By Asma bint Shameem
Aah. The first row. What I would do to pray in the first row of the congregation. So immense is the reward and so great is its virtue that it makes me compete with my sisters to pray there and try hard to beat them to it.
But sadly, I see many of us don’t know it’s value.
When I walk into the masjid, I see people praying but they are scattered every where….a few here, a few there.
Almost always, there are several broken rows with huge gaps in between them, and the first row is usually only partially complete.
What’s worse is that when the people are asked to move forward to complete the first row, no one wants to move!
Many people are reluctant and look at you funny when requested to complete the rows.
So what’s so special about praying in the first row?
Here are some of the virtues.
It’s the instructions of the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam
The Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam instructed us:
“Complete the first row, then the next one, and if there is to be any incomplete row let it be the last row.”
(Ahmad, Abu Dawood- Saheeh by al-Albaani)
To fill the first rows means not to start a new row unless the gaps in the front one are filled.
Just look how the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam is giving special, specific instructions for us to complete the first row first. He Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam is instructing us to do this, loud and clear, so it must be good for us. That’s what Imaan in the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam entails…that weobey him in whatever he says; that we follow his instructions in all that he advises. And if the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam is telling us to complete the first row first, then so be it. We will do as he says.
And even if there wasn’t any other reason besides this one, to complete the first row, the order of the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam was enough for us.
The Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam said,
“If the people knew what [great blessings were] in the call to Prayer and in the first row, the people would compete with one another to call the Adhaan and to be in the first row, and if they found no way to decide [who would be allowed to make the call to Prayer or to be in the first row] except by drawing lots, then they would draw lots.”
Subhaan Allaah ! So great a reward that we would draw lots to achieve a place in the first row! What immense reward that must be! One can only imagine….
It’s the way of the Angels
When the angels pray, they too form rows like we do. However they fill the first rows first and do not leave it incomplete. Now let me ask you this…..Wouldn’tyou like to pray as the angels do?
Jabir bin Samurah (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) came out to us (once) and said,
“Why do you not stand in rows as the angels do before their Rubb?” We asked: “O Messenger of Allah! how do the angels stand in rows before their Rubb?” He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) replied, “They complete each row beginning with the first and filling all the gaps.”
Allaah and His Angels send blessings on the people in the first row
Wouldn’t you want the mercy of Allaah? Wouldn’t you want the blessings of the Angels? Then do not miss the first row, because praying in the first row will get you that.
The Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam said:
“Allah bestows mercy and His angels invoke blessings for those in the first rows”
(Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i -Saheeh by al-Albaani).
Warning for those who lag behind and don’t care about the first row
The Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam showed his displeasure to those who lag behind and don’t make an effort to complete the first row first. He warned them.
Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri reported that the Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam noticed his Companions going to the back rows, and he said,
“Come close and follow me and let those behind follow you. People will continue to fall back (in acquiring virtues) until Allah will put them in the back”
Subhaan Allaah! What a stern warning! Shouldn’t we take heed?
In fact, not caring to complete the first row and praying in the back rows is so disliked that the famous Imaam Bukhaari has a chapter in his book called: “The sin of those who do not complete the rows”!
The first row is the BEST row
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) said,
“The best of the men’s rows (in Salah) is the first row and the worst is the last; but the best of the women’s row is the last and the worst of their rows is the first.”
Okay. That’s for the men. What about for women?
Although according to this hadeeth, the first row is the worst for women and the last row is the best, the ulama explain that this is when there’s no barrier or separation between the men and women. However, if there is a separate room or partition between the two, then this hadeeth applies to women as well. And the first row becomes the best for them as well. (Fatwa -Shaykh ibn Baaz)
You see, at the time of the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alayhi wa sallam) women used to perform Salah in the Prophet’s masjid and their rows were at the end of the gathering. There was no gallery, partition or a separate section for them. Thus, for men the best place for performing Salah in congregation is the first row because it is farthest from women. The best place for women in Salah in congregation is the last row because it is farthest from men. On the contrary, the last row of men was near the first row of women and for this reason it was regarded as the worst one. But now, we have separate areas for the women or at least a partition in between the men and women so the best row for the women becomes their first row as per the words of the hadeeth of the Prophet Sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam.
These ahaadeeth show us that the first row is the best. It’s value is priceless. It is worth competing for; in it is a prize you wouldn’t want to give up.
So don’t let laziness make you lag behind. Rush to the first row. Race to it and compete with one another for a place in it. And try your best to find a spot in it. Complete it first before you start any other row. In fact, never take a place in the second row if there is place in the first. Similarly, never take place in the third row if there is room in the second line. And so forth.
And if you see a spot in the first row from behind, be eager to grab the goodness and gather the blessings of praying in the row that’s ahead of you.
Why should we, anyway? Isn’t the Mercy of Allaah, the instructions of our beloved Prophet Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam, and the blessings of the angels enough reasons?
And Allaah knows best.