On what basis Imam Malik considers holding of hands in prayers as not recommended act in prayer.
What is your understanding of the directives of Islam about this (I know that you do not consider this as part of Sunnat but keen to see how did you find the basis for the way that you yourself keep your hands in prayer).
There is some confusion regarding Imam Malik’s opinion about the position of hands at the time of the standing posture (qiyaam) during prayers. The primary basis of this confusion emanates from the following statement recorded in Mudawwanah al-Kubraa:
وقال مالك في وضع اليمنى على اليسرى في الصلاة قال لا أعرف ذلك في الفريضة وكان يكرهه ولكن في النوافل إذا طال القيام فلا بأس بذلك يعين به نفسه (مدونة الكبرى ج 1، ص 74)
And about placing one’s right hand over the left during Prayers, Malik said: ‘I am not aware of this practice in the obligatory prayers’. Malik detested this practice [in obligatory prayers], but considered it acceptable in supererogatory prayers, to support oneself, when the standing posture (qiyaam) can be quite prolonged.
Had the matter ended here, there would not have been any confusion about Imam Malik’s opinion regarding the issue under consideration. However, contrary to the opinion expressed in the foregoing statement, the two narratives reported by Imam Malik in his compilation of Hadith – Muwatta – give a contrary view regarding his opinion on the issue. The two narratives quoted by the Imam are given below:
عن عبد الكريم بن أبي المخارق البصري أنه قال من كلام النبوة إذا لم تستحي فأفعل ما شئت ووضع اليدين إحداهما على الأخرى في الصلاة يضع اليمنى على اليسرى… (مؤطا إمام مالك، رقم الحديث 375)
Abd al-Kareem al-Basariy says that amongst the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) was: If you do not have shame in your heart, then you do whatever you may feel like doing and that he [i.e., the Prophet (pbuh)] put one hand over the other during Prayers, he would put his right hand over his left…
عن سهل بن سعد أنه قال كان الناس يؤمرون أن يضع الرجل اليد اليمنى على ذراعه اليسرى في الصلاة قال أبو حازم لا أعلم إلا أنه ينمي ذلك (مؤطا إمام مالك، رقم الحديث 376)
Sahl ibn Sa`d says that people used to prescribe upon others to put their right hands on their left elbows during prayers. Abu Hazim [who reports from Sahl ibn Sa`d] says: I am sure that this was ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh).
The fact that these narratives have been reported by the Imam without the addition of any note of dissension clearly implies that the Imam held the implication reported in these narratives to be correct. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars also agrees that the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) kept their hands folded while in the standing posture during prayers.
Another important factor which renders Imam Malik’s opinion cited in Mudawwanah al-Kubraa quite questionable is the fact that the people of Medinah, whose actions form one of the primary basis of the juristic opinions of Imam Malik, are generally reported to have offered their prayers with their hands folded in front of them, while in the standing posture.
Finally, in his notes on Mudawwanah al-Kubraa, ibn Rushd writes:
(قوله في وضع اليمنى على اليسرى الخ) قال أشهب أنه لا بأس به في الفريضة والنافلة للحديث ولأنها وقفة العبد الذليل لمولاه… وفي الواضحة لمطرف وابن الماجشون عن مالك قول ثالث في المسئلة وهو أن فعل ذلك في الفريضة والنافلة أفضل من تركه. (المدونة الكبرى، ج 1، ص 74)
With reference to the statement ‘putting the right hand over the left…’, Ashhab has said that there is no harm in doing so whether in obligatory prayers or in supererogatory prayers due to the Hadith cited in this regard and also due to the fact that standing with one’s hands folded in front is the posture of servitude and subservience in front one’s Lord… In Matraf’s and Ibn Majshoon’s ‘Al-Waadihah’ there is a third saying ascribed to Imam Malik in this regard according to which it is held that the Imam preferred to fold one’s hands, over not doing so.
The foregoing points raises a few question marks regarding the opinion cited to Imam Malik in the Mudawwanah. Possible as it is, there may have been some error in recording the Imam’s opinion under consideration or a significant part thereof may have been omitted. Whatever the case may be, it is obvious that the issue under consideration is not very clear.
As for my personal opinion and preference regarding the issue under consideration, I consider standing with hands folded in front to be traditionally a more appropriate posture to indicate one’s subservience, submission and servitude towards a higher authority. Nevertheless, I do not consider it incorrect to offer prayers with one’s hands hanging by one’s sides, while standing in prayers.
I hope this helps.
March 29, 2003