Class 5 – Invalidating and Disliked acts in Salah + SAjdah Sahw:Sutra

Class 5

Invalidating & Disliked acts in Salah

+ Sujuud Sahw & Sutra


Prayer if performed well with due regard to its conditions, pillars, duties and preferred acts, truly illuminates the heart and purifies the soul. It is the means by which man communicates with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and therefore, one should keep it free from anything which would render it invalid. In Arabic Language, the acts which invalidate the prayer are known as “Mubdillatu-Salaah” and we now list them here below: 

  • Speaking or talking in the course of the prayer.
  • Laughing in the course of the prayer.
  • Eating while praying, even though what is eaten maybe as small as a piece of dates.
  • Drinking while praying, even though what is drank maybe as small as taking only a mouthful.
  • If someone in the course of the prayer remembers that he/she did not actually perform the ablution (wudhu), then, such a person is required to break the prayer and get out to perform Wudhu.
  • If a person’s ablution (wudhu) gets invalidated in the course of the prayer, then the prayer becomes invalid.
  • The prayer is also invalidated by carrying out the Rukuu and Sujuud postures with haste and without ease. While in prostration, bobbing (jerking) up and down like chicken pecking food from the ground is not allowed.
  • Turning oneself away from the direction of the Qiblah also invalidates the prayer.


  • Turning of the eyes up. The Prophet ﷺ strongly admonished against this as can be noted from the following saying: What is the matter with the people who raise their eyes towards the sky while praying? They shall have to refrain from this or else they will lose their eyesight” (Reported by Imam Bukhari). It is also disliked to look right and left and the Prophet ﷺ in this regard says: It is a deception with which Satan deceives the servant while in prayer” (Reported by Imam Bukhari). The person while praying is required to direct his eyes at the point of prostration.
  • Yawning, “Yawning is from the Shaytaan. If any of you feels the urge to yawn, let him resist it as much as possible…” (Bukhari)
  • Closing the eyes in the course of the prayer*.
  • Placing the hands above the kidneys or on the waist. Hands should be placed over the chest.
  • Wiping the earth (where to prostrate) more than once to remove pebbles on it.
  • Reading of the Qur’an, while in Rukuu and in Sujuud positions.
  • Making unnecessary movements in the course of the prayer such as touching the chin (beard) or fidgeting the fingertips or mending up the clothes e. g. the head turban etc.
  • Entering to prayer, while food has been served to the person before the prayer or while badly in need of passing excrement and / or urine. The Prophet ﷺ in this regard says: Prayer is not valid when food has been served and when a person is in need of relieving himself of excrement and/or urine” (Reported by Imam Muslim).

*Exception on closing the Eyes being Makrooh: – 

The scholars are agreed that it is makrooh to close the eyes for no reason when praying. The author of al-Rawd stated that it is makrooh because this is what the Jews do. (al-Rawd al-Murabba’, 1/95). 

Imaam al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salaam said in his fatwas that it is permissible when necessary, if that helps the worshipper to focus more fully on his prayer. Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’aad that if a man can focus more fully on his prayer by opening his eyes, then it is better to do so. If he can focus more fully by closing his eyes because there are things that may distract him from his prayer, such as adornments and decorations, then it is not makrooh at all and the view that in this case it is mustahabb for him to close his eyes is closer to the aims and principles of sharee’ah than saying that it is makrooh. (Zaad al-Ma’aad, 1/283).


As human beings we are by nature subject to mistakes and errors and as mentioned earlier, if a person fails to perform any of the pillars of the prayer and/or necessary duties, the person is required to mend the error by coming up with two prostration at the end of the prayer known as “Sujuud Sahw” i.e. forgetfulness prostration, although, where a pillar(s) is omitted a repetition of the missed pillar(s) is necessary.

There are some disagreements between religious jurists regarding this subject as to whether it should be performed before or after the words of peace (Tasleem). What seems to be a fair solution, however, is that if a person made an addition to the prayer, then, the two prostration of forgetfulness should be performed after reciting the Tasleem. While, if a deduction is made from the prayer, then, the two prostration of forgetfulness should be performed before reciting the Tasleem. However, where both an addition and a deduction may have been made in the course of the prayer, then, in this case, the forgetfulness prostration can be performed before the recitation of the words of peace (Tasleem).

Various Instances Where “Sujuud Sahw” Becomes Apparent

1. Where a Pillar of the Prayer is Omitted:

a) Where, for example, a person forgets to recite the “Al-Fatihah” but remembers the same before Rukuu or in the process of bowing, then, the person is required to resume a proper standing position and read the “Al-Fatihah” and some other verses from the Qur’an as usual. If this omission occurred in the first rakaat and the person remembers the omission while in the course of the second rakaat, then, the person should count the second rakaat as being the first rakaat and treat the first one in which he/she missed to recite the “Al-Fatihah” as null and void. The person should then proceed to perform one more rakaat to complete his/her Salaat and at the end, recite the “Tasleem” (words of peace) after which, the person comes up with the two prostration of forgetfulness and again, recites the Tasleem.

b) If, however, while sitting for the final “At-Tashahud”, (the words of witness), a person remembers that he missed a prostration, then the person should immediately come up with the missed prostration and sit back again to repeat a recitation of the At-Tashahud. The person would then say the Tasleem to conclude the prayer, but would thereafter come up with the two prostration of forgetfulness before once again reciting the Tasleem. The above are some examples where errors are committed in performing FARAIDH (i.e. Pillars) of the Salaat, wherein, the person is not only required to repeat the missed act, but also, to come up with the two prostration of forgetfulness.

