective to disprove the Maaliki Math-hab. There is no need for such futility. The aim of this exercise is to refute the baseless accusation of the deviant Salafis who claim that the view of the Hanafi Math-hab is a product of opinion and lacks Hadith substantiation. Alhamdulillah, this brief article dispels the slander of the Salafis.


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