Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 8 – More Hadiths on Prayer

This will be my last post covering the Book of Prayer, is such a long section of the Sunan Abu Dawud, covering hundreds of pages, but there's no way I'd be able to adequately summarize it all. So I've just been reading it and picking out the parts that I find interesting or unusual. I've still got four more volumes of the Sunan to go though and I do want to read some of the other sections.

There are a couple of hadiths that state there was a lady named Umm Waraqah bint Nawfal, who had memorized the Qur’an, and asked the Prophet if she could have a Muadhdhin (one who makes the call to prayer) in her house, and she was given permission to do so. This means that it is permissible for a woman to lead the prayer. The commentary to the Sunan says it is permissible for a woman to lead other women in prayer (but not men). I'm assuming that it is implied through the hadith that women can lead prayers with other women only as the hadiths themselves do not explicitly state that, just that Umm Waraqah “(was commended) to lead the people of her house in prayer”.

Sure enough when I went to a wiki page about female imams, this hadith was one of the ones cited as support that a woman should be able to lead a mixed-gender congregation, taking a broader interpretation of “lead the people of her house in prayer” to mean the men and women of the house. The person who compiled my translation of the Sunan Abu Dawud disagrees with that view, and that view appears to be shared by people in this region -- I don’t think there are female imams in the Gulf. On the other hand, according to the wiki page, Turkey does allow it.

So what should men wear when praying? There's a number of hadiths about this but it appears that the recommendation is you should be wearing at least two garments, and if you are only wearing one (such as a thobe) it must cover both shoulders. So a man shouldn’t be shirtless when praying, if possible.

Speaking of wearing things, here’s an interesting hadith:

Amr bin Shu’aib reported from his father, from his grandfather, that he said: "I saw the Messenger of Allah pray barefooted and (also saw him praying) while wearing sandals."

This one surprised me. The hadith must be referring to if you're praying outdoors because you should never wear shoes when entering a mosque. Anyone who's visited a mosque will see that before the door there will be an area where you store your shoes and sandals. Outside of a mosque Muslims (at least Sunnis) tend to use carpets and prayer rugs, so you wouldn't wear your sandals on that either. I also assume given the bowing and kneeling required for prayer it would be easier to not wear sandals while praying. So while the hadith indicates that might be permissible to wear sandals I doubt many do.

Other hadiths stressed the importance of not praying directly behind people who are sleeping or talking. One must also take care to not walk right in front of people who are praying (or, in one hadith, ride a camel in front of people who are praying) and the hadiths note that you should actually try to stop a person from walking in front of you. So if you are a non-Muslim please bear in mind it would be considered rude to walk directly in front of Muslims while they’re praying. It’s fine to walk in front if you are some distance away but you should not be too close during prayer. In the open a Muslim might use any large object (called a sutrah) to help prevent people from walking too close in front of them. According to hadith a person's prayer is broken if they do not use a sutrah and someone passes in front of them. Different hadiths mention different things passing in front of you could break the prayer: men, women, donkeys, dogs or people riding animals.

One interesting side note is that one hadith is more specific about a dog crossing your path breaking the prayer -- a black dog. The Prophet was asked why a black dog and not dogs of other colors and he said: “The black dog is a Shaitan (devil)”.

Finally, during prayer you should not look up to the ceiling/sky. Again I didn’t expect that one, it is common in Christianity to look upward towards heaven but in Islam when you are praying don’t do that.

Now I'll start looking at volume two of the hadiths to see what it has to say . . .

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