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"Is Wiping One's Face After Supplication an Innovation?"

The Question:

Is wiping one’s face after supplications acceptable? I was told that all the prophetic traditions that persuade it are weak and that doing so in an innovation?

The Answer

Imam al-Tirmidhi relates the following prophetic tradition on behalf of ‘Umar the son of al-Khattab [Allah be pleased with him]: “If the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] raised his hands in supplication, he would not bring them down until he wiped his face.”Imam al-Tirmidhi commenting on this tradition wrote, “It is strange” meaning only one person narrated it.

There is another prophetic tradition related by Imam Abu Dawod from the son of ‘Abbas that alludes to the same meaning as well. However, Imam al-Nawwawi states “Everone of these hadith has a weakness in their chains.” al-Adhkar pg. 399.

At a quick glance it may seem that those who corrected you are on point. However, Ibn Hajar states, after mentioning the narration of ‘Umar above, “It was related by al-Tirmidhi and it has support from the narraration of Abi Dawud on behalf of Ibn ‘Abbas and others. All of these narration, when brought together, deem the status of tradition be raised to that of good [hassan]. Thus, although they are weak in isolation, when brought together they strengthen the status of the hadith.” [subul al-Salam vol. 4 pg. 219.

Thus, dear brother, there is nothing wrong with acting on the Hadith of ‘Umar and no one should censure your for doing so. However, keep in mind that you must instruct the people with kindess and mercy. Don’t take this answer and shove it in their faces. Be kind, gentle and patient.

Allah knows best

Suhaib

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

19 Comments

  • “Don’t take this answer and shove it in their faces. Be kind, gentle and patient.”

    hahhahahahaha

    that is now the quote of the year. it should be appended to almost every fatwa!

  • Assalamu alaykum

    Does this mean that the act of wiping ones face is a moobah?

    Also, let’s say I was a teacher and I was teaching the students how to pray. If I told them that they had to wipe their faces after making du’a, would that be considered Bid’aah? What if the act of wiping ones face is considered something everyone had to do in the community, to the extent that if someone in the community didn’t wipe their faces, the people would get mad and tell the person that you have to wipe the face? Would that be considered Bid’aah?

    And my last question is that is it okay for me to be using this term, “Bid’aah” so loosely? Should I be using the word “innovation” instead?

    Jzk
    Assalamu Alaykum

  • @Haq,

    As salaamu alaykum, I agree the last three lines is what I enjoyed most out of the entire article. This is the mark of a true scholar. May Allah reward Imam Suhaib with abundant goodness.

  • As-Salamu alaikum wa rahamtullah,

    I myself was set back when studying the Fiqh of Du’a according to the Hanbali madhhab. I had always heard brothers who take from the saudi scholars claiming this to be a bid’ah. Low and behold according to the Hanbali madhhab which puts a strong emphasis on the science of hadith and practice of Sahabah in Ijtihad it is at least mustahhab and there is even a weaker opinion that it is wajib when making any du’ah to raise your hands and then wipe your face after the completion of the supplication. It was a few shafi’ee scholars who were also Muhaddiths like an-Nawawi and al-Bayhaqi who were quite intolerant of this opinion seeing it is a bid’ah to the extent that al-Bayhaqi sent a letter to Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwaini criticizing him for his ruling in favor of wiping the face. After that I read the same exact statement that you all are praising our beloved teacher Suhaib for in Ibn ‘Uthaymeens majmoo’ fatawa. This Ummah and its knowledge is much bigger than many see it. It is a rich tradition of scholarship and tolerable difference in the details. No one has a monopoly on the true understanding except Allahu ta’la.

  • I remember reading that Imam Nawawi held a similar opinion on this matter to Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani. Any information on this Imams Suhaib and Abu Majeed?

  • Assalamu alaykum wa rahatullah

    Abu Majeed, you’re quite right akhi, there are many contempory scholars from the Hanabilah who explain this point in similar fashion, not to mention of course the Madhdhab itself.

    Ibn Uthaymeen, Ibn Baaz and Sh. Bakr Abu Zayd – may Allah have mercy on them and upon all the Scholars of Islam all point this out, with Ibn Uthaymeen often saying that there is [la ba’sa bihi] not a problem with it, although it is perhaps better to avoid..while once again pointing out that it most definitely is not a matter over which one would make inkar of another for!

    All praise be to Allah Who gave us such scope in our Religion – and sufficient a Witness is He of that

  • As-salamu alaikum Abu Adam,

    Imam Nawawi says about this issue that, “There are some scholars who say it is mustahabb, but the truth is that it is not allowed and that is the correct opinion (Haram not legislated since he negated it’s permissibility). (Al-majmoo’ 3/501) since out of the few weak Hadiths on the subject in his understanding of hadith science they do not strengthen one another to acceptabiltiy.

    On the other hand Ibn Hajar mentioned in more than one place that the different weak hadiths which some are strange while others are more weak all though with a more well known sanad, but that they strenghten each other to authenticity thus recommendation. There is mention of ibn Abbass encouraging it as well as an authentic Hadith mursal mentioned by az-Zuhri who was Imam Maliks shaikh. His final conlusion is as that of all Hanabilah except ibn Taymeyyah (which is why most Saudi scholars follow suit) and Ibn al-Jawzi which is that together these narrations reach authenticity.

