The Hands or Knees First In Going Down into Sujūd?
Regarding sujud in solah, I have read two different versions. One says that it is better that your knees touch the floor before your hands. In the Al-Albani’s Sifah Solah-al-Nabee, it says one should place one's hands on the ground before the knees - and quotes hadith supporting these claiming knees before hand is as the camel and not advisable. What is there a correct way?
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam is His Messenger.
The Sunnah of the Solāh is categorised into two, one is “Sunnah Ab`adh” and “Sunnah Hai`ah”. According to the Shafi`ie School of Jurisprudence Sunnah Ab`adh is an Essential Sunnah, an equivalent to wajib (obligatory) parts of Solāh of The Hanbali School. If one forgets it, one has to perform the Sujūd Al-Sahwi (Prostration of Forgetfulness). While Sunnah Hai`ah is Mustahabbah (Encouraged) Sunnah.
The placing the hands on the ground before his knees or the knees before hands falls under the “Postures which are Sunnah of the Solāh” It is a “Sunnah Hai`ah” which is Mustahabbah (Encouraged) Sunnah in order to beautify the Solah.
The scholars have differed as to how one should go down into sujūd, whether one should go hands first or knees first.
First: The view of the majority that one should go down into Sujud on his knees first, then on his hands.
According to the Hanafis, Shāfi’ies and one opinion narrated from Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah), the person who is praying should go down on his knees first, then on his hands.
Imam Al-Tirmidzi (rahimahullah) held that this was the opinion of the majority of scholars, and said in his Sunan (2/57): “This is how it is done according to the majority of scholars: they think that a man should go down on his knees before he puts his hands down, and when he gets up he should raise his hands before his knees. Those who express this opinion take as evidence the hadeeth of Wā`il ibn Hujr, who said: “I saw the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), when he did sujūd, putting his knees down before his hands, and when he got up he raised his hands before his knees.” (This hadith was recorded by Abu Dawūd, Al-Tirmidzi, Al-Nasā’ie, Ibn Mājah and Al-Dāraqutni (1/345). Imam Al-Tirmidzi (rahimahullah) classified the Hadith as Hasan Gharib and said: we do not know of anyone who narrated like this except from Sharyk from `Asim ibn Kulaib from Wa`il; Al-Bayhaqi (rahimahumullah) said in his Al-Sunan (2/101): its isnād is da’ief (weak) as Sharyk is not qawiy (strong). Al-Albāni (rahimahullah) classified it as da’ief in Al-Mishkāt (898) and Al-Irwa’ (2/75). Other scholars classified it as sahīh, such as Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahumullah) in Zaad al-Ma’ād).
Among those who thought that one should go down into sujūd knees first were Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and his student Ibn al-Qayyim(rahimahumullah); contemporary scholars who favour this view include Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Bāz and Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sālih al-‘Uthaymeen(rahimahumullah).
In fact Sayyid Sabiq (rahimahullah) said in Fiqh-us-Sunnah (vol. 1, pg. 151): "Most scholars prefer that one place his knees on the floor before his hands. Ibn al-Mundhir (rahimahullah) related this from `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, (radiyallahu’anhu), An-Nakhaie, Muslim Ibn Yasar, Sufyan Al-Thawri, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, (rahimahumullah) according to one of two views reported from him), Ishaq ibn Rahwaih, and other jurists including Ibn Al-Mundhir (rahimahumullah) himself and Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Al-Tahawi. Abu at-Tayyeb (rahimahullah) said that most jurists agree with this. Ibn Al Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah, the disciple of Ibn Taymiyyah, (rahimahumullah) said: 'When the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), prayed, he would place his knees (on the floor) before his hands, then his hands, his forehead and nose. This is what is authentic and has been related by Sharyk from Asim ibn Kulaib on the authority of his father from Wa'il ibn Hujr who said: I saw the Messenger of Allah, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), while prostrating, place his knees (on the floor) before his hands. Upon getting up, he would raise his hands before his knees. I never saw him do otherwise.'" (See Abu Dawūd, 1/837-838, pg. 215).
Sayyid Sabiq (rahimahullah) then gave the opinion of Imam Malik, Al-Awzaie, Ibn Hazm and Imam Ahmad (according to his other opinion) whose opinions coincide with Al-Albani's.
The Hadith from Wa'il ibn Hajr and Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu’anhum) can also be found in the English translation of Mishkat- ul-Masabih of Waliuddin Abu Abdullah Mahmud Tabrizi (rahimahullah) (see vol. 2, no's 898-899, pg. 172) where it says: " Abu Sulayman Al-Khattabi (rahimahullah) in his Sharh on Sunan Abu Dawud, known as Ma`alim al-Sunan (d. 388AH/998; rahimahullah) said that the tradition of Wa'il ibn Hujr (radiyallahu’anhu) is more sound than this (i.e the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah) and it is also said that it is an abrogated one (mansukh) (i.e the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah). Also Imam Sharaf Al-Haqq Al-Azīm Abādi (rahimahullah), the author of “Awn Al-Ma’bood Fe Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud” (vol 1, 311-312), Shams Al-Haqq Azimabadi said in his commentary to Abu Dawūd; after quoting the opinions held by some scholars that the hands should be placed before the knees: "
Al-Khattabi (rahimahullah) is of the opinion that the tradition of Wa'il ibn Hujr (radiyallahu’anhu) is better established because it is supported by several other sound traditions (which have not been quoted by al-Albani).
