Perfecting The Rows: As Important As Perfecting The Prayer

By Asma bint Shameem

Perfecting the rows when we stand for prayer in congregation is very clearly an important matter in Islaam. However, we don’t pay much attention to it. Many people think it is not an important matter. Even our elders who are otherwise trying to lead an ‘Islaamic’ life seem to overlook the matter or disregard it as insignificant or tertiary.
They either stand with their feet close together in the form of ‘Attention!’, or leave huge gaps in between themselves and their neighbor or the rows are crooked, etc.
So, insha Allaah the following article will shed some light on the virtue and importance of perfecting them.

1) Straightening the rows is an ORDER from Rasul Allaah (pbuh):

Anas ibn Maalik said that the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Make your rows straight for I can see you behind my back.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)

2) Straightening the rows is part of perfecting the prayer:

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of perfecting prayer.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)

“Straighten your rows, for straightening the rows is part of establishing prayer.”(Bukhari)

3) SEVERE WARNING for those who do NOT perfect the rows:

When the Prophet (pbuh) saw a man sticking out his chest he said,

“Make your rows straight or Allaah will ALTER YOUR FACES..” (Bukhaari)

Nu’maan ibn Basheer said: The Prophet (pbuh) used to straighten our rows, as if he was straightening the shaft of an arrow, until he saw that we had learned it. Then he came out one day and was about to say the takbeer, when he noticed a man whose chest was sticking out from the row. He said:

“Slaves of Allaah! Make your rows straight or Allaah will cause discord among you.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
“The words “or Allaah will cause discord among you” … this is undoubtedly a warning to those who fail to straighten their rows. Hence some scholars are of the view that it is obligatory to make the rows straight. If something is enjoined and a warning issued against doing the opposite, it cannot be said that it is ‘only Sunnah’.”

4) Stand shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot with your neighbor:

Making the rows straight and compact is achieved by standing foot-to-foot and shoulder-to-shoulder. Foot-to-foot does NOT mean your two feet next to each other as some people misunderstand.. It means your left foot next to the foot of your neighbor on your left and your right foot next to the one on your right.
Nu’maan ibn Basheer said:

“The Messenger of Allaah (pbuh) turned to face the people and said, ‘Straighten your rows,’ three times, ‘for by Allaah either you straighten your rows or Allaah will create division among your hearts.’ And I saw men standing shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, ankle to ankle.” (Abu Dawood–Sahih by al-Albaani)

5) Align your heels:

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “Straightening the rows means that no one stands in front of anyone else….(Align) the shoulders at the top of the body, and the heels at the bottom of the body. As for the toes, they do not count, because toes vary; some people have long feet and some have short feet, so what matters is the heel.”

6) Do NOT exaggerate in spreading your feet:

Some people exaggerate in trying to follow this matter and spread their legs so far apart trying to touch the neighbor’s feet that they force their neighbor to stand with his feet close together in a very uncomfortable way and not be able to stand with his feet spread at a balanced distance. The correct distance between one’s own two feet is the distance between one’s shoulders.

7) Do NOT leave gaps in between each other:

Part of making the rows complete or perfect is making the rows compact.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Straighten the rows, for you form rows like the angels, and keep your shoulders in line with one another, and fill the gaps, and do not leave any room for the Shaytaan. Whoever joins a row to complete it, Allaah will take care of him and whoever interrupts a row, Allaah will cut him off.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood–Saheeh by al-Albaani)

However, making the rows compact does NOT mean crowding and cramming people in, because there is a difference between making it compact and making it crowded.

8)Complete the first row and then the next.

This is also part of straightening the rows. The second row should not be begun until the first row is completed, and the third row should not be begun until the second row, etc.
The Prophet (pbuh) urged completing the first row and said: “If the people knew what there is in the call and the first row, but they had no way other than drawing lots, then they would draw lots.”
And he (pbuh) said:

“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)

9) The rows should start from BEHIND the imam; NOT from the extreme right:

The rows should start from behind the imam, not from the right hand side of the mosque or the left, as some people do. Rather they should start from behind the imam, then the row should be completed to both the right and the left, so as to follow the Sunnah of having the imam in the middle.” (
“The first row in prayer should begin behind the imaam, then stretch to the right and the left, not from the farthest point to the right . The same applies to the second and subsequent rows.” Al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah in Fataawa Islamiyyah
However, when both sides are pretty equal, then the right side of the row is better, but NOT in absolute terms: because if it were so, it would be better when only two people are praying with the Imam, to stand on the right of the imam, but what is prescribed is that one should be on the right and one on the left so that the imam is in the middle and there is no imbalance on one side.
And, of course the left side of a closer row is better than the right side of a more distant row.

10)Make the rows close to one another and close to the Imaam:

The Sunnah is for the imam to be close to the people who are praying behind him, and the people should be close to the imam, and each row should be close to the other.. The definition of close is that there should be enough room between them to prostrate and a little more.

11) Women’s row should be behind the men

This is because the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The best rows for men are the first rows and the worst are the last, and the best rows for women are the last rows and the worst are the first.”
However, if there is a partition in between the men and women, then the first row for women becomes the best. (Fatwa–Shaykh Ibn Baaz)

12) Where to place the chair in the row if praying while sitting:

If a person is going to pray on the chair from the beginning of the prayer until the end, then he should place the chair where he will sit level with the row.
If he is going to pray standing, but he will sit on the chair when he bows and prostrates, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak said, “What matters here is the standing position, so he should be level with the row when standing.”
Based on this, the chair will be behind the row, so that when he stands he should be aligned with the rest of the people. However, it should be placed in such a manner that it will not disturb worshippers in the row behind.