    And Allah knows best

  • Salam Alaikum,

    All of the hadiths about wiping the face are weak, but as Imam Suhaib pointed out, some scholars such as Ibn Hajr (and in one of his two opinions, Imam Nawawi) said that all of the chains strengthen each other to Hasan.

    Other scholars said that this is not the case, and the numerous chains of weak narrations do not strengthen each other. Hence you find some scholars referring to it as a Sunnah, and some as a bid’ah.

    This is an issue of legitimate difference of opinion where all sides have there points. Hence, whether one does it or not, they will be rewarded for there intention. And Allah knows best.

    For a thorough discussion on the topic, check out Yasir Qadhi’s “Du’a: The Weapon of the Beleiver”.

    Salam

  • There’s a difference of opinion over the matter so if you do it it’s ok and if you don’t it’s ok.

    Lay off the bidda my brudda

  • Assalamu alaykum,

    Akhi Abu Majeed, I just want to point out that the quote which you have cited from Imam al-Nawawi’s al-Majmu’ is talking exclusively about wiping the face after the du`a of qunoot. This is what is considered a bid`ah by al-Nawawi and consequently the Shafi`i school.

    As for wiping the face after du`a outside of salah, Imam al-Nawawi considered it mustahabb just like Ibn Hajar based on the ahadith in Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi.

    And Allah knows best.

  • Here’s the quote from Imam al-Nawawi regarding the commendability of wiping the face after supplication outside of prayer (al-Majmu`, 4/655-656):

    “Among the etiquette of supplication is that it be performed at noble times, places and states, facing the direction of prayer [qibla], raising both hands, wiping the face after finishing, and supplicating with a soft voice that is between loudness and whispering.”

    Also, al-Shirbini confirms in Mughni al-Muhtaj (2/360) that Imam al-Nawawi “asserted in [his book] al-Tahqiq that [wiping the face after supplication outside prayer] is recommended [mustahabb].”

    Wassalamu alaykum.

  • Jazakallahu khairan for the correction about Imam an-nawawi akhi ahaque you’re right. But it amazingly many of the Shafi’iayha disagree with him and see it as an innovation. The main point for this blog’s sake is that it is a matter of disagreement and there is no blaming in such matters regardless of what opinion they took.

  • AS

    When I was in Egypt I was asked about this practice by a knowledgeable brother. One issue that comes up aside from what is in Subus Salaam is that Bukhari put it in his “Adab al Mufrad” and that for me is interesting. If the practice was such that it was unsubstantiated like bi’dah Imam Bukhari would have not inserted it in the Adab. This is a possible trajectory for the debate on this issue. Now there is a point of interest here and this is related to the matter of hadith scholarship. The differences over this practice return back to strength of narration and not fiqh of hadith. The scholars of hadith are divided on the narration. But of course this practice is widespread and we have Ulema who support the legitimacy of the practice the question is why do some consider it problematic?

    One possible interpretation for the reason why this practice has been classed problematic is that Shaikh al Islam Ibn Taymiyah declared the hadith weak. The compiler of Subus as Salaam Imam Amir Sanani, Amir Mu’mineen in hadith echoed Hafidh Ibn Hajr on this matter. Al Hafidh Ibn Hajr is also Amir Mu’mineen in hadith.

    Of a lesser degree in hadith scholarship is Imam Nawawi (r) when compared to Hafidh Ibn Hajr (r). Now Imam Nawawi (r) was not as versed in the criticism of men as Hafidh or Imam Dhahabi (r) although he is weighty in hadith scholarship that is he is referred to. Imam Nawawi (r) is regarded to have declared the hadith of wiping the face after du’aa weak.

    Hafidh Abul-Haq (r) adds another dimension to this debate but before bringing the what he said up let it be said that Imam Sadiq Hasan al Khan made sure to hold that the hadith is in Abu Daud also and not only in Tirmidhi. Now remember Imam Nawawi (r) stepped up and said all the narrators of this hadith are weak. Imam Tirmidhi (r) is reported to have said this hadith is sound. Hafidh Abul-haq (r) says: there is no reliable edition of Tirmidhi which says he said the narration is sound but rather he said the hadith is Hasan Gharib. Imam Tirmidhi was a student of Imam Bukhari (r).

    Now check this out Imam Nawawi (r) has another opinion which stands with that of Imam Ibn Hajr, Imam Maanawi, Imam as Sanaani and Imam Shaukani among others (r).

    Qadi Basaam (h) who is a judge is Saudia a scholar who was a class mate of Shaikh Uthaymeen (r) and respects Shaikh Albani (r) said let us not forget that Gharib is could be from the category of sahih.

    The debate here is about acting on weak hadith for those who say the practice is not legitimated. As for those of us who practice wiping the face after dua’a then we have a lot of scholars who make clear the practice is not bi’dah but stands on texts that grade no less than hasan when combined and the least it is weak according to some scholars but not to the point of not being substantial to base a recommended practice.

    Here we kind of come down to one issue: pick a hadith scholar and run with that but we have some heavy weights claiming it is a sound practice and they state the reasons why so we moved from taqleed to ittiba strengthened by confidence in high scholarship.

    Peace
    Detroit, USA

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