By: Dr. Mubarak Ali
3.23.5 Position, Line Formation and Obligations of the Followers
The Position, line formation and obligations of the followers with respect to congregation Salat are reduced to essentially two:
1) Obedience. The obligations of those who follow the Imam in Salat are basically reduced to one of obedience. This point has been stressed above. The Imam must be obeyed at all times during the Salat. Consequently, it is forbidden to pre-empt the Imam or precede him in the action of the Salat. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) instructed:
Do you not fear that if you raise your head before the Imam Allah may change your head into that of a donkey (Abu Hurairah in Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, AbuDawud, Muslim, and At-Tabarani).
O people, I am your Imam, so do not precede me in ruku’ or in sujjud or in qiyam or in sitting or in finishing (Anas in Ahmad and Muslim).
2) Maintaining the rules of the Saff (line). The followers must observe the requirements of position and line formation with or behind the Imam, as the case may be. The correct position and line formation for the followers have been addressed above. However, the following additional points should be emphasized:
a) No one is permitted to pray alone in a congregational setting. A man was praying behind the row during a congregational Salat and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to him:
Go forward (and join the row) for the Salat of a person standing along behind the rows is not valid (‘Ali ibn Shaiban in Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Al-Baihaqi).
If someone arrives for congregational prayers while it has commenced, it is not proper to rush in order to join the Salat. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
When the (congregational) prayer has been started, do not rush for it, but come to it walking in the normal way with calmness and dignity. Join in the prayer at the stage where you arrive, and make up the missing parts (after the Imam’s Tasleem) (Abu Hurairah in Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
b) Every row must be straight both in relation to itself and in relation to the other rows using the first row as the reference. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
Make your rows straight for the straightening of rows is part of the proper observance of the Salat (Anas in Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Be close together and straighten your rows (Anas in Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
You better straighten your rows or Allah will cause differences among you (An-Nu’man ibn Bashir in Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Al-Trimidhi)
Whoever connects a row, Allah will join him. Whoever cuts off a row, Allah will cut him off (Ibn Umar in An-Nasa’I, Al-Hakim, and Ibn Khuzaimah).
It is important to note that the front row is the best row. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
Complete the first row and stand closely together, side by side, in the row (Jabir ibn Samrah in Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and Muslim).
Allah and the angels send down blessings upon the first row. The people inquired: ‘O Messenger of Allah (pbuh), and upon the second row?’ The Prophet (pbuh) again said: ‘Allah and the angels send down blessings upon the first row.’ The people asked again: ‘O Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and upon the second row?’ Finally, he said: ‘And upon the second row’ (Abu Umamah in Ahmad and Al-Tabarani).
There is also great excellence in being on the right side of the row. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
Allah and His angels send down blessings upon those who pray on the right side of the rows (‘Aisha in Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah).
It was the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) when he leads the prayers, to have those who are the oldest and possessed of knowledge to stand close to him. The following traditions uphold:
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would place his hands upon our shoulders when we were lining up for prayers and would say: ‘Stand in straight lines and do not differ among yourselves, otherwise your hearts will differ with each other due to discord. Let those be nearest to me who are of age and possess knowledge, then those who are closest to them in these respects, and then those who are closest to them’ (Abu Mas’ud ‘Uqbah Ibn ‘Amr Al-Badri Al-Ansari in Muslim).
(To be continued)