Closing One’s Eyes in Prayer: A Detailed Answer

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What is the ruling of closing one’s eyes in prayer? Where should one look when praying?

Answer: Walaikum assalam

To close one’s eyes in prayer is somewhat disliked. This is because:

  • it entails leaving the sunna of looking at the place of prostration,
  • it resembles the worship of the Jews, and
  • it is reported from the early Muslims that they disliked this.

There is a weak hadith regarding this, which is not sufficient as proof (in itself), but supports these other considerations.

However:

  • if one does not gain full attentiveness or is distracted in prayer if one s eyes are open, then it would be permitted (or, perhaps, even better) to close one s eyes.

The Position of the Four Schools:

The above is a summary of what Imam Haskafi said in Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn Abidin in Radd al-Muhtar, Ibn Nujaym in al-Bahr al-Ra iq, and Imam Kasani in Bada i` al-Sana i`, in Hanafi fiqh.

This ruling was also confirmed by what Imam Buhuti said in Kashshaf al-Qina` in Hanbali fiqh; and Imam Dardir in al-Sharh al-Saghir in Maliki fiqh.

Within the Shafi`i school, it is transmitted that it is disliked to close one s eyes. However, Imam Nawawi chose that it is not disliked in his Majmu` and also in his Minhaj, which some interpreted as saying it is absolutely permitted to close one s eyes, and others that it is better not to (khilaf al-awla), unless it aid s one s presence of heart.

Reason for Dislikedness & the Place of the Eyes in Prayer

Imam Buhuti mentioned in his Kashshaf al-Qina` that a reason for its being disliked is that it can be a means for one becoming drowsy, such as when praying at night.

Imam Kasani explained in his Bada i` that the reason for looking at one s place of prostration is that each limb of the body has a share in the prayer s worship. Imam Ibn Nujaym mentioned that one does not close one s eyes in prostration, either, and mentioned that, “A number of Sufis (may Allah benefit us through them) said that one keeps one s eyes open because the eyes too prostrate.”

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned in his magnificent Qur anic tafsir of the verses relating to legal rulings, Ahkam al-Qur an, explaining the words of Allah Most High in Surat al-Mu minin, “Successful indeed are the believers, who are reverent in prayer”, (23: 1-2) that:

  • Muhammad Ibn Sirin reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to look up to the sky while praying. After this verse, he used to keep his head lowered.
  • It has also been reported from him that after this verse was revealed, the Companions would lower their gazes until their eyes did not go beyond their place of prostration.
  • It has been reported from Ibrahim, Mujahid and Zuhri that they said, “Reverenece (khushu`) is being still.”
  • It has been reported that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said, “Reverence is in the heart  and to avoid distractions in prayer.”
  • Hasan al-Basri said, “The reverent are the fearful.”
  • Abu Bakr al-Jassas commented: “Reverence (khushru) is all these meanings: being still in prayer, humble, not getting distracted, not looking around or moving, being fearful of Allah.”
  • This is why it is reported that Sayyiduna Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) would be like a thrown garment (in his stillness, and once in prayer, he would lower his voice, body, and gaze.)

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani.