The Position of Hands in Salah

By Mufti Taqi Usmani

Q.) We at the Bermuda Islamic Centre have a policy of allowing all Muslims to attend the Masjid. Included in the congregation are some followers of 'The Amal of Madinah'. Our dilemma now is that the (apparent) leader of that group has put out a magazine in which some serious assertions about the belief of Imam Malik (Rahimaullah) are made as regards following the Sunnah. Please advise us as to the authenticity of the statements from the Mudawannah and the true position of Imam Malik on this issue of praying with the hands at the side or on the chest; differences in fard vs nafl and sunnah salah, etc.

The author has stated categorically that the Amal (practice) of Madinah takes precedence over any authentic hadith. He has also stated that the two hadith recorded in the Muwatta about the placement of the hands are not authentic.

A.) Regarding the question related to the placement of hands during Salah, it is the view of Imam Malik that the right hand should not be placed on the left either on the chest or on the navel, rather both the hands should be left on their respective sides. I tried to find out a Hadith of Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to support this view but I could not find it. However, there is a practice of some Sahabah on which Imam Malik has based his view. This is again a juristic matter which is subject to different opinions. The three Imams i.e. Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad, do not endorse the view of Imam Malik in this regard. These jurists do not even concede to the principle laid down by Imam Malik that the practice of Ahle Madinah has precedence over authentic Ahadith. However, being a matter of Ijtihad neither Imam Malik or his followers can be blamed nor the other jurists or their followers can be reproached. The best way is that instead of making these points a matter of schism, and differences every Muslim should practice according to his belief and no one should blame the other because the practice of each one of them is based on some Islamic principles and not on his own whims and desires. Common Muslims who do not have full access to the original sources of Shariah should not even make these issues subject of mutual debate because it may lead to disunity.