Ibn Khuzaimah (a Shafi'ie scholar of Hadith, d. 311/924; rahimahullah) observes that the tradition of Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu’anhu) has been abrogated (mansukh). Ibn Khuzaimah (rahimahullah) reports a tradition on the authority of Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas (radiyallahu’anhu): “We used to place our hands (on the ground) before our knees, but later on we were commanded to place our knees before our hands!" [Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah]
Imam Sharaf Al-Haqq Al-Azīm Abādi (rahimahullah), the author of “Awn Al-Ma’bood Fe Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud” also said: "Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam al-Shafi'ie and Imam Ahmad (according to his second view) maintain that one should place his knees before his hands. And this seems to more convenient (see: Sunan of Abu Dawūd, vol. 2, fn. 383-384, pg. 215 English ed'n)."
Second: should go into sujūd hands first
Imam Mālik, Al-Awzā’ie (rahimahumullah) and the scholars of hadeeth (rahimahumullah) thought that one should go into sujūd hands first, based on the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu’anhu), who said: “The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, ‘When any one of you prostrates, let him not go down as the camel does; let him put his hands down before his knees.’” (Reported by Ahmad (2/381), Abu Dawūd, Al-Tirmidzi, And Al-Nisā’ie. Al-Nawawi said in Al-Majmoo’ (3/421): it was reported by Abu Dawūd and Al-Nasā’ie with a jayyid (strong) isnād. It was classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albāni in al-Irwa’ (2/78), who said: This is a sahīh isnād, all of whose men are thiqāt (trustworthy), the men of Muslim, apart from Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd-Allāh Ibn Al-Hasan, also known as Al-Nafs Al-Zakiyyah Al-‘Alawi, who is thiqah (trustworthy))
Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) used to instruct likewise, saying, “When one of you performs sajdah, he should not kneel like a camel, but should place his hands before his knees.” [Abu Dawud, Tammam in al-Fawā`id, and Nasā`ie in Sunan As-Sughrā and Sunan al-Kubrā (47/1) with a sahih isnād. `Abdul Haqq declared it sahih in Al-Ahkam (54/1), and went on to say in Kitab al-Tahajjud (56/1), “it has a sounder isnad than the previous one”, i.e. the hadith of Wa’il Ibn Hujr which is the other way round (the knees before hands). In fact, the latter hadith, as well as being contradictory to this sahih hadith and the preceding one, is neither authentic in isnad nor in meaning, as I have explained in Silsilah Al-Ahadith Ad-Dha’iefah (no. 929) and Al-Irwa' (357). It should be known that the way to differ from the camel is to place the hands before the knees, because the camel places its knees first; a camel's “knees” are in its forelegs, as defined in Lisān Al-‘Arab and other books of the ‘Arabic language, and as mentioned by Tahawi in Mushkil Al-Āthar and Sharh Ma’ani Al-Āthar. Also, Imām Qasim Al-Saraqusti (rahimahullāh) narrated in Gharib Al-Hadith (2/70/1-2), with a sahih isnad, Abu Hurayrah’s statement, “No one should kneel the way a runaway camel does”, and then added, “This is in sajdah. He is saying that one should not throw oneself down, as a runaway (or untamed) camel does, hurriedly and without calmness, but he should go down calmly, placing his hands first, followed by his knees, and an explanatory marfu’ hādith has been narrated in this regard.” He then mentioned the hadith above. As for Ibn al-Qayyim's extremely strange statement, “These words are incomprehensible, and not understood by the experts of the language”, it is answered by the sources which we have mentioned, and also many others which can be consulted. I have also expanded on this in the refutation against Shaikh Tuwaijri, which may be published.]
[See: Al-Albani’s Sifah Solah-al-Nabee]
4. Al-Albani has quite categorically claimed that the Ahadith which prove that one should place one's knees down before one's hands are all 'inauthentic' according to his 'classification' standards. But as usual when there seems to be 'contradictory' Ahadith, Al-Albani fail short to tell his readers that many other scholars of Hadith and even the Mujtahid Imams like Abu Hanifah, Al-Shafi’ie (rahimahumullah) and according one opinion narrated from Ahmad (rahimahumullah) are indifference to his view of placing the hands on the ground before the knees! They held the view who is praying should go down on his knees first, then on his hands.
Third: to choose one of the ways as both ways are permissible.
Ibnu Hajar Al-`Asqalani (rahimahullah) said: Both Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad (rahimahumullah) held that it is permissible to choose one of the ways as both ways are permissible. [See: Fathul Bāri]
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (rahimahullah) made a comment on this matter in al-Fatāwa (22/449): “Praying in both ways is permissible, according to the consensus of the scholars. If a person wants to go down knees first or hands first, his prayer is valid in either case, according to the consensus of the scholars, but they disputed as to which is preferable.”
This is one of the issues of the differences of opinion, and the correct approach is one should act upon whichever opinion he believes is more likely to be correct, and the ordinary Muslim should follow the opinion of his school of Jurisprudence.
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted with modification from “Islam Q&A (Fatwa No: 2108 By Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid)” and “Al-Albani Unveiled: 3. Important Issues of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) in Solah 3.1 - Going into Sajud: Hands or Knees First? A compilation by Shafuddin Ahmed Ibn Muhammad”]