Placement of the hands in Ṣalāh


Ml Mohammad Taha Karaan


We see certain Shāfiʿī brothers after folding their hands after takbīr tahrīmah, they place it more towards the left side of the abdomen. Is there any mention of this in the fiqh kitābs? Kindly supply references.


The practice of placing the hands towards the left is, to the best of my knowledge, not mentioned by the earlier Shāfiʿī scholars. It generally appears in the hawashi of the latter scholars, some of which I quote here:

قال البجيرمي في حاشية الإقناع 2/212: وقيل: الحكمة في جعلهما كذلك أن تكونا فوق أشرف الأعضاء وهو القلب ويسن أن تكونا إلى جهة اليسار أميل لما ذكر، إذ هي محله، لأن من احتفظ على شيء جعل يديه عليه

al-Bujayrami says in his super-commentary of al-Iqna’a, vol. 2 p. 212: “And it is said that the wisdom in placing them (the hands) in that fashion is that they be above the most honored of limbs namely the heart. And it is sunnah that they incline to the left for the reasons mentioned because it is the place of the heart. Whoever wants to protect something he uses his hands.”

وقال الجرداني في فتح العلام 2/284: ومن الهيئات وضع بطن كف اليد اليمنى على ظهر كف اليسرى تحت صدره وفوق سرته مما يلي جانبه الأيسر لأن القلب فيه

al-Jurdani says in Fath al-’Alam, vol. 2 p. 284: ”And of the many postures, placing the palm of the right hand onto the back of the left palm below the chest and above the navel toward the left side because the heart is situated there.”

Normative practice may as a rule be established either from (a) the purport of the text itself, according to the accepted rules of interpretation, or (b) from the ‘illah of a text, which would be qiyas. The establishment of normative practice on the basis of hikmah is, to say the least, questionable. While hikmah may be cited to explain an underlying rationale, its employment in a prescriptive manner, where it plays a role not simply in understanding an act, but actually goes to the point of prescribing the act, is not free from problems. With the placement of the hands we have a case in point. Ibn Hajar in Tuhfat al-Muhtaj vol. 2 p. 103 mentions the same heart-related hikmah without actually going on to prescribe placement to the left. He writes:

والحكمة في ذلك إرشاد المصلي إلى حفظ قلبه عن الخواطر لأن وضع اليد كذلك يحاذيه، والعادة أن من احتفظ بشيء أمسكه بيده، فأمر المصلي بوضع يديه كذلك على ما يحاذي قلبه ليتذكر ما قلناه

”And the wisdom in that is that the musalli is guided to protect his heart from any passing thoughts because placing the hands in that fashion is in line with the heart. And normally someone preserving something would hold it with his hands. So the musalli is ordered to place his hands in that fashion in line with his heart so that he may remember what we have said.”

In his hashiyah on Tuhfah Abd al-Hamid al-Shirwani writes the following:

قوله (يحاذيه) أي القلب فإنه تحت الصدر مما يلي جانب الأيسر – نهاية – أي فالمراد بالمحاذاة التقريبية لا الحقيقية، خلافا لما يفعله بعض الطلبة من جعل الكفين في الجنب الأيسر محاذيتين للقلب حقيقة، فإنه مع ما فيه من الحرج يخالف قولهم: “وجعل يديه تحت صدره” فإن اليسرى حينئذ يجعل جميعها تحت الثدي الأيسر بل في الجنب الأيسر لا تحت الصدر

What is made clear here is that the hikmah of placement over the heart is well achieved by placing the hands in the centre of the body, since it is only approximate placement over the heart that is required, and not actual placement directly over heart towards the left of the body. Those who opt for actual as opposed to approximate placement over the heart are then criticized on two counts. Firstly, actual placement to the left causes difficulty. Secondly, it conflicts with what it clearly mentioned by the predecessors in the madhhab, which is that the hands should be placed below the chest. Placement to the left leads to the hands being beneath the left breast if not in fact completely to the left side (as can be seen at times).

والله تعالى أعلم