Doubts in the Prayer – Their Rulings & When to Ignore them

 

الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين، أما بعد

The following compilation of statements and fataawa seek to make clear the common problem of doubts occurring when a person is engaged in prayer:

Doubts Are to be Paid No Attention to in Three Situations:

 

Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih Al-‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said:

 

The scholars have stated that doubts are not to be paid any attention to in three circumstances:

The First: Is that it is merely an illusion (false impression) with no reality to it, so this is repulsed – and one should not pay attention to it at all.

The Second: Is that the doubts become abundant; and so every time the person makes wudhu – he doubts, and every time he prays – he doubts, and every time he does an action – he doubts. This likewise is necessary to repulse it and to not give it consideration.

The Third: Is if the doubt occurs after completing the (act of) worship, then he should not pay attention to it for as long as he does not become certain of the affair.

An example of that; is that if one has doubt after giving the tasleem (salutation) in his prayer as to: whether he prayed three or four (units) in a four unit prayer. So he should not pay attention to this doubt – because the (act of) worship has been concluded, except if he becomes certain that he did not pray except three (rak’ahs) – then he should come with the fourth for as long as the elapsing time was short, and he should make the prostration for forgetfulness after the salaam. If however the duration of time was lengthened; then he should repeat the prayer – all of it anew.[1]

 

If The Worshipper Doubts Having Left off a Pillar From the Pillars of the Prayer

 

Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said regarding having doubt of leaving off a pillar[2] of the prayer:

 

If one is in doubt over having left it, then he does not part from three circumstances:

  1. Either this doubt is an illusion – with no reality to it. This should not affect him; and he should continue with his prayer and pay no attention to this doubt.
  1. This doubt is frequent with him, as is to be found with many of those who are afflicted with whisperings – we ask Allaah for well-being; for ourselves as well as for them. So he should not pay attention to it either, rather; he should continue with his prayer – such that even if he exits his prayer and he sees that he has fallen short in it; then let him do so – and he should not pay attention to this doubt.
  1. This doubt occurs after the completion of the prayer, so he should not pay attention to it; nor should he concern himself with it likewise – as long as he does not become certain that he left it.

As for if the doubt occurred during the prayer; and the doubt is a reality and is not an illusion nor is it whisperings, then if (for example) he were to prostrate, and during his prostration he doubts as to whether he made the bowing or if he did not bow, then we say: get up and bow, because the origin is an absence of the bowing – except if his preponderant (overwhelming) notion is that he did perform the bowing. So what is correct is that if the preponderant notion is that he did perform the bowing; then he should rely on this notion, however – he should prostrate for forgetfulness after the salaam (salutation).[3]

 

It is Necessary to Understand Three Principles in Relation to Doubt

 

Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said:

 

Know that it is necessary to understand three principles in relation to doubt:

The First Principle: If the doubt occurs after the prayer has finished; then it is of no consequence – except if one becomes certain of deficiency or excess.

An example of that; is that after giving the salaam, a person becomes doubtful as to whether he prayed three or four (units). We say: do not pay attention to this doubt, so do not prostrate for forgetfulness and do not return back to your prayer, because the prayer was completed in a legislated manner – and there was not to be found that which would infringe upon this legislated manner. Hence the one praying; when he gives the salaam, there is no issue with him, since the prayer is complete and so the obliging responsibility has been relieved by way of it, so the advent of doubt after the obliging responsibility has been relieved – is of no consequence.

The Second Principle: If the doubt is an illusion – meaning it occurs in the mind and was not constant, as this is to be found amongst those afflicted with whisperings. So it also is of no consequence, and one should not pay attention to it, and the person – if he were to consent (yield) to illusion; he would become fatigued with immense exhaustion.

The Third Principle: If the doubts become plentiful with the person – such that he does not do an act except that he doubts in regard to it. If he makes wudhu – he doubts, and if he prays – he doubts, and if he fasts – he doubts. This too is of no consequence, because this is an illness and a malady, and the speech is in relation to a person who is correct and sound of illness, whilst the person who is constantly thrown into suspicion, then this one’s mind is considered unsteady – so there is no consequential importance to it.[4]

 

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[1] Majmu’ Fataawa (vol 14 p.90)

[2] The ‘Arkaan as-salaat’ – or pillars of prayer are 14 in number; and they are:

  1. Standing – when one has the ability
  2. The opening takbeer (i.e. saying Allaahu Akbar)
  3. The recitation of Soorah Al-Faatihah
  4. The rukoo’ (bowing)
  5. Rising back up from the rukoo’
  6. Prostrating upon the seven bodily parts
  7. Rising up from it
  8. Sitting between the two prostrations
  9. Observing tranquil composure in all of the pillars
  10. Observing the (correct) sequential order
  11. The final Tashahud (sitting for the declaration of faith)
  12. The sitting for it
  13. Sending salaat upon the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)
  14. The two tasleems (salutations)

(See: Shuroot as-Salaat wa Arkaaniha wa Waajibaatiha p.14-15)

[3] Majmu’ Fataawa (vol 14 p.75-76)

[4] Slightly abridged from Sharh Al-Mumti’ (vol 3 p.378-379) The Shaikh (rahimahullaah) then went on to explain the types of doubt which are free of these three types, for further reading on these types refer to: Sharh Al-Mumti’ (vol 3 p.380 onwards).

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