Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi
I am a Sunni, and from childhood, I’ve seen people at the masjid raising their hands only at the start of prayer after making the intention (niyya).
But today, I watched a video by a Salafi scholar who described how the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pray. According to him, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to raise his hands before bowing down (ruku‘) and after getting up from ruku‘ – similar to how Shafi‘is do it.
What’s the right way to do it? Should I also start to raise my hands before and after bowing down since it is the sunna or should I continue to pray as I have until now?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
Raising Hands During the Prayer
It is up to you to follow one of the four Sunni schools of law in this matter.
The Hanafi position of only raising the hands at the beginning of the prayer is established through many proofs from the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). Amongst them is the following narration mentioned by Ibn al-Humam, may Allah be pleased with him, in his book Fath al-Qadir:
Abdullah Ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the most knowledgeable companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), said: “Should I not pray with you the prayer as it was prayed by the Messenger of Allah, blessings, and peace be upon him?” He then prayed without raising his hands except at the beginning. [Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi]
Imam Tirmidhi, may Allah be pleased with him, deemed this hadith authentic (hasan).
The Hanafi scholars deem this narration to be more authentically established than the Hadiths used as proof by the Shafi‘i scholars. [Ibn al-Humam, Fath al-Qadir]
Schools of Jurisprudence
The teachings of the last Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) have been reliably preserved through four schools of Jurisprudence, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali schools.
These schools are intimately linked. Imam Ahmad, the founder of the Hanbali school, was a student of Imam Shafi‘i, who was himself a student of Imam Muhammad Al-Shaybani, one of the closest students of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with them all). These four schools agree on most of their rulings. The minor differences you can find simply reflect differences of opinion between the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).
For example, the Hanafi school reflects much of the understanding of the Quran and the Sunna as transmitted by the companion Ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be pleased with him). As for the Shafi‘i school, it is a vessel of many positions of the companion Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him). Both were considered the foremost companions in fiqh (deep understanding of the religion and its rulings).
These differences of opinion were the fruit of the effort of each companion of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) to deduce the correct ruling regarding a situation when the right response was not found explicitly in the Quran and the Sunna. By doing so, they were simply following the Messenger of Allah’s instructions (peace and blessings be upon him).
When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) intended to send Mu‘adh ibn Jabal to Yemen, he asked: “How will you judge when the occasion of deciding a case arises?” He replied: “I shall judge following Allah’s Book.”
He asked: “(And) if you do not find guidance in Allah’s Book?” He replied: “I will follow the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).”
He asked: “(And) if you do not find guidance in the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him)?” He replied: “I shall do my best to form an opinion, and I shall spare no effort.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) then patted him on the chest and said: “Praise be to Allah Who has helped the messenger of the Messenger of Allah to find something which pleases the Messenger of Allah.” [Abu Dawud]
These companions, may Allah be pleased with them, sometimes come to different conclusions. The truth, nonetheless, remains one, and right or wrong, each companion will be rewarded.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning and he is correct, he will have two rewards. If a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning, and is mistaken, he will have one reward.” [Bukhari]
These companions taught their understanding, after the Prophetic approval, to the people they were sent to. The founders of the four schools of jurisprudence were simply their students and faithfully transmitted this understanding to us.
As stated by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch, may Allah protect him, in this beautiful answer: “It is a well-known statement amongst the scholars of Islam that the valid differences of opinion between the scholars are a source of mercy for the Muslim community.”
You don’t have to follow a specific school of jurisprudence in all of its rulings. Nonetheless, the most sensible way to proceed for us is to learn one of these four schools through a reliable teacher and strive to implement it in our worship, keeping in mind that it is always possible to follow another of the four schools when experiencing difficulties.
Please see this answer for more details:
Is Following One Madhhab Obligatory?
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sufyan Qufi is an advanced seeker of knowledge, originally from Algeria, who grew up in France. He began searching far and wide for answers to the fundamental questions of life and was disappointed at the answers he found.
Then he connected with various traditional teachers and gradually connected with SeekersGuidance. He embarked on his journey of learning through the various teachers at SeekersGuidance, including his mentor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
He studied numerous texts in Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith, and other areas with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other teachers, including Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Sha‘ar, Shaykh Ali Hani, and others.
He is an active instructor at SeekersGuidance and answers questions through the SeekersGuidance Answers Service.