Islamic Studies Personal Development Worship

The Straight Line in Islam

3199085477_c425f56b7a_oOne of the most striking memories I have from a Taleem al-Qur’an program I attended was the emphasized on having proper rows every single day before the start of a session. Our teachers would never start a class until all the rows were filled and the lines were straight.

Why is there an emphasis in our deen for having straight rows?

The Prophet (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him) said, “We have been made to excel (other) people in three (things): Our rows have been made like the rows of the angels and the whole earth has been made a mosque for us, and its dust has been made a purifier for us in case water is not available.” (Sahih Muslim)

The Muslim Ummah should be recognized by its rows and lines because they are a sign of discipline and unity.

Abu Musa al Asha’ri (radi Allahu `anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) narrated, “Verily the Messenger of Allah (saw) addressed us and explained all its aspects, and taught us how to observe prayer (properly). He (the Prophet) said: ‘When you pray make your rows straight and let anyone amongst you act as your Imam.’” (Sahih Muslim)

The first aspect of the prayer that the Prophet (saw) taught was having straight rows.

Rows have such an importance that Allah takes an oath (qasm) in the Qur’an by the angels who make lines.

He says:

وَالصَّافَّاتِ صَفًّا

“By those [angels] lined up in rows.” (37:1)

The Angels are given the example, and they recognize themselves by it:

وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الصَّافُّونَ

“And indeed, we [angels] are those who line up [for prayer].. .”(37:165)

The Proper Row

1. Stand close together and the fill the first row first.

Jabir ibn Samura (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) came to a group of Companions after prayer and said, “Why don’t you draw yourselves up in rows as angels do in the presence of their Lord?” We said: “Messenger of Allah, how do the angels draw themselves up in rows in the presence of their Lord?” He  said: “They make the first rows complete and keep close together in the row.” (Sahih Muslim)

2. Keep the lines straight.

Anas ibn Malik (ra) reported: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Straighten your rows for the straightening of a row is a part of the perfection of prayer.” (Sahih Muslim)

3. Maintain the rows as if they were buildings.

Allah says,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَانٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ

“Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly.” (Qur’an, 61:4)

The description used by Allah to describe the rows of the Believers is “bunyaan marsoos,” a building that is marsoos. Marsoos refers to a building that is pressed together, solid, compressed and firm. It cannot be broken because all of the parts are close together.

The Best of Rows

Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: “The best rows for men are the first rows, and the worst ones the last ones, and the best rows for women are the last ones and the worst ones for them are the first ones.” (Sahih Muslim)

This hadith refers to any mixed gathering, but especially in salah if there is no partition between the women and men. However, the scholars state that when the women are separated from the men, the best row for them is also the first row and the worst is the last. As mentioned before, this hadith does not only apply to salah, but also in a gathering of knowledge such as a masjid or classroom. Our Muslim men should always strive and hasten to be in the front, and our sisters as well when they are in their own gatherings.

Benefits of Making Rows

1. It is a merit of prayer. The Prophet (saw) said, “Establish rows in prayer, for the making of a row (straight) is one of the merits of prayer.” (Sahih Muslim)

2. It establishes unity amongst the Muslims. Nu’man ibn Bashir (ra) reported, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: ‘Straighten your rows, or Allah would create dissension amongst you.’” (Sahih Muslim)

3. It is loved by Allah.

4. It is a sign of organization.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِهِ صَفًّا كَأَنَّهُم بُنْيَانٌ مَّرْصُوصٌ

“Indeed, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] structure joined firmly.” (Qur’an, 61:4)

5. It is a special quality of the Angels that our Ummah should try to imitate.

وَإِنَّا لَنَحْنُ الصَّافُّونَ

“And indeed, we [angels] are those who line up [for prayer]…” (Qur’an, 37:165)

Making lines and not leaving gaps is a symbol of discipline and organization.  Sadly, Muslims nowadays are often recognized for the opposite; we are not able to make a simple row in our prayers.

Every Ramadan, we see this issue in nearly every masjid. What is keeping us from straightening our rows and coming together? It is the ignorance we have of our deen and the arrogance in our hearts that causes us to refuse to stand next to another Muslim because of their ethnicity, background or simply not knowing them.

There is a line of poetry that states, the hearts are disconnected because we left making rows.

About the author



Amatullah is a student of the Qur’an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta’leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur’an, Tajweed (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has completed her undergraduate degree in Social Work and will be completing a Masters program in 2014. Her experiences include working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement, and accessibility for people with disabilities.

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  • Asalamu Alaykum,

    Jazaki’Allahu khayr for article Amatullah!

    I had run into the hadith not long below, and wanted to know if Imam Suhaib knew it’s authenticity, and if the translation of the interpretation is correct, and also the meaning. I searched online and this is as I found it in a website, Allahu Allam.

    Nu’maan Bin Basheer (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: “Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would arrange (set in order) our sufoof. One day he came out (from his home) and saw a man (in the saff) whose chest was protruding in front of the (chests of) the community (i.e. the musallis). He then commented: ‘Straighten your sufoof otherwise Allah will cast discord in your faces (i.e. in the words coming from your mouths).” (Tirmizi)

    ps: The “(i.e. in the words coming from your mouths)” appears to be interpoloation, but I do not know. Another one I read, I thought it said “disfigure your faces”, but it would great if someone could inform us, Jazakum’Allahu khayr!

  • Thank you so much for these quality articles. May Allah reward you for your efforts in this world and the next. InshAllah may Allah make it easy for you to write more.

  • When we look at the universe, we see order in so many areas. We see stars in perfect orbits, we see constellations in arrays, we have now discovered that the largest ‘thing’ in the universe is a galaxy supercluster.
    Astronomers have a theory that, if the universe was of an infinite age, then when we would look out at space, we would see a ‘wall’ of stars, that everything would have had the time to have been randomly distributed across the universe, but this is not the case. As far as we can see, Allah has arranged the cosmos in three major types of galaxies, spiral, barred spiral, and irregular, plus a few more odd ones. There is order in the vastness of space, there is order in our fingertips, there is order in every cell of every creature, there is order in the physical laws of the universe. There is, no doubt, order beyond our understanding.
    When we submit our free will to place ourselves in order as Allah has prescribed, personally, I feel closer to the Creator of all order.

  • […] collection. … This would bring the total of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim to 3000 hadiths. …The Straight Line in Islam Suhaib Webb – audio, discussions …( Sahih Muslim) The Muslim Ummah should be recognized by its rows and lines because they are a sign […]

  • JazakAllahu Khairun Katheera for this beautiful article. We have been experiencing issues in women keeping rows straight and filling in gaps during taraweeh salat this Ramadan, and I have been looking for a way to help inform my community of the importance of the saff. InshaAllah I will share this article may Allah(swt) reward you for putting it together to inform our ummah of the importance of this in our salat!

  • Asa, i am a student of the Qur’an. We have recently completed the in-depth study of Surah As-Saffat. This was a wonderful article to read after the understanding on the importance of “saff” in our deen. Also what made this article even more captivating was the various ahadith mentioned along with its sources. JKK for the efforts.

    Also, we have to be mindful of filling in gaps wherever we are, whether in masajid, or a classroom or a gathering where gaps are left between 2 people. May Allah (SWT) guide us to the Straight Path. Ameen.

  • Wow I always kind of used to think it was a joke to put so much effort into straitening the rows, but there is definitely reasoning to it.

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