Thursday, 3 May 2018

Places Forbidden to Pray

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم

والعاقبة للمتقين

From time to time I hear stories of converts to Islam having to hide their new faith from their family. Apparently, some find themselves having to offer their Salat in the bathroom. These individuals may be excused for ignorance of the fact that it is strictly forbidden to offer the Salat in certain places that are unfit for it, among them, the Hammam (bathroom). Some other Muslims offer their Salat and organize the Friday services in churches and Christian chapels, claiming that their localities do not have sufficient prayer space, either because there is no mosque or the mosque is too small. There is no problem in doing this provided the churches or chapels are absolutely free of any images, icons, statues, idols, etc. The same rule obviously applies to praying in a Jewish synagogue, which are usually free of images anyways. Likewise there is no problem in praying in the mosque or place of worship of different misguided sects like the Shi’a, although praying behind an imam of a deviant sect is a more nuanced issue. The Prophet of Allah proclaimed that all the Earth is a masjid, meaning fit for prostrating upon and offering the Salat. However, this is a general statement. In some narrations, the Prophet made important exceptions:
الأَرْضُ كُلُّهَا مَسْجِدٌ إِلاَّ الْمَقْبُرَةَ وَالْحَمَّامَ
All the Earth is a masjid except the cemetery and the bathroom. (Jami al-Tirmidhi)
Both the cemetery and bathroom are places which are unfit to offer the Salat, which is an extremely sacred act of worship. In another Hadith:
أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم نَهَى أَنْ يُصَلَّى فِي سَبْعَةِ مَوَاطِنَ فِي الْمَزْبَلَةِ وَالْمَجْزَرَةِ وَالْمَقْبُرَةِ وَقَارِعَةِ الطَّرِيقِ وَفِي الْحَمَّامِ وَفِي مَعَاطِنِ الإِبِلِ وَفَوْقَ ظَهْرِ بَيْتِ اللَّهِ
Allah’s Apostle prohibited Salat from being performed in seven places: (1) in the dung heap, (2) in the slaughtering area, (3) in the cemetery, (4) in the commonly used road, (5) in the bathroom, (6) in the camels’ resting area, (7) and above the House of Allah. (Jami al-Tirmidhi #346)
Incidentally, the fact that it is forbidden to pray in the dung heap and the slaughtering area is a proof for the impurity of the dung and blood of even those animals which are eaten, the well known ruling of the Hanafi school, and Allah knows best. Such places may also be filled with a foul odour and are generally not held in high regard by the innate disposition and hence are not worthy of being places of worship. It is forbidden to pray in the cemetery for the purpose of cutting off all avenues that can possibly lead toward grave worship. The reason grave worshipers build places of worship over graves, converting them into tombs where they offer Salat, is because they hold such places to be holy and sacred, when in fact they are not. A mosque or place of worship is meant to be dedicated to Allah alone. To build a place of worship or shrine at the grave of someone is to elevate the person therein to a status of a “demigod”, even if the Salat offered at the tomb is directed to Allah. The Prophet forbade offering the Salat in the commonly used road perhaps to avoid causing trouble and inconvenience to the people, because doing so would obviously create disorder and fear of the worshiper being trampled upon. Hence the one who offers Salat in such a place does not do so with the tranquility that is required of him. The bathroom or toilet area is another place where it is forbidden to offer Salat, because they are places where people relieve themselves, and it is definitely not befitting to offer such a sacred act of worship there. Regarding forbidding praying Salat in camel pens, it should be noted that the Prophet permitted offering the Salat in a sheep pen. In some narrations, the Prophet has described the camel as a “devil”, and that the Bedouin tribes of Najd and in the eastern direction, who are the people of camels, are arrogant and hard-hearted people, unlike the people of Yemen who are herders of sheep and goats, and are described by him as being full of faith and tender hearted. Incidentally, while camel meat is halal according to our Shari’a, it was forbidden in the Mosaic law. This perhaps explains why, although it is allowed to eat camel meat for us Muslims, by eating camel meat one’s wudu is nullified. This appears to be some kind of acknowledgment that in the previous, abrogated Shari’a camel meat was forbidden, but in the gracious Shari’a of Muhammad the prohibition has been lifted. Thus the nullification of wudu for eating camel meat is meant to remind one of this grace, or else meant to indicate that some sort of price is required for eating camel meat which would be the refreshing of one’s wudu. Finally, the last of the seven places where it is forbidden to offer Salat is atop the sacred Ka’ba. This is for the obvious reason that one who prays on top of the Ka’ba is not facing it, whereas facing the Qibla is an essential requirement for the validity of Salat. Although not mentioned in the preceding Hadith, there is some reason to hold that in addition to these seven places it is forbidden to offer the Salat in certain places where the wrath of Allah descended, such as Babylon, as the latter is cursed. In a narration attributed to the Amir al-Mu’minin Ali b. Abi TalibRA:
إِنَّ حَبِيبِي صلى الله عليه وسلم نَهَانِي أَنْ أُصَلِّيَ فِي الْمَقْبُرَةِ وَنَهَانِي أَنْ أُصَلِّيَ فِي أَرْضِ بَابِلَ فَإِنَّهَا مَلْعُونَةٌ
“My Beloved prohibited me from praying in a cemetery and he prohibited me from praying in the land of Babylon, for verily it is cursed.” (Sunan Abi Dawud #490).

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