2. Where a Necessary Duty is Omitted:

However, where someone misses a “WAJIB“(Necessary Duty) of the prayer, the mere coming up with the two prostration of forgetfulness will suffice without the need for repeating the missed act. Thus, if a Wajib act is missed and the person remembers it after starting another action of the prayer, then, he is not required to repeat the forgotten act but would proceed to complete the rest of the Salaat and at the end just before the Tasleem, the person comes up with the two prostration of forgetfulness.

3. Where a Preferred Act is Omitted: As for “SUNNANS” (Preferred Acts) of the prayer which may be missed, neither is it a requirement to repeat them nor is the forgetfulness prostration needed.

SUTRA (Barrier in front while praying)

The Prophet  ﷺ said, If someone passing in front of a person performing the prayer knew of the penalty for it, it would be better for him to wait for forty.”  (Bukhari)

Whether the Prophet (Allah bless him and give peace) said, forty days, months or years was not mentioned by the narrator.

The sutrah is mustahabb according to the majority of fuqaha’, and some of them are of the view that it is obligatory. 

It says in al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (24/177): It is Sunnah for the worshipper, if he is praying alone or is leading others in prayer, to have a sutrah in front of him that will prevent people  from walking in front of him, and enable him to focus properly on the actions of the prayer. That is because of the report narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him), that the Prophet  ﷺ said: When one of you prays, let him pray facing towards a sutrah and draw  close to it, and not let anyone pass in front of him.” And he   said“Let one of you use a sutrah when he prays, even if it is an arrow.” This includes when one is travelling and when one is at home, and it includes both obligatory and naafil prayers. 

The idea behind it is that the worshipper should refrain from looking beyond the sutrah, and focus properly so that his mind will not wander; the idea is also to prevent others committing sin by passing directly in front of him. 

The command in the hadeeth is to be understood as meaning that it is mustahabb, not obligatory. Ibn ‘Aabideen said: It is makrooh to omit it. There are reports to show that it is not obligatory such as the report narrated by Abu Dawood from al-Fadl ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allaah  ﷺ came to us when we were in the desert and he prayed in the desert with nothing in front of him. 

For the person who is praying behind an imam, it is not mustahabb for him to use a sutrah, according to consensus, because the sutrah of the imam is the sutrah for those who are praying behind him, or because the imam is a sutrah for him.

It is permissible for a worshipper to use anything as a sutrah [an object placed in front of him to “screen” him whilst he is praying], even if it is an arrow, because the Prophet  ﷺ said: When any one of you prays, let him place a sutrah for his prayer, even if it is an arrow.” Narrated by Ahmad, 14916; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 2783. 

The scholars even said: He can screen himself with a thread or the edge of the rug. Indeed it says in the hadeeth that the Prophet  ﷺ said whoever cannot find a stick, let him draw a line, as it says in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah, according to which the Prophet  ﷺ said: When any one of you prays, let him face towards something, and if he cannot find anything, let him use a stick, and if he does not have a stick, let him draw a line, then it will not matter whatever passes in front of him. Narrated by Imaam Ahmad.

All of this indicates that the sutrah does not have to be big, rather it is sufficient for it to be something that indicates that it is serving as a screen.

There is nothing wrong with taking a person who is praying or sitting in front of you as a sutrah. Then if he leaves and you find another sutrah close by, such as a wall or pillar, or another worshipper, you may move towards it, and his moving will be forgiven, because it is for the sake of the prayer. But if there is nothing nearby, you should complete your prayer as you are, and stop anyone who tries to walk in front of you. 

It says in al-Mudawwanah (1/202): Maalik said: If a man is praying behind an imam and he missed part of the prayer, and the imam says the salaam, and he has pillars on his right and on his left, there is nothing wrong with moving back and standing behind the pillar on his right or on his left, if it is close by, to use it as a sutrah. He said: The same applies if it is front of him and he moves forwards towards it, so long as it is not far away. He said: The same applies if it is behind him; there is nothing wrong with moving backwards, if it is close. He said: But if the pillar is far away from him, he should pray where he is, and he should try to prevent those who want to pass in front of him as much as he can.

It is a sin to pass immediately in front of a person praying, but that person’s prayer will not be invalid (as people commonly yet mistakenly believe).

However, is the one passing in front always to blame?

The possible scenarios that may occur are four,

1. The one passing has an alternative to passing in front and the one praying did not pray in a place where he is in people’s way.

-In this case the sin is only on the one passing.

2. The one passing has no alternative to passing and the one praying was in a place where he would be in people’s way.

-The sin in this case is solely on the one praying.

3. The one passing has an alternative to passing in front and the one praying was in a place where he would get in people’s way.

-The sin is on both of them.

4. Neither does the one passing have an alternative nor is the one praying in people’s way.

-The sin is on neither of them.

In all of these cases the one passing in front would be free from sin if the one praying were to keep a sutra in front of him. A sutra is an object of about a cubit in height that one places in front of one as one prays.

One last scenario that is relevant to mention is that if someone prays near the entrance of the mosque or without filling in the gaps in the row in front, one can walk in front of him to fill in the gaps. [Radd al-Muhtar, 1:427, Dar Li Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi]