Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
When I am praying next to the Imam, people pull me or tap me from behind, and I have no choice but to take more than two steps in prayer to form a new row. Is there any dispensation concerning this?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him. Amin.
What you have described is part of the Sunna. When someone joins the prayer to form a new row and then indicates that you should join him, it is recommended that you comply. The ruling concerning three movements refers to consecutive movements and can be circumvented by taking three measured steps with slight pauses between them, and Allah knows best. [Nawawi, Majmu‘]
Extraneous Movements in Prayer
The prayer is invalidated by adding, even if absentmindedly, a motion that is not one of the actions of prayer, provided it is both considered by common acknowledgment to be much and uninterruptedly consecutive, such as three steps or successively moving three separate body parts like the head and two hands, (though an up-and-down motion is considered just one) or three or more consecutive motions.
The prayer is not invalidated by actions that are not much, such as two steps, or is much but separated so that the subsequent motion is considered unconnected with the preceding one. If an action is grossly improper, such as jumping, it invalidates the prayer. [ibid.]
Movement in Prayer to Form New Rows
When there are two or more male followers, it is Sunna for them to stand behind the imam. A single male follower stands on the imam’s right, and if a second follower arrives, the newcomer stands to the imam’s left and says his opening Allahu Akbar, after which the two followers move back little by little. If they cannot move back (for lack of room), the imam moves forward. [ibid.]
A latecomer to a group prayer who does not find a place in the last row should stand behind it, begin his prayer with the opening Allahu Akbar, and then indicate to someone in the row to stand with him by drawing him back. It is recommended that the person selected cooperate by stepping back (this is only if the latecomer does not expect anyone else to come). [ibid.]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.