Keeping Straight Shaf in Prayer and The Threat To Who Not Straighten It
Among the things related to prayer that should be taken seriously and should not be underestimated is about the straight and close in shaf (rows in prayer)
Why? Because the threat was not trivial, means Allah threaten to whom not keep the straight shaf in their congregation prayers.
Mentioned in the hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari and Muslim from the companion Abu Abdillah An Ni'man ibn Bashir, he said: I heard the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam said,
"Really you straighten your rows-rows or (if not) then indeed Allah will divert your faces (makes your faces in quarrel)." (Bukhari No.727 and Muslim No.436)
In the description of narration owned by Imam Muslim above, mentioned,
"That the Prophet commonly arranged our lines (rows) straight as if he were straightening an arrow so that when he saw that we have understood about it, that is the obligation of straightening the rows (then he started the prayer). One day he came out and stood up, almost he takbir (reciting Allahu Akbar : Allah is The Most Great), he suddenly saw someone who his chest a little forward, then he said, "O servants of Allah, really you straighten your rows-rows or (if not) then indeed Allah will divert your faces (makes your faces in quarrel)."
That is my brother Muslims, the glorious words of his which he sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam has explained to the believers.
"Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourself, your suffering he feels it heavy, really want (faith, goodness and salvation) for you and so kind nor merciful toward the believers." (At-Taubah 9 : 128)
Not said that but because he wants good for his people the Muslims.
None of good deeds would ever closer us to Jannah (heavens) except have him showed it to his people to do it and none else badness would reach to hell unless he has forbidden his people to stay away.
In the hadith above, the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam strongly emphasize to straightening the rows in the prayers with his saying as mentioned above narrated by Imam Bukhari and Muslim.
The scholars differed concerning the meaning of "divert or quarrel in faces",
Some of them consider the meaning is that really Allah subhanallahu wa ta'ala will turn between their faces by turn something that could be felt by five senses, by turning the neck, so that the face turn behind, and Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala Most Capable of Everything.
He is Allah Almighty who has made some of the descendants of Prophet Adam (ie the Israelites) into monkeys, where Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says to them: "Be you apes, despised and rejected." (Al-Baqarah 2 : 65) then so be they apes.
So Allah subhanallahu wa ta'ala able to turn the human neck so the face was in back and it was an penalty that could be felt by five senses.
As other scholars consider, that the meaning here is not literrally but maknawiy (interpretation) that is the quarrel (dispute) in heart, because heart has a direction, then if it is agreed to one-way, one view, one of the aqidah and manhaj, so it will got a lot of goodness. But on the contrary if it in dispute be broken to pieces ummah will.
So that the dispute referred to this hadith is the quarrel in heart, and this is the most authentic and correct interpretation, as there are in most of text hadith, "or indeed Allah will turn between your heart."
For this reason, the word of his, "then indeed Allah will divert your faces ", that you view this is happen with the dispute in heart.
The Obligation to Straight The Shaf (Rows)
However in this hadith there was postulate about the necessity of straightening the rows and the obligation upon the people to straighten their rows-rows in the congregation prayers, and if they do not straighten it, then indeed they have prepared theirselves to get the punishment of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
This phostulate, the obligatory straightening the rows is the right phostulate, so shall the imams pay attention to the rows, if obtained there is a little forward or back then the imam have to warned them to straighten it.
The Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam also sometimes walking among the rows of people to straighten it with his hand from the first to the last rows.
As more and more people in the age of Caliph 'Umar,' Umar also ordered someone to straightening the rows when the iqamah (sign of starting a prayer) has been echoed. If the person who commissioned it had come and said. "Shaf is straight” 'then 'Umar takbir to start the prayer.
Similarly, this is done by Caliph 'Ustman bin' Affan, someone was commissioned to straighten the rows of people when the person came and said,"Shaf has straight", he takbir to start the prayer.
All of this shows the high attention of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam and Khulafa'ur rasyidin (caliphs after the Prophet Muhammad) in matter of straightening the rows.
Most Muslims Unruly
But indeed very regrettable, now we will see the people ignores about straighten the rows, so be someone advanced forward one step another back, not care to the straight and close of the rows.
Sometimes in first rakaat, the rows still straight, then after bow in first rakaat, the rows begin to change. One will forward and the other slightly to the back and they do not straighten the rows in the second rakaat. Even they stay that way, not straightening the rows in the second and later, this is a mistake.
Really a wonder when there is someone who understand the obligation of straightening the rows, when he become the imam, then he carry out that instructions of the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam by examining the people and told them to straighten the rows, we find most of the people was reluctant, do not make straight and tight rows. Even their legs are far apart from one another. In the situation they already know or not of the hadith above. Wallaahu Musta'an.
May Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala tabaraka guide all the Muslims in order to be the ones who obey Him and to His Messenger, as the nature of the good believers is sami'naa wa atha'na (we hear and we obey), not sami'naa wa 'ashainaa (we hear and we break it).
The point is very clear that it is an obligation for the imam and people in the congregation prayer to straighten and tighten the rows.
If Only There The Imam and A Person
If anyone asks, "If there are only imam with a person alone, whether imam be slightly forward or become one line with?"
The answer is the imam shall be in line with the person. Imam is on the left while he is the right of the imam, as if there is only imam and one person, then it means that there is only one rows. The person may not be alone in the back of the imam, even the right one is they both are in same row (line) and with imam. By being in same row it will be straightness in the row.
The postulate is that when the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam in his night prayers, Ibn 'Abbas came and stood to the left of him, then he pulled Ibn 'Abbas and making him right next to his right. (Muttafaqun ‘alaih)
This differ to what said by some scholars, "That the imam shall be a little forward". This is argument has no postulates even in contradiction with the postulate above that explain shall the imam and the person be in same row (line) if only both of them together.
Then in the other narration mentioned, "That the Prophet commonly arranged our shaf (the companions) straight as if he were straightening an arrow." So be their shaf (rows) really perfectly straight so no one came forward or back although a little.
The Prophet used to straightening rows as if straightening arrows so when he saw that the companions have understand it, that they have understood and knew of the straight rows should be then he start the prayer. As the hadith mentioned in first section.
What if he saw the rows become nowadays? Can we imagine what would be said by the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam when he saw the situation as now?
Imam Should Check The Shaf Formed
On that hadith, also explain us that the Prophet sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam always checked rows of his people, also straightened and tightened it. Even he reminded people if there was a mistake as the story in the hadith above.
The conclusion is obligatory upon us to explain this matter to the imam of mosques and thus also to the people so that they pay attention to it that are so important in order to they will correct their prayer. Because our prayers are be the first one which will be counted in the judgement day. So if our prayers are wrong or not complete so we will become lossy.
From Anas, he said: "The Messenger sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: "Correct your shaf all, because in truth evenning the rows is include the sign of the perfection prayer."(Muttafaq' alaih)
May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala always guiding us to what is loved and blessed him. Wallahu a’lam (Allah the one knows best)
Original posts in Indonesian by Abu Rashid Ash-Shinkuaniy
Sources of Reference
Adapted from Sharh Riyadus Shalihin with some additions and changes