Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
I was visiting Saudi Arabia once and an arab lady over there told me that we should not move back and forth while reciting Quran because it imitates the jews, and she told me some hadith related to this.
Is it impermissible for us to move back and forth while reciting Quran or doing zikr or tasbih?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
No, it is not impermissible nor sinful to move, rock, or sway whilst reciting the Qur’an or doing any other form of remembrance (dhikr).
The Proof for Permissibility of Movement during Remembrance (dhikr)
Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Once, the Abyssinians were dancing in front of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), saying in their language: ‘Muhammad is a righteous servant.’ He (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked: ‘What are they saying?’ It was said: ‘[They are saying]: ‘Muhammad is a righteous servant.’’”
Shaykh Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut noted that its chain of transmission is rigorously authentic (sahih).
Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir `Isa writes in his Haqa’iq `an al-Tasawwuf, “When he saw them in that state, he did not censure them. Rather, he approved of their act. It is known that rulings in the Sacred Law are taken from his (Allah bless him and give him peace) statements, actions, and tacit approvals. Since he approved of their action and did not censure them, it is clear that it is permissible.” [`Isa, Haqa’iq `an al-Tasawwuf]
He continues, “This hadith contains evidence that it is permissible to gather between permissible movement and exaltation of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). It also proves that movement during remembrance is not described as forbidden dance, rather it is permissible because it energises the body for remembrance and assists one in having presence of heart with Allah- if one’s intention is sound.” [ibid.]
The Swaying & Movement of the Companions (sahaba)
Our Master Ali (may Allah ennoble his face) reported regarding the Companions (sahaba), “If Allah was mentioned they swayed the way trees sway on a windy day…” [Abu Nu`aym, al-Hilya]
This report was used as evidence by Shaykh `Abd al-Ghani al-Nablusi in one of his treatises on the permissibility of movement during remembrance.
Sheikh Nuh Keller translates a lengthier passage from Imam Suyuti’s al-Hawi li al-Fatawi in which he mentions the incident of Imam Ja`far, “…and the hadith exists [in many sources, such as Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, 1.108, with a sound (hasan) chain of transmission] that Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib danced in front of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when the Prophet told him, “You resemble me in looks and in character,” dancing from the happiness he felt from being thus addressed, and the Prophet did not condemn him for doing so, this being a basis for the legal acceptability of the Sufis dancing from the joys of the ecstasies they experience.” [Keller, Sea without Shore]
Imitation of the Non-Muslims
Impermissible imitation is when a person does something that is (a) a distinguishing sign of disbelief or corruption, such as wearing a cross, or (b) out of simply copying non-Muslims and wanting to be ‘like them’.
Hence, mere movements in and of themselves, whilst remembering Allah— Qur’an or otherwise— are not impermissible.
Allah Most High says, “[those] who remember God standing, sitting, and lying down…” [3.191]
The master exegete Abu al-Su`ud Effendi comments here, “the specification of these states is not exclusionary; rather, it is due to their being the states that a person is normally found in.” [Abu al-Su`ud , Irshad al-`Aql al-Salim]
This is why Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir `Isa concludes his section on remembrance by saying, “Whoever remembers Allah, while sitting or standing, resting or walking, or moving or staying still, is carrying out that which is sought from him and is complying with the Divine command.”
See also: Is Group Dhikr With Swaying Permissible?
And Allah alone gives success.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani