Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2: The Sutrah or partition in front of one who ispraying
Volume2, Page 76b: Pray toward your sutrah, partition
It is preferred for the one who is praying to place a sutrah (or some sortof partition) in front of him in order to keep others from passing in front ofhim and to keep his eyesight from going behind this partition.
Abu Sa'id reports that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam said:"When one of you prays, he should pray toward his sutrah and he should beclose to it." This is related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.
Ibn 'Umar relates that "when the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam wentout to pray salatul 'id, he asked for a spear and placed it in front of himselfand he offered salah toward it and the people prayed behind him. And he woulddo that while he was traveling so that those in authority [for the affairs ofthe Muslims] would also do this." This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim,and Abu Dawud.
The Hanafi and Maliki scholars are of the opinion that one should place asutrah in front of him only if he fears that someone may pass in front of him;if he does not fear that someone will pass in front of him, it is not desirablefor him to place a sutrah in front of himself. This opinion is based on thehadith of Ibn 'Abbas who said that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam prayedin an open area and there was nothing in front of him. This is related by Ahmadand Abu Dawud. Al-Baihaqi related it and said: "It is supported by areport from al-Fazhl Ibn 'Abbas with a reliable chain of transmitters."
Volume2, Page 77: Requirements for a sutrah or partition
Anything which the person sets up in front of him will qualify as a sutrah,even if it is only the end of his bed. Sabrah ibn Mu'abid reports that theMessenger of Allah said: "When one of you prays, he should make apartition for his salah, even if it is an arrow." This is related by Ahmadand by al-Hakim who said it is sahih according to the criteria of Muslim.Al-Haithami observes: "Ahmad's narrators are sound."
Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet said: "When one of you prays, heshould place something in front of him. If he cannot find anything, he shouldprop up his staff [in front of him]. If he does not have a staff, he shoulddraw a line [on the ground in front of him] then nothing that passes in trontof him will harm him." This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud and IbnHibban. The later classifies it sahih as did Ahmad and Ibn al-Madini.Al-Baihaqi says: "There is no problem with that hadith regarding thatruling, Allah willing."
It is related that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam prayed toward acolumn in his mosque, toward a tree, toward a bed upon which 'Aishah was lying,and toward his riding animal, and toward his saddle, and so on.
Talhah says: "We used to pray and the animals would pass in front ofus. We mentioned that to the Prophet and he said: "If anything the size ofa saddle is in front of you, nothing that passes beyond it would harmyou." This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, andat-Tirmizhi who calls it hasan sahih.
Volume2, Page 77a: The sutrah of the imam is sutrah of the followers
The sutrah of the imam is the sutrah of everyone behind him.
'Amr ibn Shu'aib relates from his father on the authority of his grandfatherwho said: "We were descending on a path near Makkah with the Messenger ofAllah and the time for prayer came. The Prophet prayed toward a wall and wewere behind him. A lamb tried to pass in front of him and he kept preventingthe lamb from doing so until its stomach was up against the wall. Finally, itpassed behind him." This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.
Ibn 'Abbas says: "I was riding a donkey and was at the time on thethreshold of maturity, and the Prophet was leading the people in salah at Mina.I passed in front of the row and let the animal graze, and then I joined therows and no one objected to this." This is related by the group.
These hadith prove that it is allowed to pass in front of people followingthe imam, and that the sutrah is required for the imam and the people prayingindividually.
Volume2, Page 78: Proximity of the sutrah
Al-Baghawi says: "The people of knowledge prefer that the sutrah be soclose that there is only enough space to make the sajdah, and the same appliesto the distance between the rows in the prayer. "
In the hadith mentioned in the beginning of this section it is stated:"And he should be close to it."
Bilal reports that between the Prophet and the wall in front of him therewas a distance of three arm spans. This is related by Ahmad and anNasa'i, andal-Bukhari has recorded something similar.
Sahl ibn Sa'd says: "Between the Messenger of Allah [and his sutrah]was enough space for a sheep to pass." This is related by al-Bukhari andMuslim .
Volume2, Page 78a: Prohibition of passing in front of a praying person
It is forbidden to pass in front of a person who is praying (i.e., betweenhim and his sutrah) .
There are many hadith which forbid passing between a person and his sutrah,and describe such an act as a major sin.
Busr ibn Sa'id says that Zaid ibn Khalid sent him to Abu Juhaim to ask himwhat he had heard from the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam concerning passingin front of someone who is praying. He said that the Messenger of Allah said:"If one knew [the sin] of passing in front of one who is praying, he wouldrather wait forty [...] than to pass in front of him." This is related bythe group.
Zaid ibn Khalid relates that the Messenger of Allah said: "If the onewho passes in front of one who is praying knew what was upon him [of sin], itwould be better for him to stand [and wait] for forty autumns than to pass infront of him." This is related by al-Bazzar with a sahih chain.
Ibn al-Qayyim writes: "Ibn Hibban and others say that the prohibitionmentioned in this hadith applies when one is praying with a sutrah. If one ispraying without a sutrah, it is not forbidden to pass in front of him. As aproof, Abu Hatim [i.e., ibn Hibban] argues by the hadith, in his sahih, fromal-Mutalib ibn Abi Wid'ah who said: 'I saw the Prophet, when he finished thecircumambulation [of the Ka'bah], he went to the end of the circuit and heprayed two rak'at and there was nothing between him and the people who werecircumambulating." Abu Hatim says: "This report proves that it ispermissible to pass in front of a person who is praying but without a sutrah.In this lies a clear proof that the warning concerning passing in front of onewho is praying refers only to one who is praying toward his sutrah and does notrefer to one who does not have a sutrah." Abu Hatim explains that theProphet's prayer was without anything between him and the peoplecircumambulating the ka'bah. At the end of the hadith of al-Mutalib, herecords: "I saw the Prophet of Allah offering salah facing the black stoneand the men and women were passing in front of him and there was no sutrahbetween him and them. In ar-Raudah anNadiyah, it is stated that if one has nosutrah or is far away from the sutrah, then he is not to keep anyone frompassing in front of him and it is not forbidden to pass in front of himalthough it is preferred not to do so .
Volume2, Page 79: Preventing someone from passing in front of a praying person
It is permissible to keep some one from passing in front of a person who ispraying.
If a praying person has a sutrah in front of him, then it is allowed for himto prevent any human or animal from passing in front of him. If a person passesin front of him from beyond the sutrah, then the person in salah is neither toprevent the passer-by nor will he be harmed by him.
Abu Saleh as-Saman said: "I will narrate to you what I heard and sawfrom Abu Sa'id al-Khudri. One day I was with Abu Sa'id and he was offeringsalah on Friday facing something which concealed him from the people when ayoung man from the tribe of Mu'ait came and tried to pass in front of AbuSa'id. He pushed him back. He tried again and Abu Sa'id struck him harder. Thetwo scuffled. The man went to Marwan to complain. Abu Sa'id also went toMarwan. Marwan asked: 'What has happened between you and the son of yourbrother that caused him to complain?' Abu Sa'id said: 'I heard the Prophetsallallahu alehi wasallam say: 'If any of you prays toward a sutrah and someonetries to pass in front of you, then turn him away. If he refuses, use force forhe is a devil."' This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Volume2, Page 79a: Passing of anything does not invalidate the prayer
The salah is not invalidated by anything (passing in front of the prayingperson).
'Ali, 'Uthman, ibn al-Musayyab, ash-Sh'abiy, Malik, ash-Shaf'i, Sufyanal-Thauri and the Hanafi scholars are of the opinion that the salah is notinvalidated by anything which passes in front of a person. This is based on thehadith recorded by Abu Dawud from Abu al-Waddak who says: "A young persontried to pass in front of Abu Sa'id while he was praying. Abu Sa'id held himoff and then the young man tried again. Abu Sa'id pushed him off. This happenedthree times and when [Abu Sa'id] finished [the prayer], he said: 'The salah isnot invalidated by anything but the Messenger of Allah said: 'Repulse [theperson who is trying to pass in front of you] to the best of your ability forhe is a devil.'"