Letters to the Editor

Sajdatu al-Sahw

Q. I am a regular reader of YMD, since two years. I am studying in eighth standard. Please publish details about Sajda-e-Sahu.


Sajadatu al-Sahw is that prostration which is offered as compensation or expiation (kaffaarah) for specific errors committed during the Prayers. They are related to the faraa’id [or arkaan], and waajibaat of the Prayers.

Therefore, before touching upon the faraa’id and waajibaat, it is important to know what they are. Here are the details:

The arkaan are two types:

  1. Those which precede the Prayer [also known as sharaa’it, i.e., conditions],
  2. Those that are within the Prayer.

The sharaa’it [conditions] which precede the Prayers are six in all. Anyone of them not fulfilled, annuls the Prayer, which must be repeated. They are:

  1. Tahaarah, i.e., major and minor state of purification, attained through ritual ablution or body wash. According to the Ahnaaf, wiping on the modern-day thin socks is disallowed. Purification also includes that of the clothes and Prayer-spot. It is the purity of the ground-spot which is necessary, and not its cleanliness. Praying on bare ground, or a railway-station platform, for instance, is allowed, if the spots are not najis.
  1. Istiqbal al-Qiblah, i.e., orientation toward the Ka`bah/ Makkah. Rough orientation is enough, exactness is not a requirement.
  1. Satral-`awrah, i.e., covering the body before the start of the Prayer. That consists in, for males, the body beneath the navel [including the navel is not obligatory] and the knees [including them], and for females, the entire body including the hair, except face, hands and feet. However, if she is praying in public where ghayr mahram can look at her face, then, covering the face is recommended.
  1. Tawqeet [or waqt], that is, doing the Prayer within the prescribed time-span.
  1. Niyyah, intention at heart (pronouncement of which is not necessary, while some Hanafiyy scholars have thought that it is bid`ah to pronounce the niyyah. That is, the heart should know what Prayer a person is offering. If, for instance, someone offers witr, but by mistake says, maghrib, then, it will do him no harm. His prayer is still counted as witr, because that is what is in his heart.
  1. Tahreemah, that is, entering into Prayer by will, whether one said Allahu Akbar or he said some other words of Allah’s praise at entry. Tareemah has to follow the niyyah, and not niyyah before tahreemah.

The arkaan [or faraa’id] of Prayers are six in all. They are:

  1. Qiyaam, that is, standing (or sitting or lying down) after takbeeratu tahrimah before going into ruku` for a minimum period of time during which, say subhanaAllah can be said. If someone went into ruku` [let us say, behind an Imam], directly after saying Allahu Akbar of the takbeeratutahrimah, without any pause of any length, his Prayer is not valid. He must repeat the entire Prayer from beginning to end.
  1. Qiraa’ah, recitation of at least a single ayah during the qiyaam, is waajib if someone is doing Prayer singly. However, if a man is praying behind an Imam, then qiraa’ah of any length is not a rukn. However, allowing a pause after takbeer tahrima is rukn if one finds an Imam in ruku` and wishes to join in. If he has time enough to pause and then go into rukn while the Imam is in ruku`, he has attained that rak`ah. If someone finds an Imam in ruku` and he is afraid that he will miss to join him while he is in ruku`, then, he might say takbeeratu tahreemah, go into qiyaam, give a pause, then go into ruku`  while walking up 2-3 steps to join a row, to rise up with others. This is because moving 2-3 steps while in Prayers, is allowed.
  1. Ruku`, a pause of the time required for saying three words, whether anything is actually said or not is rukn of Prayer.
  1. Sajdah, same as above.
  1. Qaa’idah akheerah; the last sitting of the rak`ah [after two prostrations]. To recite attahiyyatu lillahi.. to the end is one of the arkaan. If somebody, praying alone, dropped it, he will have to repeat the Prayer.
  1. Tarteeb (sequence), that is not to do, for example, ruku` before sajdah, or attahiyyat before sajdah, etc.

The wajibat of Prayer are thirteen in all:

  1. To say Allahu Akbar at takbeeratu tahreemah.
  1. Recitation of Surah al-Fatihah. If forgotten, or doesn’t know it by heart, one may offer sajdatu al-sahw, but if dropped intentionally, Prayer must be repeated.
  1. Additional qiraa’ah in first two rak`ah in fard Prayers wherein at least a verse is recited.
  1. Qawmah, i.e., rise up from ruku` and stay standing for a little while, until his whole body is upright.
  1. To place the entire forehead during the sajdah. If someone just touched the ground with his forehead, then, he fulfilled the rukn requirement, but touching the whole forehead or the foremost front part of it, is waajib.
  1. Jalsah, sitting down between two Sajdas for a while.
  1. Qa`idah ‘oolah which happens after two rak`ah are completed.
  1. Tashshahud, i.e., recitation of attahiyyat in every qaa’idah.
  1. Not to add anything over attahiyyat of the first tashahhud [except during Fajr Prayer].
  1. Saying salam to exit from the Prayer.
  1. Ta`deel-e-arkan which is to do all the arkaan and waajibaat properly and not in a ‘touch-and-go’ manner, and
  1. Qunutal-witr, during which any du`a can be made, but in Arabic, and,
  1. Saying Allahu Akbar before recitation of the du`a of qunut.

Other than the above, the rest of the acts (rituals) of the Prayer are Sunan or mustahabbat, which, if someone does not attempt, the Prayer is still valid, complete, and acceptable, without any sin, although, if all of them are dropped, the Prayer is only a skeleton.

Note, depending on the choices and details, arkaan and waajibaat could be more in counting. We have ignored those that almost everyone accomplishes by default. For example, it is waajib on an Imam that he should do qiraa’ah loudly during Fajr, Maghrib and `Isha Prayers but an individual, say at home, has the choice. But, an individual doing his fard in a mosque, individually, should do the qiraa’ah loudly (but not too loudly to disturb others) so that a new entrant into the mosque could join him.

Now, we can speak of the rules of sajdatu al-sahw, or the errors that entail it. They can be summed up as five rules:

  1. Takraar al-fard: Such as, doing two ruku` or three sajdah.
  1. Ta’kheeral-fard, i.e., delay in doing a fard. For instance, if someone does not go into ruku` after Qiraa’ah, but remains standing for a while, perhaps thinking of something), then he should offersajdatu al-sahw.
  1. Ta`kheer al-waajib, same as above.
  1. Tark al-waajib sahwan, not doing a waajib forgetfully, such as, for example, someone did not recite surah al-Fatihaforgetfully, he must do sajdatu al-sahw.
  1. Taghyeer-e-waajib, effecting an alteration in a waajib, such as, recites attahiyyaat after reciting the salaat wa salam.



i. If someone forgets to do sajdatu al-sahw and has said the salaam, then, if he has not turned away from the Qiblah, bodily, and has not spoken to anyone, he can still do the two sajdah, and, terminate by saying salaam.

ii. But if he has turned away from the Qiblah, or has spoken out to someone, then he should repeat the Prayer.

iii. Committing more than one error within a Prayer, whether in fard or waajib, entails only one sajdas of sahw, and no more, that is, two prostrations.

iv. Where the following are involved: (a) tark al-fard whether forgetfully or willfully (sahwan aw `amdan or (b) tark al-wajib: `amdan, Prayer is not valid, it must be re-done.


Q. Please explain how to wash or how many times we have to wash our hands during ablution?


Faisal Izhar,
On Email


It is waajib to wash the hands once up to, and including, the elbows, the whole face, the feet up to and including the ankles; and wipe one-fourth of the head.

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